Hello! How are you? Oh, I’m fine. Work? Busy. Really busy. The blog has suffered, unfortunately. Yes, I know no-one cares. What? Yes, I know the haiku post was shit. Well, there’s no need to be nasty. Fine. No really, fine. Yeah, whatever. Not if I see you first.
For the first new post in a while I’m going to do things a little differently - there’s going to be no photos. A lack of shaky iPhone snaps hasn’t done Jay Rayner any harm. This is part of an experimental manifesto here at MBFBY? where I reject the popular concept of food blogging and take things to the next level. I know - totally maverick. That, and my phone ran out off batteries on the way there, and I’d left my Hasselblad H4D-60 at home.
My first reaction on hearing about BBQ Whisky Beer last year was one of indifference. It sounded like another trend-driven pop-up.
Residency in pub - check
Name of food served in title - check
US junk food - check
hashtag - check
Therefore, I ignored it. However on Saturday evening tasked with finding a venue to meet a friend in that part of town (which incidentally is more ‘Edgware Road’ than ‘Marylebone’) I thought it would be worth checking out as my friend and I, funnily enough, are both lovers of bbq, whisky and beer.
The pub itself is beautiful. Low-lit, lots of copper and a small open kitchen. Now, I was expecting the ‘whisky’ part of the title to be a short list of bourbons, but it turns out to be a truly mind-blowing collection of Scotch, Japanese, English, Irish and American. One entire wall of the pub is painted with blackboard paint and used to present the whisky list. It has to be the biggest whisky selection in London. It’s staggering - and all grouped into Highlands/Islands etc, presented with price, age and ABV.
In order to line our stomachs for this onslaught of heartburn-inducing goodness we thought it wise to have some food. The menu is very inviting. BBQ, burgers, chicken and sandwiches. We ordered a load of chicken wings and some fried chicken livers to kick things off. We ordered 6 wings for 6 quid. They arrive in a little bucket and there’s actually 12 pieces because they count 1 wing as being both halves of it, as it should be. They came covered in a sweet, mellow buffalo-style sauce with celery and blue cheese dressing, and were very enjoyable indeed. Slightly crispy and so moist on the inside that a chicken bone slid out of my fingers as I was eating and on to my wife’s blouse. I wasn’t really a fan of the chicken livers. Liver is a bit of a ‘dank’ flavour, teamed with the seasoning of the batter I thought they didn’t really work. They could have done with a dipping sauce on the side, really.
Already starting to feel full after the wings and the liver, the sandwiches we ordered for main came over, and mightily impressive they looked, too. My fried chicken sandwich was delicious. Served on a light brioche bun (naturally), it was comprised of a great big chunk of fried chicken with in delicious crispy batter, jalapeño cheese and a tomato relish. It was a fantastically tasty experience. The jalapeño provided a bit of a kick, and the relish gave a bolt of sweetness. The light bun soaked everything up leaving me with a melded, saucy mess about 2/3rd through. Good job there’s kitchen roll on all the tables.
Because I’m a greedy, gluttonous waste of skin, I ate a fair bit of my friend’s pulled pork sandwich after he was defeated by it. This was also excellent - a load of moist pulled pork with a sticky BBQ sauce, with crunchy slaw, in the same brioche bun. The triple cooked chips on the side were very, very crispy. Maybe too crispy for me. To be honest I didn’t eat many chips as by this stage I was very, very full. BBQ Whisky Beer is the only US-style place I’ve been in London that actually does US-sized portions. Our table at the end of the meal looked like 15 truck drivers had just lunched there. You can’t argue with the prices either - the sandwiches were around the 10 quid mark, including chips. I got a takeaway pulled pork sarnie from Pitt Cue once for £6.50 and it was essentially a slider. The one here was literally 4 times the size.
So, I’ve talked about the BBQ and the whisky, what about the beer? This is the weak point, unfortunately. The Wargrave Arms is a Youngs pub, so they are limited to selling beers on Young’s roster. I have nothing against Youngs selection of ales, but celler-tempreature ale just doesn’t cut it when dealing with this sort of food - you need ice-coldUS-style microbrews, high on hops. There was nothing at all here like that. One of the guys I was with was reduced to drinking Stella. I only hope he made it home without starting a fight with a policeman or something. I understand that this is something they aren’t happy with themselves and are working on a solution, so don’t let this put you off.
In an over-saturated (fat) London food scene where peddlers of BBQ, burger and fried chicken are ten-a-penny, BBQ Whisky Beer stands out as they are serving up spot-on executions of modern junk food classics, and you get a hell of lot for you money. It’s in a beautiful old pub and the whisky collection has to be seen to be believed. Shame about the beer but hopefully this will be sorted out soon.
If you managed to get this far without the need to look at a picture then congratulations - your attention span is in fine fettle. Do let me know what you think in the comments below - if people feel the blog doesn’t need pictures then I may reduced them, or even cut them down entirely for future posts - it certainly made my own dining experience (and that of my companions) far more enjoyable by not have to worry about taking a snap of every element of the meal, and forces me to work a bit harder with the descriptions of the dishes. All feedback welcome, especially insults and death threats. Ciao, yah?
BBQ Whisky Beer at the Wargrave Arms
40-42 Brendon St