Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Bar-B-Q Shack - Brighton
BBQ is absolutely scorching hot at the moment, but not in the sense of that very British, back garden gathering. All cheap rickety white plastic furniture, Chernobyl raw sunburn, warm metallic dregs from a can of Stella, the steaming heap of carbonised burgers and the chancy half cooked salmonella sausages. All consumed within a raw haze of B&H smoke and washed down with a cocktail of Pimms and culinary disappointment. No. Forget all that.
It’s ‘American style’ BBQ that’s giving everyone the raging horn (a hopeless generalisation perhaps, there are a number of different styles of BBQ in the states), but I’m thinking US staples such as ribs, pulled pork and brisket smoked at low temperatures for hours until moist, almost falling apart and possibly basted in something unlikely, homemade and sticky… poles apart from your standard cremated British banger basically.
Bear with me – let’s rewind a year.
Last July, a piece in The Guardian by Jay Rayner had caught my eye. It was a review of the Bar-B-Q shack in Brighton. To cut a long story short, an old, sticky carpeted pub, situated in what could be generously described as the arse end of town was serving amazing American BBQ. The chef, John Hargate had honed his skills in Texas, and had subsequently won all kinds of Championships and awards. Jay reckoned it was the daddy. I was sold and vowed whenever I was next in Brighton, the first place I’d be dragging my greedy arse was there.
Back to the present (or to be really pedantic, last week). Barely stepping off the train at Brighton station and me instantly heading off, like a meat-seeking missile to the Bar-B-Q shack, ‘E’ trailing in my wake, with me vigorously assuring her that ‘yes, they cater for vegetarians too’.
The Worlds End is a pub in Brighton’s London Road. Entirely unremarkable from the outside, it looks like almost any other boozer in the UK. The darkened wood panelled interior doesn’t do anything to change this assumption, but ignore all that. It’s the menu that’s exciting.
Texas style beef brisket, North Carolina pulled pork, Texas Hill Country hot link hot dogs, ribs, hot wings…on and on it continues. I was caught in a horrifying menu choice dilemma and didn’t know where to start first. I didn’t want to miss out on anything. There was a definite air of grim determination about me as I studied the menu, rolling my eyes tortuously and working through every possible permutation, muttering quickly and quietly to myself, like a fat Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.
At this point my eye lit upon the dinner plate section, up to 6 meats, with fries, onion rings, salad garnish, pickles, jalapeños and BBQ sauces.
Come to papa.
Deciding that ordering more than 3 meats would be particularly gluttonous, even for me, I spent the next ten minutes whittling my choices down in an absolutely agonising fashion. Eventually settling on Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork and Ribs.
‘E’ meanwhile, ordering from the understandably far more compact ‘Bad Hunter’ section of the menu, quickly decided on a Vegetarian Chilli Cheese Dog.
Now lets just throw some information out there. I’ve been to America just once. New York and I didn’t eat any BBQ whatsoever whilst there. However, I’ve eaten enough UK approximations of it, particularly at the frankly amazing PittCue to be a fair judge of what’s what. And if that’s not qualification enough, I’m falling back on the ‘I know what I like’ defence.
My mound of meat arrived, and I spent a moment to orientate myself before digging in, onion rings yes, sticky glistening ribs, nice, the pulled pork underneath, yep, the beef brisket curled around the edge of the plate, in a slightly distressing ‘pinched off’ fashion errr…. check.
I’ve never eaten American style beef brisket before, so have no benchmark to really compare, but I have spent time dribbling over my keyboard and ogling food porn examples, and good old common sense tells me the dried out, flavourless strip of leatherette masquerading as beef on my plate wasn’t a good example. I was crestfallen.
However, pushing that aside, I perked up considerably when I discovered the pulled pork was very good, meaty and moist, just as it should be.
And then I tried the ribs. Now that’s what I’m talking about. My mood soared. Sublime, sticky, almost indecent. I gorged and slathered, ripped and licked. My face, my hands even my phone were covered in sauce and right then, at that moment, I couldn’t have given a shit. The Ribs rocked my world, almost cancelling out the disappointment of the brisket entirely.
Meanwhile, ‘E’s vegetarian hot chilli dog, wasn’t impressing the hell out of her. Fair enough, a veggie eating US style BBQ is almost asking to be shafted, and all credit to the Bar-B-Q shack for even throwing the ‘bad hunters’ a metaphorical bone. But it wasn’t great. The hot dog was a pain in the arse to eat, it fell apart instantly, and just generally didn't live up to it's billing on the menu.
On the side dish front, the coleslaw was a bit too full of mayonnaise for my liking; the ‘fries’ were more like chunky ‘steakhouse’ style chips and there wasn’t a jalapeño in sight. The onion rings however were great, as was the homemade BBQ sauce.
Not quiet what I expected then. In summary, a real mixed bag. The brisket was obviously awful, the side dishes apart from the onion rings, OK. But, tantalisingly the pulled pork was very good and the ribs were off the frigging chart amazing.
As an unrepentant meat eater, it could be argued vegetarians get what they deserve.
Maybe the Bar-B-Q Shack were having a bit of an off day, it happens. But based on my visit, I’d say definitely go for the ribs and the pulled pork. Avoid the brisket. There are some other intriguing items on the menu that I’ll be heading back to sample, next time I’m in town, particularly the Hot Link Hot Dogs and the Armadillo Egg.
Despite my gripes, I actually enjoyed what I ate, apart from one item *hard, cold stare at the brisket*. It wasn’t expensive, the portions were decent and I waddled out of there stuffed silly. At the end of the day, I’ve got to say it’s probably worth visiting just to eat the amazing ribs alone.
The Bar-B-Q Shack
60-61 London Road,
Telephone: 01273 275757