London’s Best Global Barbecue Restaurants
Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.
The craze for live-fire cooking has gripped London. There’s something enchanting about the flicker of flame and curl of smoke, and cooking this way adds an extra dimension of flavour that’s enhanced by punchy spices, herbs and bright acidity. It’s not all about low and slow American style ‘cue, however – plenty of cuisines have their own methods of grilling and smoking. These are our favourite spots in London.
Mrs Le’s Bánh Mì and Grill
Vietnamese barbecue is a relatively new arrival in London. In fact, we rarely see new Vietnamese restaurants opening at all, which is pretty odd if you stop and think about it. Let’s hope Mrs Le’s signals a change in tide.
It comes from the people behind the restaurant right next door, Mien Tay, which has been a solid, reliable little spot for many years now. We love their unapologetic approach to grilling here, which is to say – they will grill just about anything. Chicken gizzards, goat, whole birds, oysters, fish… it’s all on there and it’s all sizzlin’.
What they also understand is the power of the pickle. Grilled food and pickles are a perfect combination, and they have some interesting Vietnamese specialities here, like the addictive, fragrant lemongrass and scallions, known in Vietnam as ‘glittering chives.’ Munch them between bites of barbecue, as you would pickled ginger with sushi.
Mrs Le’s Bánh Mì and Grill, 178 Lavender Hill, SW11 5TQ
Smoking Goat Shoreditch
The original Smoking Goat site on Denmark Street has now closed its doors (this closure was always on the cards due to Crossrail), but thankfully we have the recently opened Shoreditch branch to fall back on.
There’s lots of smoking and grilling here, including the brisket that goes into their ‘drunken noodles’, a mammoth plate of wide, flappy fried noodles, tangled with large slices of brisket, spring onion and garnished with mouth numbing pepper. It’s not the spiciest or most heavily seasoned dish on the menu, but it’s a great counterpoint to the dishes that are, particularly if you’re in a large group. It also goes down a treat after a night on the sauce. You’ll also need the Tamworth pork skewers, which are sticky, sweet and gloriously fatty. Octopus and chicken hearts also get the grill treatment, the former soft with great char flavour, the latter tender yet bouncy. Chicken hearts are just marvellous on the barbecue – we once ate a portion of 12 in one sitting. Don’t ask.
Smoking Goat, 64 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
Tasty Jerk and Smokey Jerkey
There should be lots of great jerk chicken places in London but we’ve really only ever fallen for two: Smokey Jerkey in New Cross, and Thornton Heath’s Tasty Jerk. With both places, you’ll know when you’re there because you’ll pick up the scent of jerk spicing in the air from quite some distance.
So much jerk missteps the balance between spice, heat and sweetness but these guys nail it. Those of you who like your jerk sweeter will prefer Smokey Jerkey, but at both places you get a proper wallop of allspice, plus there’s significant scotch bonnet heat, and oh, the smoke. Plumes of it, billowing up from the grills and out through frankly inadequate extraction. Let’s just say you won’t be wearing those clothes to work the next day.
Tasty Jerk, 88 Whitehorse Lane, SE25 6RQ
Smokey Jerky (pictured), 158 New Cross Road, SE14 5BA
The main event at Blacklock is the chops, which come skinny or large. We recommend you get the ‘all in’ if there’s more than two of you – all the skinny chops available that day piled up on a plate, with coal flatbread and a side dish each.
It’s really great for when you just want to plough into a pile of juicy lamb or pork chops, hot fat running down your wrists as you nibble the bones clean. It’s also excellent value – that all-in plate is £20 each for example, and they do a range of great cocktails for a fiver. £5! In Central London!
Blacklock, 13 Philpot Lane, EC3M 8AA; 24 Great Windmill Street, W1D 7LG
Berber & Q and Berber & Q Shawarma Bar
Berber & Q is as big on noise as it is on flavours, so be warned, and do not take your nan. It’s a cavernous space under a railway arch so the acoustics are crazy and they like to pump the tunes while they man the grill.
The way they do things here is you order your grilled or smoked meats and they arrive on a sharing tray, accompanied by a shedload of glorious pickly bits, yogurty things and salady arrangements. Oh and bread. So it’s sort of a DIY kebab situation, and boy, does it taste good. Don’t miss the pot of innocent-looking garlic sauce on the table, because it is fierce and needs to be tastes to be believed. Definitely not one to dip into before an important meeting.
