The arrival of the Intercontinental Hotel in Westminster has been a surprisingly low-key one, perhaps because the sort of people who normally cover events in Westminster are all more interested in political skulduggery and cloak and dagger goings-on, than in new bars and restaurants. Nevertheless, it’s now there, situated a hop and a skip from St James’ Park tube and its monolithic Eric Gill sculptures; its restaurant is none other than the Blue Boar Smokehouse, named after a legendary Westminster tavern. The Boar has taken lessons from what’s in vogue in London at the moment and come to the conclusion that what people want is meat, and lots of it. They’re not wrong.
It seems appropriate to take along a carnivorous chum, and I take young Simon, a fine figure of a man whose appetite for well-cooked meat knows few bounds. We arrive in the hushed, dark-hued environs of the restaurant literally chomping at the bit to be allowed near the goodies on offer; we have heard tell that chef Jon Ingram is something of a wizard when it comes to taking animals and making them taste even more delicious than they should be. As a man whose mouth has been known to water in a farmyard, the idea that there would be culinary fireworks involving the fatted calf, and plenty more besides, was a heavenly one.
Spoiler alert: there was meat. As someone whose excursions into the carnivorous Meccas of East London have necessarily been limited, and who hasn’t yet plucked up the courage to join the hour-long queues outside Pitt Cue Co, the Blue Boar was my first incursion in quite a while into a world where people say words like ‘pulled’, ‘marinated’ and ‘slow-hung’ with a sort of reverent relish. And it proved both overwhelming and delectable. I started off with the ribs on our ebullient waitress’ recommendation, and was glad I did, even though the finger bowl and pile of napkins provided were given a good going-over. The ribs, which Ingram has marinated in a blend of his own concoction, nearly fell apart, and as I gnawed hungrily at them, Simon, who had plumped for a more restrained chicken and chicory salad to start, looked on enviously. I took pity on him, and quite literally tossed him a bone, which he fell upon like the eager dog he is. We were satisfied.
We’d already worked out what we were going to do with the main course, which was something we’d dubbed ‘The Vegan’s Nightmare’. Hieronymus Bosch would have had a field day painting the multi-headed meat Hydra that appeared before us, in the form of the 30 oz. Yorkshire tomahawk steak with a side order of pulled pork, assorted sauces, slaws and other goodies. The steak was delicious, being cooked and served in just the right way, and it would give the Hawksmoors and Goodmans of London a serious run for their money. The pulled pork, meanwhile, is delectably tender, showing up the inferior establishments around town who cynically offer poor versions of this for the charlatans that they are. Although we ordered erring on the side of greed, the pulled pork (there are also lamb and, interestingly, kid offerings of this variety too) is probably not big enough for a main course, unless either you have a limited appetite or it is your second dinner of the day.
Wine, normally such an important part of a meal, rather took second place for once. Simon was still recovering from a misspent stag do in Brussels and drank nothing stronger than water, and I restrained myself to a couple of glasses of excellent red, one a Lebanese (a vastly underrated and underpriced region) and the other a more conventional Bordeaux. After finishing our flesh feast, we groaned, unbuckled belts, made noises etc, and then shared a kind of crème brulee for dessert. It was fine – better than fine, in fact – but then we knew that puddings weren’t the reason why anyone would come to the Blue Boar. We had come to eat meat, and meat had been eaten. The vegan’s nightmare had been an exceptionally enjoyable evening, and I have heard tell of a blow-out Sunday brunch with unlimited Bloody Marys and Bucks Fizz at a bargain basement £35 a head. I think a return might soon be in the offing.