When an evening of barbecue and whisky comes a knockin’, We The Food Snobs doesn’t think twice.
So it was with much excitement that we headed to Big Easy Convent Garden at the end of October – a venue about as American as Springsteen eating apple pie in a star-spangled suit.
The reason for the invite was a Bar.B.Q and Whisky Masterclass; six courses, six whiskies across an evening safe in the hands of Big Easy’s Chef de Cuisine Mike Boulos, Pitmaster Pete Daversa and Head Bartender Matt Critch.
We were eased in gently with a couple of seafood courses; we say gently, the opening course’s giant shrimp was the size of a fist, but paired with a light Swedish whisky by Mackmyra, it was a delicious meaty, succulent starter.
Next up were the wood-roasted West Country mussels, paired with a Port Askaig 19, displaying all the familiar peaty tones from an aged Islay whisky. Again the liquid refreshment was pretty light – smoky and fruity on the nose – but Boulos played a blinder with a rich, smokey peppercorn-style sauce soaking the mussels – definitely a challenger to the traditional marriniere!
With the seafood out the way, it was onto the really good stuff. We were just getting into the live jazz when an absolutely huge plate of meat arrived, including a smoked Bar.B.Q chicken (Nando’s, this was not), one of the biggest ribs we’ve ever seen, and a pot full of pulled pork that would get any hipster salivating.
It was the Japanese grain whisky by Nikka Coffey – paired with the half chicken – that was one of our liquid highlights; a bit like a bourbon with vanilla notes, but the unique, sweet corn finish made it one of the whiskies we could certainly have had a couple more sips of.
As for the rib, well that was something the Big Easy was never going to get wrong. Dry rubbed with salts and spices to give the famous blackened crust and smoked for over 16 hours on-site, the meat was fresh to plate and everything you could wish for in a big hunking bit of meat.
As we gorged, Daversa told us about the aging and smoking of the different cuts; we’ll be honest, in the loud restaurant we didn’t hear a huge amount over all the eating, but rest assured – from the taste we can say he knew what he was talking about!
Even after five courses of meat and seafood, we still found it difficult to turn down desert. So we made room for the final course of cornbread pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. Need we say more? This one was paired with the strongest whisky of the lot – a cask strength American corn whisky aged two years – which had us perfecting our inner Don Draper.
Spending an evening with Boulos and Daversa, you quickly get a flavour of their passion for the finest locally sourced meats and seafood and even more clear, was that there aren’t many places this side of St. Louis that can do barbecue better. Critch expertly paired the food with some awesome whiskies too, so you’ll never go thirsty if you head down…
If we learnt anything, it’s that Big Easy knows what it likes (meat and drink), and does it really, really well. Whether it was the juicy, flavoursome cuts or the even juicier whiskies, you know you’re in safe hands at this slice of America.
Head down if you’re on the hunt for somewhere to get your barbecue fix through the winter!
We The Food Snobs x