‘But it’s been five years,’ protested Ann Haagensen, restaurant manager at the newly relocated Pitt Cue when I congratulated her on the opening of their new space and on how far the restaurant has come.
Modest words indeed when you consider that it was a short 5 years ago since chef Tom Adams opened the original Pitt Cue, selling American BBQ favourites from a street food van under Hungerford Bridge. He then opened the first bricks and mortar place at Newburgh Street in Soho and while the food was great, the cramped conditions and no reservation policy meant that I hardly ever ate there.
The new Pitt Cue is a very different beast. After reading many glowing reviews from critics and fellow bloggers, I met fellow foodie Lisa for a meal here, who Sanj and I had met in the queue at Hoppers. Their current reservation system isn’t automated, so you either need to call or play a little email ping pong, which worked for me. They do also keep tables specifically for walk ins.
This new Devonshire Square location near Liverpool Street station oozes class in the heart of the City. Some previous reviewers have been put off by the boorish conversation of some of the local business clientele but we were fortunate to be flanked by pleasant diners on our visit.
The decor is all London-2010s bare brick walls and shiny exposed air ducts. The high ceilings give a wonderful sense of space, a marked improvement on their Soho premises and I think the chefs share the sentiment with their wonderful open plan kitchen, which is on view at the back of the restaurant.
Pitt Cue has always been about sourcing the best produce (Tom names River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall among his main influences) and then treating it just right to extract maximum flavour and juiciness, mainly through the use of the barbecue and smoker. Like their old Soho location, the menu of regulars is augmented by a board of specials, where there are true gems. These specials do run out and once they’re finished, that’s it for the day.
Pitt Cue sources most of their produce from the West Country and in order to ensure the quality and supply of their signature Mangalitza pigs, they have their own farm breeding this breed for them. More about this special pig later.
We started with a few snacks. Lisa recommended potato cake, a speciality of her native Australia. These were a direct challenge to Heston Blunenthal’s triple cooked chips – fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
The lamb, whey and pistachio sausage was the first preview we had of the meaty goodness that was about to come. Pitt Cue’s style is to pair the meat offering with a pickled vegetable to offset the rich goodness, in this case a carrot based concoction. The sausage was pure lamb goodness with little accents of nuttiness.
Then, the decks were cleared for the main course and proper meat knives were delivered. Pitt Cue is very proud of its Mangalitza pork, so keep a close eye out for any pork cuts on the specials board. We chose the shoulder chop. Wow. Just wow. The wonderfully fatty, tender pork had been grilled to perfection – just enough to impart a smokiness but otherwise, the porcine wonder was left to speak for itself, just with a little pickled onion.
The cured and smoked pork jowl was reminiscent of my favourite roast Chinese pork belly with its 3 layers of super crisp skin, a layer of fat and meat. Much as I hate to admit it, this jowl outdid the Chinese version. Pitt Cue have perfected that combo with a gammon like quality to the meat layer. The apple sauce on the side was perfect foil.
We finished with a buttermilk and rhubarb dessert. The buttermilk was only slightly malty but its muted flavour was just what we needed to finish off such a rich meal. The poached rhubarb had a lovely jelly like consistency.
Food: ★★★★★ Service: ★★★★★ Ambiance: ★★★★☆ VFM: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★★★
Price: Just under £80 for 2, including service
1, The Avenue, Devonshire Square, London EC2M 4YP