The bar is small but functional, with friendly and effective staff mixing bourbon centric cocktails with the occasional meaty flair (bacon infused vodka in the bloody Marys) and opening beers from the amusing list – Pabst Blue Ribbon and Moosehead alongside Kernel pale ales and a house lager. The lager is dull and chalky (and oddly served only in half’s) the Kernels were rich and fruity and a much better match with barbecue.
The list of options is basic, short, and irresistible. Nightmarishly, they ran out of my desired meats, the pork ribs and the brisket. In most places this would have me in a dark mood for the duration but once the food arrived I became forgiving very quickly. In a place where it seems as if they have given you a table, chair and cutlery because of some archaic EU regulation and not because they want to, the camping-holiday tin trays and rustic food within them make perfect sense. Piles of charred, long cooked meat arrive with dainty sides of pickles and bread to emphasise their presence. Beef ribs are glorious, colossal chunks of sticky, juicy, deep red flesh and charred bone, rich in flavour and the right balance between chewy and melting. Pulled pork is very good – moist and soft, with singed, dry gnarly bits to get you excited. Onglet is cooked to rare, and has all the flavour that a proper cut of steak should. Meat this good, at £9 for a tray with sides included, is a mighty bargain - if you speak to your dining companion before finishing, you should be ashamed - that is not a good use of your time when important things need to be eaten. In fact the only disappointment was when the meat was not given centre stage. Baked beans with an indistinct meat in amongst the sauce were fine but unmemorable, and the burnt end mash just didn’t work – the overly sauced chunks blended with the mash to give an unsatisfactory soup of sweet, gloopy potato.The wait for a table is annoying (some apparently refer to it as Pitt Queue) but at least here, unlike some places, there is a reasonably comfortable place to get drunk while you hang around. Less than £20 a head for drinks and a memorable lunch – that’s pretty good going anywhere, but a few yards from Oxford Circus it is much appreciated. Expect the queues to last and go anyway, it’s worth it.