A few hours before Smokey Tails, a new BBQ restaurant slap bang in the middle of Hoxton Square in east London, opens to the world, its proprietor is lying in a banquette with my phone in his hand musing about the late (and very great) British chef, Keith Floyd. "Floyd just had that vibe right," Seth Troxler tells me. "He got that food is about bringing people together. And that's what I want to do here."
The DJ, producer, bon vivant, and now restaurateur, had invited THUMP down to his new joint for a quick chat just before the whole world was allowed to get a taste of Troxler's fried chicken, ribs, and incredibly strong cocktails. Now, when we got there, Seth'd just finished a hearty plate of ravioli and he had a new business venture opening in a few hours, so, understandably, he was a little tired. He still had a good stab at answering my questions, and it was good to know that we shared a favourite TV chef.
"I grew up sort of poor," Seth told me, "so eating out wasn't something we did very often. But I remember going to big family barbecues, and cook outs and that atmosphere is what Smokey Tails is about." Having now eaten there, I can confirm that it's slightly more convivial than sharing an underdone sausage with your aunt Sue over a garden-temperature can of lager on a weed-infested slab of cracked patio, but there's no denying— the vibe is right.
Ushered to our tables by Seth—a man who it must be said is an excellent host—the prosecco started flowing, the room started filling, and course after course of really good BBQ food arrived in front of the assembled few. I mean, I don't know how to review restaurants properly. Are you meant to talk about the food itself or the atmosphere or the other people in the room or the waiters or what the toilets are like or how nice the cutlery is or if sparkling water refills are free? What, I wondered, does the Guardian's restaurant critic Jay Rayner think about when he's tucking into his sixth dinner out of the week?
Maybe, I decided, after the fifth of Seth's specially created cocktails, Jay Rayner thinks about the inherent difficulty of writing about food. Eating food is an inherently visceral experience, and the potency of that experience is lost as soon as you apply language to it, even though we can only really process said experience in any real way through the medium of language. Think about: would chipotle mayo taste like chiptole mayo if we didn't have the words "chipotle" or "mayo"? That's what I think Jay Rayner thinks about. Let me know, Jay.
He might just tell me to tell you about the food, so let me do that. We started with a plump little brioche bun stuffed with Troxler family pulled pork. Pulled pork is still good, even though you can buy five kilo sacks in Iceland now, so that was a nice way to begin proceedings. Next up was a wodge of macaroni and cheese (and no, I will not lower myself to calling it "mac and cheese") served with Grandma T's fried chicken and some curiously smokey tomatoes. They tasted a bit like what I imagine the tomato-tobacco hybrid the Simpsons created to have done. But nicer than that. Because they weren't stuffed with tobacco. After that it was time for a batch of plump, soft, perfectly cremated aubergines to arrive. Now, as anyone who's ever tried to cook one of the fuckers knows, getting aubergine's right is really tricky. These were fantastic. Well done Seth!
After the veggie interlude we were presented with some gloriously sticky ribs. Ribs are a strange one, and I don't think I really get the enduring popularity of them, but the glaze was good, and the glaze is always the best bit, because if we're honest, the meat is never that good. Please point me in the direction of amazing rib places though, for I'm fully prepared to accept that maybe I am at fault, not ribs. They came served with absolutely banging fries. Chips are obviously better than fries but good fries are better than mediocre chips, and these fries were even better than the pretty good bag of chip shop chips I gorged on in bed on Wednesday evening.
With one course left, Seth'd left me feeling pleasantly full. The cocktails were in full flow and the beer seemed never ending and everyone around me had that curiously gauzy look of the well fed about them. Then pudding came. Oh. My. God. Just look at it:
Best pudding ever.
So, Smokey Tails, Seth Troxler's restaurant was nice. Thanks for having me, Seth.