It was National Burger Day a few days ago and judging by the ample coverage on social media, I felt like I was missing out as I didn’t participate. The feeling was thankfully short-lived for I had a date at Smoky Boys in Watford at the weekend.
Smoky Boys has been on my growing list of places to try. It does gourmet burgers, it’s halal and it’s easy and quick to get to from where I live. Speaking of ‘growing’, Smoky Boys is expanding since opening its flagship branch in Watford three years ago with locations in Stevenage, Amersham, Hounslow and opening soon in Hemel Hempstead and coming to the much anticipated Boxpark Wembley in October.
But back to Watford. This small American diner is situated on St Albans Road which is a very long road, stretching all the way to the town centre. There is a car park opposite (I recommend parking here) but be warned, the one-way system to get to it is pretty tricky to navigate around if you’re not familiar with the area.
Inside it is intimate and inviting with comfy booths and trendy low hanging bulbs suspended above the wooden tables. The aroma of barbecue smoked flavours wafting from the kitchen greets your nose, which is just as well for Smoky Boys prides itself on great meat and big flavours – in fact only the best British Angus beef is sourced for the burgers.
We began our onslaught with a selection of Bites to share: Jalapeño Cheese Poppers (£4.50), Smoky Beef Brisket (£5.50) and Grilled Chicken Wings in Peri sauce (£5). All three were winners. The poppers had a lovely, crunchy exterior which once broken into, oozed soft cheese with the full flavour of the jalapeño coming through, topped off with the smoked dipping sauce; the Smoky Beef Brisket was finely sliced and tender in a delicately sweet BBQ sauce and topped with caramelised onions, married with a delicious coleslaw; and the Chicken Wings were succulent and juicy.
We then moved onto the mains. My friend, Annie took the plunge with the quarter rack of Smoked BBQ Ribs (£13), swayed by the description of slow cooked Angus beef ribs with Smoky BBQ Sauce, which was served with skin on fries and homemade coleslaw. The meat fell off the bone and was soft to cut through, deeply infused with flavour and melted in the mouth.
Mum opted for the Falafel & Cheese Burger, which was pieces of falafel, mature cheddar cheese, baby gem lettuce, beef tomato, red onions and garlic mayo in a brioche bun (£6.50) with a side of Chunky Chips (£3) while I went for the bad boy – the Smoky Bad Boy – beef patty, baby gem lettuce, mature cheddar and American cheese, jalapeños, fresh chillies and Bad Boy Suicide sauce all wedged in a brioche bun. I could tell the suicide sauce would blow my head off but I was tempted by the jalapeños and fresh chillies. Fortunately staff were accomodating to my request to have the sauce on the side and it proved to be a wise decision. It’s the type of sauce best consumed in an extremely tiny amount. I did OK but I think Annie and mum dipped their chips in a little too much and felt the after effect shortly after.
The patty in my burger was cooked to medium (just how I like it), smoky on the outside and pink in the middle. It tasted better than it looked, seasoned by the jalapeños, chillies and cheese. I polished off the burger with skin on fries sprinkled with Rosemary salt (£3).
We also ordered Macaroni Cheese (£4.50), which is a gamble from any menu it appears on. It either goes one way or the other and in this case, it was the weakest link. It lacked the cheesy ooziness that a good mac ‘n cheese has – it’s just one of those dishes that’s pretty tricky to nail. Well, that’s certainly my experience from having sampled quite a few offerings.
We washed our food down with mocktails – mum and Annie went for Smoky Colada (£4.50), made with fresh pineapple, coconut and Greek yoghurt blended together with roasted coconut and served in a cute ceramic coconut shaped cup while I chose Strawberry Daiquiri (£5.50) – fresh strawberries blended with lime juice, gomme syrup and lemon. It was divine and utterly refreshing and so was the Smoky Colada which I managed to sneak a sip of. Smoky Boys used to have a dry menu; it now serves spirits, cocktails and beers which is a plus for those who like a drink and a guaranteed way to pull in the non-muslim punters. By the way, it’s 2 for 1 on cocktails, Sunday to Thursday.
I found the prices to be very reasonable, in some cases less than most gourmet burger places including the major chains. Quality of ingredients and preparation comes through in the food, as well as service, which at Smoky Boys is attentive, friendly and prompt. It was a refreshing change to come to a place where staff pay attention and are so welcoming. I am excited about Smoky Boys coming to Wembley. I think that part of north London lacks a decent burger joint and these guys will shake things up.
As luck would have it, I have to return to St Albans Road in two weeks to have my car serviced. I think I will mosy on down to Smoky Boys to try their new breakfast/brunch menu – well, I’ve got to kill some time and what could be better than dropping in for some delicious grub?
For more information on all of its locations and its menu, visit www.smokyboys.com.
*My visit to Smoky Boys was complimentary for review purposes but my words and opinion are entirely my own.