Pied a Terre does BBQ ribs and pulled pork
Londoners have a perverted, distorted sense of distance. West Hampstead is in zone 2 and part of the borough of Camden. It’s a mere 20 min Tube journey, at most, from Great Portland Street. That station is within pissing distance of both Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road. Yet, the very idea that Kangaroo Face and I would go there for dinner was met with astonishment and disbelief. Get a grip.
One Sixty, or 160 if you prefer, is the latest restaurant from one of the bods behind Pied a Terre. One Sixty couldn’t be more different from its Fitzrovia fine-dining cousin with a loud bar, a small al fresco area, a very informal dining room looking out onto neighbouring residential gardens and, of course, a menu of barbecued meat. One Sixty’s menu largely follows the American style of barbecue – meat smoked for long periods over wood-fuelled fires. Some Anglicisms are added in the form of unusual, non-Yankee ingredients.
First things first
One Sixty doesn’t have beef ribs on its menu, opting instead for smoked ox cheek which it claims is ‘like beef ribs but better’. I strongly disagree. While the tender chunks and strands of cheek did have a superficially similar texture to that of beef short rib, they lacked the layers of fat and connective tissue that give beef short rib its irresistible flavour and unique mouth feel. That aside, the cheeks lacked the smokiness I was expecting while the bark, which looks so blackened and rich in the photo below, was forgotten mere seconds after passing through my lips. At best, these cheeks are a second-rate substitute for a proper hunk of beef short rib.
Far better were the baby back ribs that I shared with Kangaroo Face. The pork tore away from the bone in mildly waxy strips that had a delicate pink colour to them, as well as a lightly zingy, fruity smokiness. Ribs are of course eaten with your fingers, but there’s no need to bring a pack of baby wipes – the marinade sticks to the meat rather than your fingers. I still prefer the fatty meatiness of spare ribs, but these are now my favourite baby back ribs in London, matching and exceeding the quality of those from The Joint in Brixton.
The rolled flap of lamb was moist, lightly earthy, very tender and fattily unctuous. It’s a glorious bit of lamb, but you’d be hard pressed to tell it was barbecued given its lack of smokiness. Still, quality meat this good shouldn’t be quibbled with.
It’d be easy to overlook the selection of pickled vegetables that accompany all of the mains – the pickles, red cabbage and carrots have a pleasing caraway-esque tartness to them. If you can’t get enough of tart, crisp and refreshing vegetables then there’s the coleslaw. Thankfully free of cloying mayo, the fennel-esque taste of the julienned cabbage helps cleanse the palate following the relatively heavy meat.
If you prefer your vegetables as brown and unhealthy as possible, then there’s the chips. These are proper chips too – thick cut slices of whole potato with the crispiest texture this side of Hawksmoor’s triple-cooked chips.
The mash was smooth, creamy and buttery which made the limp nature of the gravy puddle all the more disappointing.
One Sixty’s dessert menu is somewhat changeable. The donuts and chocolate are well worth having if they’re available. The miniature English-style doughnuts were crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. The mildly bittersweet chocolate would be a good match, but most of the thick paste is at the bottom of the serving jar – scraping it out and spreading over the doughnuts feels a bit too much like hard work.
The service at One-Sixty, while friendly and devastatingly attractive to boot, still needs practice. For example, experienced staff would realise that the bourbon and banoffee pie needs a spill plate – piercing the flaky top layer sends pud spilling over the edge of the serving jar. That aside, this dessert was comforting but dull and undemanding. There was little variation in texture or flavour – it was creamy, light and sweet from top to bottom.
Going back for seconds
I avoided starters on my first visit with Kangaroo Face as there was almost nothing that caught my attention. The only exception was the rib tips which I sampled on my solo return visit. Although tender, these pork ribs were stodgy – almost as if they’d been overcooked. The glop of tomato-based sauce flecked with spice and spring onions was probably meant to be richly umami and sweet, but the overall effect was instead that of a stodgy, slightly sickly kung pao pork. It’s almost as if someone in the kitchen knew something had gone slightly iffy – there was an accompanying pot of devilled mayo which I used to blot out the stodge.
Even more disappointing was the pulled pork. Served sauceless, it still somehow managed to be excessively, mouth-pursingly salty. It also lacked the firm bite and caramelised exterior I was expecting, but it was at least consistently tender. It’s served in a sweet brioche bun, but attempting to actually eat it as a sandwich proved to be a messy affair with meat juices, pickled vegetables and meat flecks spewing onto the plate.
The only savoury dish from this visit that I’d eat again is the corn on the cob. The buttery sheen had a sweet smokiness to it that was odd but addictive.
The chocolate cake was more like a brownie with its moderately chewy edge, but it’s a cut above your usual brownie with its slight bittersweet taste and soft molten centre. The caramel-ish ice cream flecked with chewy toffee bits was good too, but this dessert needed a bit more resting time. The brownie was scorchingly hot, while the ice cream was shiveringly cold – eating this pud straightaway was like starring in a Sensodyne advert.
The food at One Sixty is very much a mixed bag. For every dish that’s a winner, there’s another which is merely passable or is a car wreck in slow motion. It’s just about worth trekking out to One Sixty for the baby back ribs and pickles if you’re a dedicated barbecue enthusiast, but for now I’d much rather head out to the consistently excellent Texas Joe’s instead. They’ve gone from strength to strength and remain one of the best American-style barbecue places in London with tables (as opposed to street food vendors).
Name: One Sixty
Address: 291 West End Lane, West Hampstead, London NW6 1RD
Phone: 0207 7949 786
Opening Hours: Tuesday-Thursday 17.00-midnight. Friday noon-15.00 and 17.00-midnight. Saturday noon-00.30. Sunday noon-22.30. Closed Mondays.
Reservations: highly recommended on weekdays; essential around the weekend.
Average cost for one person including service and drinks: £35 approx.