There is such a huge buzz around food blogs, food magazines and food apps around London these days. I mean, there has been for a while, but it’s so refreshing to go to an event that is filled with people who are genuinely excited to talk about what’s hot amongst London’s food and drink scene. So, along with fellow Boozy Buncher Andrew (formerly of @motleyspicer fame) I was kindly invited by @sloLondon to review a new opening in the well-known hipster area of… Westminster. Wait, Westminster? Shoreditch, you’ve obviously got competition! OK, not quite, but nevertheless the backstreets between Westminster and Victoria is where Low, Slow & Juke are about to open their doors. Smoking is the USP here – not cigarettes of course (they are still very much banned to my absolute delight), but the infusion of cocktails and barbecued meats with a characteristic smoky flavour. The meats are smoked on a low heat for 16 hours to give juicy, full-flavoured, fall-apart main courses; the cocktails prepared and served with a smoked essence to deepen their flavour. But does it work?
The decoration is pleasant enough – very open plan, mixing the bar and seated areas. The cocktails were in full flow with four options on offer to try.
At a glance at the cocktail menu, I find it an interesting choice to present four sample cocktails without any pomp & circumstance – often when smoke and cocktails are associated there is some kind of machine piping an essence into an enclosed area with the glass, or some kind of dry ice concoction that you’d expect in a 90s pop concert. These were simpler, but still with smoked alcoholic components.
I enjoyed the Pear Fizz first – light and fruity, a suitable way to end a day at work and kick off a press event such as this. Refreshing, but not that original. My favourite was the Daiquiri, which fortunately I saved for last. I am a fan of rhubarb in drinks, it cuts through any residual sweetness and rosemary is a strong enough flavour to stand against the tartness. This did not need the twig of rosemary on top – there is only so much herbal odour I can take in one drink. Some pre-dinner snacks were served in the form of smoked bacon fat popcorn and chilli & caramel chicken wings. The popcorn was moreish but a bit unpleasant – I’ll stick with salted thanks. The wings were also very moreish, sweet and sticky with a nice hit of spice. Can afford to up the spice notch a touch for me, really add some chilli kick to counteract the glaze. But if you put a plate of these in front of me, I would be one happy camper.
Libations in full flow, we took our place in a side room aptly named The Meating Room that didn’t look entirely unlike the entrance to a porn set (who doesn’t love some blue neon strip lighting?). Then the mains came along.
I do like the idea of throwing all the meat on one central tray to pass around, it keeps everything very informal. A metal tray did take me back to high school dinner a little bit though. As expected, the food is not really suitable for vegetarians – this is for the full carnivores! I was excited to dig into the slow-cooked brisket and the ribs, since the restaurant really seems to put these on a pedestal. All the meat was cooked nicely, it was tender and juicy… But the flavour, where is the flavour? This platter was nothing like the chicken wings at the start, packed full of it. The mains were served with some sauces to try out, they even went to the trouble to recommend which sauce pairs well with which meat. And yes, the sauces were tasty; a smoky ketchup; the intriguingly named Bastardo (spicy but not too much); chipotle mayo. But I can’t say that I was excited here. This style food is not particularly rare in one form or another in London and Low, Slow & Juke could definitely make its mark with some revisions to its glaze and seasoning for its main courses.
And finally to dessert. To be honest I was not expecting anything to come round, nothing was on the menu. But there they were – bacon wrapped brownies. Surely these have to be something special, right?! A good question, and even one that I am not able to answer – the dessert ran out halfway round the restaurant and never seemed to make it to our table in the end. Disappointing.
Food: ★★☆☆☆ Drinks:★★★☆☆ Service: ★★★☆☆ Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆ Value: ★★★☆☆ Overall: ★★★☆☆
I had a quick look at the prices before leaving – £8-9 for cocktails is pretty good value, £14-15 for the main courses is reasonable given the location. I always like to discover new restaurants in unexpected places and now can add Low, Slow & Juke to this list. Definitely a good spot for an after-work drink, not sure that I’d stump up the cash for a full-blown meal quite yet.
Low, Slow & Juke
1 Abbey Orchard Street
London – SW1P 2LU