But, looks are often deceiving.
Other than the phenomenal American style barbecue which we ate (Smokestak have been lauded members of London’s street food scene for a number of years), the serving team turned out to be the friendliest I’ve encountered in ages. And, after a bit of acclimatisation, the music and lighting were tolerable.
Ice cold craft beers from The Kernel (£4.50) and Fuller's (£4.50) were served in glasses straight from the freezer. It's the little details that make the difference.
We ordered a load of food to share and there wasn’t a single bum note.
Brisket buns (£5 each) were a stellar start. The first rate toasted bun was filled with tender, smokey, fatty brisket balanced with fiery pickled red chillies.
Crispy ox cheek cubes (£4.50) were unctuous wonders filled with shredded meat.
Pork tails (£4.50) were turbo-charged pork belly x scratching hybrids; crunchy, meaty, fatty and coated in a sweet and sticky glaze.
Pork ribs (£9) were top drawer. They were balanced by clean tasting pickled cucumbers.
Smoked beef rib (£14.50) was another cracker. More of those pickled red chillies put in an appearance to counterbalance the dish’s richness.
Sides of the best jacket potatoes (£5 each) would have been a meal themselves. The crisp skinned cocoons contained scooped out potato mixed with sour cream and chive topped with a load of oozy melted cheese.
A whopper of a hot smoked salmon fillet (£13) flaked perfectly. Mild horseradish cream was the perfect foil.
More of that killer brisket (£8) was served with a cracking barbecue sauce.
Desserts were on the nail too.
A soft, molasses rich sticky toffee pudding (£6.50) was joined by smooth burnt butter ice cream. The delicate burnt taste of the ice cream intensified the flavour of the whole pud.
Toasted oak ice cream (£4.50) was a bit weird but still a success. The aftertaste reminded me of the woody notes of a whisky.
Finally, plum crumble (£6.50) combined well textured fruit with a nut laced topping.
Smokestak serve serious barbecue. Go.
Address - Smokestak, 35 Sclater Street, London E1 6LB
Web - https://smokestak.co.uk/
Telephone - 020 3873 1733