I’m not a food blogger, there are enough of those in Manchester to destroy the world’s stock of semi-brioche burger buns, but now and again I do use this site to cobble together some thoughts on a recent chowing experience.
Being a fan of all things meaty and warm, I’d been looking forward to hitting Red’s True Barbecue since it opened in Manchester a couple of weeks previously. A combination of epic photography and decent reviews, amongst them a top drawer Manchester Confidential one, had got me salivating, so this week I finally headed on down.
The no booking policy is de rigueur at similar venues these days so I wasn’t surprised or put out to be told there was a half hour wait for a table by Red’s Employee Number One; as long as there’s booze, there’s a reason to hang around, so I grabbed a beer from Red’s Employee Number Two at the bar. Before finishing this pint we were called over to our table by Red’s Employee Number Three, revelling in the glorious smells emanating from the kitchen as we walked through.
Red’s Employee Number Four then came to take our drinks order and on returning took our choices for starters and mains. The whole menu is presented in a nice little biblical tome with accompanying faux-religious imagery and pun-filled terminology from which we opted for the Homemade Beef Jerky (£3.50) and the Hush Puppies (£3.95) followed by a shared main of the recommended Beef Long (£15.95) including a ‘Divine Side’ of Mac-N-Cheese as well as some Skin-on Fries and homemade Slaw (£1.95 each) from the ‘Humble Side’ section.
And then we waited. The restaurant was busy, so at first we weren’t too concerned, but as diners flowed out into the cold night we were left to look wistfully kitchen-wards hoping to spy our dishes en route.
Sitting right next to the aforementioned cooking area made things worse as we watched other meals flying out and inhaled the incredible barbecue smells and although we had beer and gin for company it started to become a little frustrating.
As you may have gathered, one thing Red’s isn’t short of is staff, but each one seems drilled to only perform certain tasks, so catching their eye is a nightmare. For example, Red’s Employee Number Five kept on stocking the bar from the drinks room right next to us but refused to acknowledge us, whilst the dishwashers in the kitchen (Numbers Six and Seven) loudly joked away which only increased our frustration as we nursed the dregs of our drinks.
Eventually, Number Three saw our plight and came to ask what the problem was but this was a good 45 minutes into our wait at the table. Upon informing him that we had yet to even see a starter, he apologised, told us they were experiencing issues with orders not being sent from till to kitchen and took our order again to check. On his return he reassured us that it was now processing and offered us a complimentary drink.
After half an hour in the bar and an hour at our table the food began to arrive courtesy of Employee Number Eight. The scratchings (on the second ordering I had mistakenly mentioned these rather than the original jerky) came presented in a fun paper bag and tasted crisp and rich. The jalapeño fritter Hush Puppies were similarly tasty with a nice warmth rather than an insane kick, all ready to be spiced up or cooled down by the impressive array of homemade sauces and ketchups on our table.
The Beef Long then arrived, comprising two large bones of perfectly flamed meat, juicy and tasty with spot-on seasoning. The Mac-N-Cheese looked dry and congealed but actually tasted incredible, whilst the chips were good but nothing extra-ordinary.
Again though, there were a couple of problems. When Number Three returned to check up on us, we had to tell him we were missing the ordered Slaw and when this was eventually brought over it was accompanied by another portion of fries which we hadn’t ordered but for which we were still charged.
Also, it was evident from early on that the staff were struggling to locate enough cutlery of all things, getting ours directly from the dishwasher, whilst the tin plates are pretty lightweight, skidding around on the wooden tables as you carve through your feast, but this is only a minor quibble; if you’re not in first date territory, you won’t be shy of gnawing straight from hand.
Since we’d spent so long in Red’s already we thought we’d make a night of it when Employee Number Nine came over enquiring about desserts and both choices, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake and Mississippi Mud Brownie with Pecan Nut Fudge Snugbury’s Ice Cream (both £4.95) were suitably indulgent, although the former maybe wasn’t quite dirty and buttery enough.
Settling up with Employee Number 10, he seemed surprised to hear that the speed and accuracy of service wasn’t up to scratch, claiming Red’s was still getting things running properly which seems odd considering they’re dab hands at doing this over in Leeds.
After two and a half hours we finally left and couldn’t help but be disappointed that the quality of the food had been tainted by the horrifically slow service and the way the place is set up so you never really know who your waiter is. Because of this you end up not feeling looked after which is something so many other restaurants in Manchester currently pride themselves on.
The decor of the place is excellent, a combination of Almost Famous’ more neon moments and the galvanised steel of a Redneck cut-and-shut emporium, but they can have all the style in the world, if the basics of staff and systems aren’t right they may find repeat visits wain.
So why am I writing this? I’m certainly not in the habit of going all Trip Advisor on restaurants and slagging them off for no good reason, I’m just giving people a head’s up that they may need to allow a fair bit of extra time if they’re thinking of hitting Red’s in the foreseeable future. Hopefully things are set to improve.