Bodeans offers BBQ in a setting that is pure, cliched Americana: booths, beer and incomprehensible sport on the telly.
Perched on the Clapham Common end of Clapham High Street - a road chock-a-block with restaurants - Bodeans is not short of rivals. Fortunately, this place looks the part: it is a welcoming, cosy little venue with plenty of booths and American sport on television arrayed around the walls. There are background tunes, too, ranging from blues to honky-tonk to jazz and country, a useful reminder that popular music as we know it today was born on the bayou.
During the week it’s safe to assume that come dinner-time, every table will be occupied and the restaurant’s walls will resonated to the chatter of happy, contented people. The staff are friendly and very attentive: if you’ve almost finished your beer, you’ll be offered another before you can even ask.
This is not the place for someone on a diet: portions are generous and the food is heavy. Starters include buffalo wings (about £5 for six), which are spicy and moist – devil-may-care sorts can opt to have these made with the diavolo coating, which is not all that hot despite the staff’s dire warnings. A blue cheese dip which comes with the wings seems a little unnecessary – how much sauce do you need? – but it’s traditionally how buffalo wings are served in America. Crab cakes (about £5) are excellent: nicely crisp and browned on the outside but soft and replete with parsley on the inside.
Ribs are the speciality here, and a whole side of baby-back ribs (about £14 with two sides) would keep even noted American footballer William (The Refrigerator) Perry, once of the Chicago Bears, busy for a while. They’re smoky and slightly sweet, and there’s just enough sauce to make them sticky but not enough that it gets everywhere. Sides include chips (slightly undercooked), sour pickles (a little soft by New York standards but fine this side of the Atlantic) and corn-on-the-cob (juicy and sweet). Half a chicken cooked with barbecue sauce is equally good. You can also plump for lamb ribs, which could make for an interesting alternative, especially given that the menu boasts the lamb comes from Kent.
If you’ve still got room, there are plenty of puddings, none of them particularly light. Chocolate fudge cake (£3.50) is sticky and dense, rich and dark while the Key Lime pie (£3.50) is equally rich but also tangy and refreshing.
This is the sort of food that demands a beer, and while there’s a reasonable selection at Bodeans, its not overly inspiring. Moosehead Lager (about £3) is light and, er, light (a beer for people who don’t really like beer) while Sam Adams’ Boston Lager (about £3 as well) is maltier but still rather bland. Given the number of high-quality microbreweries in the States now, this seems a missed opportunity.
There’s a decent list of cocktails, too, although both the Raspberry Collins (which tastes like bubblegum) and the margarita (both £5.50) are somewhat on the sweet side. A short list of red and white wines includes some intriguing choices, like a Chilean Pinot Noir for less than £20.
The Last Word
Lively, welcoming Bodeans is a good night out for anyone – well, maybe not a veggie - but if you’re into large hunks of meat it’s a guaranteed winner.