The meteoric rise of Pitt Cue from food truck under Hungerford Bridge on the Southbank serving pulled pork in takeaway boxes at £7 each to their shiny, 100 plus cover restaurant in the heart of the Liverpool Street with a centrepiece US-made bespoke grill costing $89,000 is the kind of storyline you think only Hollywood can dream up. This story is of course true.
The still boyish looking Tom Adams founded Pitt Cue – the food truck – aged just 22 in 2011. We went along to their shiny new branch on a surprisingly hectic Monday night to speak with the amazing team behind Pitt Cue to find out what makes Tom Adams and Pitt Cue tick.
Our discussion started with Richard Turner, the entrepreneur who has his fingers on the carnivorous pulse like no other restaurateur in London owning Hawksmoor, Blacklock, Pitt Cue, Turner & George – the premium butchers and meat feast festival that is Meatopia. Richard explained that Jonathan Downey, who founded Street Feast, had urged him to visit Tom's van on the Southbank back in 2011.
After various discussions and an invitation for Tom to visit Hawksmoor to experiment with various meats and kimchee in their kitchen, they ran an extremely successful pop-up evening: Hawksmoor Vs Pitt Cue. The success led to investment by Richard into the brand that is Pitt Cue. Richard had this small site on Newburgh Street in Soho, which became their permanent outpost; but the queues kept forming and this ultimately led to their latest move to the city.
It transpired that Richard had recommended Tom opt for a simpler menu – in contrast to what you might expect – a successful entrepreneur pushing the younger apprentice for a more complex and extravagant menu to cater for the city worker's lavish tastes. Ultimately though, “Tom can't do simple, Tom is a genius, he is all about the best, the most perfect”.
Tom's recent purchase of Coombeshead farm in Cornwall is a testament to his search for perfection. It is the ultimate chef's dream to have control over their product. There he cultivates the rare breed of Mangalitsa pigs used to supply the customers of Pitt Cue. The quality of this breed has resulted in the nickname ‘the Kobe beef of the porcine world'. Tom is down at this farm more than 50% of his time to ensure the expert rearing of his produce.
The other owner, Simon Anderson, looked after the design of the restaurant and also the in-house brewery, Alphabeta they've developed at Pitt Cue – it's all about fine dining with artisanal beer brewed to match the food. The beer will actually be sold to other handpicked meat-related restaurants throughout London. Everything is maintained in a sustainable cycle with the spelt husk used in the brewing process coming from the spelt bread in the kitchen and then the spent grains which is a by-product from the brewery sent down to Coombehead and used to feed the pigs.
It is hardly surprising to hear Richard Turner say we've caught up with the Americans in terms of our meat-cooking techniques in the UK; so much so the Americans and counterparts from all over the world are flying into London to check out developments at Pitt Cue. With facsimiles of the Pitt Cue menu appearing in cities like Sydney, it has spurred on Tom Adams to constantly evolve his menu so he stays at least one step ahead of the competition. We await eagerly the next chapter in the Tom Adams and Pitt Cue developments.
Words by Baldwin Ho