Of course, their famous cauliflower is a must. It’s grilled whole in spiced butter until blackened, then served topped with rose petals, herbs, nuts and for good measure, a load more melted butter. How anyone could resist this is beyond our comprehension.
They’ve also got a banging little shawarma bar in Exmouth Market, where they do mezze and a selection of Middle Eastern meats, which can be eaten on rice or piled into a pita (we suggest the latter). The Classic lamb shawarma is great but we can’t resist their Adana – a spicy minced meat kebab that pulls no punches.
Berber & Q, Arch 338, Acton Mews, E8 4EA
Berber & Q Shawarma Bar, 46 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QE
Image credit: acute_tomato
There are many mangals alight on Green Lanes, but Antepliler is consistently one of the best. Their lahmacun (a thin flatbread topped with spiced, minced lamb) is one of the most inhalable in London – get it rolled up around some salad to take away and it’s the perfect snack.
We love to sit at the front of the restaurant in summer when they fling open the doors and light streams through the huge windows, feasting on fresh meze and sizzling meats, fat still spitting from the grill. Their cooking is a little spicier than that of the neighbouring restaurants, and all the better for it.
Antepliler, Grand Parade, 45 Green Lanes, N4 1AG
temper do something not many London restaurants do, and that is buy in whole animals, butcher them in house and then use up every part of them. It’s an admirable way to prepare and serve meat, and some of the results are fantastic. We love the way they incorporate the fat from beef into side dishes like the beef fat potatoes with Ogleshield cheese.
You’ll be wowed by the ginormous grill in the centre of the restaurant, sporting large pieces of animal. They also use goat meat from Cabrito – going through an average of ten goats a week – and we think it’s the finest meat on the menu. Have it on tacos or flatbread with your choice of sauce.
temper, 25 Broadwick Street, W1F 0DF; 2 Angel Court, 30 Throgmorton Street, EC2R 7HJ
The kitchen at Kiln is unique, because they don’t have it hooked up to any gas – everything is cooked in clay pots or woks over charcoal, or on the grill. Don’t miss the aged lamb and cumin skewer, which is gloriously fatty and deep of flavour, or the the slow cooked soy chicken, which gently sizzles in an ever-present layer at the top of the grill.
This place has everything you’d want from a grill restaurant: massive flavours, loads of spice and some serious theatre – you’ll want to sit at the bar upstairs (downstairs is for larger groups), and ideally, right in front of the kitchen, to admire the chefs at work.
Kiln, 58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL
Chef Hus Vedat (also of Aegean restaurant Hovarda) works the grill in the massive open kitchen at modern Turkish restaurant Yosma in Baker Street.
Beetroots pit-roast in coals, aubergines blacken and collapse, prawns are made sweet and smoky and that’s just for starters. There’s then a whole mangal section to choose from, including lamb breast – a fantastic cut of meat with the best ratio of tender meat to crisp fat – and chicken served with charred sweetcorn.
Yosma, 50 Baker Street, W1U 7BT
Honey & Smoke
This is the grill restaurant from Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer, the husband and wife team behind Honey & Co. (and Honey & Spice) and the menu is full of Middle Eastern flavours, which match wonderfully with a lick of smoke.
Their cauliflower shawarma with green tahini is legendary, and we also love their pigeon stuffed with pine nuts. To be honest, you can’t order badly from this menu (not that you should ever be able to do that, of course), and it really is the case that every dish is a stunner. The only problem is trying to restrain yourself with the meze so there’s still room to make the most of the grills. There’s nothing over complicated about the food here – it’s just simple, honest, home-style cooking and every bite is pure joy.
Honey & Smoke, 216 Great Portland Street, W1W 5QW
F M Mangal
Camberwell’s famous mangal chugs sweet, spice-scented smoke into the air on Camberwell Church Street every evening as the first skewers hit the grill. It’s famous for a pomegranate dip with charred onions and garlic cloves, which arrives at the table with spice-smeared fluffy flatbread for dipping. Many have tried to recreate it and many have failed. The meze are nothing to write home about, but some of the grilled meats are a triumph. The Adana kebab in particular is a hot mess of fun – full of chilli and spice and best enjoyed wrapped in one of their flatbreads (to go, from the takeaway counter at the front of the restaurant) or as ‘yoghurtlu’, where it comes chopped into pieces on top of yoghurt-soaked bread, topped with tomato sauce and grilled chillies.
F M Mangal, 54 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8QZ
Featured image: temper