Smoak

One of the anomalies of the Glasgow licensing laws means makes street food very difficult to happen. Basically the Scottish laws are quite strict about street food being sold within 300 yards of a school, and Glasgow in particular has a lot of schools.

This may well be North of the border bunkum, aimed at befuddled Sassenachs but it’s what my local food experts in Glasgow told me as we walked towards one of the more innovative solutions to this pedantic bylaw.

We were on our way to a ‘pop up’ food thing, situated in a bar on Glasgow’s notorious Sauchiehall Street. I say ‘thing’ as it’s a dine in, sit down and have a beer with food affair or a takeaway – either way, it’s interesting and currently the best sandwich in Glasgow right now and that got me on the hook.

Smoak is the indoors street food ‘concept’ situated in one of Glasgow’s most old school bars, The Variety. This place is as authentic as they come and we piled in on a surprisingly quiet Friday lunchtime. The menu is super simple with meat, cooked long and slow and smoked of course, served with home-made slaw and pickles. The chef is set snugly next to the bar with all his kit, like he’s been there twenty years.

It’s a genius idea.

photo-7

It really worked: the old school credibility of one of the city’s coolest, dodgiest bars and the bang on trend filthy food served with a lot of verve and attitude. I loved the look of it all, but clearly ordering the entire menu would not have worked so I went for the mixed slider combo – smoked brisket, pulled pork and Asian pork with all manner of pickles, gravy and loveliness and a brioche bun to boot.

Washed down with a pint of Guinness it was the lunch my personal trainer should never know about – and I’m relying on you to keep schtum about it.

Smoak are doing something that is both lovingly done and well considered and it would be great to see them in Leeds. Perhaps we could get our thinking caps on…hang on a minute, it would work a treat in somewhere like the Brudenell…

photo-5

Red’s True BBQ

At the weekend, we were invited to the press launch of Leeds’ newest restaurant, Red’s. There have been a few restaurant openings in Leeds which can only be a good thing for us customers – more competition means more choice and higher quality food and service which in turn makes for competitive prices. I’m sure not everyone sees it that way but I do and it’s exactly what a city like Leeds should have.

I have to admit I was quite excited about this opening – having seen the posters in the window a week before, it looked exactly like the kind of place I’d love. American-style meat feast – what’s not to love about that?

So Red’s is essentially a sexed up version of the classic American BBQ joint that serves ribs, wings, burgers and all the paraphernalia you’d come to expect around that. Admittedly, you can get all of the above currently in the city – Rib Shakk has been rocking the only rib choice in town and young upstarts like Johnny Fontane’s and upmarket GBK serving fancy burgers for fun. But the key here is no-one is really doing it all in a stylish one stop shop meaty BBQ approach.

The great news is that Red’s is a baby born of a passion for all things meaty and the owners clearly know what they’re talking about. On the opening night, co-owner Scott spoke of their passion to get this right and seeking out specialist smoking equipment and shipping it to the UK. So, Red’s is full of passionate people who care about meat and on top of that, it’s an independent restaurant. Full marks so far.

Everything from the branding through to the interiors of Red’s is top-notch, with no corners visibly cut. This restaurant looks the part and for me, that matters a lot. I suspect it matters a lot for the image conscious diners it plans to attract. In my experience it’s usually the big boy chains who get this right as they have pretty deep pockets.

The vibe in the restaurant was exciting and full of energy – it was press night after all and staff were in abundance to deal with what I thought was a pretty full restaurant. on the whole I think they coped well and although we had a few glitches like mains arriving when we were still eating starters, but it’s early days and the staff were charming enough.

So what about the food?

Well Red’s has one of those menus where I wanted to try everything but that’s clearly not a good idea. So we opted for spicy chicken wings, poppers (stuffed jalapeños) to get started and smoked brisket and a bucket o bones for mains with a few sides for good measure. Every table comes with a range of delicious home-made sauces so you can spice things up as far as you want to – the hot sauce did it for me by the way. The highlight for me was the smoked brisket which was meltingly tender. The ribs were good – a selection of beef and pork – but I think next time I’ll try a full rack. For all you rib aficionados out there it’s worth pointing out that these ribs are cooked on the BBQ, not sous vide (ie in water) the results are quite different and it’ll come down to personal taste which you prefer. I happen to like both methods.

The cocktails and drinks list are pretty extensive too ( and reasonably priced for central Leeds) although we stuck to beer on this occasion. Prices are sensible too for a prime location in the heart of the ‘going out’ district in Leeds. Although we had our food paid for on the night, we will definitely return on our own dollar to explore further.

Red’s is a welcome addition to restaurant scene in Leeds with no real direct competitor to what they’re offering and I believe that on this first experience I can see it flourishing. My advice would be to let the fuss die down for a week or two and then head right over, preferably on an empty stomach.

In meat we trust indeed.