There was a time when I would travel for work, stay overnight and then go out and get something to eat.
Well I am not doing that now and don’t expect to be doing it for a while either. I have though still a few places to write about and review that I didn’t do so at the time. This is one such review.
Back in January when I could and did travel I was staying overnight in Leeds. I needed a place to eat. I rarely eat at the restaurants in the hotels, usually either they are very expensive and out of budget, or as was the case in Leeds, the hotel I was staying didn’t really have a proper restaurant, serving a few bar snack type meals only. The other thing I do find with hotel restaurants is that it can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to the quality of the food.
Around the corner from the hotel there was quite a choice of restaurants, this is so much easier these days with Google or Apple Maps which show the restaurant close to you.
I was checking the menus of a few nearby places, when I saw on their website, that Reds True Barbecue in Headingley had a 51% discount offer in January, if you pre-booked. So I decided I would go there to eat, the menu looked great as well. It was simple to book online and I walked down to the restaurant.
The outside looked very American to me, though I’ve never been to America and have thus never eaten at a proper American barbecue joint, and so have no frame of reference to what a real barbecue place is like. However if I was to say what I thought an American barbecue joint was like based on the films and TV programme I felt it looked like what I thought an American barbecue joint should look like.
Having walked through the door I was given a warm and friendly welcome. The place was crowded, considering it was a Tuesday night. Being in Headingley the clientele were quite young and I am guessing a fair few were students. Probably taking advantage of the 51% offer. I liked the look of the place, slightly industrial, wooden tables and American signs.
Though I had seen the menu online, I still took my time to have a good look over the menu choices. There were a range of starters, barbecue platters and to quote the menu, “things in bread” which had a range of burgers.
Having travelled up to Leeds during the day and missing lunch, I was quite hungry. I went with the barbecued three meats with two sides deal.
I chose the smoked brisket, the short rib and the sausage. For my sides I went with fries and onion rings. Though I was tempted by the chicken wings and the pork belly. To drink with the meal I ordered a bottle of Corona.
The food arrived pretty quickly and I was impressed with the look of the food and the portion size.
The sausages were really nice, meaty and spicy. The short rib was delicious and very tender. The brisket was nice, but I felt it was a little dry. I enjoyed both the sides, though I think on reflection I probably should have had some slaw alongside.
My meal should have cost £25, but with the 51% discount on food, in the end it was just £14.54 which was really good value.
Though I don’t expect to be going to Leeds anytime soon, I hope that I can because I think I would like to have a return visit to Reds for some more excellent barbecued food.
These are a regular dish at home and enjoyed by everyone in the family.
We use the kits from most supermarkets, which contain a bag of tortilla chips, and usually two sachets of salsa.. To this I usually add some grated cheese before heating in the oven for five or six minutes.
I serve them with guacamole and sour cream. Sometimes I will add the fajita mix to mine.
I do now check the ingredient list as, for example, the Asda kit contains gluten as it had Barley Malt Extract used in the salsa..
So I was staying overnight on the Euston Road before heading off to France on the Eurostar the following morning.
Having been walking around earlier I had noticed the Cattle and Co and it looked both inviting and interesting.
Having looked at the online menu I had quite liked the idea of chargrilled squid, which regular readers of the blog will know I quite like.
However the online menu must be slightly out of date as there was no squid on the menu, however to compensate there was a selection of grills that I hadn’t seen online.
Of the starters I did think about the Buttermilk Wings, but the “Now we talkin’” spice rating of the Buffalo Sauce made me think again.
I was tempted by a couple of items on the main menu. If I was really hungry I probably would have gone for the The Cattle Platter.
The formidable showcase of what we’re about here at Cattle & Co. St Louis Rib, Beef Short Rib, Smoked Chicken Thigh, Honey & Beer onion rings, and in just in case you needed something else; Fries. A wheelbarrow taxi service home also available upon request. No judgement here, we’ve all been there.
As I wasn’t starving (and I was eating alone) then decided that at £35 it was a bit extravagant to go for something that sounded delicious.
I also quite liked the sound of the Buttermilk Fried Chicken as well as the Angus Short Rib.
Now we’re talking. Our imported smoker really showing off its potential with this dish. Hickory smoked on-site for at least 12 hours (Low and Slow), Pickles, Sauce, AND Your choice of Fries.
