Friday, 7 March 2014

Red's True BBQ - Leeds

I decided to do the unfashionable thing and swerve the opening of Red's in Manchester in favour of re-visiting the Leeds branch. Since i'd heard from friends that the wait in the new branch was anything between 90 mins to 2 hours at peak times this seemed like the most sensible approach for a meaty top up. Given there is a severe lack of BBQ in Manchester, the only real option being the fairly mediocre Fire and Salt food van, I'm genuinely surprised it's taken this long for someone to jump on this trend up here.

The wait in Leeds on a Friday night for a table of 3 was quoted at a very reasonable 45 minutes (and was actually only 30) – just enough time to duck into Brewdog next door and try a few of that week's specials. I tucked into Cocoa Psycho, a delicious 10% imperial stout with a deep coffee and dark malt taste.

I've had Red's take on BBQ a couple of times before - once in the Brooklyn pop-up bar near Christmas last year, which involved a quick pulled pork burger among many, many pints of overpriced beer. The second time I was part of a group of 8 who (and there is no polite way to say this) shared two dustbin lids full of a variety of meats, this gave me a great taster of the variety of options on the menu (I still get the sweats just thinking about how much meat I stuffed into my mouth that day.) Thinking back now to both visits despite genuinely not being able to recall any specifics of the food itself, they were both enjoyable enough sessions. 

I didn't get involved in cocktails during this visit but tried a couple of their decent and heavily american influenced beer menu, fairly typical of these type of fast food places. I rolled with a Brooklyn Brown and a Honkers Ale.

Starters were deep fried poppers - red hot jalapeƱo peppers floating inside lava-like melted cream cheese that exploded everywhere as soon as I tried to take a bite. Extremely messy to eat but the coating had a real crunch and the peppers a lovely hot kick.

The dish of rib tips was the highlight of the entire meal. Fat, juicy tips from the end of the St Louis pork ribs, the tang from them being partially burnt dampened the sweetness of the sauce leaving an incredible sweet and savoury flavour.

A range of different mains were ordered between us to sample the menu. The pit burger came in a soft brioche bun loaded with pulled pork, bacon, cheese, what tasted like at least two different sauces (a ketchup of some kind and BBQ sauce) and two burgers. The bun and pork did exactly what was asked but the burgers were very flavourless and dry – unimpressive, thin and certainly more McDonalds than Almost Famous.

The 2 giant 'Jacobs Ladder' beef ribs were quite a talking point with the waitress doubting they’d get polished off – the photo evidence below tells you all you’ll need to know. The meat itself was incredible, literally dripping off the bones but the sauce was so, so, so sweet that it totally distracted from the flavour of the meat itself so sadly I had to share them out. 

Finally, the pulled pork and brisket sharing plate with apple sauce. The consistency and flavour of the two meats was different enough to keep the plate interesting and was complimented well by the apple sauce and really crunchy coleslaw. Good but nothing spectacular.

Sides were entirely disappointing – fries were anaemic (see photo above) and not salted enough, sweetcorn was soggy without that essential crunch and the mac and cheese was watery.

By this stage I’d worked by way though the five sauce options and was developing a near addiction to the mustard based BBQ sauce, an absolutely perfect mild sauce that added a genuinely enjoyable flavour. The others covered all bases between more of the sickly sweet BBQ to the usual hot sauce - not hot enough to break you out into a sweat but hot enough to add a kick to the meat.

None of the desserts appealed so I had a bag of beef jerky to take away and which was like digging into a mouthful of sea salt - I had to bin half of it as I could feel my kidneys giving way with every mouthful.

I left comfortably full but not overly wowed by any element of the meal aside from the starter of tips. The main beef ribs came very close to stealing the show but the sauce was just too sweet, if it had been toned back slightly they'd have been up there on my list of favourite UK meat treats.

As it's my third visit now it's difficult not to recommend Red's if you have a craving for a decent range of BBQ options, it's perfect fuel after a few beers. Definitely worth a try but try and catch them during a slower period as 2 hours is pushing it a bit, at least they have the courtesy to take your details and call you back so you can get to drinking elsewhere while you wait.

Reds True Barbecue on Urbanspoon

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