Disclosure: I backed this restaurant’s crowdfunding effort on Kickstarter (in the range of £50-£100).
Update 17/10/17 – corrected details about the pulled pork and fixed some typos.
Unlike some other reviewers, I’m not obsessively critical of the famed Michelin Guide (not that either gives a fig about what I think). While it certainly has its flaws, as neatly summarised by Eater London, the overriding ‘problem’ with the Guide is that it is perceived by many – especially much of the general public – as the ultimate arbiter of restaurant worthiness. Even though it should by rights be merely seen as one voice among many, albeit more prominent and storied, it has effectively become a synonym in popular English for good taste.
This is in spite of its methodological flaws, perceived and otherwise. Most notable, according to its detractors, are its apparent biases towards French fine dining and formal, starched-collar service in plush, deep-pile environments. Even though Michelin would doubtless claim otherwise regarding the former and officially claims that service and decor plays no part in its awarding of its vaunted stars and nods.
Less high-profile than Michelin Stars, but arguably no less coveted, are the Bib Gourmands. These ‘runner up’ awards for good value eats are still a mark of approval and recommendation from Michelin. Which makes the award of a Bib Gourmand to Smokestak all the more interesting. While Smokestak is certainly a laudable barbecue restaurant that’s definitely worth going to, I seriously doubt it would’ve gotten the nod if it wasn’t located in on-trend Shoredtich, decked out in a distinctive and eye-catching black decor and had a well-known, industry veteran maître d’ on staff.
Miss P’s Barbecue certainly has none of those things and yet the quality of its BBQ is arguably superior. It’s located in a converted pub on a quiet residential street in Croydon, a part of southeastern London that usually has all the charm of a piss-slicked pavement strewn with discarded, half-gnawed chicken bones on a rainy Saturday night. The graduation from vaunted street food stall to permanent restaurant wasn’t a smooth one – Miss P’s Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign didn’t meet its target which shows in the barebones decor (I tweeted about and backed the campaign with a very modest amount of money – something which I’m disclosing prominently and in plain English for the sake of honesty and clarity). Unforgiving wooden benches are attached to narrow metal tables in the pub’s unadorned interior. Unless you want to stand around before or afterwards for a drink (it’s still very much a pub as well as a barbecue restaurant), then this isn’t a place to linger.
All of that suits me just fine and not just because I was a small-time would-be investor in this venture. This nothing-but-the-basics operation is entirely fitting within the tradition of the Deep South’s no-frills barbecue shacks and allows the short menu to take centre stage. The barbecued beef brisket might not look like much due to my uncharacteristically iffy photo, but it was an accomplished work of art. The sweet, woody bark covered a seam of bovine flesh that was generally moist and consistently bold in its meaty unctuousness. It could’ve been a tad saltier and fattier, but these are minor criticisms. The buttery brioche-style bun and sweetish, vinegary pickles served on the side were largely unnecessary, but were pleasant enough in their own right.
Curiously, the pulled pork is only available alongside sliced smoked sausage as part of the Hogfather sandwich,
perhaps indicating that the new kitchen is having issues producing enough of the stuff for a restaurant with several sittings throughout the evening (Update 17/10/17 – the pulled pork belly is now available as a standalone dish). The Hogfather nonetheless defied my low expectations for combo sandwiches with a pulled pork that should be a lesson to almost all others on this side of the Atlantic. Its springy, moist and modestly unctuous qualities meshed surprisingly well with the sausage slices. The latter’s gently woody and sweet skin contained a smooth and smoky interior. Neither pork nor sausage really needed further embellishment, but the rest of the Hogfather proved to be complimentary rather than needy attention seekers. The tart and lightly spiced sauce, the firm and light-of-touch coleslaw and the bun and pickles (making repeat appearances from the brisket) were all well-chosen backing singers. It all came together beautifully.
Miss P’s menu was, at the time of writing, subject to change and expansion according to the proprietor’s public statements. This may remedy the curious omission of pork and beef ribs from the menu which are the only things needed, apart from perhaps sharper pickles and cornbread, to complete one of the best American-style barbecue restaurants in London. It’s not quite as good as the superlative Texas Joe’s, as stylish as Smokestak or as easy to reach for most people as either. And it could certainly do with a furnishing upgrade. But Miss P’s barbecue has it where it counts – in the quality of its smoked meats which have continued to improve in quality and sophisticated technique since its street food incarnation won my first American barbecue group test. As a lone eagle always hankering for a perch and a nibble, there are very few other restaurants, of any cuisine and in any guide or not, that I would rather eat at in south London. It’s that simple.
What to order: The Hogfather; Beef brisket
What to skip: There’s no real need to order anything else. Apart from a drink, of course.
Name: Miss P’s Barbecue
Address: 107 Addiscombe Road, Croydon, London CR0 6SG
Phone: none listed
Web: https://www.miss-ps.com (the website is oddly out-of-date in places, so beware)
Opening Hours: Monday-Thursday 17.00-23.00. Friday 17.00-midnight. Saturday noon-midnight and Sunday noon-22:00.
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £20 approx.