Low N Slow: Is Bristol Bored Of Barbecue?

If you are going to do barbecue in Bristol, you have got to be brave.  

With Grillstock supplying the city with the best of America’s finest from its two outlets (Park Street & St Nick’s Market) as well as its annual barbecue festival under the same name, any newcomer has really got to reach some dizzy heights just to make an impact.  Additionally, the (slightly) more formal restaurant settings of Spitfire (Harbourside), Smoke Haus (opposite Colston Hall) and Food Nation (Gloucester Road), are all offering their own take on grilled meat.  In short, Bristol is a fairly saturated market when it comes to barbecue.

But then again, perhaps the city is bored of the ubiquitous southern state staples of pulled pork, brisket, and burnt ends, all served with coleslaw, a bun or fries.

The unfortunate thing about the BBQ outlet in Finzels Reach’s new Friday Food Market, is that they are not doing anything new, and they are definitely not doing it any better.  With so many different and unusual offerings in the same food market, can a barbecue stall really succeed?

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Large queues form for barbecue at Finzel’s Reach Street Food Market, Bristol

Six pounds buys you a Barbecue Box, filled with coleslaw, mixed leaves, pulled pork, brisket and burnt ends.  In fact the lettuce was unceremoniously spilled into a serving bowl in front of me from a Florrette packet before being tonged into the box.  Literally nothing innovative there.

Perhaps I am being overly negative as things started off on the wrong foot.  By the time I had reached the front of the queue my stomach was grumbling at me that it had been ignored all morning and desperately needed sustenance.  The guy in front of me, who also ordered a Barbecue Box, was clearly offered pickles and jalapenos, but when it was my turn I was pretty much ignored from the time of making my selection until being asked what sauce I wanted.  I always think that the whole service with a smile makes a real difference when selling at a market, and this was somewhat absent here. Worst of all, I never did get my pickles.

The choice of sauces are a mix of standard house barbecue, and some creative flavours; Chipotle Peach, Habanero Hot or Carolina Mustard sauce.  Having chosen the house barbecue, the server squirted a small amount over the meat in the box.  Not enough to cover the meat, and thin in consistency so that it lacked that sticky unctuousness which I love with barbecue meat.  The flavour was good though, I couldn’t criticise it too much, and you could definitely taste the smoky background flavour.

The coleslaw, which I would not be surprised if it was shop bought rather than handmade, was tasty and played a very important role in providing much needed moisture in the dish.

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Barbecue Pulled Pork & Brisket with Burnt Ends, Finzel’s Reach Street Food Market, Bristol

The pork was really the disappointment, and, well how can I put this… underwhelming.  There was no real flavour from whatever rub had been used and approximately 30% of what had been offered to me was pure un-rendered fat.  No way was I going to eat that!

The brisket however was delicious, the flavour profile distinctive, and bark superb.  In fact, the bark which was added as part of the brisket portion was far better than the portion of burnt ends which were added on top.  As with the pulled pork, the brisket was a little dry.  Perhaps the most frustrating thing of all is that the juices has puddled in the corner of the metal tray that held the meat.  Sweeping the meat through this pool of flavour before serving would not only have helped with the dryness of the meat but would have made it even more delicious!

Perhaps I am being overly critical, the queue of people waiting to eat here, despite only a couple of portions left at 13:20, and their money box overflowing, shows that the concept is clearly still popular in Bristol.  Maybe, I should give them another chance.

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