We’ve been in and around (and all over) London for almost a week now, and even though we’ve seen occasional signs of BBQ equipment and something called “BBQ ribs” on tavern and pub menus, I think it is pretty safe to say that any real BBQ is very rare and extremely well-hidden.
This picture should give you an idea of what I am talking about. We went to Greenwich Park earlier in the week when the temperature was in the low 80s.
As you can see from the picture, this is a big park (over 13 acres). We were there most of the afternoon, and spent a fair amount of time wandering around the park. I have the blisters to prove it. We saw one grill in the whole park. Iit was a small cheapie portable reeking of lighter fluid, smoking like you wouldn’t believe, and presided over by two chaps that were attempting to convince their lady friends that they knew what they were doing. One had a spatula that was longer than his arm, and wielded it more like a sword than a cooking utensil. I think he was trying to disperse the smoke so that he could breathe. As near as I could tell, they were sacrificing burger patties and hot dogs, but it could have been hockey pucks and blood sausage based on how it looked from a distance. I would have taken a picture, but I was afraid of being chased by the spatula waver.
I have to give these guys some credit though; at least they were trying, which is more than I can say for the thousands of other folks at the park. We also had a sighting later in the week of a woman carrying a box that had a picture of one of these grills on it, but I have to admit I am baffled by what they are using for fuel as I haven’t seen charcoal of any sort in any of the stores we’ve been in.
Then things got ugly. I had been seeing “BBQ Babyback Ribs” on menus in several of the pubs in town, including the tavern around the corner from the hotel where we had some wonderful steak and ale pie. We wandered into the pub on a night when the ribs were on sale, and I had to give them a try.
Talk about issues with the truth in advertising laws (assuming they have them over here). First, the ribs weren’t barbecued (but then, I was sort of expecting that). They were “braised in a Guinness marinade and served with a honey BBQ sauce” according to the fine print on the menu. This translated into “boiled in beer and served up with some supermarket variety of honey flavored barbecue sauce”. What a waste of Guinness.
The next issue was they weren’t baby back ribs. They were the top end trimmings from a St. Louis cut of spare ribs. The longest bone was about an inch long, and I distinctly remember ordering a “half-rack of ribs”. There were a lot of pieces of cartilage mixed in, and if it wasn’t for the grayish tint to the meat I would have sworn we were in an Applebee’s eating an order of riblets.
Of course the last issue was the texture and taste of the final product. It was overdone, mushy, and fairly tasteless. I suppose I should be grateful that it didn’t taste as bad as some boiled ribs I’ve had in the past.
Don’t feel sorry for us though. We’ve had some excellent meals during our trip, and I’ve picked up some ideas for new spice combinations and styles for when I get back home. Tomorrow we are going to an “American BBQ” restaurant; it’s part of a chain that claims to have a real pedigree and an owner that has won some comps in the past. We’ll see if the hype lives up to the reality.
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