What can I say? I have never met Tiberius before.. in fact, I’ve never been to Christina’s before! Yeah I know.. bit of a shock, coming from someone who is about to write a food review.
The only reason I thought I’d try this place was because I saw a post on Instagram by The Foodie Bruva as well as the guys at Feed The Lion and realised that it was literally 5 minutes away. I mean, if I threw a stone from my house, as far as I could, the stone would land as far as possible and I would still need to travel 4 minutes and 50 seconds to get there. So I decided to go and check it out.
Set in London’s trendy Hackney Wick, The Holy Smoke and Burgers is based inside the Colour Factory alongside other food outlets such as Veganushi and Coqfighters. You can easily miss the place if you haven’t been there before. From the outside it looks like an old derelict warehouse, but when you go in, you begin to realise how they converted the space to cater for people to eat in as well as takeout.
I met Tiberius as he was cooking away in his kitchen on the far side. Equipped with a massive log-filled BBQ smoker behind him and a fiery hot burger grill in front, he was preparing fresh food for some orders placed in the Colour Factory.
On my first impression, I thought he was one of the bouncers from the venue, short hair, tattoos, stocky build, someone really serious, who had stepped in to help smash up some of the burgers (Yes, the burgers are literally smashed with a burger trowel and cooked to perfection), only to find out he was the main guy in charge.
The meat cleaver tattoo on his arm was a reflection of his passion, a purist who is dedicated to his craft. Here was a man, who understands what it means to have good taste, to include flavour and how to attain perfection whilst using his culinary skills.
Although we spoke for about 10 minutes, I was genuinely impressed with his ideas, vision and commitment to produce high quality halal food.
A natural foodie himself, Tiberius revealed that he was passionate about trying to cater for the halal food market and genuinely believed that his brand of food would have great potential and serve the Muslim audience well. Halal smoke houses are leading the way and have begun setting a trend as we speak.
His fascination about asian food inspired him to travel to Lahore for two weeks, in order to truly understand the nature of Pakistani cuisine. He fell in love with it so much that he even jovially contemplated on staying in Lahore instead of return back to the UK. He recently competed with a famous chef and beat him at creating his own asian inspired recipe in a challenge.
One day he intends to open up a restaurant that focusses on cooking with fire and smoke, similar to the famous Argentinian Asado style of cooking with fire and rotating grills, as seen in John Torode’s “Cook Abroad Episode“. Definitely one to look out for in the future.
Tiberius revealed that he had initially planned to set up in Bricklane, ideally opposite the mosque, but this was not feasible due to the Bricklane real estate being at a premium. I had to agree with him, it can be very difficult to get a foot in the door within that area. Some of these chains of restaurants are pretty much owned by the same people and their monopoly on their ownership may even resemble something similar to that of the Ozarks. Anyway, the less said about that the better, NO need to get in to politics.
The fact that he tried to find somewhere at the heart of the Muslim community was making me feel even more intrigued about his principles. He further went on to say:
I am not Muslim, but I have some very good people around me. I don’t swear like I used to. It is important for me to serve halal and I also tried to find a place that does not sell alcohol but it can be very difficult. – Tiberius, Head Chef & Owner
Most importantly, Tiberius, made a great impression about my outlook towards his eatery. He believes that in order to serve halal food, it is important not to use utensils that share the same workspace as pork. He caught me a bit off-guard with that comment.. but a valid point indeed. Cross contamination of utensils is a major issue in restaurants that cater for the general public, Muslim and non-Muslim.
Tiberius genuinely seemed like a nice guy with good intentions. We wish him all the best in his venture and future ambitions. I will be sure to see him again as I return one day for those delightful ribs.
How was the Food?
In all honesty, at HalalEatOut (HEO) we haven’t written many reviews on this platform for quite a while now. Other priorities in life have taken precedence and rightly so. We decided to try and use this platform to highlight a lot of the good work done by others in our community for free.
The Halal Food scene has come a long way since my bro, Mr Rahman, first wrote an article back in 2013. The number of people reviewing halal places has also grown exponentially over the years too. So it’s only fair we do our best to highlight their work too.
If you would like to work with us or want us to share some of your halal foodie adventures, give us a shout or get in touch. We just want to give everyone “Honest Halal Reviews“.. and Insha Allah we continue to do our best.
Yeah.. errm.. so how was the food?
The smash burger concept isn’t something new (see below). I’ve tried it locally elsewhere and wasn’t really a big fan (not going to mention where) but this time round, I was amazed by the taste. The amalgamation of ultra smashed juicy burger meat, cheese, gherkins, red onions and special homemade burger sauce (paprika based as mentioned by the chef) was a delightful mouthwatering combo that made you feel as though you could devour the whole thing instantaneously.
It just worked really well together. No need to mess about with all these other 101 extra, tobacco flavoured toppings and combos that leave you feeling a little perplexed. Just a simple combination of great flavours that work. Otherwise known as a classic.
Supplemented with Rosemary fries. This meal was one to remember.
You can see what others had to say about The Holy Smoke and Burgers below:
By placing a ball of meat on a hot, unoiled griddle and smashing it down firmly into a flat, thin disk, you greatly increase the contact points between the meat and the griddle, which in turn increases the Maillard reaction. That’s the series of chemical reactions that create the rich brown crust that makes our steaks and burgers taste so freaking good. Maximum crust = maximum flavor = maximum craving. – SeriousEats
A Cook Abroad – John Torode’s Argentina
I work as a full time graphic and web designer for a non-profit organisation called MEND. Occasional foodie, full time dad, loves football, sleeps football, eats burgers (still trying to master my own Mac sauce recipe) and sometimes cooks at home. (You can catch my Wagamama inspired Firecraker prawn recipe here).