Let there be meat! So say the creators of Nottingham’s latest barbecue joint in their biblical-themed promotional activities.
If you live in Nottingham and you’re on Facebook or Twitter you will have been hard-pressed to miss their entreaties to come and ‘worship’ at their new Queen Street restaurant over the past few weeks, so it seemed only fitting that we decided to visit on our day of rest last Sunday.
We arrived at around 2pm, fearing Annie’s-style queuing round the block due to it being their opening weekend, but needn’t have worried. We were greeted by a less-than-friendly member of front-of-house staff, but quickly shown to a seat by a much-more friendly waitress.
Initially we were offered stools at a bar right in front of the door, but when we asked if there was anything better we were shown to much nicer seats right at the back of the restaurant in what can only be described as a corrugated iron shed. Sounds awful, but bear with me…
The decor here is like no restaurant I have ever been to before and is as much a part of the experience as the food itself. It has a rough and ready, post-apocalyptic feel – all concrete breeze blocks, flickering neon lights and rough-cut wood in that sort of we’ve-tried-really-hard-to-look-like-we-are-not-really-trying way.
The space itself is vast but is divided up in to lots of different areas, including a standalone bar, surrounded by piles of tyres, a section that looks like a tattoo parlour, and the aforementioned ‘shack’, which is actually quite a warm and cosy part of the restaurant. Very much in keeping with the gritty theme, and perfect for a cold February day, but I imagine not so great on a bright, sunny day where you might actually want to look out of windows and see daylight.
Taking our places in the corner of said shack (again stools, not a proper table) we were handed the vast menus and set about making the difficult decision of what to eat. When they say it’s about the meat they really mean it. Ribs, brisket, sticky chicken, pulled pork, steaks…the menu is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. Even the baked beans come laced with pulled pork.
Controversially, we both decided to ditch the more traditional barbecue options in favour of burgers. Perhaps somewhat naively, neither of us were really that hungry, so didn’t feel like we’d really be able to do justice to one of the barbecue platters.
I chose the classic bacon cheeseburger which is served on a brioche bun with all the usual trimmings, as well as what’s described on the menu as ‘dirty sauce’. I don’t know what it actually was, but it had a lovely sweet flavour and worked really well with the cheese and bacon. The bacon was the star of the show for me, crisp, smoky and slightly chargrilled, I would happily have eaten a whole roll filled with nothing else.
My other half also went for a burger – The Juicy Lucifer, which is essentially two burgers, with a melted cheese centre. The menu describes this as ‘hot, molten lava’, but it was more like a small, dried up stream. The burger itself was moist, juicy and very pink (a good thing in our eyes, but might not be to everyone’s taste) but the promised cheese was barely detectable.
For sides, we had a portion of normal fries and a portion of the sweet potato fries. The latter were tasty but slightly on the soggy side, while the traditional fries were much better. What made both really special were the selection of sauces on the table ranging in ferocity, from sweet and smoky to full on fieriness. My favourite was the Judas Ketchup which had just the right amount of barbecue flavour without overpowering everything.
Price-wise I thought it was pretty reasonable, our burgers – at £8.95 and £10.95 – were some of the cheapest items on the menu and portions were very generous. We didn’t have room for desserts but the toasted marshmallow sweet potato pie looked hugely tempting, as did the milk shakes and floats.
There’s also a huge selection of drinks – with an emphasis on craft beers, but a pretty extensive cocktail menu and good selection of wines too. As it was a Sunday we didn’t indulge in these this time (hungover from the night before, not abstaining for religious reasons), but I’d love to go back and give them a try another time.
This is yet another interesting new restaurant for Nottingham and first signs are good. Will the barbecue trend still be going strong this time next year? Who knows, but for now the city certainly seems to be embracing it, and Red’s is definitely one of the strongest competitors in an already busy field.