Western-style American barbeque in the midst of Soho – Bodeans has been impressing the capital for years, and judging by the continual crowds, should keep London smoking for many more years to come.
This is the first of Bodeans branches across the capital and it’s been going strong since early 2003. There’s no way of mistaking this place for another restaurant, thanks to the bright neon pig in the window – even the doorknob is pig-shaped. The upstairs of the restaurant is diner-style, with high tables and stools and a takeaway style counter, whilst downstairs is a bit more formal but still quite laid back, with dark leather booths and dim lighting. There’s still a bit of Americana, though, due mostly to the antler-shaped lamps and plasma TVs showing sports.
This could be a great place to take a date to suss out a sense of humour and make sure they don’t mind getting dirty. As the menu reminds you, fingers were invented before forks, and you don’t need no teef to eat your beef. The atmosphere is quite young and casual, with the crowd made up of local Soho workers and groups of friends. This location gets crammed full of punters as the night goes on, so be sure to book beforehand if you want to eat downstairs.
A starter of clam chowder (a staple in most American restaurants, but relatively rare in London) comes in a giant bread bowl. The portion is enormous – combined with the bread it could even be a full meal – and the soup is a good balance of salty and creamy, if a little thin. Smoked chicken gumbo is likewise very filling, but it’s also pretty spicy, so be warned if you can’t handle heat.
And this may seem obvious, but Bodeans isn’t the best place for vegetarians. There are only two vegetarian main options on the chain’s menu, and the veggie burger isn’t available at the Soho branch. What is available, however, is vast amounts of meat – hamburgers being one of the options. The 16 oz. double burger (about £8) is undoubtedly not a choice for the faint of heart – or stomach – as the two 8 oz. patties stacked together in a giant burger combination is more meat than you could ever hope to eat. It’s tender and tasty, but a tad undercooked.
Barbecue ribs are a Bodeans specialty, and you have a few choices to pick from: beef ribs, pork spare ribs, lamb ribs and baby back ribs, which are pork ribs cut from the lower back and are leaner and smaller than spare ribs. In a half slab there are about six ribs on the plate, and the meat is so tender that your knife and fork will slide right through. It’s coated in the perfect amount of barbecue sauce – not too much so that you can’t taste the meat, but just enough to get your fingers greasy – but if you need extra it’s provided on the table in the form of regular and hot options. The dinner is a steal at about £10, especially as it comes with two sides – creamy coleslaw and crispy thin fries.
Desserts are more down home American delights. Key lime pie is nicely sweet and tart – it kind of looks like light green cheesecake – and pecan pie is lovely, gooey and packed with plump pecans.
Bodeans has a two page drinks list, so there should be plenty of choice. The wine list isn’t terribly long, but then again, it doesn’t really need to be, especially since it’s so cheap – the most expensive bottle tops out at £22. The house red is a Le Reve Rouge vin de pays l‘Herault, which is good value for about “12; it tastes a little thin, but with so much meat you won’t want to be drinking anything too heavy. There are also a few champagnes, a range of spirits and a decent list of cocktails, a bargain at £5.50 – classic cocktails like mojitos, margaritas and Bloody Marys make an appearance, as well as specialities like Cowboy Martinis (vodka, apple juice and mint) and Trifle (vodka, Galliano, black raspberry liqueur, creme de banane, white cacao and cream). Be sure to check out their happy hour, where some of the cocktails go as low as £4.
The Last Word
Good food, a good atmosphere and good prices. Most importantly, even though there are locations sprinkled across London, Bodeans is quite a bit different than anywhere else in the capital. Western barbecue, West End style – bring your friends and pig out.