This weekend I had a meal so incredible that I just couldn’t resist blogging about it.
That meal was at Bodean’s in Soho, which, despite working opposite for more than a year and salivating at the delicious smokey barbecue smell emanating from it, I’d never tried before. We picked it on a whim — I’d already been researching London restaurants for an hour or so (the staggeringly high number and wide variety make this a hefty undertaking) when it suddenly came to mind. We took one look at the website and were decided as soon as we saw this:“Smoke it slow, cook it low” — All our meats are slow cooked to government standards at low temperatures. This process keeps all the natural juices in the meats and enhances the flavor. Our smoking process also gives a beautiful smoke flavor and colour to the meat.
Prelude: Barrio Central
Coming from a 2.30pm performance at the theatre, we arrived at the restaurant at an early 5.40pm and were told we’d have a 40 minute wait (we weren’t early enough!), so left a phone number while we went to have drinks at the nearby Barrio Central. I may as well give a review of that too. So here you are: quirky decor, loud often-retro music, decent happy hour with a limited cocktail list, huge list of cocktails around the £6.50-£10 mark, most of them weird in flavour. Great fun for dancing and experimental types (with money to throw around), not great for a cheap, quiet or relaxed drink. The Mexican-style tapas aren’t bad either — unoriginal but tasty, although the nachos are lacking in cheese. After 40 minutes we got the call for which our rumbling bellies had been waiting and left.
Service with a smile
We were led to a small two-seater table by the very smiley front-of-house girl and shortly after greeted by our even friendlier waitress. She really made us feel welcome and appreciated, like you wouldn’t expect from a bustling restaurant that’s part of a small chain. We didn’t feel embarrassed asking for more time to decide and she didn’t forget about us afterwards either! The downstairs dining room was warmly lit, with brown leather chairs and studded sofas, a bar and various fitting decorations on the wall such as antlers. Subtle rocky music played in the background, contributing to the loungey feeling of the dining room. It was busy but didn’t feel that crowded — we had enough space for our elbows, yet could also peek over at other diner’s delicious food! The football (a big match, apparently) was playing on a screen but it didn’t disturb us.
Drinks and decisions
We selected our drinks: Steve had an American cider (appley but a little sour, I thought) and I had an Old Fashioned cocktail with bourbon and maple syrup (its prominence on the menu meant I had to try it, but it was far too rich for my tastes!) and perused the menu. It was overflowing with delicious things: stacked burgers, proper American hot dogs, pulled pork rolls, chargrilled steaks, jerk chicken, macaroni cheese, enchiladas with refried beans (YUM), chilli cheese fries… but being the ravenous carnivores we are, there was only really one option: the Bodean’s platter.
We went with this because we didn’t want to miss out on any delicious form of barbecued meat, and we weren’t disappointed. Never have I been faced with such an irresistible plate of food. Large, crispy-ended spare ribs coated in succulent dark-pink meat, falling off the bone yet chewy at the sweet blackened edges; sets of sticky baby back ribs crying out to have their surrounding soft flesh knawed off; golden honey-glazed chicken thighs, smokey-sweet and juicy; soft shreds of pulled pork infused with flavour; and meltingly tender cubes of beef brisket, drenched in a rich and gloopy barbecue sauce — called ‘burnt ends’ on the menu. All this was piled high, yet no matter how full our tummies became it proved near impossible to resist going back to tear off just one more strip of tender meat.
This meat feast was accompanied by a pile of creamy coleslaw and bowl of crispy golden chips, with a pot of rich mayonnaise. Mostly to satisfy our curiosity about American food, we also ordered creamed corn (juicy sweetcorn in a creamy sauce, very moreish) and cornbread muffins (I thought they were bready and bland but Steve liked them). We hung onto the plate long after we’d eaten enough, hoping we’d gain room for more if we just gave it time! Only our desire for dessert convinced us to let our plates be taken away.
I didn’t think I could manage dessert but I’m so glad I took that risk. I went for pecan pie and it was everything I could ask for – thick sticky caramel, sweet rich nuttiness and buttery shortcrust pastry. And in a long slim slice I could manage! However I did swap the whipped cream for the vanilla ice cream that Steve got with his chocolate fudge brownie (which was too giant for him to finish)! We accompanied our desserts with a glass of tea each — absolutely perfect. By the end, I had that very special feeling of blissful fullness, where your head feels dozy and your eyesight hazy with contentment….
Sated and sleepy
We got the bill with no fuss and would’ve far preferred to tip our lovely waitress rather than have a pre-decided service charge lumped on to the total, but so is the way of dining out in London these days. The bill, including giant sharing platter, two sides, two alcoholic drinks, two desserts and two teas came to around £54, £60 with service. We thought that was decent for what was one of the most satisfying meals of our lives!
Emerging into the cold night air, we shook off some of our sleepiness with a walk through from Poland Street to Bond Street station, before taking the tube home. If I had to summarise Bodean’s in two words, I’d call it a carnivore’s paradise. Steve called it “heaven on earth”!
All text and photos (c) Juliet Langton, 2014. All rights reserved.