If the wind is blowing just right, and the level of humidity is suitable, you can almost smell Smoloko as soon as you exit Liverpool Street Station. The unmistakable scent of succulent pieces of meat reaching their Maillard zeniths, slow roasting in a large steam-engine shaped black smoker, draw in people from everywhere to queue up outside the street food stand with eager anticipation. If the London sun shone bright and warm, and the rain hesitated for a moment or two, you could almost close your eyes and imagine yourself waiting outside a Texas smokehouse or a churrascaria in Brazil.
Lead by chef Cleo Vizioli, Smokoloko at Old Spitalfields Market. specialises in cooking large fat-dripping portions of beef outsourced from Uruguay and Argentina, to replicate the kind of mouth-watering barbecue feasts South American’s are known for. Some of my best friends from Brazil, who I lived with for a year during my undergrad, would often lay back in our sofa and talk dreamily of the churrascarias back home, telling me that unless I visited them there, I would not know true carnivorous ecstasy.
Smokoloko gives you more than just a peak at this nirvana. Having tried all they had to offer, from luxuriously soft and blubbery brisket, tender sinewy rump, to charred chunks of chicken, I have decided that the brisket is my sinful favourite. The meats are served sandwiched into crispy pocked flatbread with salad and caramelised onions, which allows for a sultry balance of textures. A selection of sauces is left by the side to enhance the flavours, but in my opinion, these are not absolutely necessary – no condiments are categorically needed at Smokoloko. The meats are so well prepared, all that is required for us is to eat.
Their meticulous preparations of meat, wood and fire commence in the early hours of the morning and open up for business between 11a.m- 3p.m. The crowds that amass are no joke, especially on the weekends, but most of the people that come are repeat customers, hooked on the Smokoloko meat train.
I remember one time of this guy complaining loudly, before even taking his first bite, that there were no salt shakers available. I do not think he had ever experienced thirty or so people laughing at him before, but he did then. Unfortunately for him, everyone standing in line that day were obsessed regulars who knew better. Vizioli’s wife Abia, who stolidly takes hundreds of orders a day, simply shook her head and said, ‘Trust me, try it, you won’t need salt’. And as he popped a piece of meat into his irritated and embarrassed face, she was already taking the next order when his expression changed, eyes growing wide and bright. I am sure she had seen it all before.
Lamb St, London E1 6EA