Did you know that ‘literally’ doesn’t just mean literally anymore? It also means ‘figuratively’. Decades of misuse have led to the poor word having to adopt the opposite of its intended meaning. ‘Barbecue’ has suffered a similarly ironic voiding of its definition. Once a byword for bonanza, where the shackles of the kitchen were joyfully jettisoned, through routine exploitation barbecue has become synonymous with mediocrity. Most ‘barbecue’ food in London is nothing of the sort, having been no closer to smoke than the sous chef’s carton of Marlborough Lights. Tough meat that has to be furiously prised from the bone, sickly sweet confectionary-style sauces smothering whatever flavour the cut once had, and uninspiring sides of floppy chips and spiteful coleslaw. Few words have been so butchered.
One Sixty show that it doesn’t have to be like this. They’ve imported a smoker from the States. They’ve added unusual spices to their glazes and chars. They use local suppliers for their meat and bake their own buns. Despite looking like many of the inferior barbecue jokers in London, One Sixty is in fact far, far superior.
Let’s skip the preliminaries and head to One Sixty’s greatest success: the ribs. On a focused, almost brutally concise menu, it’s the full rack of ribs (£19, including a side – half a rack is £9) which strides to the very front. They’re outrageous. Encased in a thick crust of oak-brown bark, the ribs yield their meat with little resistance. Forget about hopelessly gnawing on the bone. Having been smoked for eight hours at 160 degrees – hence the restaurant’s name – the texture of the meat is, quite frankly, perfect. All that cooking time has melted the fat until it’s like syrup, trickling its flavour through the cut. And with cherry, oak, hickory and apple wood powering the smoker, the ribs’ exterior evokes all kinds of complex, aromatic tastes, heightening the meat’s depth, bringing new dimensions to its juiciness. You’re unlikely to find a better rack of ribs in London.
Most of the menu involves meat that has been intimately involved with the smoker. Ox cheek (£17) is another big success, impossibly rich, best eaten slowly to appreciate its full power. The mash potato it’s paired with, while plentiful, hinders the meat somewhat, too one-note in flavour to be anything other than an occasional balm to the ox cheek’s intensity. There are cheaper options too – a fourteen-hour smoked pulled pork brioche (£8) and a USDA prime brisket bun (£8.50). Given what they’ve achieved with the ox cheek and the ribs, I’d fully trust One Sixty to get those right too.
Not content with serving authentic barbecue, One Sixty bring over fifty kinds of beer to the party. The enormous drinks menu is divided into countries, with knowledgable waiting staff at hand to recommend the best pairing with your meal. My chosen lager, Tiny Rebel’s Full Nelson, is the perfect foil to the ox cheek, its crisp volley of grape notes cleansing the palette. Ales are also available from the cask.
One Sixty’s encyclopaedic beer menu makes more sense when you remember that it’s essentially a very good bar with an ambitious kitchen. There’s a pumping stereo, big leather seats and a confident cocktail menu. Bar snacks are as good as you’d hope, too. Pig’s cheek scrumpets (£7.50) are judiciously fried, moreish bites of molten meat, while the hot wings (£7) are enlivened by an excellent blue cheese sauce that you’ll want to keep for your main meal, too.
At present, dessert is confined to a passable slab of brownie, but the waitress confirms that they’ll be expanding this part of the menu. Either way, One Sixty have already achieved a spectacular rehabilitation of the barbecue, complete with a formidable beer selection – all without breaking the bank. It’s barbecue heaven. Literally.
Tel: 0207 283 8367