In the end decided to go down the “specials” route and have a grill. The grills covered a range of prices, but was tempted by either the hangar steak or the lamb rump. In the end I went with the lamb.
It was served with a confit tomato, mushrooms, a green salad and some melted garlic butter. I did order a side order of truffle and parmesan fries.
I had expected the fries to be served with a large helping of freshly grated parmesan and grated truffle. That expectation was based on seeing a similar dish at one of the Bristol Street Food markets. However I didn’t see any real evidence of either parmesan or truffle. The fries were nice and I did enjoy eating them.
So what of the lamb? The lamb was cooked how I asked, the cut was full of flavour and it was really tender. I really enjoyed the chargrill which imparted a great flavour and hadn’t been overdone. I couldn’t believe how tender it was, easy to cut with a regular knife.
I also enjoyed the other accompaniments on the board. The tomato was lovely and tender, yet still full of flavour, so much nicer than just either a chargrilled tomato half or even an uncooked one. The mushrooms were nice as was the salad.
The service was warm, friendly and efficient. I should say it took some time for my food to arrive, but I wasn’t in a hurry and good food does take some time to cook. I think there were quite a few people in the other side of the restaurant by the kitchen, it was much quieter on the side I was in by the bar.
With an overnight stay in Glasgow I needed somewhere to eat, and there was a lot of choice, both close by and not too far away. There are lots of choices and I did spend a little time looking over what was around on Google Maps, when noticed Smoke Barbecue. Well that was my choice made up for me.
One of my regular favourite places in Bristol is the Smoke Catering stall at the Temple Quay Market. They do a lovely piece of barbecued brisket and so was looking forward to having something similar up in Glasgow. As you can imagine having had some delicious barbecued food I had quite high expectations for Smoke Barbecue in Glasgow.
The venue is airy and somewhat industrial, lots of wood and metal. There are benches and tables and big windows.
They had a wide ranging menu with a lot of choices, but in the end I went with the Brisket plate. This is brisket, spiced & rubbed, then smoked for up to 18 hours. It comes with burnt ends, brisket hash and twice-cooked chips. I took my side order of choice of crispy onion strings. I added a portion of pit smoked chicken thighs as well.
When it arrived it was a big plate of food, well it wasn’t a plate it was a metal cooking tray of food. Yes I know it’s fashionable not to have plates, but okay serve it on a cooking tray, but provide a nice plate to eat it off.
It looked great and I really liked the look of it. The chips were nice, different, and then I tried some of the brisket…
It was okay, it certainly had a good bold flavour, but it wasn’t anything like the barbecued brisket I have had before, it was a bit dry and not as tender as I would have expected.
The Smoke Catering brisket, which I had eaten in Bristol, was tender, moist and melt in the mouth.
I had anticipated that the crispy onion strings would be nice and crispy, well some were, others weren’t. Good flavour though.
The pit smoked chicken thighs had been smoked previously and then finished off on the charcoal grill. I really liked the flavour of these, but like the brisket was a little dry.
There was a lot of food and I think upon reflection I wouldn’t have ordered the chicken as well as the brisket.
Overall it was okay, I think the challenge was I had really high expectations and I was expecting something amazing.
Having taken my eldest for an early evening shopping trip, we decided to grab a bite to eat before heading home.
We didn’t really know what we wanted. Two places did appeal, Casa Brasil and The Real Greek, however both of these are so new they haven’t opened yet.
The Real Greek is replacing Chimmi-changa. I did have a nice meal there a couple of years ago, but hadn’t been back since. Quite like the idea of the new Greek place.
Casa Brasil, which is next door to Pizza Express will be an all you can eat barbecue restaurant. Again quite like the sound of this place.
However as both hadn’t opened yet, we had to make another choice. I was finding this quite a challenge but in the end the 2-4-1 on mains at Giraffe was the deciding factor. This seemed quite a generous offer for a Friday night, but then I wasn’t complaining. I was still being indecisive so went the Giraffe Ultimate Burger, where my eldest went with the beef brisket burger. So I enjoyed my burger, I think he made the better choice.
