Pitt Cue’s Beef Shortribs are not for everyone (evidently)

by thewheatandthechaff

A very peculiar thing happened during our most recent visit to Pitt Cue Co.  Most peculiar, and most unsettling.

Tom Adams and Jamie Berger’s tiny little Soho (ergo: no reservations, hence: long queues out the door) American BBQ restaurant, seating just 30 and serving Flinstones-sized portions of slow-smoked and roasted meat in prison-style enamelled trays with a glorious accompaniment of various sides and pickles has been a huge favourite of ours ever since their original operation as a street wagon under the Hungerford Bridge on the Southbank last summer.

The prison trays are an apt metaphor for this place’s unquestionable greatness: this may well be the final meal I’d request as a condemned man on Death Row.

But, as I say, something very peculiar happened on our most recent visit. Most peculiar, and most unsettling.

Four of us arrived just after opening time  – midday – on Saturday for a mega brunch and were sat downstairs mercifully quickly without queuing. The cheery dude who seated us set us up with some utterly filthy Bloody Marys (made with bourbon and, naturally, BBQ sauce) and left us a few minutes to drool over the menu.

Whilst all of the menu reads like a carnivore’s wet dream, anyone who’s been here before will testify that the beef shortribs (pictured above) must be sampled. Words or pictures just don’t do them justice. They are simply magnificent. So you can only imagine the utter emotional devastation wreaked on the table upon hearing from our waitress that, at 12:15pm, fifteen minutes after opening, they had sold out. Apparently their supplier hadn’t been able to deliver them last night. Fair enough. Not much you can do about that. Not their fault, either. So we cracked on and blitzed through the rest of the menu between us.

Specials on the day included an onglet steak, beef brisket and a Tamworth chop served with the meat sliced off the bone (with the bone – the size of a tennis racket – included to gnaw on later). The meat was absolutely stunning, still pink in the middle, and was a close match for the best pork I’ve ever eaten (the Iberian beauty served medium-rare at Eyre Brothers).

The pulled pork was sharp and smokey and delicious, as usual. Baked beans, mash with bone marrow gravy and a fresh and nicely textured salad made up the excellent sides, and the rib ‘tips’ – beef shortrib ends in a tangy tomatoey sauce – were fantastic. The ‘whatever’ brew – whatever (usually pretty average) beer they’ve got on tap that day – was ice-cold and surprisingly decent on this occasion.

But then the peculiar thing happened. Most peculiar, and most unsettling.

Mere moments after we had made our order, the couple sat next to us were served two portions of what were, unquestionably, beef shortribs… Odd… They must have been the last two portions from the previous evening, and the lucky buggers beside us must have just beaten us to them. Nevermind.

But then, ten minutes later, to our collective horror,  some of the new quartet of diners sat the other side of us asked for the beef shortribs and the waitress – our same waitress – wrote the little words down on her pad. She didn’t give them the same devastating news that she had given us just ten minutes previously. The shortribs were, in fact, very much available to some of us but, it would seem, not all of us. What the fuck? Seriously, what the fucking fuck?

Shock. Bewilderment. Fear. Suffering. Anger. Dark side etc.

So we asked our waitress, politely, what was going on. “Oh…well… the thing is… they can only put them on in, like, small batches…? and, yeah… so…sorry about that”. It was the most unconvincing excuse I think I have ever heard in a restaurant. You could tell she didn’t even believe herself as she was saying it.

So why lie in the first place? Why say that the supplier hadn’t delivered them when clearly, sat but inches from fellow diners in the cramped little basement, we were obviously going to see that they actually had been delivered and that the kitchen was in fact knocking them out to all and sundry except, for reasons which still remain unknown, to us. Either she didn’t know herself what was going on in the kitchen (not good service, especially in a restaurant that small) or, bizarrely, she just didn’t want us, specifically, to have them. Perhaps she didn’t think we were deserving. Perhaps she just didn’t like the cut of our rjib. Regardless, it was just really poor service.

Don’t get me wrong, the food we did eat was utterly brilliant, as it usually is, but the misinformation and then the subsequent bristly and evasive attitude when confronted about it from our waitress was just weird. It’s the first time at Pitt Cue my experience has been anything other than perfect, and it really left a sour taste in the mouth. To compound things, on the way out we passed another two or three separate diners all happily munching on the fucking beef fucking shortribs as well.

I really hope this was just a one-off. Every time I’ve eaten at Pitt Cue previously, what comes across so clearly is the passion and commitment the staff here put into the restaurant. From top to bottom, they are knowledgeable and beamingly enthusiastic about what they’re doing, and rightly so, which makes this very peculiar thing that happened all the more peculiar and all the more unsettling…