All I will add is that Reekie’s impresses me more with each visit. They’re always improving their already very impressive offering, which is great to see.
Anyway, over to MJ..
I tend to spend Christmas with my family back in Alabama in the middle of nowhere where I grew up. Don’t get me wrong, I love it, the land, the animals, the weather, and the food, but it has spoiled me for barbeque and made me quite critical of anything in the UK daring to call itself American barbeque.
I’ve scoffed at many places from London to Oxford that says they do BBQ and are obviously mistaken on their fundamentals. So it was a pleasant surprise to be taken to Reekie’s Smokehouse by Blythe. We met the week before I was to fly to Alabama, where I would have southern-style BBQ to compare it with.
First of all, saying all BBQ in the States, or even from state to state, is the same is an affront akin to saying that all accents in the UK are the same. Sure, you are speaking English, but I’ll be damned if I can yet fully understand some deep Scottish accents (and I’ve been here 6 years). Which leads me to Reekie’s which, as far as I can tell, are putting a Scottish twist on a non-specific style of American BBQ.
Back where I come from, we like dry cooked meats with burnt ends that are truly crunchy with how long they’ve been in the smoker. At my local BBQ hole-in-the-wall, you can have your meat bite-size or chipped – which means it will be whacked with a butcher’s knife a few or many times, depending. The meat is smoked with a dry-rub with the ribs occasionally having sauce added, but most of the meat is served without sauce so that the punter can choose their own saucy poison, mostly made in-house. Our particular brand of BBQ sauce in my part of Alabama is a vinegary mustardy sauce with just a hint of sweetness. It gets chucked in the coleslaw too.
Usually I dine at several different BBQ places while home, both in Alabama and Georgia, but this time my dad kindly smoked a turkey the day I landed so that was my home chow of choice. I did, however, get to go to a small chain (3) of local barbeque places called Country’s Barbeque. This place has the element of country that Reekie’s is touching on with their colouring pigs adorning the wall. Country’s covers each table with paper and leaves crayons on the table, which is just as amusing for adults and children. The walls are wooden with random old signs in that typically “We’re so American/country” style that you can get a glimpse of at The Potting Shed.
I ordered a BBQ beef plate with corn on the cob and cornbread. It came out just as I expected: meat on a plate with sides and pickles – always tart, never sweet. The cornbread was fresh with just a hint of sweetness that speaks of an old recipe from the south. The meat was smoked well with good bark and begging for the added BBQ sauce – there are 6 options to mix and match. Food here is served in generous portions suitable for my fellow Americans who are apt to be eating for king and country.
All in all a good rendition.
So how does my home-BBQ compare to Reekie’s? When we arrived at Reekie’s, Blythe ordered “things to be brought”. What this turned out to be was a sample of their ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, and burnt ends along with sides of BBQ baked beans, pickles (lightly sweet), coleslaw, and chips.
The first thing to note is that the only dish that resembled what I was used to calling BBQ is the pulled pork. It was served without a sauce and was decidedly tasty and begging for the addition of one or more of their homemade condiments. The burnt ends were served in a beer sauce/gravy that takes away all the crunch from the bark of the meat, which wasn’t to my taste, but only because I was used to the crust of a hard-burnt.
The ribs were ace. I’ve nothing but praise for them.
The brisket was another dish that was served in the beer/gravy and much like the burnt ends it didn’t rock my boat as the main difference I got between the brisket and the burnt ends was the cut and chop of the meat. That being said, it was Blythe’s resounding favourite.
I admit, I like the twist that Reekie’s is doing on their own version of baked beans. It’s a far cry from the baked beans of home where mom would chuck in mustard, beans, sauces, and bacon and brown sugar into a casserole dish before baking for at least an hour. But I liked the refinement they offer here and the snap of the different beans that are less likely to turn into mush.
The other sides were good too, with Blythe polishing off the chips (B – these are just about the best fries-style chips available in the city, now) and me eating most of the pickles.
Overall, I think that Reekie’s is a great addition to Edinburgh’s dining scene. It both fills a foodie hole for me and leaves me wanting things like cornbread and chewy, crunchy burnt ends. At least there’s now a place here that I can send people to for a taste of BBQ that is properly smoked, served in decent portions and with a passion that is evident in everything from the meat to the coffee and cakes. I’ll definitely be back.
MJ scores Reekie’s
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16/20
Today’s questers were: MJ, Blythe
We ate: half meat feast
We drank: water, espressos
Total bill: £21.40
Address: 20 Holyrood Road, Old Town, Edinburgh EH8 8AF