I got an email the other day inviting me to some new BBQ thing in Manchester.
Originally based in Leeds , Red’s True Barbecue have given the old Livebait site off Albert Square a £1.1 million makeover to create a 185 cover restaurant devoted to authentic ‘low n’ slow’ cooking. The last noteworthy thing Leeds got before Manchester was Eric Cantona, which brings me nicely to the point that anyone putting the word ‘Red’ in a Mancunian restaurant name is immediately at risk of pissing off the blue half of the city.
“…we would love you to come down before the public opening so we can give you an exclusive peek at how we do things. Our pit masters will give you a masterclass in our kitchens including tasting various cuts of meats, rubbing and trimming some cuts.”
When a Yorkshire ‘pit master’ offers to give you a masterclass, you’d expect to have to don a hardhat, grab a canary and get down a mine.
Well I now laugh in the face of me laughing in the face of such an opportunity and I see the light - £20 grand’s-worth of neon lights actually. 2 of the 3 owners I met were not bandwagon-jumping Yorkshiremen but meat-worshipping South Africans.
These men have researched authentic barbecue and smoking techniques so thoroughly that what they don’t know can be written on the back of a stamp with a thick marker. A lot of animals have sacrificed their lives for Red’s to have developed what they see as the perfect recipe rubs, optimum smoking times and temperatures for barbecuing specific cuts of meat. This is not some woolly Anglo-attempt at Americana; this is the true science of carnivorous combustion.
Co-owner Scott Munro met us at the bar for a cocktail and a bag of home-made jerky before giving us a tour of the restaurant which is a bit like walking round TGI Friday’s on a bad acid trip whilst wearing shades.
Red’s has been decked out in an urban industrial style with the restaurant’s intestines on display for all to see; distressed walls, exposed piping, fenced off open storage, purposefully cracked tiles, girders, wood, brick, bare bulbs, metal.
There’s a main dining area and bar out front, with satellite offshoots of smaller dining rooms and ‘the rub room’ - a private area for slaw munching ‘slebs overlooking the kitchen. VIP diners sit in a booth around a metal slab that has a sluice drain in the middle of it, like Jeffry Dahmer’s dining table.
In the back kitchens Scott and his fabulously named co-owner/chef Clint Britz showed us 3 huge smokers with a total capacity for rotating 1300 lbs of meat every day, amounting to 20-25 tons per month. Nothing is pre-prepared and held in a fridge.
In a mind-blowing level of detail, they have identified which are the perfect woods to create the ideal type of smoke, optimum breeds of cattle and best butchery techniques. They even went to see Melissa Cookston for advice - three-time World Champion BBQ Pitmaster and the only female to have won the prestigious Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest.
They let me have a go at cutting their St. Louis ‘square’ pork ribs whilst dazzling us with information about their 20 hr ‘Dalmatian’ rub (salt & pepper based), the ‘circle of truth’ smoky ring around their slow cooked brisket, and how varying proportions of sugar and fat break down during long cooking. Red’s also make their own beef jerky, pork scratchings, Texas style smoked sausages and smoked peppered bacon.
It’s not just the meat they micro-manage. They have obsessed over burger buns for the perfect sweet/savoury ratio which they lightly toast to get the correct absorption of juices without it falling apart. The ‘dirty sauce’ they squeeze onto their burgers has been developed with a range of spices including aromatic fennel seeds whilst their ‘Tangy Deep South Slaw’ is made with vinaigrette, not mayo. At the tables customers can choose to add various homemade BBQ and chilli sauces.
You can’t just show a rabbit to a greyhound without it going into a mental frenzy and so it is with food bloggers. After a dizzying hour being aurally tantalised with descriptions of juices, rubs and marinades, we needed feeding. Scott perched us at a table with a bird’s eye view of the kitchen and ordered a couple of burgers. Burgers are almost a side thought here, so I’m keen to go back and try slow cooked dishes like Texas beef brisket and the long beef ribs with a ‘divine side’ of 12hr BBQ pit beans.
‘The Pit Burger’ (£15.95) includes two flame-grilled over hickory steak patties topped with sliced brisket, pulled pork, bacon, cheese, pickle, tomato, lettuce, dirty sauce, American mustard and BBQ sauce stacked on a glazed brioche bun. All full flavoured if a little on the salty side – it took a couple of cocktails to wash it all down, but that might just be me.
They’ve also introduced Manchester to 'The Donut Burger' (£12.95) - two house-made 100% steak burgers, melted cheese, smoked peppered bacon, dirty sauce and deep fried crispy onions, between two glazed donuts. Apparently Melissa Cookston’s restaurant only uses one split donut – the lightweights. At 2000 calories, it’s a bit gimmicky for me but the photo I uploaded of it on social media got such a huge response immediately, it’s working as a hook to get Red’s noticed.
So far, Red’s True Barbecue have taken no short cuts – the fit out, the research, the recipes, the suppliers, the menu, the website, the marketing. They open in Manchester on February 13th and plan to open another two Red’s this year (including Nottingham) aiming to have around 15 to 18 restaurants in total over the next five years.
They have thrown down the heat proof oven mitt, does Manchester need another edgy restaurant selling burgers and pulled pork, or has it developed a taste for True Barbecue?
Red’s True Barbecue, 22 Lloyd Street, Albert Square, M2 5WA
Tel: 0161 820 9140 e: email@example.com
Mon-Wed 12pm - 12am
Thur, Fri & Sat 12pm - 2am
Sun 12pm - 10pm