Pitt Cue Co

Pitt Cue Co is a meat dungeon where no more than 30 hungry prisoners are lucky enough to be served up trays of smokey meat. On what was probably the last pleasant day of the year before the 6 month slog of winter arrives, what better way was there to spend it than in a grey windowless bunker. At least it would be helping me with the unintentional fattening up that tends to start around this time of the year.

As is the ongoing trend around Soho there are no reservations, which usually means tenting up outside the door hours before it opens, only to still somehow be told that the wait time is 2 hours the moment the doors open (fuck you Burger & Lobster). But today I beat the system and we were seated within five minutes. It feels great when you are one of the lucky twenty to have a seat, and when I left I smugly grinned at all those in line.

Downstairs really is tight. There’s barely enough room to squeeze past people without rubbing your crotch across their back. It also means that if you are a two then you’ll be sharing the table. We were cramped up next to a couple of Americans who were gasping about the quality of the BBQ (always a good sign) and as they kept knocking back more shots of bourbon were becoming increasingly more flirty with each other, to the point that they started leaning over the table to plant kisses on each other. At 12.15 on a Thursday afternoon, this made for an entertaining lunch. What makes the sharing of these small tables fun is that the food here is not neat and dainty, and instead it’s the type you get your fingers and mouth dirty with. Grinning with pulled pork clinging to my teeth at the American packed in closely to me, she gave me a grin back with BBQ sauce all around her chops. We had become table buddies, and by the end of the meal we had joined them on the bourbon shooters.

We shared a snack of beef on toast (£5) with a half pint of ‘Whatever’ (the beer on tap- £2.50). It was a surprisingly neat and tidy dish, but we soon changed that by tearing into it with our hands. If only all toast tasted as good as this. The drunk Americans next to us were so jealous that they went ahead and ordered two of them.

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Then came the pulled pork bun with a side of bone marrow mash (£9.75) . It wasn’t the biggest or messiest I’ve seen but the flavour made up for this. It had a great tangy smokiness and the bun was buttery and soft. The mash tasted of meaty caramel and was so smooth that it soon served a condiment which we dipped the bun into.

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I went for the spicy pig’s head sausage (£12.50) with crushed celeriac and leak. If this had been dinner then I’d been a bit disappointed by the size of the portion on the prison tray in front of me, but again the flavour was great. I couldn’t shake the image of McDonald’s sausages given their shape though! The picture isn’t the best, but it was taken in a dungeon!

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We were in and out within 45 minutes, so it’s ideal for a lunch or quick dinner, but hardly a place if you want to relax and let the food settle. There’s hardly enough space for the waiters to do much more than just put the trays down in front of you, but they were friendly and of course hip (although without beards- maybe this is going out of trend now?). A lunch for two with a couple of beers came to £40. I wouldn’t say that the food knocked me out, after all it is just BBQ smoked food, so I wouldn’t queue for an hour like I’m sure some people happily do. Instead I’d be more inclined to nip down the road to Bodean’s where the pulled pork sandwich isn’t quite as good, but at least you have a better chance of getting a seat and don’t feel like you’re hiding from the Luftwaffe when you do.

Food: 8/10

Service: 7.5/10

Atmosphere: 7/10

Value: 7.5/10

Overall: 7.5/10

1 Newburgh St, W1F 7RB

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Spuntino

We turned up just before 7pm on a Friday and it was already packed with people shovelling food into their mouths and knocking back cocktails. It’s Soho scruffy-chic at its best- Fleetwood Mac blasting, industrial style lamps, hipster staff. We were told we’d be seated in twenty- perfect time to knock back a couple of cocktails. A Dark and Stormy and a New York Sours. Both were good, if a little sweet.

The Waitress came back to us after ten minutes and told us there was space in the back, in the dark little cove where you have a view of the wall in front of you, rather than up at the buzzing bar.  We were getting hungry so we went for them. Another couple of cocktails stopped our grumbling, and we skimmed the menu. Like the rest of the Polpo group, a paper menu doubles up as your table mat, and is filled with small plates designed for sharing. Nothing on the menu cuts back on calories, so it’s not the type of place to come if you’re thinking about holding back. It’s all fried and cheesy, exactly the type of food you want to wash down with half pints of Camden pale ale (£3).

First to come was a cup of popcorn with chilli salt, a nice little touch to keep you wanting more beer, although the chilli salt didn’t have a kick. The buttermilk fried chicken (£4.50) was the perfect accompanying bar snack, prepping our stomach for the onslaught of fat to come.

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Next up a heap of crispy shoestring fries (£3.50) which we laced with the chilli salt and ketchup. The bone marrow and beef slider (£5) missed the mark, it was a little small and the bone marrow was lost on me.

Next up was the famed truffled egg toast. It looked great, oozing with yolk and cheese, and I’d heard so many good things about it. But I’m sad to say it just didn’t live up to the hype. I’m sure this was just an off day for it, because it has all the makings of something you want to die eating. But tonight it was underseasoned, and there wasn’t that hit of truffle, and even the cheese could have been stronger.

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This disappoinment was short lived because next up was ham hock and chicory salad (£6); the ham was salty and crispy croutons came with it, giving it a good oily crunch. With it the pork belly salad (£8.50), a little expensive for a few chunks of pork belly, but there was no denying that it tasted great.

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Now we were already full, but the drink was kicking in, so we decided to order the mac n cheese (£9); a big portion with a with a delicious crumble on top and sticky cheese and leeks in the molten centre.

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By now I was loosening the belt buckle, ready to ask for the bill, but then the waitress told me that the PB & J sandwich (£6) was ‘life changing’, so I could hardly say no. The two ‘bread slices’ are made out of the peanut butter ice cream, and its littered with crunchy nuts and sugary raspberry jam. One of the best puddings I’ve eaten in a while. Maybe by life changing the waitress meant that it strips years off your life. Either way I’ll certainly be going back again and again for it.

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The bill came to £94 for the two of us. Admittedly we didn’t really need the mac n cheese, and we had two cocktails and two beers each, so it is probably about right, if a little on the expensive side for what is essentially cheap-and-nasty late-night diner food that has been given a good sprucing up. The service wasn’t great either. There was a couple of times we were having to catch their eye to ask for more drinks and the small plates were piling up before they were moved. Maybe it was just because we were tucked away in the dark corner, but it did feel like we were forgotten about at times. This is only a minor complaint, and we left feeling happy, full and drunk, so you can’t ask for much more. Spuntino is rowdy, sweaty and you’ll wake up with a hangover, but sometimes this is exactly what you need. So if you ever find yourself in need of a treat after a tough day there are few better places to go.

Value: 7/10

Service: 6/10

Food: 7/10

Atmosphere: 9/10

Overall: 7.5/10

61 Rupert Street, Soho W1D 7PW

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