Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Smoke BBQ, Sheffield

Given that I was a vegetarian as a teenager, I shocked myself when I finally accepted my love of meat. See, I like to think that I eat a balanced diet with lots of vegetarian meals, but I do think that there’s not much finer than a slab of red meat once in a while.

Although I also like to indulge in a bit of fine dining now and then, it’s hardly surprising that I don’t mind getting my hands dirty whilst attending to my carnivorous needs. Ribs, pulled pork, burgers and steak – there’s a time and a place for it all and if I’m in the right mood I can easily work my way through a carcass or two (just make sure there are plenty of napkins on standby).

So when an invite to Smoke BBQ arrived in my inbox along with promises of as much meat as I could possibly care to eat, I agreed to give it a go. Having tried a few meat fuelled menus in the past, I knew what to expect. Our experience would be informal, easy and filling.

Smoke BBQ is located in what I now call the ‘city’ area of town. With St Paul’s towering flats, tall office building and a few chain restaurants, coffee shops and the like, I feel like I could be in any British city round there. This is no criticism mind, it’s refreshing to see Sheffield attempt at something I have only ever seen in bigger, more arrogant cities.

The restaurant itself is huge and it’s clear that a lot of money has been spent here. It’s also clear that owners Sean and Duka have set their sights on building up a chain of Smoke BBQ restaurants – there’s a strong theme to the place and the décor is industrial in style with concrete, brick work and weathered wood. It’s an impressive space.

Onto the menu and I had already been told to expect a sample of the Smoke Sharer Platter. Priced at £30 the platter consists of brisket, pulled pork, baby back ribs, turkey leg and hot link sausage which are smoked ‘low n slow’ and finished on the pit (aka BBQ). In addition to all this meat are some twice cooked chips and a side (the husband and I passed on the chance to get some greens down us and went for mac & cheese).

We also ordered a pint of Freedom Smoke American Red each, but only received halves as drinks are either served in super annoying half pint jam jar glasses or two litre jugs. They’re expensive too. Should our favourite measure of beer be available it would set you back around £4/4.50.

The food arrived and we gasped at the sheer amount of food. I admit that I wasn’t too keen on the metal plates it was served on, but as they are infinitely better than slates I won’t complain (I know I just kinda did a bit). Tucking into the food I enjoyed the hot link sausage and the pulled pork, but I was disappointed with the rest. I’ve never had Texan BBQ (and I gather from some internet research that it is a rather unique style of cooking) but I found the meat on the ribs tough, the brisket dry and the turkey leg unappealing. I also found it all quite bland in flavour.

Sides were better and chips, and they were proper chips, not fries, were pretty good but I do think that the mac & cheese could have been cheesier. Duka, who was doing the rounds to gather feedback from customers, noticed that we hadn’t cleared our platter and on hearing our disappointment she insisted that we try something else.

Beef rib and another round of brisket was better but the meat was still too dry for my liking. Having said that, the ‘slaw’ and smoked pit beans were pretty damn good. Beans packed a flavourful punch and had a chilli kick to them whilst the slaw was fresh and zingy thanks to a mayo free dressing. On returning for more feedback, I think Duka was almost as disappointed with my disappointment as I was! Determined that I wouldn’t leave without liking something she brought me a slice of key lime pie.

Now, key lime pie is a bit of a favourite of mine (I like zingy citrus or rich chocolate in my dessert) and I’m pleased to say that this was a winner for me. Made in-house, the base had a good consistency and the filling was spot on – fresh and zingy whilst creamy.

So, I left on a high and although I was quite disappointed with some of the food, the service had been good and I haven’t ruled out going back (although I may try a burger next time… and some more key lime pie). Duka and Sean have put a lot of work into Smoke BBQ and I want to see it all pay off. Indeed, a quick read of their Tripadvisor reviews tells me that Smoke BBQ is working for quite a few people and those who have slated the place have been called for not ‘getting’ Texan BBQ.

With this in mind, I can only say that it wasn’t for me, but what do I know?


  1. That key lime pie looks good! Wish we'd tried that (though the two desserts we had were very nice). Hopefully they'll have it next time I go. Was nice to see you on the night x

  2. I thought exactly what you thought, expensive and underwhelming food - and I wanted it to be good.