At The Smoke Haus Bristol, I had the most disappointing threesome of my life.
It’s a dish off the menu, in case you’re wondering why Bites has branched out into a slightly different niche…
The city centre barbecue restaurant, which has taken over the former Flavourz premises, opened at midday on Monday, March 13th, and we were invited along to a preview event on the Saturday night before.
They’ve done a great job with the décor, there’s no denying that. It’s an enormous venue spread over two floors, with a pretty masculine feel: think lots of dark wood, dim lighting and a slight nod to the ever-popular industrial style. Downstairs, there’s a large bar and an open plan kitchen so you can watch their BBQ creations being cooked and served, and upstairs you’ll find a smaller bar, plus dumb waiters to make the food easier to transport from the kitchen. The only thing we didn’t like was the net of lights above the stairs, which were crazy bright compared with the restaurant, and were a bit of an assault on the eyes.
The music is chosen by diners via the website from a very long list of choices, and on the night we were treated to tracks from Dire Straits, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Elvis and the Beastie Boys, among others.
We were led to a table for two upstairs by a rather sullen-looking waitress, and presented with our oversized menus – but the first task was to choose our drinks. It was a pint of Goose Island IPA (£5.20) for Chris, and I was swayed by the Oreowesome shake (£3.50), with its promises of Oreo biscuits, Oreo ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, whipped cream and crushed Oreo biscuits. It certainly looked the part – a picture of decadence! It was proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, though: it was a bit bland without a great deal of Oreo flavour, and was surprisingly thin and watery given its promised ice cream base. It was marginally better once the cream and sauce topping was stirred through.
If you’re dieting, it’s probably not the best place to go: the menu’s pretty calorie-laden…but there are a few veggie options for non-meat eaters. We decided to start our calorie-fest with a portion of nachos (£5.45) to share. It was a generous portion, topped with sour cream, guacamole, salsa and a nacho cheese sauce – for £2.50 extra, you can also add a choice of pulled pork, chilli or BBQ beans. The nachos were a bit hit and miss, to be honest – while the tortilla chips themselves were thick cut and had a lovely crunch, the fact that the mild salsa was poured on top before being topped with the cheese sauce meant that the cheese was pretty cold by the time it arrived at our table. The cheese sauce was an American-style offering and a bit too grainy for our liking, and while the guacamole had a good flavour, it could have done with being chunkier, rather than totally smooth. We enjoyed the jalapeño Russian roulette, though: while some were pretty mild, others had a good, strong kick.
We were hoping for a more positive experience with our mains…but it wasn’t to be. Chris’ Kansas chicken & ribs (a whole Kansas chicken breast with half a rack of pork sheet ribs for £20.95) was pretty cold when it arrived. He was happy with the flavour of both: the chicken moist and nicely spiced, the ribs surprisingly spicy – but the temperature let the whole thing down.
And this is where my threesome comes in. The Smoke Haus Threesome (£20.95) promised the trinity of pastrami, brisket and pulled pork – with one out of the three edible. The pastrami was fantastic – a generous portion and super-peppery…but the brisket was rock solid, and the pulled pork far too sweet and liquidy. And again, my main was cold.
Both dishes were served with a generic coleslaw, and fries whose one redeeming feature was their shape – cut with a trough in the middle, they’re designed perfectly for scooping up dips. They were just as cold as the mains, though.
We also ordered a couple of sides to share – deep fried pickles and mac and cheese are two of our favourite things, so they wouldn’t disappoint, right?
Wrong. The deep fried pickles (£4.45) had very little coating, meaning they were pretty much just pickles – and they were soggy too. The mac and cheese (£3.95) had a lovely breadcrumb topping with a great texture – fried, crispy and oily – but lacked any strength of cheese flavour, and needed far more sauce.
We voiced our issues when our trays were cleared, but our complaints weren’t met with any real concern. It’s a bizarre place – it’s obviously partially catering for the eating challenge contingent (who else would try the £25 “Haus Monster Sandwich – a 2-foot sandwich with four types of meat and more?), but we’re not sure who else it’s aimed at. The price point seems a little high for it to be local students, the quality too low for those willing to splash out on decent BBQ.
It’ll be interesting to see how these guys fare, but for me, I’m treating it the same as the building’s predecessor, Flavourz. Once is more than enough.
Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.