Monday, 17 December 2012

Bodean's: made a pig's ear of it

Not my favourite mistake

I didn't mean to go to Bodean's. It's not the kind of thing you plan to do, especially when you know damn well that Pitt Cue is barely 3 minutes walk away. But it's where my friend had told me to meet him, and I understood why.

In case you hadn't noticed, London is a pretty big place. You can't even pretend to comprehend it, let alone know it. The friend I was meeting was from Exeter, where I lived for four happy years. We lived in a little village just outside the city, the kind of place where people only honk their horns because they just saw Jim from the Lamb and Flag popping to Costcutter for some Cutter's Choice.

My friend always asks me how I can stand to live in such a big place now, with no sense of community or where the night bus you just drunkenly got on might actually take you. The answer is that we visit the same pockets of London with the same people - the same pubs, cafes, nightclubs, restaurants. We all make our own little villages within London, and my friend, who visits about once a month, has already done the same. When we can't comprehend something, we change it into something we can understand. We go where we've already been. And that's why we always bloody end up at Bodean's.

In one way Bodean's is well ahead of its time. It's been around since 2002 - a full decade before Americana really hit London in the form of dirty burgers and pulled pork. It's also the only place in England (and I suspect the world) that manages to show ice hockey 24/7 on its screens. And I love that about Bodean's, as well as the awesome Americana/heavy rock playlist they have.

Sadly, like so many innovators, lots of people have taken their ideas and done it so much better that Bodean's is left looking rather stupid. Barbecue restaurants are everywhere now, and almost all of them will do better pulled pork and ribs, both of which were hugely overcooked, bone dry, chewy and almost marinade-less. The coleslaw was fresh and crunchy, but served warm (!?) and tragically under-seasoned, and the chips were cold before they were even brought out. The beer list (Samuel Adams and Moosehead lager) would have been exciting 10 years ago, but it now seems dated and faux-trendy. There are much, much better American beers out there, and there are far cleverer beers to serve with heavy duty pork than light lagers. After one mouthful of food, it tasted like I was drinking soda water.

It's fitting that the only part of Bodean's that did work was a supposed mistake - their burnt ends. If you don't know what they are, they are grizzly bits cut off the meat during cooking. They can vary from crispy and chewy to soft and gooey, and once coated in a decent barbecue sauce they're a joy. Bodean's, whether by design or accident, were brilliant, and much more moist than their signature meat cuts. However, they didn't save the generous £25 sharing platter that we had. There was just too many things wrong.

Bodean's has fallen into the trap of actually becoming fast food. The service was super and the food arrived in just a few minutes but, given how great the atmosphere of the place is, that was a bit of a shame. What was a brilliant idea in 2002 has been stretched across four sites now, and the food has obviously suffered to the point where even the human dustbin from Man vs. Food would wrinkle his nose up at it.

It's by no means a bad restaurant.  But just as my Moosehead tasted of soda water after a bite of burnt ends, so Bodean's tasted like luncheon meat after eating at Pitt Cue.

Bodean's on Urbanspoon   Square Meal

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