pulled pork

Los Banditos, Boldmere

I feel bad about this one. Really, really bad. In an ideal world this piece would start when the charming manager greeted us at the door and told us they were full, but would find us a table within twenty minutes, and finish fifteen minutes later when the equally charming waiter led us to our spot by the kitchen door and talked us through the menu. Straight away I could see why it is full despite being open only a few months. The interior is nicely kitted out Day of the Dead style, with murals on the wall of cartoon skulls, bright in colour. The large booths are inviting, the space well managed. And the front of house, they care about doing what they are doing, and they are doing it really well.

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So apologies to the well-kept man in the grey jumper if this was your place, but the food was nowhere near the same standard as the service. Mexican food in Birmingham continues to be poorly represented. Let me make it clear, it wasn’t all that bad. The quesadillas are passable, with the chilli con carne better than the chicken, though both need more cheese as a binding agent between tortilla and protein which come apart in the fingers. The potato bravos too are pretty good. Yes, the cubes of spud have been cooked too long, but the tomato sauce is laden with fiery chilli heat.

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A burrito is really nothing of the sort, consisting of just chicken, rice, and cheese. It is characterless, not hot like I asked for and with none of the black beans advertised. It has the foundations of a decent dish but no roof. It needs bite and texture, fresh acidity, and additional elements to stop the monotony. They should go visit a Tortilla for inspiration.

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The worst is yet to come. Pulled pork, as flabby and pale as a Brit abroad, piled heavily onto decent nacho’s made from fat triangular tortilla wedges. It is frankly inedible, a dry tasteless mass of grey pig, with ribbons of un-rendered fat that clog the throat like dental putty. The thin salsa is clearly a cheap variety which annoys me greatly considering that the hot sauces on the table are the rather excellent ones from Pip’s Sauces.

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It is cheap, with nearly every item that we have around a fiver, though they do main dishes that sit around the early teens which I am in no rush to try. They forget to add our drinks, we send the bill back and they return it with a genuine Thanks. Incidentally, a dear friend of mine who lives not too far happened to go the following evening. He had the same brilliant service, no burrito or pulled pork, and thought it to be an okay experience. So maybe we caught them on an off day. I’m crying out for good Mexican food to make it’s way to Birmingham. Los Banditos is not the answer, good service or otherwise.

4/10

 

Rub Smokehouse and Bar, Birmingham

If anything had put me off going to Rub’s, it was the word ‘Smokehouse’ in their title. 2015 saw the art of smoking food have it’s arse ripped out of it by the mainstream, who seem to think that anyone with a lump of meat, a bit of wood and a couple of hours to kill, can produce the sort of grub that southern Americans have been living on forever. If only it was that simple; smoking meat is an art-form, yet what we now have is nondescript mushes of meat sandwiched between buns in chain pubs all over the country. Or ASDA with their take on pulled pork. Even KFC are doing pulled chicken. Seriously, I shit you not. Pass me the gun. Its time that I pulled the trigger.

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So for that alone I am glad that I went to Rub’s. It’s restored my faith in a cooking process that brings character to cheaper cuts of meat, with a little love and a lot of patience. There is an obsession here to do it the right way and not to cut corners. And I admire that. A lot.

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The menu is split between those meats in their unadulterated smoked states,  some with seriously hot sauce, or in mammoth, challenge sized, portions. We take a taster platter which veers from good to obscenely good. Pulled pork is still identifiable as pig, with texture to the meat and a nice gentle smokiness which doesn’t detour from the flavour. They are better than the ribs from the same animal, though the ribs are very good indeed. Beef brisket are fat slices of cow that has given its life for a worthy cause, the meat tender, yet still with the right amount of yield. For those who believe that this cut of meat should be eaten with a spoon, go elsewhere and have an amateur overcook your meat to nothingness. If you want to taste how it should be done, come and get your fill here.

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Best is the chicken with the pink tinge to the flesh that you get from it being cooked low and slow. That colour should not put you off – this is a chicken that tastes of a bird reared outside, with a rub that has gently penetrated the meat after a night in a smoker. Hand on heart, this maybe Birmingham’s best roast chicken. We have meaty burger sliders, deep fried hotdogs and properly jointed chicken wings. Its a serious amount of meat and only the beef hotdogs remain, as the batter is too heavy. Sides veer from decadent wedges of brioche draped in melted cheese, to mac’n’cheese which is not as good as the one I make at home.  That’s hardly a slur – I am yet to eat a better mac that is better than my own version.  I think there was crisp chips, though I was too face deep in meat to notice.  I ask to try some of the hot sauce which makes up the ‘insanity’ meals.  Its called Pyscho Juice and takes hot to a new level that I find uncomfortable in a macho way.

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Too full, we take our desserts home, along with a box of leftover meat that will be the following days lunch.  The desserts are a meal in themselves; a cream egg bound in brownie and chocolate and coated in digestive biscuit crumbs, and a caramel egg given the same treatment with pretzel coating.  They are chocolate crack, designed by someone with a mind of pure filth.  We love them but cant choose between them – asking to do so is like picking your favourite twin.  We want more, if only to make my GP shit himself at the thought.

Prior to this we got chatting to very affable chap who transpired to be one of the co-owners of Rub’s and was happy to show us around the kitchen.  Unsurprisingly, he had just returned from a trip over the Atlantic to the Deep South, for research and to further develop the food here.  Perhaps that the key to it all; that attention to detail is coming from really first-hand experience of how it is done properly, not swiped from All Bar One’s new pulled pork burger.  Its a winning route, with an end result a million miles away from what we have come to expect as acceptable due to market saturation.  It would have been easy for them to take shortcuts, instead they chosen to put their time into it.  Literally.

8/10

Rub Smokehouse and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato