Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bodeans, Bodeans, Bodeans, Bodeans, I'm begging of you please do cook me meat!

I wrote the other day about Masterchef contestants not getting much of an opportunity to slow-cook, and it got me thinking:

What would John and Greg make of Bodeans? A place that smokes and slow-braises meat over many, many hours, if not days. If not years.

'You've got one hour and 15 minutes?' I suspect not, somehow.

Where's the beef? And pork? And chicken?

The first branch cropped up in Clapham over a decade ago - I went there shortly after opening - and there are now about half a dozen Bodeans across the capital, all delivering something pretty damn close to the genuine All-American BBQ experience.

Bodeans, Balham
Having failed for years to revisit, despite being impressed, I've now been to the relatively new Balham branch twice this year and it's fast becoming the go-to place when only a big, tender hunk of meat will hit the spot.

(Confusingly the Bodeans Balham is actually slightly nearer to Tooting Bec tube station, but as it's on the main road this doesn't make a huge difference really!)

If you know your BBQ cuts inside out and know what you like, you can choose a half chicken or a whole rack of ribs or whatever takes your fancy, otherwise go for one of the many combos on the menu and tuck the fuck in.

A sensible (some would say) way to sample a lot of what Bodeans has to offer is to opt for the Boss Hog Platter for two (£37.95) which gives you, wait for it, pork spare ribs, pork baby back ribs, a beef rib, burnt ends (brisket), pulled pork (of course), chicken thighs and smoked sausages. Plus fries and 'slaw.

The Boss Hog platter
Much of the meat comes smothered in BBQ sauce and is so tender it falls from the bone if you so much as look at it. I think I've actually eaten a bit of bone and barely noticed because it's been cooked so long it's started to soften.

The sticky spare ribs come with a classic smoky-sweet glaze, though not so strong as to nullify the porky flavour. The salty, gammony flavours of the baby back ribs are quite different and highlight just how versatile our friend the pig can be, even within the confines of his own ribcage!

Ten years ago, Bodeans was the sort of place you've have to go to to eat pulled pork. Of course now, it has become so ubiquitous that it's barely noticeable on the plate, but it's tasty enough and served fairly dry, letting the meat itself do the talking.

Then you've got your smoked sausages - plump meaty bangers with a gentle smoky edge, rather than the full-on smokiness you sometimes get in a more continental charcuterie-type sausage.

The chicken thighs are also incredibly tender, with crispy skin, though they are perhaps upstaged a bit by both the pork and, possibly the best bit of all, the beef.

Joe's wife?

Oh yes, the beef. Fuck, that beef...

Brisket sandwich - one of the lighter options

The burnt ends, with crispy, caramelised fat are a thing of sloppy joy, and last, but definitely not least, there's that big, succulent beef rib, full of proper meaty flavour and meltingly tender.

Lest we forget, beef on the bone was illegal in this country not all that long ago, so by eating it you're sticking it to the man. So long as the man in question is the Tony Blair of the late 1990s.

It's great here, the beef. The generously-filled brisket sandwich is also really rather excellent, and one day I'll get round to trying the burgers and steaks here - if I can pare myself away from all the BBQ on offer.

The fries are good and crunchy, though I find the salt and sugar seasoning slightly disconcerting - if I want my fries sweetened, and I'm not saying I don't, but if I do, I'll dip them in barbecue sauce, thanks.

Underneath that lot is some fish...
Their coleslaw is also tangy and crisp; the only improvement would be to supply a slightly larger portion of it with the platter.

Indeed, I'd pay a bit more for the option to maybe choose 4 or 5 different sides as part of the Boss Hog deal.

This branch certainly looks the part, with barstools, seating booths and big screens (showing live football on matchdays). For a food-oriented venue there is a good of draft keg beers, though most are standard pale lagers, including the 'Boss Hog' house beer, a very drinkable session lager of unknown provenance.

The bottled and canned craft beer selection includes some real corkers, albeit at a price. This isn't just your Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada, but rarities like Modus Hoperandi from Ska brewing in Durango, Colorado - a heavily-hopped American amber.

The menu talks up the wine list, presumably for those who order steak, but most of the menu is destined to go with a cold beer, or indeed perhaps a cherry soda or sarsaparilla-type drink.

If you're not a fan of the whole BBQ thing, there are plain steaks, burgers, dogs and salads. Not a lot for the veggies or pescis, mind, aside from a token veggie enchilada or Cajun blackened swordfish with okra.

But ultimately, if BBQ isn't your bag, you probably shouldn't be here.

One of the biggest surprises was the coffee. Yes. The coffee.

Great coffee!
Their frothy, delicious Americano beats anything from a chain coffee shop into a cocked confederate hat, and is right up there with some of the best indie coffee shops, except that you don't have to leave the restaurant in order to enjoy its roasty goodness.

I've no idea what Espresso machine they're using, but I want one. I want one permanently grafted to my back!

Desserts are decent enough, and some of them are available with a coffee for only £5 which, given how lovely the coffee is, is a big 'ass bargain. Try the chocolate 'brownie', which is actually rather light and spongey.

Places like Bodeans are ten a penny across the pond, but there are still relatively few in London that actually get it right.

Bodeans does, clearly, and there aren't many better places to hang out, watch the game, and drink a few American craft brews while chowing down on big hunks of slow-cooked meat.

Where to find it...

Bodeans Balham
Balham High Road,
SW17 7BG (map)


1 comment:

  1. "chowing down on big hunks of slow-cooked meat." Sounds like you had a great time in that gay bar.


Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.