With the original Camden gaff opening way back a couple of springs ago, Porky's was relatively early in the new wave of barbecue hawkers in London. Now pulled pork is as ubiquitous on menus as vacuous celebrity stories on the Daily Mail homepage, and the Porky's empire has expanded to three locations. So to Bankside we go, to see what they are offering by the River.
Is there a 'Contemporary London Restaurant Design for Dummies' book that we don't know about? So many places look the fucking same now, like B&Q have a fitted eatery section or something now, and this branch of Porky's literally has all the fundamentals. You should all know what they are by now, and if you don't good on you for sticking with your local Harvester. Like, is that unlimited salad cart the shit or what? The only addition of note was the oh-so-lonely beer pong table in the corner, looking as out of place as a Margaret Thatcher portrait in Rotherham Working Men's club.
The menu presents the wares in sections like stages of a concert, with starters referred to as 'the warm up' and desserts as 'the encore'. We did wonder who had lightbulb-ed 'good licks' though - something you'd only ever hear coming from your dad in the car whilst bobbing his head to Dire Straits - containing nothing remotely lickable.
The burger menu choices are pretty all or nothing in terms of toppings, so we opted to forego the pulled pork on the signature option to leave ourselves with a bacon cheese. The pig-tailed rasher of fatty bacon squirming from underneath the matt gloss of the bun lid that arrived proves a good illustration of why you shouldn't cook the streaky variety like it is back bacon.
We tucked the bacon into what turned out to be a super-soft subtly-sweet brioche bun. The thick patty, topped with a broad layer of Monterey Jack which had a rather cheddar looking melt and taste to it, was packed solid and suffering from the familiar tang of one seasoned with dried herbs. It's pinkness and surprising relative moistness made it less of a labour. The sweet Big Mac sauce-style condiment intermingled with the lettuce underneath added some pleasant zest and liquidity.
Lest we judge a barbecue place on burgers alone, we gave the Memphis style ribs and tips a try as well. The dry rubbed ribs had a thick, if rather chewy, bark and showed signs of a pinky smoke ring inside. But other evidence of a low and slow cook were distinctly absent: The meat was not soft but tough, letting off a sinewy rip as flesh was torn away from bone and fatty layers, still fully in tact, could be pulled whole away from the rib meat.
A distinct lack of smokiness and very little of the hickory through the meat left all the flavour responsibility to the bark, which resulted in a shallow lacking. It was hard to believe these guys had benefitted from double digit hours in the smoker.
The sides were nice enough. The mac & cheese was more creamy than cheesy and had a nice undertone of nutmeg while the pit beans could have done with being saucier but had a solid sweet-yet-meaty flavour to them. The seasoned fries were perfectly utilitarian. But the issues with the main stage mean that this is one meat festival we will not be attending again.
Honourable mention goes to the dude next to us who manic-shaky-handedly noshed down the Man vs Ribs challenge, whilst his female companion sat opposite in stoic silence eating her burger and attempting not to watch the carnage. Probably not the best circumstances in which to attempt it.