The Smokehouse is one of a small chain of four pubs run by a company called Noble Inns; the others in the group are The Lady Ottoline, The Pig and Butcher and The Princess of Shoreditch. The Smokehouse opened in August 2013 and has recruited as chef Neil Rankin, who had previously cooked at John Salt and before that at Pittcue. Neil was not present on the night of my visit; he was apparently filming a TV series. The dining room is simple, with quite closely packed tables and very low lighting, hence the matching murky photos. Starters ranged from £6 - £12, main courses from £12.50 to £25, side dishes £3.50 to £6 and desserts £5 - £6. The emphasis is very much on cooked meat, as we shall see.
The wine list ranged in price from £17.95 to £59.95, with a median price of £29.85 and an average mark-up of 2.9 times retail price, which is quite high for a location outside central London. Example wines were Vina Jaraba Crianza 2008 La Mancha at £25.95 for a wine that you can pick up in the high street for around £8, Pommard ‘Tavannes’ Fernand & Laurent Pillot 2010 Chassagne-Montrachet at £46.95 for a wine that retails at £21, and Nyetimber Rose 2008 at £59.95 compared to a shop price of £42.
Chopped brisket roll (£6.50) and gochujang (a Korean condiment made from chilli and soybeans) was fried in breadcrumbs and was a package of meaty goodness, the brisket cooked long enough to be tender, the spiciness coming through but not overwhelming (14/20). Crab on toast (£7) is not exactly a sophisticated dish, but the crab had reasonable flavour and was shell-free (13/20). Foie gras, apple pie and duck egg (£10) was the least impressive of the starters, the liver flavour missing in action (12/20).
Short rib bourgignon (£16) was enjoyable, the meat tender and the red wine sauce with it working well with the beef (13/20). Mutton chops (£17.50) came with caponata with ndjua migas (crumbs of spicy pork sausage), anchovies and parsley. This was nicely seasoned and very pleasant, the anchovies providing some balance to the richness of the meat (13/20). On the side, Korean pulled pork (£5.50) is a speciality of the chef, and it was really excellent and carefully judged in terms of seasoning, a world away from the pale imitations now haunting London’s dining rooms (15/20). Smokehouse salad (£4) had decent leaves and dressing but was pleasant rather than inspiring (12/20).
To finish, white chocolate cheesecake (£6) had a good base and just enough white chocolate flavour to come through nicely yet avoid being too rich (13/20). Coffee was harmless enough, though charging the full £3 for refills of a pretty small double espresso seemed mean, given that the cost of each coffee cannot possibly be more than a tenth of this.
Service from our Canadian waitress was friendly. The bill, with wine and a post dinner drink, came to £70 a head. If you stuck to three courses with a modest wine a more typical bill with coffee would be around £60 a head. Smokehouse is a very enjoyable place to eat, with a kitchen team that really understand how to cook meat.