Blue is the colour, deep south cooking is the game | The Blues Kitchen Shoreditch, 134-146 Curtain Road, Shoreditch, London EC2A 3AR
Seating was varied, booths for four and eight, a long communal table here and there, complete with church chairs. The bar was circled with stools and behind that a line of high tables. There is also a live music stage (check the website for who’s on and when) with a dozen or so small tables dotted around in a very casual manner.
That wasn’t all, even on the way to toilet I discovered two more fab areas. Area#1, at the back of the restaurant is a full sized silver Airstream trailer packed full of giggling girls and cocky sharp-suited boys. It was like a huge soda can fizzing with hormones, simply shake and watch it go off! Area#2 was downstairs, past the poster clad corrugated walls and huge cast iron ‘bell’ light hanging from the high ceiling (I just to jump up to give it a thump to hear that satisfying ‘dong’). For beyond the toilets is a private room packed full of oddities (that’s a polite way of saying junk). But this brick-a-brack room looked so cool that I found myself almost wishing away the years so I could book it for my next BIG birthday. There’s an old fairground roller-coaster car (prime for photo opportunities) heavy roped walls, deep antique leather tub chairs and, probably most importantly, its own bar.
Talking of bars, the drinks list here was great, with fab cocktails and a vast selection of bourbons and beers. As always we went for the cocktails, my classic Whisky sour £8 did exactly what it said on the tin whilst Saff’s Hurricane £9 was a refreshing fruity punch. For once my drink didn’t turn up looking like the ‘ladies’ choice!
Right, that’s enough waffle, on to the food. Unfortunately this wasn’t quite what we expected. Don’t get us wrong, the food here was good but it didn’t have that authentic smoked BBQ flavour. We’ve been extremely lucky and eaten at some of the best BBQ joints in London – Pitt Cue Co, Dukes Brew & Que, Neil Rankin‘s The Smokehouse, the Big Easy and BBQ Whisky Beer to name just a few. But these are relatively small venues (except the Big Easy), where as this place is massive, but then it does double up as a music venue. Even with all this space there was still a queue on the door.
The meal started on a high, for on the list of appetisers was Fried Alligator £13.50. The last time I had alligator balls was in Florida, not actual testicles also but large balls of breaded potato with shredded ‘gator meat. So when this bowl of deep-fried nugget sized chunks landed on the table it wasn’t what I expected. I asked the waiter what alligator tasted of and he replied ‘imagine a chicken that swims and has sharp teeth!’ He wasn’t wrong. These chunks, taken from the animal’s tail, are basically white, dense, slightly chewy chicken(ish) flavoured meat coated in Cajun spiced breadcrumbs. I loved them! Especially dunked in the sweet chilli dip and Creole mustard (sour cream, finely chopped peppers and mustard seeds).
Another big hit were the Hot Buffalo wings, (£6.90 for a small portion, £9.90 for large). These had that amazing acidic zing from the vinegar and just the right amount of chilli burn without being drenched in sauce. It’s accompanying blue cheese dip had the right taste but a slightly runny texture.
In hindsight we probably should have gone for the classic Southern soul food such as the New Orleans gumbo £13.90, Cajun catfish £12.90 or Seafood jambalaya £13.90. Instead, as we had the urge for meat, we ordered the Deluxe BBQ blow out £18.95 per person, (minimum of two sharing) – 16 hour slow smoked short beef ribs, Texan pulled pork, smoke roasted chicken and burnt end brisket beef, served ‘family style’ with fries and slaw. Had this been an option for one person then we could have tried both.
The burnt end brisket really caught my eye, as the burnt end mash at Pitt Cue is still branded in my memory and the brisket at The Big Easy (along with their voodoo wings) is my death row meal. It’s just a shame that, as mentioned earlier, the meats lacked that rich, smokey flavour. The chicken with its blackened crispy skin was delicious, especially when smothered in The Blues Kitchen’s own brand BBQ sauce £4.50. The beef rib was gigantic, a proper Flintstone’s sized portion, complete with a tar black sticky, sweet coating.
We didn’t order any extra sides and a good job too, we were stuffed. It’s not very often that we don’t leave the plate clean. We hate wasting food so luckily the offer of a doggy bag came to our rescue. In fact on this occasion it was literally a doggy bag as we gave it to a grateful homeless man and his canine companion on our way to the bus stop.
For dessert we had the Alabama Mess £6.50, a weird yet satisfying dessert of salted caramel ice cream, cookies, marshmallows and meringue, topped with pecans and bourbon cream, easily enough for two to share. The cookie pieces (more like boulders) made reaching the caramel ice-cream and meringue a little like mining Shale gas (fracking difficult). While at the bottom of the glass was a large dollop of dark fruit compote, giving the dessert a very Black Forest gateau-esque ending. We paired this with an Oreo milkshake £5, the flavour was good but the consistency a little too thin – looks like they’re made with just milk and no ice cream to add thickness.
Overall we had a fantastic evening, the staff were great and the atmosphere buzzy. This isn’t somewhere to go on a first date, the food is very hands on (messy) and the volume music will leave you no choice but to shout across the table – so no whispering sweet nothings! There is a real party feel to the place and, as I mentioned earlier, I’m seriously contemplating hiring the private room for a party. So who wants an invite?
134-146 Curtain Road, Shoreditch
London EC2A 3AR
Telephone: 020 7729 7216
Opening Hours: Monday to Wednesday : 12pm-12am
Thursday : 12pm-1am
Friday : 12pm-2am
Saturday : 11am-3am
Sunday : 11am-10pm Book a table here Follow them on Twitter
Find them on Facebook Nearest station: Shoreditch High Street (7 mins walk) or Old Street (8 mins) We ate as guests of The Blues Kitchen, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.