Slow-cooked brisket that melts in your mouth… Rich salt beef smothered in oozing cheese and mustard… There’s a reason Bell & Brisket’s buns have been giving the standard hamburger a run for its money. In fact, since its 2011 launch Bell & Brisket has become one of the UK’s most renowned street food companies, popping up all over the country from Leeds’s infamous Trinity Kitchen to the foodie paradises of KERB and Street Feast. Bell & Brisket has hosted numerous takeovers and converted many a burger-aficionado to the joys of salt beef, and now it looks like it has found a new long-term home indoors.
Shoreditch pub The Barley Mow has had its vacant kitchen filled with succulent, mouthwatering beef – the slow-cooked, perfectly salted Bell & Brisket kind. Bel Shapiro, the founder of Bell & Brisket, has taken over the space and will serve her salt beef and ale-braised brisket to patrons of the pub.
What is salt beef, you ask? It’s made in a similar way to ham: beef brisket is cured in a brine solution of spices, sugar, and salts before it is cooked slowly until it falls apart at first bite. Bel serves hers – alongside her traditional brisket – in one of three ways: with a classic Jewish boiled bagel, a Carmellis black rye bun, or sans-carbs on a pickle platter. All three are now available at Shoreditch’s local watering hole.
It’s not just the meat that makes Bell & Brisket king of the salt beef – It’s what Bell & Brisket does with it. Juicy beef is paired with a range of fresh toppings and sides, all working to elevate the main ingredient into a triumph of foodie fare. ‘The Duke’ uses roasted tomato chipotle relish, pickled onions, jalapeños, and melted Monterey to create a cheesy, spicy, and delicious sandwich. ‘The Lord Rupert’ is a more sensible chap, loaded with pickled cabbage, dijon mayonnaise, dill pickles, and the finest cheddar. In case you hadn’t realised, the names of Bel’s salt beef have a thoroughly aristocratic bent.
Bel’s fries, however, are anything but classy, ranging from the naked to the downright dirty. Crunchy and just the right side of greasy, the ‘Naked’ version comes tossed with fennel and black pepper seasoning, while the ‘Filthy’ variation is just that – topped with beef (of course), pickled cabbage, gherkins, jalapeños, sour cream, chipotle relish, and ridiculous amounts of cheese, it’s a meal in itself. Don’t attempt unless you’re prepared to get very messy. For chilli-heads there’s the hot fries that come with kimchi, mustard, cheddar, and hot roots.
Add to all this a warm, welcoming pub interior, cask ales, beer, and a blooming great whisky selection, and you’ve got a hell of a cracking combo. It’s a blend of trendy Shoreditch street food and traditional boozer, and it works really, really well. Grab a pint, find a corner, ask the lovely Bel to send you a Duke and some Filthy fries, and be prepared to never feel the same way about burgers again.
By Emma Cooke
Emma is a journalist with an obsession for all things culture-related. She is online editor of blow LTD, a Buzzfeed contributor, and fashion features editor of Parisian magazine, L’Insolent. Follow her on Twitter or Instagram.