If you’re not up to speed on your US Rust Belt cuisine, you may not be aware that the proud city of Cincinnati is famous for its chilli parlours. Brought to Ohio by its Macedonian immigrant community, Cincinnati chilli is famously served over spaghetti noodles, with onions, beans and cheese, known as ‘three-way’. The city currently boasts the greatest number of dedicated chilli restaurants per head of population of anywhere in the world.
Which makes it all the weirder that we’ve not had a whiff of this red-hot food phenomenon in London. Until now. Chilibomb on Curtain Road in Shoreditch is the new hot-breath brainchild of Tim Brice, who’s run some high-end London joints, including The River Café. Brice partly grew up in Cincinnati and has had a lifelong passion for its unique chilli scene ever since. During lockdown he holed up on his barge on the Grand Union Canal and practised cooking chilli. Every recipe he could find – from cookbooks, the internet and word of (stinging) mouth.
The new restaurant is a temple to Cincinnati-style chilli, both beefy and vegan-y. As a bonus, you get to shoot up your dinner. Yes, that is a syringe. In a so-2021 move, you effectively vaccinate your plate with the desired level of searing hotness. Brice says of his creation: ‘The Cincinnati Chilibomb is a not-too-spicy chilli served in a brioche sphere, with a choice of raw, crispy or pickled onion, vegan or dairy cheese, and my own sauces. The coup de gras is how you get the heat: you inject your Chilibomb with a syringe of chilli-infused oil at the level of heat you desire, from mildest to the hottest chilli in the world – the Carolina Reaper.’
You might argue that the last thing we need right now is another kind of reaper, but you can’t knock the commitment of ‘Captain Chili’, and this is one (dis)comfort-food trend we’re well into.
Chilibomb, 26 Curtain Rd, EC2A 3JX. www.chilibomb.co.uk. Tue-Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri-Sat noon-10pm. Available for delivery and takeaway for now.