Restaurant reviews

Smoke Barbecue: Sampling the Merrion Centre’s new foodie addition

The Merrion Centre and the area surrounding it has seen a boost in popularity and status since the rejuvenation that was a by-product of the opening of the arena. For foodies, this has meant the injection of various new eateries in a location that had previously only boasted such cult restaurants as Fuji Hiro.

Smoke Barbecue is the latest of these additions. Before you think it, Smoke isn’t trying to be Reds; in fact, in many ways, it couldn’t be more different. There’s no over the top ‘worshipping’ of meat here. Rather, the focus is getting dirty with your food, eating barbecued meat with your hands, the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed!

The layout and environment is very sociable and, despite going in for an early dining session, there were still groups of people enjoying a drink and food when I visited. There’s a range of decent beers on offer at the bar and it’s clear that this is a restaurant where you can enjoy some alcoholic beverages to line your stomach for the food ahead. In fact, when I visited, it seemed like the pitchers were going down a storm, again enhancing the sociable element Smoke seems to possess.

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And so on to the food. The food is traditional southern USA barbecue style, with the meat cooked overnight for around 16 hours in order to keep the various cuts of meat moist and packed full of flavour.

I sampled the sharing platter (the Smoke Sharing Plate) and so was able to get a good insight into the various menu offerings at Smoke. This gargantuan beast is really meant for two people and I certainly received a few looks of jealousy/bewilderment when it turned up at my table!

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This was a catch-all style dish ideal to share with others, but there was no compromising on the quality here. The food was tasty and had a depth in flavour that you’d expect from the cooking time. There’s a nod of appreciation to barbecue tradition with the jalapeno corn bread muffin as a side. This packed a nice punch and went really well with the mixture of dips provided with the platter, especially the syrup.

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The pulled pork burger was most definitely the highlight of the plate for me. Bursting with flavour, it was extremely moreish.

All of the other elements worked well on the platter and it all came together largely thanks to the quality of the house barbecue sauce. Without being overly smoky or overly spicy or even overly sweet, it combined all three of these elements in a way that made it perfect for dipping, pouring, and marinading. Had it not been for the fact that I was lucky enough to receive a goodie bag with one of these bottles in, I think I would have been buying a bottle to take home.

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With good quality food, a sociable atmosphere, and decent pricing for what’s on offer, it’s easy to see why Smoke became so popular so quickly in Sheffield and why it will surely be a success here in Leeds.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free meal and a drink in order to review Smoke. I was also provided with a goodie bag. I was under no obligation to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. 

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