Yes. Romford. Not usually the place that you think of when you think of barbecue, but if this place keeps going, then I sincerely hope that will change.
I haven’t been to Pitt Cue, it’s out of my ‘get there in a lunch break’ zone, as is Red Dog, and all the hipster-ish places that have sprung up. Big Easy has opened up near my work, and I will be visiting there soon, but what of weekends?
What if you want a proper pulled pork bun with crunchy coleslaw, or a slab of brisket with a side of rich, smoky beans? Where to go? Not everyone has a smoker in their back garden, and not everyone knows how to do it.
My first experience of proper barbecue was in America, in 1999. We went to a place in downtown Portsmouth called Muddy River Smokehouse, and were presented with what looked like, to us, brontosaurus ribs smothered in smoky sauce, and two half racks of pork ribs. EACH. That was a starter. We resolved after that to have a starter between the two of us each time we ate out.
It also got us started on the hunt for good barbecue. Now, I’m from Cypriot stock. We love a good souvla, with its juicy meat charred over open coals and doused in herbs, olive oil and lemon, but this was a style of barbecue that I wasn’t used to. Smoked, deeply so, and soused with sweet sticky tangy sauces, or dry rubbed with yet more spices.
I think we’ve been on the search for it ever since. We’ve been spoiled by getting the really good stuff on our first try. It’s a hard act to follow.
We’ve been to Bodeans in Poland Street, and they used to almost hit the sweet spot, but lately it’s not been quite as good as it used to be. I’m not sure why. Maybe the menu has gotten too big for them, and they need to stick to what they really know.
During the course of our barbecue hunting, Husband found a sauce called Cattlemen’s. It’s perfect. Sadly, we only found it in a Pound shop, and haven’t found it since.
Today I tasted a sauce that was pretty damned near the mark, and that was in Romford, at the Cattleman’s Smokehouse and Grill.
Cattleman’s is Steve, Rhys and Bob. Old Bob, according to Steve.
They’ve been set up in the marketplace for about 2 months, and I would definitely like to see them make a go of it, because there’s talent, and a lot of knowledge there.
They didn’t mind me faffing about taking photos, or nattering at them. Steve is full of ideas about the processes and the finished product. I suspect that this is a man who wants to perfect his art, and then take it that bit further when he’s done that.
There was discussion about the right bread rolls – heavy enough to hold the meat + sauces but not so heavy that they are just a doughy lump. The proper kind of bacon, that isn’t so thin that it disappears on the griddle. Then there’s the right cuts of meat, with the correct fat ratio. Brisket can dry out if it’s not fatty enough, so when you ask your supplier for a more fatty piece of cow, and they give you the same style every time, you need to look elsewhere. Today they didn’t have salt beef, which is usually brisket, but they did have smoked clod (beef shoulder) and that was lovely. A light smoke, not overpowering, and it was still tender with a hint of pepper to it. That in a bun with mustard and pickles would be heaven. Indeed, that’s what someone ordered while I was standing there. (rubbish photo ahoy)
I got to try an offcut (go me!) and it was lovely.
The barbecue beans are fabulous too. Full of smoked brisket, and thick with sauce. The pinto beans are properly cooked, but not mushy. I took a pot of those home with me and made them into dinner.
I had to try the pulled pork. Start with the benchmark, right?
There has been a tendency to make pulled pork into this gelatinous mass of shreds, all sauce and bits, but this was not like that at all. The pork goes in the bun, the sauce gets squeezed on top, then the ‘slaw gets added on that. On goes the top bun and there you go. Pulled pork sandwich. Messy to eat, but with proper chunks of meat that get in between your teeth and give you something to chew on. Excellent pork, still juicy despite a long smoking. Good coleslaw, with minimal onion (Hooray! Thanks Bob!) and good crunch. Their bbq sauce is…yes, perfect.
Dark, tangy but not too vinegary, nicely spicy, sweet but not cloying and decently smoky but not overwhelming. You almost want to get some on your face so you can have it for dessert. (This is the small bun…)
They also do a bourbon based sauce, which they use for basting their ribs. It’s thinner, but man…The bourbon based one was AMAZING. Liquid spiced caramel. I could have done a shot of that. Actually, a pickleback with that? Line ‘em up.
It’s so good to talk to a man who knows his craft. This is a man who is about to make a new smoker out of an old fridge. Smoking, like cannabis smoking, invariably leads to carpentry or engineering. “Hey! I can make a bong/smoker out of that!”
They already have two smokers. One at the stall, Betty Lou, and one back at HQ, which I think is Bobby Jo.
Personally I can’t wait to go back, and take my husband along. There has to be brisket, there has to be ribs. And if there’s room? There has to be bacon and waffles and maple syrup. They also do coffee, and mugs of tea. Proper.
A breakfast item, in their words:
Saddlebags, a large buttermilk pancake, topped with pieces of home made sausage, crispy bacon, a fried egg and…….warm maple syrup!!!
There is talk of them bottling their sauces, so you can bet I’ll be lining up for those.
You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cattlemans-Smokehouse-Grill/515432998512094?ref=ts&fref=ts
And Romford Marketplace, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Come on down y’all!