When legends of the street food trade are spoken about in London, this man’s name is often right amongst them. Mark Gevaux AKA The Rib Man has been trading at Brick Lane Market for the best part of a decade. Mark’s stall has been on my list to pay a visit to in London for as long as I can remember. Today was the day that it would finally happen.
The backstory of The Rib Man is quite incredible. After suffering a terrible leg injury following a car crash in 1991, Mark went through a series of operations before asking for his leg to be removed. This unfortunately terminated his former employment as a butcher. A trade that he had been involved with all his working life.
With a knowledge of butchery, and in particular ribs, Mark had the idea to set up a street food stall selling slow cooked ribs in sandwiches complete with his very own hot sauces. The sauces have become legendary and regularly sell out on his website. If you needed any insight into just how hot the sauces are, the names include Holy F**k, Christ on a Bike and Holy Mother of God.
We arrived in Brick Lane on a pleasant Sunday Morning. London was strangely quiet but nicely so. It was a pleasure to actually get around without having to dodge the crowds. Brick Lane Market starts at the northern end of the street so just follow your nose and sure enough you will find the mass of food stalls.
There are no actual set hours for The Rib Man. As a rule of thumb, the earlier you can make it to the market, the better. The stall usually begins trading from around 7am and looks to finish at around 2pm but regularly the ribs sell out before then.
The Rib Man stall, incredibly, was empty when we arrived. This provided a good opportunity to chat to Mark and find out about his upcoming appearance at Digbeth Dining Club. A place that we know well near us in Birmingham. Whenever you approach the stall, you can be guaranteed friendly service and a good chat about all things meat and hot sauce.
The lure of shredded meat in a bun, plus an ever-growing line of people, meant that we couldn’t put off eating any longer. Mark put together two small sandwiches for £6 each, complete with the standard issue sauce – Holy F**k. If this is a small size, i’d love to see what an XL looks like!
Our first bite had us hooked. You can really taste the quality of the meat with the pork coming from Norfolk and Suffolk. One of the best areas in the country for pig farming. With rib meat being closer to the bone than say pork shoulder, the flavour was a lot more intense. Very juicy and melting in the mouth with a smokey hit from a combination of charcoal and the rub dusted over the ribs prior to cooking.
How about the sauce? Holy F**k is a good name for it. The sauce has a real kick from juiced Scotch Bonnet chillies and a mix of spices. What I love so much about the sauce is the balance. Many chilli sauces either fall into the ‘too sweet’ category or completely blow your head off. This has a superb blend of heat and sweet.
Other hot sauces also have a tendency to knock my stomach sideways. With Mark producing his sauces completely from natural ingredients, I had no reaction whatsoever to it. I can’t speak highly enough of this sauce. When you grab a sandwich, be sure to have some.
Many people venture to The Rib Man to cure hangovers from the previous night. As far as breakfasts go, this was right up there with the best and probably most unique that i’ve ever had in London. The Rib Man also operates outside of The Boleyn Tavern before West Ham United home matches if you can’t wait until Sunday for your rib-fix.
After a further chat with Mark about Digbeth, hot sauces and all things ribs, we had to sadly leave the stall and head back into central London. Before we went, Mark was kind enough to give us a bottle of his hottest sauce to date – Judas is Scary Hot. This sauce is made from pure chillies and is not for the faint of heart.
It was a genuine pleasure to meet such a prominent figure of the street food world. The food is outstanding from The Rib Man and I would happily demolish another of Mark’s sandwiches in a heartbeat. The best ribs in London? Yes, without a doubt.
Nearest Tube: Aldgate East (Brick Lane Market), Upton Park (The Boleyn Tavern)