When Hard Rock Cafe got in touch with me to ask if I’d like to cover their Southern & Smoke launch, I knew that there was only one man for the job. Yep: it’s time for another snazzy blog from my roving reporter Euan! Take it away, pal…
What on earth is liquid smoke?!
It was a dreich Thursday and I had been at a very dull meeting until 6pm. But my day was about take an exciting turn as I headed into the Hard Rock Café on George Street! Again, I had the fear that my name would not be on the list…but it was! Jack and I were led past the usual punters to a small function room in the back. Absolutely brilliantly Kirsty from Indigo Buttons was there too, the night was getting even better!
Initially the surroundings were a bit confusing. The seats were very close together and it took me quite a bit of manoeuvring to find “my spot”. There was quite a lot of raw meat on display, most prominently two chickens, aptly named ‘Frankie’ and ‘Benny’. After being stocked up with Corona’s the executive chef came out and spoke to us all. He has quite and impressive CV! Having worked in Michelin Starred restaurants and managing the catering for our troops in Afghanistan, he has found himself in the kitchen of this George Street hotspot. Lucky they are to have him!
My Hard Rock prejudices were starting to melt away…
The chef began by explaining that the Hard Rock Cafe is the only chain restaurant in the UK that do all of their own smoking. Something I did not know! I foolishly assumed that the kitchen would just be a giant microwave, apparently not! Very impressive. He demonstrated on poor Frankie and Benny how to portion a chicken before one of the other guests made an admirable attempt on the second one. We explored the ingredients which go into the Hard Rock Café’s finger lickin’ barbecue sauces and rubs. This is where I saw liquid smoke! It is the weirdest thing. The chef explained that all it is is smoke ‘infused’ water. That put my gas at a peep, I was thinking this was a strange concoction of chemicals and additives.
Before getting onto the main event (tasting the food!) we were shown how to prepare whole piggy legs and gigantic racks of ribs. I was always a bit scared of eating ribs after I found out in standard grade biology that the meat was called ‘intercostal tissue’ (boak), but I occasionally put my reservations aside (for the right person!). The pork in the Hard Rock Café is always from the UK, apart from the ribs which come from France, bit odd I thought!
We had an eeeeennnnnnoooorrrrrmmmmoooouuuuusssss wait for the food, but we were kept well stocked up with beverages and the chat was pretty top notch. Silly move taking the car! Eventually the food arrived and looked extremely appetising on the plate. A bit of a weird guy took a SHARING platter, a knife and fork, and sat facing the wall eating the whole thing! That’s just not cricket! There was plenty of other food though, but seriously, what a freak.
I kicked off proceedings with the chicken wings. The Tangy Bar-B-Que sauce was my absolute favourite. They wings were really meaty and the sauce had just the right amount of spiciness. I’d genuinely just go back for them.
We were then treated to the real smokehouse grub, prepared, smoked and cooked in house! The portions are tremendous and the meat is just lovely. The chicken and ribs fall off the bone and after each mini plateful I was re-enacting my favourite ‘Curly Sue’ scene.
Behind the Tangy Bar-B-Que wings, my next favourite was the smoked pulled pork. Oh my goodness, fond memories. I think, served with the authentic vinegar or Hickory Bar-B-Que based sauce, it could make the perfect accompaniment to anything. Sandwiches, roast dinner, Special K, blancmange. Seriously, nothing would not be improved by the addition of the Hard Rock Café smoked pulled pork. Mmmmm!
In conclusion, my reservations about the Hard Rock Cafe were blown out the water. The food was delicious and the hosting was so warm and friendly. It really is great to know that all the prepping, smoking and cooking happens in house overseen by such an experienced and passionate chef.
I will definitely be back, possibly not for a romantic meal with silver service, but for an opportunity to face plant some delicious pulled pork and get in a complete state with chicken wings. Cant wait!