The previous incarnation House has morphed to Smokehouse with a change of ownership and team and a revamp, which an a casual glance is not significantly altered from before, on the decor and garden front: not really loving the cheesy ‘wedding arch’ and christmas-tree fairy lights in the garden much – bit of a mismatch with the specialty-beer-and-beef-heavy Man Food menu. More greenery outside does help to screen the garden area from the road boundaries however.
Foodwise, Smokehouse is very different in style to before: with House, there was a bit of an identity struggle: is this a restaurant or a pub? It never bothered me, but many friends and family found that offputting for some reason, and the menu then threw pizzas into the rather elegant seasonal dishes mix which did seem a bit odd.
It doesn't really matter what Smokehouse is, it is certainly an exciting eatery concept from The Pig and Butcher stable: in-house smoked meat and fish, prepared and barbecued in Big Green Egg BBQs (google them: I SO want one!) with a Robata grill thrown in for good measure – I couldn't detect any Japanese influence in the menu, so the Robata is just another cool kitchen tool it seems.
Turned up with son just before 9pm on a weekday: the place was quite full and busy, and without a booking, we were advised there would be a short wait before ordering – which stretched to an actual 50 mins. No bread or nibbles of any sort offered. Went straight to the wine list which was shortish, with good choices and fair prices. The only non-red-meat main (excluding corn-on-the-cob, which is also a side dish offering and so a poor main-course veggie option) was monkfish with heritage tomatoes and a smokey sauce which I ordered, with lobster frittata to start; son had smoked duck confit with fourme d'aumbert toast, and mutton chops with caponata to follow and we had the Smokehouse salad and stovies as sides.
Bad news: the last monkfish had gone. Lesson to be learned by Smokehouse – there is a reason the fish sold out because it was the only main course without steak, ox or mutton! More fish/chicken/duck/whatever and a better veggie choice are needed fast. I had a second starter instead…
The lobster frittata was A-MAZ-ING: wasn't sure what to expect, up came a dainty delicious disc of frittata with big chunks of perfectly-cooked fresh lobster generously topping it, with a hat of peppery micro-leaves and a delicious spicy sauce which I thought would be too much for the lobster but wasn't. An 11 of of 10. I didn't really want to share the news as I am worried there will be a run on lobster l(ike the monkfish) and I'll never get to eat it again.
Mutton chops and accompaniments – big tick; stovies divided us – as a born-and-bred Scot and the grand-daughter of an Edinburgh butcher, I didn't like them at all as they were nothing like the traditional stovies I know and love: mine – sliced potato with melting browned onion cooked in dripping and concentrated stock to fondant potato consistency; Smokehouse – lamb shreds with mushy mashy potatoes. Son not brought up in The Tradition loved them however, and would happily order them ‘standalone’ as a bar snack: like creamy mashed potatoes with lamb bits, he declared. Smokehouse salad was chargrilled bits and bobs: gem lettuce, fennel, lemon, tomatoes. No oil dressing so too dry, fennel required son's steak knife to cut into biteable pieces leaving inedible large hard core…needs improving. Smoked duck confit also divided us: son was happy boy, I had this as substitute ‘main’ and did not get what little chunks of cold cheese added to pot of delicious duck pieces – if the cheese had been grilled on the bread, warm and oozy, it would be a different story I think.
Nice waiter asked if we would come back, and the answer is a big fat yes. I really hope most of the issues are normal start-up gripes, and I would book to be able to expect to eat long before the stars appear in the sky – and before the monkfish is all gone.