19 June 2013

BBQ, burgers and brilliance
Grillstock Smokehouse

I have a friend who hates any word used to describe food. Well not any word, but those words that people who love talking about food will bash around: delicious, tasty, succulent, smothered, gelatinous, lip-smacking. Oh, you know the sort I mean.

Grillstock Bristol festival
So...I guess he’s going to hate this blog entry, because it’s going to be pretty hard to talk about Grillstock, Bristol’s king of the BBQ, without launching myself into fifty shades of food porn. Indeed, it seems I’m not alone. Nearly every review, tweet or Facebook mention I’ve read of it so far has been dripping in alliterative adjectives (smoky, sticky and succulent – hell, the company’s slogan is ‘Meat, Music and Mayhem’).

So I’ll try my very best but be warned friend, you’re not going to like it. Not one tantalisingly tasty titbit of it.

Brooklyn Brewery at Grillstock festival Bristol
I first heard about Grillstock when I went to the festival they held in Bristol in May. I didn’t know anything about them but someone had told me that Kitty, Daisy and Lewis were playing and there would be beer and meat (this was further backed up by a huge banner advertising chorizo lollipops as soon as you walked in – my sister thought she was dreaming). The festival was superb, with the aforementioned beer being provided by Brooklyn Brewery and tons of excellent meat-based products (all smoky and succulent the lot of it). So when I heard that the company behind this festival of ingenuity had built upon their stand in St Nick’s market, and opened a restaurant on the Triangle, it was a real no-brainer.

The first thing I would say to anyone thinking of going to Grillstock, is to go. Just go. Right now. Why are you reading this blog? You could be eating smoky meat.

If I still have any of you after that, I’ll move on.

Having spent a year in North America I would say I’m a pretty harsh critic of American style grub. So often it falls short of what I want it to be. If I was a bit of a pretentious person I might drop in my experience of a Brooklyn smokehouse last winter but as I’m not, I’ll just hint at it in a passively sarcastic way. The bottom line is BBQ rules OK and I’m so pleased that Grillstock have brought it to Bristol.

Grillstock Bristol pulled pork burger
Just from the look of Grillstock I was pretty excited. The theme is wood - there’s wood everywhere. Wicked Southern music plays in the background and beers are served in those little cans I like. Unsurprisingly, Grillstock is all about the meat and all about the portions. Don’t bother going if you’re a bit precious because this isn’t the place for you. It’s a big communal table full of people drinking and getting rib sauce in their hair. We took a seat and prepared to join them.

Now let’s be straight, choosing what to eat was an extremely difficult decision because everything sounds great. Unfortunately when we visited they were out of ribs and jalapenos (gosh darned it we’ll have to return!). As a group we ended up opting for a mix of the burger and BBQ platters and were not disappointed. There was also big love for the serving style (everything is served on a metal tray which makes you feel a bit like you’re in prison – in a good way). The burgers were really good, topped with pulled pork and full of gherks which always earns top marks from me. The platters come with cornbread and a sausage – since when is sausage a side? Amazing. I managed to snaffle a bit of the cornbread and it was really light and sweet and went really well with the spicy, smoky meat. No luck on the sausage-snaffling front, but there’s always next time.

I ordered a side of burnt ends which definitely split opinion in a sort of Marmite-y way. Burnt ends are the ends of the brisket which are put back in the smoker so they turn chewy and really dark in colour and taste. There was broad agreement that they were good but there’s no denying the texture’s a bit weird and for some it was a bridge too far. It was agreed however that the BBQ beans ruled the roost which seems obvious when you think that someone decided to put pulled pork in them.

Grillstock Bristol menu
As we chomped our way through, we were sitting next to a group of guys who were out on a “bloke’s night out”. Most of them ordered the ‘Lockjaw’ burger which I’m not going to list on here but safe to say we were in awe of their abilities. If only we could go that extra mile, eat that extra beef patty! Maybe one day. As they (all) finished their plates they looked really, really happy. And I think that’s what Grillstock is, just really good fun.  I’m already planning my return visit. Mainly because I have unfinished business with that sausage, but also because I can’t wait to take everyone I know here. It’s a truly communal and exciting experience.

We obviously enjoyed ourselves immensely as we left after managing to get BBQ sauce all over our elbows, chins and even anointing the queen on a £5 note. So much so that it was decline by Sainsbury’s.

Next time I’m fixing for some brisket on a twenty.

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