Shortrib French dip at Hawksmoor Bar

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This sandwich was good. Okay, let’s be fair: this sandwich was very good. Sharp cheese matched to melting braised shortrib matched to a sweet, floaty bun. The meat had an almost sloppy Joe consistency whilst still being flaky rather than mush. The cheese oozed out the edges in an indulgent, bordering-on-too-much-of-it way.

“Shouldn’t a main be able to stand up to a side?”

But, if I’m being fair I’m going to have to say it straight too: about three seconds after I’d eaten the last delicious mouthful I can honestly say I hadn’t the faintest idea what the whole thing tasted of. Even trying to recall the individual flavours just evoked a sense of the melty, easy-eating nature of it, let alone trying to think what the combination amounted to.

Is this a criticism? I don’t know. I remember enjoying the taste as I ate it, as well as thinking that I had no idea what to do with the dip, which, being the consistency of a thin gravy quickly made the end of the sandwich I’d dipped into it dissolve and collapse. Perhaps I should have poured it over, but then I’d have just had a soggy bun and it would have been even harder to eat without squirting grease everywhere.

Perhaps it’s that I paired the sandwich with thrice-cooked chips, whose crunch and salt rather overpowered the insubstantial (in a good way… I think) sandwich. But then, shouldn’t a main be able to stand up to a side: especially one as standard as (yes, pretty damn good) fries?

Again, being fair, I couldn’t quite believe that this was one of Time Out’s Top Ten – give me a Meat Liquor / Meat Market burger in preference any day.

45/100 top hundred dishes in London

Beef Ribs at Duke’s Brew and Que

Beef Ribs

Disappointing. That’s the word that springs immediately to mind – this was one of the dishes on the list that I was really looking forward to. I love ribs (usually of the pork variety), but had had the joy of the gargantuan monsters that are beef ribs on a trip to the States, and was ready for another go at facing them.

“This is worrying…”

“This is worrying…”, I said to Rachael, lifting the steak knife sat on the tray next to the ribs, slaw and pickle.

“Why?”, asks Rachael.

“Surely we shouldn’t need a steak knife? The meat should just melt off the bone”. I was joking, but the moment I said it I had a feeling this wasn’t such a silly thought. Indeed, my first major complaint was the texture.

I’m not demanding a pulled-pork consistency, but this meat was genuinely tough. I certainly did need the steak knife to deal it. Second complaint: the presentation looked good enough, but there frankly wasn’t enough space on the tray to safely tackle the cutting and dicing process, especially after we’d splurted (totally delicious) home-made hot sauces onto the edge of the liner.

“Surely we shouldn’t need a steak knife? The meat should just melt off the bone”

I tried pulling the meat off the bone, and then cutting it smaller when safely not attached to an uneven surface, but it was joined by a rubbery, cartilaginous tissue that I wouldn’t recommend making the considerable effort to chew. Okay, so I can’t blame Duke’s for the physiognomy of cows – I’m guessing this is an issue that applies to all ribs of the beef variety – but all the more reason why the meat needs to have been smoked to within an inch of its, er, life, so you can eat the meat and leave the rubber to the bone.

Rachael and I have discussed the taxing question of portions. Specifically: ordering one portion or two. We’ve come to the conclusion that we each need to have a full measure of each dish, since quantities are very much part of what makes a dish great. Or, rather, we’d assumed that a dish might fail on the back of portion size. We’d imagined this was more likely through meanness, but both agreed there was way too much food involved here. Perhaps it’s sized for the appetites of our transatlantic cousins, but one of these massive ribs would have been approaching a meat-sweats quantity for me, and two was frankly absurd. This could be an unfair complaint to level (surely too much is better than too little), but combined with the first two, both of us found the meal became a chore, and gave up two-thirds of the way through.

Rachael at least got a doggie bag!

95/100 top 100 dishes in London