Archives for posts with tag: Pitt Cue co.

It’s been a disappointing few weeks food wise.


It started with a trip to the much talked about Padella. Anyone and everyone has been talking about it since the duo behind Trullo opened in their Borough Market location. I really enjoyed my Trullo experience so was quite excited by this talk. What’s not to like? Hand made pasta, simple menus, singular concept. The branding and design are lovely – simple. We went on a quiet Sunday and despite the talk of huge queues walked straight to a table. In fact, it was pretty empty which probably didn’t help the experience but it’s all about the pasta, isn’t it?

So the first thing to say is that the Pici cacao e pepe is one of the best dishes you will taste this year. I say taste, because the plate is pretty small and as we were sharing everything it really was a mouthful only of loveliness. The hand crafted, chunky pici is a pasta shape I don’t know and that cheesy, pepper sauce is thick and glossy and salty and yummy. Enough said.

The disappointment was everything else. Burrata that isn’t a patch on my friend M’s creation. Other somewhat average pastas and added to that, a waiter who really was pretty pushy, with no sense of a relaxed Sunday lunch. Thinking back, he probably set the whole tone.


Fast forward a week and I once again joined the Jones clan for a meal trip to one of our favourites. Pitt Cue Co. has been a tried and tested meal ever since it operated all those years ago from a food truck under the Hungerford Bridge at the Southbank. When it moved to its tiny dungeon location in Soho it had charm and style which is probably why it was packed. The tables were cosy, the sauces in bottles flung on the tables, the cocktails were dirty and the food was lipsmackingly tasty….eaten with your hands and the odd dribble.

This year it clearly had some investment and they unveiled their new snazzy site which has moved to the city. That alone should have set our alarm bells going. It was clearly going to be a different experience. The restaurant itself is a lesson in industrial chic. The bar area talks about home brewed tipples and has high bar seating for walk ins. The open kitchen boasts a huge American-made bespoke grill and their blackboard menu showcases a chalk drawing of their signature mangalitsa pig. But the team have been very open about shunning all the old favourites upon which their reputation was built. Gone is the pulled pork, the pickle back, the enamelware crockery, the BBQ sauces on the table. They see this as a more grown up offering which steps away from the US BBQ theme that they started from and which has been much copied over the years. Why?

In leaving their roots, they have become much like many other places with no real lead. What a shame. It feels like they have gone from leaders to followers. In one article, co-founder Jamie Berger talked about the limited space in Soho which meant limited storage and the issues of running out of things. The irony of all this is that when we got there the restaurant had run out of all the pork on the mains menu. On a bleak Monday evening all they could offer us was the feather blade, the lamb special and the full fish selection. No ribs (a destination dish if ever there was one) , no pulled pork (obviously) and absolutely no cuts of the signature beast unless you count the cold fatty ham. For those who never knew what they were missing, I am sure they will leave satisfied. For the rest …. you will have to reminisce and pray there is the odd rib left for when you get there.

And much like the Padella experience, the disappointment was made so much worse by an aggressive Aussie waitress who obviously had no time for our reminiscing and no respect for the Jones’ commitment to this brand for all those years. Her speed and dismissive service just made me nervous.



And so to last night. I had the dubious task of recommending a place to meet my New York foodie friends who were over for a couple of days only. I have previously written of their incredible wedding last year which showcased their favourite foods and culminated in a dessert spread from the fab Dominique Ansel. So the pressure was on. I decided to plump for a tried and tested chef…. Nuno Mendes. Taberna do Mercado harks back to his Portuguese roots and once again has been well written up by the many bloggers and writers whose job it is to critique these places.

Maybe it was the fact it was a bank holiday and so very quiet (how come they could only squeeze us in for an 8.45 booking when the place was three quarters empty?) or perhaps once again the annoying waitress whose only criteria for recommending things was the price tag. But once again the food underwhelmed. Surely authentic food that draws from homely childhood cooking would be hot, tasty, embracing. Sadly it was too much style over substance. Some dishes were nice: the mussels, the pork sandwich, the clever olive oil sponge cake. But I wanted so much more than nice. Hey ho.

This morning, I was in my own kitchen. I chopped up some sweet juicy Isle of Wight seasonal tomatoes, drizzled with good olive oil, a dribble of sherry vinegar, and added a good pinch of salt. Then I mixed in a bit of shallot, feta and basil chiffonade. Set atop a toasted piece of sourdough toast it captured the fresh, vibrant flavours that only perfect, matching ingredients can and has set me up for the day. Forget these fancy restaurants. I am staying put for a while.


