York Mews may not be familiar to many Londoners, let alone even die-hard Kentishtowners, but it’s a fetchingly cobbled passage tucked away just opposite Kentish Town Station.
Being a dead end, there isn’t much call to go up there, but now a slightly incongruous lunchtime sign beckons passers-by towards the ‘Mews pop-up’.
Sure enough, if you venture all the way up to the end, you’ll find the affable Jason Winther in his specially converted van, serving up BBQ sarnis with bite.
Jason used to be a chef at the much praised but under-used local Italian Pane Vino, on the site now occupied by Beef & Brew. Since that closed down, he’s been touring his curiously named ‘Dank Van’ around festivals and streetfood markets, but was not a fan of all the associated risks, challenges and fees.
“I live right here on the Mews,” he tells us, “so I thought, why not just open up on the doorstep?” A week ago he started doing just that every weekday lunchtime, with no more than a high street chalk board to let people know.
His speciality is the food of his youth; a simple menu of three sandwich choices, each filled with smoky BBQ meats, topped with authentic mayo-free Carolina slaw.
There’s a Mississippi braised steak, a blow torch BBQ chicken and the one we tried, the signature South Carolina pulled pork, a generous helping of rich, complex meat filling, served with a piquant side sauce.
“I was annoyed that so much pulled pork you find these days is pretty flavourless and doesn’t have the bold taste of vinegar it’s supposed to,” Jason says. “The authentic dish was essentially a poor man’s barbecue, so the flavours were really heavy on the vinegar. It complements the smokiness of the slow cooked meat.”
He’s not wrong, as our sizeable bap delivers exactly that kind of sharp, salty cayenne-rich hit.
“Today’s coleslaws, all full of mayonnaise, tend to smother the meat flavours, too” continues Jason, explaining why his version swerves any of the gloopy, oily stuff in favour of more vinegar.
But what’s with the name? His ‘Dank Van’ is in fact quite the opposite, with its special paint finish, gold logo and custom fitted kitchen hatch, complete with impressive chunky white corran work surfaces.
“Where I’m from, ‘dank’ is street slang that went from meaning ‘the strongest type of cannabis’ to becoming a catchall way to describe anything that was really good, or strong.”
Rather like this setting – at a put-you-up table under fluttering bunting at the end of a cobbled mews – nothing is quite as expected. And it’s all the better for it.