The Bell & Brisket salt beef pop-up

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This post was originally published in February 2012 and some information may be outdated. However, Bell & Brisket still make a mean sandwich – including some new derivatives like the stunning black rye concotion pictured (credit: Bell & Brisket) – and can be found at various locations across town. For the latest information, follow them on Twitter: @brisketbel

I’m not trying to make a habit out of it, honest, yet I can’t help but notice that my blogs frequently extend beyond the boundaries of linguistic decency. Two thousand words might be fitting for an obituary to Marie Colvin but possibly not for a post that can essentially be summarised as “Pitt Cue Co good” or“New gastropub in East London bad.” In the end, it turns out that there are things in life more important than eating, even if people like me are generally loathe to admit it. So in the interest of not punishing reader’s attention spans – and the fact that a ‘waste liquid removal’ is presently encamped next to me outside The Euston Tap – here’s an exercise in marginal brevity.

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The Bell & Brisket is a new salt beef pop-up run out of the The Queen’s Head in Soho and it is very good indeed. At £7.50 for a sandwich or around a tenner including chips, it’s not the cheapest sandwich in town, but it is one of the best and a reasonable price for a sit-down lunch: an overly generous pile of juicy, well-seasoned brisket spilling out of one of the UK’s better attempts at rye, topped with liberal amounts of gherkin and an ample spreading of English mustard. American mustard, of course, would have been preferable as it is mild enough to be applied in industrial quantities, but after the first bite I honestly forgot about my lone compositional quibble.
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The pub itself was a more than ample venue for London’s latest great pop-up: a small but well-kept establishment that featured a very good guest ale and a decent take on the capital’s latest drinks craze, the pickleback. Not quite up to the standard of Pitt Cue’s dangerously moreish beetroot brine version, but nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable if potentially inappropriate lunchtime digestif. Of course, it should really have been a bourbon rather than Jamesons, but possessing the shamrock streak that I do, I’m hardly one to complain.
There’s no doubt that I’ll be back. Not only is the simple concept of a proper sandwich in a proper pub such a rarity on these shores, but salt beef is an especially hard number to master, especially if New York delis are used as your benchmark. Perhaps pop-up formulas are the remedy because these guys got it seriously right. The last eye-opening meat-and-bread combination I got in a pub was at The Jeremy Bentham, one of my former employers, where the Kiwi landlady knocks out an audacious meatloaf, mustard, and beetroot number. Thankfully, it looks like she’s finally got some real competition in the centre of town. Here’s to hoping there’s more to come from intrepid sandwich artists like The Bell & Brisket this year.
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