BSF 2013

This week the British Street Food Awards 2013 were announced and there has been a lot going on since I talked about these awards last year.

Street Food has long been the centre of food creativity in many many countries, most especially in the Far East and India. But since it hit the avenues and promenades of the US it has taken on a marketing slant, defining a whole new way of eating. New York quickly tagged on but it was in LA that I really got it. I fondly remember being in Abbot Kinney and experiencing First Friday –  a hyper street of food trucks on the first Friday of every month. The food truck is where the city discovered chefs like Roy Choi and his Kogi tacos and in the same way, so young pretenders came into the fold in the UK.

I have spoken a lot about Pitt Cue co. who started in an airstream trailer under Hungerford Bridge and now they are permanently placed in their restaurant near Carnaby Street. The mobile food truck was the birthplace of other now permanent places such as MEATliquor, Yum Bun, Homeslice and Daisy Green. This formula of trying out a concept in a more secure and less costly format has worked for many.

Eat Street

As individual traders, it is hard to know the best sites to go to and so it is important for people to find ways of pulling together and create a big street in which to eat. My first experience in Britain was at Eat St in Kings Cross, now under the brand KERB. The team cherry pick the best of the best for their offering every week at the ever growing enclave that surrounds the Kings Cross development. It is such a great place to chill and the mobile offering is a clever position for people discovering all that is in the area.

Specially commissioned by the clan at Trinity Kitchen

Specially commissioned by the clan at Trinity Kitchen

Last weekend I was up at home and my Mum took me to see the new Trinity Centre in Leeds city centre. It is quite a development, most fitting for such an important UK city, and then I learned about Trinity Kitchen. Those clever people at the centre decided to embrace the whole street food trend and put mobile trucks on the food floor of their impressive mall, supported by 5 pop up traders to add variety. This team have really understood the fashion and so it was no surprise to see them sponsoring the British Street Food Awards and celebrating the winner with these specially commissioned biscuits.

So who won this year? well the top prize went to Bristol based duo from Katie and Kim’s Kitchen. Their stovies, oatcakes and toasted cheese scones were all highly commended in different categories and overall, this added up to the big prize.

Here comes the book...

Here comes the book…

Entries covered the whole world in cuisine with offerings from across Europe, Taiwan, Mexico and the US. People really have figured out the truck concept and the quality of food is now better than ever. True to form, previous winner Ginger’s Comfort Emporium won again with their incredible ice cream and the one to watch went to Best Young Trader Stan’s Snow Cones. This 13 year old discovered People’s Pops in New York and brought the concept back to Lewes to create his wonderful snow cones. Clever boy.


Pigs are very intelligent, clean, social animals with a wonderful sense of smell, which is why they are great truffle hunters. So we should love them for that reason alone. Oh, and they also taste great!

As a nice Jewish girl, I am not sure it is legal to have such a penchant for pig, but what can a girl do? It is definitely the meat of the moment having showcased its best sides through Jamie’s shoulder of pork recipe, the trend a few years ago for pork belly, the whole scratchings fashion and latterly, barbecued ribs a la Pitt Cue co.

Tea towels from Ham

Tea towels from Ham

This Christmas, my presents and cards will also have a piggy feel thanks to the wonderful Jo at Ham who is manufacturing beautiful piggy based things for the kitchen here in Britain.

The Pig Sign

This week, I finally managed to get down to the New Forest to have lunch at The Pig hotel, which has been on my list for some time now. Created by successful hotelier Robin Hutson, this reasonably priced, 26 room hotel is the latest incarnation from the Lime Wood Group. Mr Hutson is a bit of an inspiration in the hotel world. He created the Hotel du Vin chain which reinvented the town hotel and now he has applied his immense talent to the country hotel. The beauty of The Pig is the walled garden, which is central to the concept and really does define the identity of the place. By bringing the food into the heart of the hotel, The Pig has partnered two key elements required to satisfy even the most discerning lodger.

The walled garden treats

The walled garden treats

Cavolo Nero is such a wonderful veg

Cavolo Nero is such a wonderful veg

The Pig menu is created from within a 25 mile radius with chef, forager and gardener working well together to create wonderful British garden food. Everything was presented with a nod to garden, from the first seating in the Victorian conservatory to the presentation of the menu and table complete with herb pots. But the most exciting part was the menu itself. It was creative and interesting and the food generally delivered in the same vein. This wasn’t exciting cutting edge food and some of the flavour was not as intense as I would have expected, but we had a great time and a thoroughly enjoyable, good value meal.

