In a nutshell
HotBox, a former pop-up and street food regular, moved to a permanent home in East London at the end of 2014. The introduction of a new custom wood-and-charcoal grill inspired by South American asados has taken the menu in a new direction.
Co-founder Basit Nasim and head chef/pit master Lewis Spencer combined their love and in-depth knowledge of Texan BBQ to start HotBox. Both spent time in Austin’s legendary Franklin Barbecue honing their smoking technique.
You’ll find all the traditional BBQ elements of ribs, burgers and chicken wings here, just given a spicy South American twist. Smoking low and slow is also a big part of the menu. Portions are generous, so if in doubt hold off and order a second round.
What’s the room like?
We visited at night when the vibe is buzzy and club-like and the lighting is low. We loved the big wooden communal sharing tables and benches (you might find yourself making a whole new set of friends) but this is probably not the place for an intimate quiet first date. If you want to continue the party you can always stumble the short distance downstairs to cocktail bar 46 & Mercy.
Must-orders and misfires
The star for us was the dry-rubbed, eight-hour-smoked beef short rib – a giant single Flintstone-style Black Angus rib served with pickles and BBQ sauce, so tender you could carve it with a spoon. From the starters, the jumbo prawn grilled in the shell and finished with a fermented chilli and mezcal butter and the 18-hour beef taco with crispy shallots, chipotle mayo and chimichurri both delivered sparky, punchy flavours. (Starters from £5-7 mains from £12-23).
Sides tick all the current trend boxes: we shamelessly snaffled sweet potato fries, pickled jalepeño slaw and Mexican corn (Elotes) after worrying that we’d ordered too much (sides £4-6). We are definitely going back for the bargain £25 liquid Sunday brunch which includes unlimited prosecco, Mimosas or five different takes on the Bloody Marys, too.
The booze: The cocktail list is brief and quirky – we tried the pun-tastic Bruce Springsteam, a mix of Kamm & Sons, whisky and steam beer, and the shorter more refined Delicious Sour made with Bulleit bourbon, lemon and peach. Craft beers such as Kona Hot Wave and Camden Hells are also on offer.
The verdict: Buzzy, a little bit rowdy (in the best possible way) and most of all fun, HotBox delivers brilliantly made BBQ in super-cool surroundings. Take a friend who loves, music, booze and, most of all, meat – they’ll thank you for it.
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