This was a generous burger complete with bacon and cheese, as well as two beef patties. This was full of flavour, not overly seasoned. A bit challenging to eat with your heads (as you would with a smaller burger) so out with the knife and fork. did enjoy eating the burger and the fries were nice.
Reflecting I realised there are quite a few burger places in Cabot Circus, there is the Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK), Five Guys, Frankie and Benny’s must sell a fair few burgers as well. They are a staple of Coal too. Both Zizzi and Bella Italia has them on their menu too, not sure how Italian they are though?
I quite liked the environment at Giraffe, the staff were welcoming and friendly. With the two for one offer, it was also quite reasonably priced.
During my lunchtime walk, I noticed a new shop in Broadmead, actually I am not sure if it is a new shop, or had just moved from the Galleries. It is an American Candy store.
As might be expected the store is full of American candy and chocolate, as well as some British sweets and European treats.
As well as the candy, there are a few American products on sale, such as Lucky Charms cereal and Jack Daniels barbecue sauce.
I do wonder about the attraction of such a place (and to be honest it was rather busy) especially when you notice the pricing. I saw a peanut chocolate bar for £3 and the cupcake bites were £3 per box.
The Jack Daniels barbecue sauce was ten pounds.
Did I buy anything? Not today. I have found in the past that American chocolate is over sweet and not to my taste, it has too much sugar in it. As for other things, again way too much sugar.
I have noticed that these kinds of places are popping up all the time and even shops like WHSmith are selling American candy bars.
Recently I was on holiday at Butlins in Minehead. One evening we went to the relatively new Diner. This is an American style diner complete with booths, signage and singers.
It was much bigger on the inside then it looked from the exterior, somewhat like the TARDIS. It was quite early and we had a choice of seats, in the end we chose a booth close to the juke box. Alas the jukebox was fake… I didn’t quite understand why there was a fake jukebox, well actually I did, it was there for aesthetic purposes and not so diners could choose some music. The diner had music, but we as diners had no choice. I also wonder if it was a cost saving measure, as I know a juke box can be expensive to run, both in terms of licensing but also in maintenance. I did wonder if they could go with a digital jukebox. I did make the suggestion to the staff that they should get a real jukebox.
As I was in an American style diner, I decided to go with a burger and had the Fonz. This was a prime 6oz beefburger topped with Monterey Jack cheese, crispy bacon, BBQ sauce and diced avocado. Stacked up with homemade onion rings.
Was I surprised when the meal arrived in what could only be called a cutlery draining basket! Why can’t we have plates? What is wrong with plates? I think these basket things are quite normal in US diners. However the burger was delicious. I was less impressed with the roll, which was a standard floured bap. It was supposed to be a glazed brioche bun, but they had run out!
The ‘slaw was really interesting, this was no standard cheap coleslaw. I really liked the small peppers that it had. Not sure for this convention of called coleslaw, slaw, is this an American thing?
I really enjoyed the burger and I did feel that they had captured what an American diner from the movies and television was like. Was it like a real authentic American diner? Probably not, but this was Minehead!
On the A420 from Oxford to Swindon are some roadside services. In the past there was a Little Chef located there, but that closed in February 2012.
In June a new venture took over the location and opened the Cherry Pie Diner.
This is an independent company and this is their first physical location, they are expecting to open another soon in Grove. In addition they have a mobile trailer they take to events.
I have seen the diner a few times as I passed by, but never really had the time, the opportunity or the inclination to stop there for something to eat. No point in stopping if you’re not hungry. I usually catch the train to work, so I don’t drive much, and usually when I do drive, I probably use the A34 and then the M4 rather than the A420. The one time I did have some spare time to stop, it hadn’t actually opened.
However last Friday, knowing that the M5 would be a bit of “car park” took my time leaving Oxford and having missed lunch, decided to stop at the Cherry Pie Diner for a break and something to eat. The fact it was also the 4th July, made this visit a little special too.