The Victorian conservatory houses the restaurant

The Victorian conservatory houses the restaurant

The Pig hotelThe whole experience reminded me of two other places I have written about before in Top of the World and The Promised Land.

The Stone Barn that houses Blue Hill

The Stone Barn that houses Blue Hill

The first is Blue Hill at Stone Barns, home of the brilliant chef, Dan Barber in New York. This is the best overall meal experience I have ever had. It began with a tour of the farm and ended with a 28 course meal that blew my mind. The first 10 course were vegetarian and the first 12 course were eaten without cutlery!

What the team at Blue Hill don’t know about veggies is not worth knowing. It was the Driven by Flavour podcast that first introduced me to chef Barber, changing my whole outlook on vegetables, and was the only reason I went to Blue Hill in the first place. If you ever get the chance, go there, take the farm tour, see what it is these guys do with every single element of meat and veg and just bathe in the glory of these ultra talented passionate people. Ask about the charcoal, go and see the pigs and make the most of the incredible knowledgable passionate staff who will tell you everything you need to know about the meal. Each table gets something slightly different as the chef creates dishes from what is available so go for it…we did! The Blue Hill clan are genuinely changing the world with their revelations and delivering incredible food at the same time. This is the premier league of garden centric restaurants and it doesn’t get much better than this.

One little part of the garden at Babylonstoren

One little part of the garden at Babylonstoren

The other place that puts a garden at the heart of its hotel and restaurant is Babylonstoren in the Winelands, near Cape Town. The menu and cooking here was not as exciting as Blue Hill, but in terms of design and gardens, this wins hands down. My ‘room’ was actually a cottage which I could quite happily have lived in forever and every single part of the hotel embraced the surrounding grounds. Room service had touches of herbs, you were positively encouraged to go pick your own and cook in your room and the staff even let me go cook the morning breads for breakfast. This is a piece of heaven and a must if you are in the area.

My herby fruity breakfast bread baked alongside the Babylonstoren chef who cooks for Babel restaurant

My herby fruity breakfast bread baked alongside the Babylonstoren chef who cooks for Babel restaurant

Garden centric restaurants and hotels rule and I hope that The Pig is one of many that follow in this country.

I have a fun day planned, more of which later, but in the meantime just a short note to acknowledge something I have been banging on about for a while. If you agree and know any others, please let me know.

Here comes the book…

Today I read about the People’s Pops recipe book. For those of you who have not been fortunate enough to experience this New York phenomenon, People’s Pops are an ice lolly shop in Chelsea Market and now across other NYC locations. This was one of the great discoveries I made on my last trip as the concept ticked so many of the boxes that I feel is driving innovative food retail at the moment. However, these guys were for a time missing one important ingredient in my recipe for success….the book!

Ingredients, flavours and quirky sticks: simples

You see, my theory goes like this. New concepts have to start out small and at low cost, hence the pop up or street food culture. It is about a van or a counter or something very manageable and low maintenance. The menu has to be tight, focusing on one product or one thing done exceptionally well, in this case ice lollies. And in doing that well there is generally a sense of humour, some innovative flavours and great sourcing. After that it is all about the branding and marketing which require quirky elements (ice lolly sticks), great social media, word of mouth and a young vibrant team who can represent the brand dynamically to the customer. Obviously the final element is merchandising with the cap, the t shirt, the serving dish… and of course the book.

Don’t believe me? Well here are a few more examples to prove the point.

The Meatball Shop promote their book with the receipt

Meatballs, fun tick list menu, nod to the tradition of mincing beef with mincer elements on the wall and….. the book!

Doughnuts galore…and good ones at that

Doughnuts, fun doughnut shaped cushions and chairs, trendy flavours, pared back branding. I haven’t seen the book yet, so watch this space. They are definitely missing a trick.

And one from our own shores: Pitt Cue Co.

Pitt Cue simple daily menu

It started in an airstream truck under Hungerford Bridge and just took off from there. Now in Newburgh St, Soho, these guys combine great smokey, well sourced slow cooked meat cuts with tasty sides. Don’t forget Hair of the Pig before you sit down to get you in the spicy mood and save room for dessert. Once again, the book and the merchandising is not yet there, but it will be. Mark my words!

Any from you?….