So there I was, your humble protagonist, bleary eyed and in desperate need of some form of carbohydrate/meat combination to cure a hangover dangerously swerving between “still drunk” and “Nicolas Cage’s recent acting career.”
Having realised that I was likely to die from “National Treasure 2” related causes if I stayed indoors any longer, I bravely soldiered toward the hullaballoo of Brick Lane, visibly wincing at every sprinkle of a bike bell or imploration of market sellers to buy their tat.
Really I was only here to see one man; Mark Gervaux, aka The Ribman, who serves up an infamous sandwich comprised of rib meat (note: NOT pulled pork) and the hottest sauces science can probably do.
With the stall unassumingly tucked between a few other street food vendors (I actually walked past it the first time without realising it), it’s easy to assume it’s just another stand, serving on-trend posh fast food. But much like the man himself; who literally looks like a final boss in Street Fighter, the cover does not do justice to the contents (he can probably beat you up like a final boss in Street Fighter but he’s actually a really nice guy).
The menu is pretty simple, a rib meat roll done small, medium or large with a fat dollop of ‘Holy Fuck’ hot sauce. I went for the medium just because I don’t like to fucking rock the boat that much, alright?
The first thing I noticed was that the roll was a bog standard, non-brioche, plain white roll you can pick up anywhere, four for a quid. When questioned, Mark just said “It doesn’t matter about the roll; it’s all about the meat.”
And fair play, because the meat was fucking incredible. I’ve been to a few BBQ-type places in London like Bodeans, Pitt Cue and The Joint, who sell the more widespread pulled pork sandwiches, but this rib-meat in this basic floury roll topped all of that, hands down. The meat was so goddamn tender that I’m surprised it wasn’t singing Al Green to me, and even though the Holy Fuck sauce had a delicious heat to it, there was still an underlying sweetness to the whole thing that was borderline sexual.
It was so good that I boshed it all before my mate even had a chance to take his first bite and was already up ordering another one straight away, with extra sauce.
So after this magical experience I thought I’d ask a few questions of the man himself to get a bit more background and advice on how to cook the shit out of some ribs:
Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?
I am Mark Gevaux otherwise known as The Ribman and I sell Ribs on the streets of London and make my own hot sauces.
Where can we usually find you?
What made you get into the food stall business?
I got into the food stall business after cooking up samples of ribs on farmers markets and people went crazy for them so thought I'd cook them before selling them.
I've always loved ribs and it was the staple 'Staff meat' back in my butcher days as not many people bought them and staff meat was just what we had left at the end of the day.
What separates you from other rib sandwiches out on the market?
As far as I know I'm still the only guy on the street doing rib sandwiches, plenty of pulled pork out there but as soon as you taste my rib meat rolls you'll see just how far away they are from that.
What got you into making your own sauces?
I started making my own sauces as I needed to serve my ribs and rolls with something and I don't do salad!
Have you got any tips for people making ribs at home?
A tip for anyone cooking ribs at home is to ALWAYS start with quality meat - DO NOT GO TO TESCOS, go to a local butcher. Take your time - the slower and lower the better - wrap in foil halfway through the cook so the meat cooks in the bone juices.
When I had my (two) sandwiches with Holy Fuck sauce, it was a lovely level of heat, but also there was a slight sweetness to it, is that from something you do with the ribs or the sauce? How and what is that you're doing cos it's fucking tasty?
Most of the flavour in my sauces comes from the scotch bonnets peppers and my secret spice but the real heat comes from the Dorset Nagas I get from Edible Ornamentals - simply the best I've ever had and great service. I love Jo and the gang.
What do you think of the current London food scene at the moment? You are a big character in the scene and on social media from what I can tell, is that something you play up to or are you just keeping your head down and letting your ribs do the talking?
Do you have any plans to go further into a pop-up restaurant or perhaps full time?
I'm looking at the moment to get somewhere near the Olympic stadium because if I can have “The Ribman of West Ham” on my tombstone I'll die a happy man.
What other food except ribs do you like?
I love so much of the food out there on the street but I am guilty of smothering it in HolyFuck no matter what it is.
Anything else you'd like to add?
I always get asked for my advice from new street food vendors - I always tell them to start trading in the winter - if you survive and still love it then you’ll know it's the life for you.
Find out more about The Ribman here.