Beard to Tail, 77 Curtain Road, London EC2


Shoreditch was the original home of London's theatreland and, in mid-Victorian times, it positively vibrated with 'penny gaffs' – pop-up, makeshift theatres staged in converted warehouses for audiences of rowdy young people. Sound familiar? You can find the same phenomenon in EC2 today, except the pop-ups are now bars and restaurants. Wherever you look, once-alarming or darkly unpromising side-street gaffs have been re-made as trendy eating houses.

Two of the new impresarios are Richard Wynne and Kate Crutchley, who own Callooh Callay in Rivington Street. The name comes from 'Jabberwocky' and patrons experience wacky scenes: drinks are served in gramophones and you walk through a wardrobe to find a second cocktail bar. (A wardrobe? Are they confusing Lewis Carroll with CS Lewis?)

Wynne and Crutchley are the people behind Beard to Tail, but it's short on japes – except for its name, which seems to be a bilingual joke since it translates, in French, as 'barbe-a-cue'. But 'barbecue' isn't a French word, it's Haitian as everyone knows (at least everyone who's just looked it up in their Chambers dictionary). So that's hilarious. It may also remind you of 'nose-to-tail eating' as invented by Fergus Henderson at St John, but Beard to Tail is even more butch. Their menu is festooned with pictures of carving knives and forks, cleavers, serrated-edge breadknives, and main-course options are signalled as 'INTO THE PIG' OR 'ONTO THE COW'.

Décor-wise, it's serious industrial chic: there's a shed-like feel about the planked and breeze-blocked walls, more than a hint of the factory about the enormous aluminium ventilation shafts running overhead. And a weird noise of grinding machinery behind the music. Remind you of David Lynch's film Eraserhead? The industrial soundtrack, the spooky darkness, the faint undercurrent of alarm? That's Beard to Tail. But it may be a generational thing. Apart from us, there wasn't anyone there under 35. It was packed with trendy, moneyed young Londoners, apparently fresh from a Rankin shoot, fizzing with energy and chat.

I noticed that they didn't bother much with wine. When I fussed over the short wine list the manager said, "We are a cocktail-based restaurant, sir," with Jeeves-like hauteur. So I had a Five O'Clock Shadow, a dark and sexy concoction of rum with Punt e Mes and a touch of pimento, and felt amazingly sloshed.

But then the food itself is alcoholic. You could have barbecue ribs marinated in bourbon, or a steak tartare dripping with Kentucky rye. A house speciality is pig's trotter stuffed with bacon, sage and onions, in which it's no surprise to find the cabbage is pickled. Sadly, the only fishy options (a deconstructed shrimp cocktail, and mussels and bacon in ale) weren't available, and my date was unhappy. "I'm a woman," she said, "and I cannot eat pork ribs or pig's trotter and then a steak." She had a point. With the meat-tastic menu and the tidal wave of whiskey, this is a male carnivore's club. Her compromise salad featured an OK melange of green shoots and watercress, but you could tell the kitchen's heart wasn't in it. My sautéed duck livers were enormous – one the size of a chicken breast – their soft, velvety insides complemented by the triple crunch of apple and hazelnuts on toast.

The main courses sounded like a bunch of cartoon tough guys: Braised Pork Cheeks, Bearded Wild Boar Faggots, Smoked Shoreditch Sausage, Pulled Featherblade. All the restaurant's meat comes from a single outlet, the Ashbridge family farm in North Yorkshire, and very fine it is too. Angie's 28-day-aged rump steak was charred and textured to perfection, the horseradish cream nicely judged. A side order of bubble-and-squeak was soon demolished. Bone marrow and watercress, however, was dry and unappetising. My sweet-cured saddleback pork chop was lovingly cooked, nicely flavoured with sage and cockles (cockles?) and scattered with slices of apple; having already had apple slices with my starter, I'd have preferred a purée, but you don't argue with the management in such a hard-nut environment.

For pudding we shared The Sundae Bible, an overwhelming, lactic monstrosity involving gingernut cheesecake, milk ice-cream and Southern Comfort syrup. It was strangely off-putting, like being suckled by a 20-stone wet-nurse in a Louisiana swamp.

Beard to Tail will, mark my words, be lionised by east London trendsetters for months to come. The food is relentlessly beefy and piggy, but with the new trend for chicken-only or steak-only establishments, that won't hurt. We may even see the coining of a new word for the sensitive young Londoner who frequents the East End in search of whiskey-flavoured steaks: the Meatrosexual.

Beard to Tail, 77 Curtain Road, London EC2 (020-7729 2966)

Around £80 for two, with wine

Food ***
Ambiance **
Service ****

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 12.5 per cent. All service charge and tips go to the staff'

Side orders: Sticky fingers

The Burger Joint

The meat comes from butcher Ruby and White’s; the buns are artisan ciabatta; ingredients are locally sourced – no wonder this is the best place to eat burgers in Bristol.

83 Whiteladies Road, Bristol (0117 329 0887)

BBQ Shack

Make sure you try the sticky, smoky, Texas-style ribs at this outlet in a Brighton pub; it’s the place to go for ‘dirty’ food. Napkins at the ready.

World’s End, 60-61 London Road, Brighton  (01273 692 311)

Smoke Stack

The succulent ‘fat-free’ rump steak and the pork ribs roasted with honey and tomato are both popular choices here.

53-55 Broughton Street, Edinburgh (0131 556 6032)

Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Guru Careers: Events Coordinator / Junior Events Planner

    £24K + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Events Coordinator ...

    Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: Chief Executive Officer

    Salary 42,000: Royal Yachting Association Cymru Wales: The CEO is responsible ...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Day In a Page

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine