Barbecue has been The New Thing for a while now. Poor ol' Bodeans, once a Soho stalwart was knocked from its perch by the arrival of a trailer and later a restaurant by the name of Pitt Cue Co. Arguably, they showed a lot of London what real American barbecue is all about; not just relying on cooking meat until you don't need teeth to eat it and dousing it in sticky sweet sauces, but inventive specials and properly flavoursome smoked meat.
When I first heard of Burnt Enz I assumed it was all about the 'cue. Burnt ends usually mean the bits on the end of the brisket that get really cooked (hence the name) and are considered a delicacy, but the menu here gives it away - no sign of pulled pork, baby back ribs or smoked brisket here. Instead, it alludes to the open grill that they cook a lot of the menu on, in the Climpsons' Roastery arch of London Fields station. When I heard that the chef there had done a stint at the world-renowned Asador Etxebarri, I knew we should go. Immediately.
Open weekends for the rest of this summer, we arrived at around 3pm on a sunny Saturday. Busy as expected, we snagged a share of a table and got down to ordering some plates to share. Scallop with XO sauce (£4.50) came out first, a plump near-raw scallop in sizzling juices and spicy oil. We dutifully split it into thirds and was delighted to find the roe there too. I was tempted to neck the rest of the juices in the shell; we were off to a great start.
Grilled sea bream with green sauce (£12) was a gnarly beast, its mouth flopped open from the trauma of being on a searingly hot grill, giving us crispy skin. The flesh was just cooked, pulling away from the bones with a little bit of resistance. Green sauce was vibrant and oily, seasoning the meat herbaceously. I managed to dig out the sweet nugget of flesh from the cheek while my companions weren't paying attention.
Lamb ribs (£7) weren't slow-cooked and so they retained more of their delicious fat. Taking on the woody aromas of the grill, they were crisp on the outside with soft juicy meat near the bone. The vinegary mint sauce they were drizzled with balanced out the intrinsic richness of the meat, and we were pretty animalistic in devouring these. More napkins were fetched for our increasingly greasy hands / faces / everything. These were amazing, and one of the definite highlights.
Quail (£7.50) was served on a splodge of Sriracha sauce mixed with creme fraiche. A popular Thai chilli sauce, in mixing it with the creme fraiche it lost much of its' harsh garlic flavour and instead was mellow and slightly sweet. The quail was cooked to perfection, the meat still blushing slightly pink and the skin crisp and salty. It was quite faultless.
Cherry tomatoes, draped with burrata and garnished with basil (£5) were roasted and served on top of a smoosh of intensely sweet tomato goo. Sorry, I don't have any better words for it. This was possibly my favourite thing of the day, surprisingly (come on, it's a vegetable dish). The tomatoes were so sweet and juicy and the burrata was melty and luxurious. Clearly chef Dave Pynt is brilliant at sourcing and treating ingredients simply and well.
I didn't love all of it though. The Burnt Enz Sanger (£6.50) was a generous bun stuffed with brisket and watercress. I couldn't detect the mustard that it was advertised as having, and I felt that it needed something sharp, like a relish or pickle to perk it up a bit. That said, we still scoffed it all.
Hot and spicy wings (£6) from the specials board were my least favourite thing and probably the only blip of the meal. I had hoped for crispy skin and some chilli heat, but the skin was a little flaccid and it was a little unpleasant chomping on the whole spices that the wings were in. However, it didn't put a dampener on things and we left happy and sated (...and off to another barbecue. Oof).
There wasn't so much service to speak of as we were essentially on tables in a back yard, much like a pub garden but what staff we did come across were lovely. Brooklyn lager was available in pitchers, and we whiled away a good 3 or so hours. Those hoping for a slick table-clothed operation will perhaps be disappointed with the plastic cutlery, school chairs and paper plates, but I loved the atmosphere and the casual nature of it. And the £48 we paid altogether for what was a pretty awesome lunch.
Arch 374, Hemsley Place, E8 3SB
No reservations, opens 2pm to midnight weekends only. If it rains they have a covered area too. Check their Facebook page for special events.