It’s funny, I’ve gone ages without a work trip to London – and then three came along almost at once. I’ve been up and down twice in the past month, with another trip next week. Our London office is right next to Liverpool Street station, which is super handy for flights from Stansted, and though a 5:40am alarm for a 7am flight is nobody’s idea of a good time it’s at least easy to get up and down on the day.
What I have noticed, though, is how much it messes with my metabolism. Breakfast before 6am makes me queasy, so I’ve usually been up for four hours by the time I can grab something from Starbucks on the way to the office. Hangry, by that stage, doesn’t even cut it.
Our recent trip to Newcastle required almost as early a start (I was getting to it!), so by the time our bus pulled into the city we were hankering for some lunch. Throw in football crowds and a diversion to the wrong Premier Inn, and we were beyond ready.
Thankfully, Red’s True Barbecue did not disappoint.
Although born in Leeds, Red’s True Barbecue prides itself on a barbecue experience so authentic that this year they came 4th at the World’s Championship Bar B Que in Houston, Texas. Their first site opened in 2012 and since then they have slowly spread across the major cities of the north of England.
The Newcastle restaurant is conveniently located on the edge of the intu Eldon Square shopping centre, with a separate street entrance onto Nelson Street. That makes it really handy for passing football traffic – something Red’s was cheerfully capitalising on the weekend we visited with the opening of their Chuck’s Unforgettable Sports Bar on site. Live football, beer and chicken wings by the kilo – what’s not to love?
We ordered some soft drinks – sidebar: you gotta love a place that takes the time to serve yer ginger with icy cold, frosted glasses – and settled in to peruse the food menu. Terms like brisket, burnt ends, rib tips and crackling swum before our hungry eyes and bellies, until the friendly staff pointed us in the direction of a platter option labelled simply The Feast.
Available for a minimum of two people, The Feast incorporates a wide selection of what Red’s has to offer: baby back ribs, premium Black Angus brisket, XXXL chicken wings, sticky chicken, smoked sausage and pulled pork. You also get a tray of sides: cornbread, buttermilk slaw, giant onion rings, pit beans, mixed pickle, chopped salad and skin-on fries (and the slaw and beans are presented in separate little tubs, for my fellow fuss-pots.
When it arrives, inside what looks like a dustbin lid on a demonically overloaded cake stand, it makes your face do something like this:
I do enjoy a good bit of brisket, and Red’s version is everything: tender, flavourful and melt in the mouth. Shout-out to the “XXXL” chicken wings too, because they really weren’t joking: there are more like chicken arms (although that now gives me a flashback to a particularly hilari-creepy story in Chris McQueer’s Hings, so it’s maybe not the best image) with a rich, smoky flavour.
The sides were cracking too: onion rings so huge I had to eat them with a knife and fork and tasty, morish chips (“I need to stop picking at these,” said Stringer, “I don’t want to be accused of carb-loading”). I could have done without the sweetcorn sprinkled through the salad (maybe some roasted corn on the cob next time?) as it put me off my greens, but I even tried the pit beans on the urging of our server and found myself surprisingly in favour – as much as they wouldn’t be something I’d order for myself.
I wouldn’t say we needed dessert after our full-on feast – but there’s nothing wrong with “want” overcoming “need” sometimes, particularly when your server points out a new banoffee cheesecake on the menu. My favourite part of banoffee has always been the “offee” and this did not disappoint: a rich, caramelly wonder, liberally piped over a biscuit base and banana cheesecake cream.
Stringer opted for the equally delicious-sounding toffee apple pie, served with custard. While I think my dessert was definitely the more photogenic of the two, I wouldn’t be averse to trying this next time – not least because it was clearly so good I never got the chance to try it!
Thoroughly sated, we headed off to find our hotel – and I reckon the amount of meat we consumed had as much to do with our need for an afternoon nap as the early start had done!
One last thing worth mentioning about Red’s: although we were treated to our lunch in exchange for a review, it was done in the form of a gift voucher – and I was really impressed by the electronic system, set up so you can access it from anywhere and pay just by giving a code to your server rather than faff around with easy-to-lose plastic cards or printouts. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before, and I’m a big fan!
In fact, I’m a big fan of Red’s in general. I love the food, I love the laid-back, neon-lit vibe and while I could probably do without the bizarre references to “prayer” and “faith” all over the menu – it’s meat, lads, not the second coming – it’s clear that, as a chain, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Don’t suppose you fancy heading a bit further north, to Glasgow, next?
We were treated to a meal in exchange for a review, but all opinions are my own and unbiased.