Soft launch of One Sixty hits the right buttons

It’s been the most eagerly awaited opening I can remember in West Hampstead. The Smokehouse, now called One Sixty, has had tongues wagging and salivating ever since the news broke that the combination of Michelin-starred restaurateur David Moore, craft beer loving publican Sean Martin, and acclaimed chef Andrei Lesment were coming to West End Lane.

I was lucky enough to be invited to a preview tasting a couple of weeks ago and then booked a table this Saturday night for the soft launch. We’ll write a full review over the next few weeks but, as interest is so high, I figured it was worth giving my immediate reaction.

This is a place for meat-lovers. Many on Twitter have been asking what the vegetarian options are. Right now the only option would be the larger mac & cheese. There’s a lobster roll if you don’t fancy meat, but otherwise it’s mac & cheese, or pickles. It will be interesting to see whether One Sixty decides to extend the offer for vegetarians.

The menu isn’t extensive either, though it’s not clear whether it will change regularly depending what’s smoking – the printed menu last night didn’t tally exactly with the online menu, so there’s clearly room for manouevre. Personally, I prefer these shorter menus, which tends to imply fresher ingredients and dishes that have been perfected – there’s nowhere to hide after all.

OneSixty Menu

The front half of the venue is the bar – a large space with a few tables and what looks like a brushed steel bar adorned with interesting taps. The back half is the dark restaurant.

On our visit on Saturday, we shared all the starters – chicken wings, mac & cheese, and a half-rack of 8-hour smoked ribs. The wings and ribs were particularly good, sticky and tender without being impossible to eat. For mains, two of us had the 12-hour smoked ox cheek, and two the chuck steak burger. We tried all the sides. The ox cheek was excellent – although slightly drier than the version I had at the preview a couple of weeks ago. Hopefully they can get that moistness back. The burgers were a hit – “generously meaty”, if a little hard to eat. The “Iceberg & burnt onion” side was also very popular. Nothing disappointed in fact.

While one person worked his way through more of the beer menu, the rest of us tried a Tuscan red from the very limited wine list. It did the job admirably and felt fairly priced.

There was just one dessert on the menu and as we were far too full to contemplate it, we were generously given one to take home. I’ve just eaten it – it’s a banana & rum tarte tatin – and even a day on it was very good (and lighter than it looked, but I’m glad I reheated it).

One Sixty opens officially on Tuesday at 5pm at which point they’ll take you in off the street. I suspect it will be popular over the first few weeks, and both kitchen and front of house will find themselves tested from the start. I wish them well – it’s refreshing to see something genuinely different and independent moving into the area. I’m looking forward to giving it the full #whampreview treatment very soon.

  • Daniel Walker

    Sounds like the right amount of vegetarian options to me!

  • Nathan Davis

    No reservations = nightmare

    • No, they are taking bookings. That sentence was perhaps ambiguous. Up to now (soft launch) it’s been bookings only, from Tuesday they’ll also take walk-ins.

      • Nathan Davis

        Oh ok. But with no obvious online bookings and no replies to emails. I’m not massively impressed so far! Hopefully the food will overshadow that and there won’t be a snake like queue all along the pavement

      • I’d just give them a call.

  • Lewis

    I can’t wait to try this although I hope they add a decent vege optio- kind of unforgivable not to do that in 2014. It’ll be Interesting to see what happens here….Dach & Sons up the road in Hampstead had an offering along the same lines and was shut after a year, despite being busy all the time.

  • CharlotteLB

    I am a little disappointed that they’ve so far been unresponsive to emails and tweets and that only those in-the-know knew (ha!) to book a table for the soft launch…having said that, I’m hoping the food and the experience will make up for it.

  • Kent D

    Phoned ahead by about 10 minutes and managed to get a seat without a problem (after getting caught in the extended soft launch last time I tried). The beer menu is rather good, with the Meantime Yakima Red being a really nice addition along West End Lane establishments). Unfortunately aside from the chips the rest of the meal was underwhelming. We tried to order the ribs, but they were out by 2:30 pm in the afternoon. We then defaulted to the pulled pork. In the interests of full disclosure I owned a back yard smoker in North America and have fed pulled pork to gatherings of 30 plus, along with smoked ribs, chicken and brisket. I search out BBQ when I have the opportunity. Unfortunately the pulled pork, while moist lacked smoke, any hint of BBQ ‘bark’ or a sauce of any of the recognizable types (vinegary, peppery, or tomato based). In short – bland and watery. I will try again but for now willing to travel outside of West Hampstead for smoked BBQ and the existing choices along West End Lane will continue to draw me in before I head back into 160 any time soon.

    • Kent D

      Returned to 160 last night with a largish (8 person) dinner party. Once again the beer selection remains outstanding. This time I ordered the pork ribs. They were cooked to perfection, remaining moist and tender while have a proper crunchiness to the dry rub coating. The smoke flavour was very light, lighter than I would have preferred – but given the tenderness of the meat it may have been a conscious trade off by the restaurant which they should be given credit for. Beef ribs were also very tender and tasty. The sole real critique from all at the table was the saltiness tasted in both the beef and pork ribs. Fries, salads, and pickles were very nice and enjoyed by all.

      • Kent D

        Having been back a year later, and tried the pulled pork again – happy to say that I was more impressed by it this time. Again moist, but the smokey taste that had been lacking was there. The lack of “bark” or crust may have more to do with the way it is smoked. But, would not hesitate to have it again.