Whether it’s melt-in-the-mouth ribs, meaty burgers, juicy steaks or hot dogs smothered with all kinds of toppings, London has sunk its teeth into ‘dude food’ in recent years; and it shows no sign of slowing with new eateries opening across the capital on a monthly basis.
But why has London got down and dirty with this trend – surely BBQ-sauce-soaked sleeves and greasy fingers are not the main draw? Burger mini-chain Honest Burgers co-founder Tom Barton says: “I think the demand for good quality and good value food has been a significant movement across London. Not just with ‘dude food’ but right across the board.” He adds: “London has embraced how amazing simple dishes can be when created using quality ingredients.”
Honest Burgers have shot to prominence since the opening of their first restaurant in Brixton Village in 2011. With increased popularity came new openings in Soho, Camden, Portobello and most recently at King’s Cross, which opened in December.
So what’s the secret? “I think the demand for good-quality burger restaurants will continue to get stronger and stronger,” Tom notes. “There’s no room for a bad burger in London anymore.”
With a multitude of options to digest, here are our top five dude food eateries:
Honest Burgers for burgers
Now on their fifth venture, Honest Burgers’ rise has been epic. Of their new King’s Cross opening, Tom says: “We’ve tried to keep the same formula that we started with in our first restaurant in Brixton – the core menu is exactly the same but we have added some more side orders. The focus on these was to revive old English classics with an Honest twist, for example: mini beer battered sausages and homemade curry sauce and the humble pork scratching.”
The recipe is simple: they use British-sourced meat served on a toasted bun with four choices (Beef, Classic, Honest or Chicken), served alongside moreish rosemary-salt chips and other sides such as beetroot and apple coleslaw.
Hawksmoor for steaks
Hawksmoor has spread out from its first venture in Spitalfields to locations in Guildhall, Seven Dials (Covent Garden) and Air Street (Piccadilly); the owners have also recently opened Foxlow, a more low-key eatery in Clerkenwell. Known for locally sourced meat, killer cocktails and stylish interiors, Hawksmoor is a place for meat-eaters who like their steaks charcoal-cooked to perfection. If that’s not enough, savour some hearty sides such as triple-cooked chips, macaroni cheese and bone marrow gravy.
Pitt Cue Co for ribs
The queue says it all. There’s no secret to Pitt Cue Co’s popularity: its succulent and smoky ribs, so tender they fall apart at the sight of a fork – coupled with the fact there are only 30 seats at this intimate restaurant – keep hungry foodies lined up around the block. Tom says he’s a “big fan” of this place and it’s easy to see why; it’s a real dude food joint with meat (not just ribs) served in cowboy-style trays and sides such as beans and slaw. There’s no reservation system, so get in early to secure a spot.
Tramshed for chicken
Damien Hirst’s installation of a cow and chicken gives some clues away as to what’s on offer at Mark Hix’s convivial Tramshed restaurant. The menu at this Shoreditch venue is simple: share seasonal starters and then opt for either chicken or steak. The chicken, reared in rural Lancashire, is roasted and served bolt upright, accompanied by the likes of wild garlic sauce, chips and scrumpy fried onions.
Bubbledogs for hot dogs
Hot dogs have followed burgers as a major food trend in London, with the likes of Kensington griller Dirty Bones opening its doors in January. Bubbledogs was among the first on the scene and it continues to attract foodies for its marriage of deliciously indulgent all-beef, all-pork or vegetarian hot dogs with a champagne list as long as a Cumberland sausage.