You can have any meat you want as long it’s Beef or Pork
Beard to Tail is rather hard to categorise. Although it has a fairly broad menu of pork and beef dishes, it’s not really a steakhouse or a barbecue restaurant and sits uncomfortably somewhere in between.
Although it’s within spitting distance of both the City and Shoreditch High Street, it feels much more like a hipster hangout than a banker bunker with its zinc top tables, wooden chairs, exposed air ducts and moody lighting coming from elaborate, fancy fixtures. The kitchen is just visible through a large hatch that’s decorated with a large porcelain pig. The decor might rub some people up the wrong way, but the service can’t be faulted – it’s both friendly and efficient.
We started off with the arancini, an Italian dish of filled rice balls I encountered for the first time at Princi, although Beard to Tail’s construction is somewhat different. Whereas Princi’s version has a shell composed of fluffy rice surrounding a beef and pea interior, the arancini here has a very thin crumb-like shell with the rice mixed in with the oxtail and cheese filling. I prefer Princi’s version, but the filling of both arancini is bland – you’d be hard-pressed to tell that there’s oxtail at all inside Beard to Tail’s balls.
Baron Greenback plumped for the half rack of pork ribs served with grilled corn on the cob as his starter. The corn, which is pretty hard to screw up, was fine but the ribs were severely disappointing. The meat was either far too soft or excessively tough and the sauce was generally bland with only an occasional hit of generic sweetness here and there. In a city where Pitt Cue can cook up some seriously good quality ribs, this sort of depressing mediocrity just isn’t good enough.
My steak tartare was thankfully far better. The raw beef was moist and chewy with modest hits of chilli and pepper, although the one lonely quail’s egg was too meagre and not rich or runny enough. The tart, acidic cornichons complimented the modest heat of the beef well. Overall, a surprisingly decent steak tartare.
Rather than pulled pork, Beard to Tail serves up pulled beef instead which attracted the attentions of Baron Greenback. The beef here is featherblade which is cut from the shoulder. I’ve had it most frequently in stews and the moist and tangy strands of beef did have a stewed look to them. The sweetness of the sweet potato mash complimented the beef well, although the bland hollandaise sauce and uninspiring flat bread felt tacked on.
My sweet cured saddleback pork chop is usually served with cockles, but these were sadly unavailable on my weekday evening visit. The chop was served pre-sliced which was unnecessary since it was so tender you could almost cut it with a fork. It was also intensely fatty and sugary sweet - so much so that I wonder if it was artificially enhanced in some way. It was almost too strong, but the sweet crispness of the apple slices added some welcome contrast in both taste and texture.
The chips are so huge they are more like slabs of potato rather than mere chips and are soft and very fluffy on the inside. They’re not crispy on the outside, but are soft instead and also a touch leathery since some of the potato skin is still attached. Pretty decent overall, although I’ve been spoiled by Hawksmoor’s chips so I’m hard to please.
The soft, nutty beans have been stewed with pork, but they taste mostly of sweet, crisp peppers which is unusual for beans but not unpleasant. That’s more than can be said for the coleslaw. It’s not sickly sweet or excessively creamy, but it’s otherwise unremarkable and we only had it due to Baron Greenback’s insistence.
Even as a conjurer of half-arsed puns, I groaned at the naming of The Sundae Bible. This dessert consists of a layer of gingernut cheesecake topped with a layer of ice cream with the entire thing sitting on a bed of Southern Comfort-flavoured syrup. The overwhelmingly dominant flavours were of ginger and the tangy, boozy syrup but the textures were one tedious layer of wispy softness after another – the crunch of a cheesecake graham cracker crust would have livened things up considerably.
Baron Greenback went for the intriguing baked brioche banana sandwich with salted caramel ice cream. I’m not sure what happened to the brioche though – in its place were two ordinary slices of white bread. Sandwiched between them were slices of sweet, tangy banana. The salted caramel ice cream wasn’t the best I’ve had so it didn’t compliment the caramelised banana slices as well as it should have, but it still did a reasonably good job of showing off the contrast between the saltiness and the tangy sweetness of the caramel.
Beard to Tail has gotten brutal slatings which I think is a little unfair. It clearly can’t match the very best meat-focussed restaurants in London and while some dishes are clearly not up to scratch, the ribs being the primary example, there are a handful of reasonably good highlights such as the steak tartare. This is damning with faint praise though. Unless you just can’t bear to pull yourself away from Shoreditch or the City, there are far better places in London to get your meat fix.
Name: Beard to Tail
Address: 77 Curtain Road, London EC2A 3BS
Phone: 0207 729 2966
Opening Hours: seven days a week noon-15.30 and 18.00-22.30.
Reservations: highly recommended.
Average cost for one person inc soft drinks and service: £40 approx.