Having parked the car in the large car park, I looked over the building. From the outside, despite some attempt to “Americanise” the exterior, you could tell that this was once a Little Chef. I went to try and find the menu in the window. When it comes to eating out, I can be somewhat indecisive, so like to look over the menu before committing. There wasn’t a menu in the window or by the door, so I was forced to commit, I needed to go in and ask! So I opened the door and went in…
Inside I looked around the tables, booths, red and white, it felt like an American Diner. Now I should point out that I have never been to the USA, so have never been into an authentic American Diner, the closest I have got is through the movies and the odd television show, such as the X-Files. The decor and ambience certainly met my expectations, this did not feel like Oxfordshire, it felt more like Arizona or Delaware. The tables, the chairs, even the uniforms, gave this a real authentic feel, much more so than places such as TGI Fridays where they try to do something similar and I think that place feels artificial, the Cherry Pie Diner felt real.
The place was full of people and all the tables and booths were full. There was a member of staff smiling as I entered, I explained I was in a hurry and asked how long service would take, she checked with the kitchen and I was assured that it was quite fast. In the end I sat on a bar stool at a high table and looked over the one page menu.
There was a lot of breakfast options, but this was Friday evening, so I wanted something more substantial. There was quite a limited choice. However I don’t see this as a negative, on the contrary, I found it rather reassuring. The problem with a four page menu, the kind of thing you find at Little Chef (or pub chains) is that it means the food is cooked to a system and very little of it would be freshly cooked. A more limited menu, generally means that the food is cooked to order from fresh, and not re-heated.
Alongside the breakfast menu, the main offering was hotdogs and burgers and variants of these. There were some sides on offer, as well as salads, ribs and a couple of vegetarian options. Though only a page, there was for me a fair bit of choice. As for drinks, there were two pages to that menu!
I was tempted to go with some buffalo wings, as for me that is a good test of the cooking in a place like this, are they cooked from fresh, or merely cooked in advance and then re-heated once ordered? However I knew I didn’t have a huge amount of time, so maybe later.
I went with the Cheesy Chariot Burger, a 6oz burger patty which according to the menu is made to a “secret recipe” using 100% locally sourced beef. It was served
in a bun with shredded iceberg lettuce, beefsteak tomato, sliced dill pickle and a “signature” Cherry Pie Diner relish. Alongside was a small portion of slaw and a bowl of fries.
The burger was nice and I enjoyed it. I think the burger itself lacked though a depth of flavour I was expecting from a such a good looking burger. The bun was good, full of flavour and tasted very fresh. The cheese was so much better than the “plastic” cheese you find in most burgers, as was the pickle and the salad. The fries were fresh and crisp, however the slaw was a little sharp for my taste, they needed a slightly sweeter onion perhaps.
I went for a “classic” coke alongside the burger (I was driving) and it came in a bottle. Personally I much prefer the bottled version over the pump post-mix that was also available. I was tempted to have a milk shake, but in the end went with the cola. It was nicely chilled and I was offered more ice in my glass if I wanted it, you know to be more authentic. I am not a great fan of having coke over a glass full of ice, it waters it down too much for my liking, so I left it as it was, just a few cubes of ice in there.
Overall the food was very good, and for a roadside service station I thought it was very good value for money, the burger and fries were £11 and the cola was £2.30. You could easily spend nearly that amount at a Burger King on the motorway services.
Where I think this place will win out, over other service stations, will be in the quality of the service. Here they need to do a little more work, they are so nearly there, but I am guessing there are still a few teething issues to resolve. Don’t get me wrong, when I first walked in I thought, oh this looks really busy and I don’t really have time to wait too long for food, but when asked and true to their word, they were pushing the orders out really fast. So I didn’t have to wait too long for my food once ordered, though there was a delay in ordering, despite me telling one of the staff I was in a bit of a hurry. There seemed to be too many staff hanging around, either welcoming customers or talking to them, or even just standing around doing nothing, with only a dedicated couple actually taking orders! As I said though, once the order was placed, the food arrived very quickly. My drink though arrived after the food… now they are missing a trick, as I probably would have ordered two drinks in the time I was there, but the first didn’t arrive until much later, so as a result I only ordered one drink.
I did find it amusing though, after placing my order I popped to the men’s room and when I came back, one of the staff, I think she was a manager or supervisor, said to me “thanks for coming, goodbye”. I thought at least let me eat my food first! She did come and apologise once she realised that I hadn’t actually eaten yet.
These really are minor quibbles, as the quality of the service was good, the staff were smiling, friendly, and though the place was packed out, it was speedy and quick.
I liked the environment, it felt like an American Diner and I will go again.