In a Word:
Meat eaters, vegetarians who have to accompany said meat eaters, and bears.
Spinningfields Smoke Shack
Way back when Spinningfields was but an infant, I first visited Southern Eleven. It wasn’t an enthralling visit – service was slow, the food was OK, but nothing special and whilst it promised much, it didn’t really deliver. I can still recall the shouts of ‘service’ from the chef growing louder and louder as his frustration grew that in an almost empty restaurant, plates of food were sitting on the pass waiting.
A couple of years on, and we’re back and hopeful and a little curious. Outside the tables and chairs remain, but there’s a veritable pine forest growing around the entrance, complete with oil barrel barbecue.
Which I have to say looks a little incongruous outside what is essentially an office block.
Inside, there be bears.
No, not the bearded type – though there were plenty of jeans, checked shirts and beards to be had, this bear was definitely the six foot tall, fluffy kind, surprising me enough that my shot came out a little blurry. Grrrr.
The decor has changed a little bit too, it was very clean and modern with touches of thick solid wood previously, it’s now redneck city, with a second, distinctly fluffier pine forest near the ceiling and wall art that wouldn’t go amiss in any American barbecue shack.
It’s better, has more character than before, but almost feels like it’s trying a little too hard. Either that, or they’re definitely targeting the family market, that certainly would explain the cuddly toys. I swear I saw another squirrel pop up while we were there.
But enough about the decor, now to the important bit.
We went with an appetite. I’d had a heavy gym training session and skipped breakfast, so of course, needed all the food. And a beer or two.
So we began with a selection of starters. Fried chicken that was crispy and spicy on the outside, but maintained a good level of tenderness inside.
And a pairing of deep fried dill pickles and kosher pickle hush puppies with house sauces on the side. The pickle spears were good, but the hush puppies were a step better. Hush puppies gone bad can taste like deep fried wallpaper paste. Nasty.
These were crisp, fluffy, with a nice kick of sour from the pickle. Very moreish.
Low and slow barbecue. This element of S11 is a vast improvement.
Previously, the barbecue seemed contrived, false, there was simply something not quite there about it. Now as the husband and I eyed the plates on offer, greed took over and we went a little, er, over the top.
For him a giant beef rib, cooked slowly until the smoke envelops the flesh and makes the collagen fibres sticky and delicious.
A rack of hickory smoked belly ribs, where the meat peeled from the bone and a tender, crumbly brisket.
Served with a side of fries and slaw – to take care of those pesky five a day.
I went for rib tips, which were probably the most disappointing element of our dinner, and even that was minor. Rib tips should be the harder, chewy ends of the ribs, that, well, nobody really wants. Except we do. Because the combination of hard, crispy and chewy works so well with the soft tender bits, they’re an absolute pleasure for us meat eaters to consume. These were good, but missing the chewy bits.
I too had the beef rib and was so glad I did. It was an absolute pleasure to eat and the chicken too was done right – low and slow so the flesh is pink, rather than white.
It goes without saying, that vegetarian options are limited on the menu, away from the mac ‘n’ cheese, there’s a great sounding Cajun butternut squash salad on the menu served with toasted nuts and crumbled blue cheese. But then again, the mac ‘n’ cheese is really rather good.
OK, so admittedly by this point we were looking at doggie bags and undoing the top button on our jeans, but in the name of fairness, we shared a little something between us. So we selected the lightest option on the menu, churros.
These were perfect. Crisp outside, fluffy inside, dusted with sugar and cinnamon. The husband assures me the chocolate dipping sauce was great, but I much prefer mine when they’re crisp, hot and sweet.
Service was great. A massive improvement on our last visit, attentive, but not overly so.
Value for Money:
For meat eaters, the huge plates are really good value – the selection of three setting you back £17.95 -give the quality, this was a good thing.
Vegetarians, sadly have it a lot harder. Choices seem to be limited to mac ‘n’ cheese and a salad, which is better than some places, but still, could try harder.
No. 3 Hardman Street
Tel: 0161 832 0482