“Sometimes it’s nice to just go on the journey without having a real end in mind.”
These were the words that my friend, who I will call Ilga, said to me as we embarked on a ten mile cycle around east London.
We met at Brick Lane, because, for over a month now, I have been endeavouring to try the culinary offerings of The Ribman, proud purveyor of “The Best Ribs In London.”
Annoyingly, I first found out about The Ribman the day after I first went to Brick Lane. On that day I tried some Thai Food – some type of sausage, some type of duck, both very tasty – in a small cafe towards the Shoreditch end. Mary and I were the only people in the restaurant/cafe until a family with crying baby came in. Mary was not amused. She paid and we left.
I had been recommend Brick Lane beigels (pronounced “buy-guls”, “because they are Jewish”) and so, having just eaten, resolved to get in an out-the-door queue for a beigel. There are two beigel stores right next to each other – the yellow one and the older one – and, as the queue was longer, I opted for the older one.
We went to some overpriced costume exhibition which Mary greatly enjoyed, then basked in the October sun on the steps of Christchurch Spitalfields (recently renovated by Dow Jones architects, who I admire for the originality of their name) while I chowed down on my cream cheese and salmon beigel. I do enjoy the dough of the beigel, and smoked salmon with cream cheese for £1.70 is an absolute steal.
Mary and I have not spoken since.
One month later, Hans and I decided to meet on the weekend for the first time since I moved to try Ribman. Hans has bought some of The Ribman’s sauces and is also a big fan of meat, so what better way to spend a Sunday?!
Hans was late.
The Ribman was sold out and had left.
For future reference (to myself) make sure you get money out either at Liverpool Street or the Sainsbury’s near Shoreditch before embarking on Brick Lane as all of the ATMs charge upwards of £1.70 for withdrawals – a full bagel lost in lieu of a cash withdrawal.
I bought a beigel from the yellow shop. We queued for a good 5-10 minutes, deciding on bacon before, at the last minute, changing out minds to ham as it looked more appealing. Hans immediately tried the beigel to see what the big deal was: tastier than a normal beigel; cheaper than most everything else on Brick Lane. Plus the history!
Mildly defeated by the lack of Ribman, we went to the indoor market.
For our first course, Hans opted for a Brazilian beef roll from Tico’s. Had he not gone for this, I would have as the smell and the point of difference made it, at the time, the most appealing stall in the vast indoor market.
I messed up the picture of the actual dish, but you can see a sample beef rib bun above.
It was meaty, had a hit of spice, and was lovely and moist. I haven’t had much Brazilian food before but wouldn’t be against going to an all-you-can-meat restaurant, hopefully without the Bridesmaids results.
Next, I was up. I wandered around the entirety of the indoor market before deciding on the stall that I had seen within the first minute of walking. That’s how it often goes, but tis better to know than to be left forever wondering.
Hans specifically said that he didn’t want Cuban food, but to hell with Hans: they had a boombox, great smells and a genuine Cuban guy making it. Authenticity is the zenith of modern living. Plus, I fancied pork.
Timing is often everything. The customer on the right of the above picture was, I presume, a regular. The server gave him extra – again, I presume because he was a regular – and the customer asked for skin. The skin is on a separate plate, given only to those who know to ask for it.
The skin is definitely worth asking for.
I can’t believe I didn’t add any additional hot sauce to my dish. Oh well.
For £5 (the Brazilian dish, above, was also £5) you get quite a substantial meal.
The salad and sauce helped to cut through the meatiness of the pork, and also the meatiness of the first course. Hans commented that the plantain “has an almost fruity quality” to it. He then learned what a plantain was. Rice is also under the bed of food. On the whole it was a bit drier than I would have liked, but still wholly enjoyable.
For dessert, Hans opted for a Filthy Banana, pictured in his hand. This was £4.50. The staff were quite “cool”, and the putting together of really, what is banana and ecoutrements in a pot, was quite theatrical. A standard dessert.
We wandered the streets until dusk (4pm) before bidding each other adieu. I went off and had a passable roast.
Which brings us to a week later.
Ilga and I had not met in nearly a month, and she had just broken up with her boyfriend. It’s important to meet up more regularly in these situations as a friend in need is a friend indeed, and friends going through stuff often want to eat more.
We met in Brick Lane.
She was running late.
Ribman was nearly sold out – or so his Twitter said.
“Sad or not, she better not make me miss Ribman again, dammit,” I thought to myself.
A man came up to me and gave me his card.
“That’s a lovely bike you have there. Give me a call if it every needs fixing. And get a brillo pad to buff that rust off. Then all the boys will be after you.”
Ilga showed up. We rushed through the market, straight past Ribman.
I looked on Ribman’s Twitter and deduced where he was: about midway up Brick Lane, near the stall with lots of fruit cups and smoothies; opposite the churro stand.
“I am so glad you’re still here! I missed out last week and have heard good things.”
“Hopefully you won’t be disappointed.”
“I’m sure I won’t be.”
We went for a medium (yes, the picture below is medium. There are small (£5) and large (£10) options as well) to share, which was £7. He asked if we wanted hot sauce or barbecue sauce. Get both. Barbecue on the meat, hot on the sheet (side).
There’s a park just off that stretch of Brick Lane which is ideal for sitting.
Goodness, it was quite majestic! Tender, moist and tasty: the trifecta of perfection for street food. Or any food. It was slightly colder than I would have liked it to have been, but it was street food on a cold day and was still quite hot, so stop picking holes!
The best ribs in London? They may not be ribs (“I’ve never seen ribs off the bone before. There is so much meat!” Oh, Ilga.) but they sure are damn tasty.
Mark ‘The Ribman’ said that he tends to sell out at about 1.30/2.00 every week. Maybe he should make more? As it goes on until 5pm. But this type of hype doesn’t lie. Get there early and make your Sunday.
Ilga then suggested that we go to Hackney City Farm and Haggerston Park for an explore for the rest of the day. This took us 45 minutes total, including travel.
“Being from the countryside, do you find city farms a strange and backwards concept?”
“No, they’re great. Otherwise you have to trek out the countryside to teach children about farms and that’s more of an ordeal than it should be. This is lovely.”
I stand by my sentiment.
It was lovely. Farms are great. Take yourself, and especially your children (if you have any) to the farm today!
There is a lovely cycle route from Haggerston Park along the Regents Canal up to Victoria Park, which you should stop off and go round, then continue up the Canal where it says to walk your bike, but just cycle slowly and carefully otherwise it’ll add a good 30-45 minutes to your journey with the extent of the works, up through Mile End, and finally to Limehouse Basin.
Dismount at Limehouse, lock up your bike well – Ilga got her’s stolen there once – and enjoy some apple crumble/pie.
A 15 mile cycle means pork and pie is guilt free.
Buns of pork > buns of steel.
Though protein can mean buns of pork –> buns of steel.
All in all, if you’re hungree on a Sundee, head to Brick Lane markee. (hungry, Sunday, market).
Also, if your bike is ever stolen, apparently it may turn up on Brick Lane market. Take a look!