Fully aware that this makes us sound like London-centric twonks, we truly do long to find decent American scran out in The Sticks.
We are excited when we hear rave reviews of places, get geed up like toddlers full of sherbet to try it out, and are ultimately as deflated as the Greek economy when it's just not very good.
So Grillstock Festival, a celebration of barbecue in the West Country, has been on our radar for a while. Its awesomeness is widely acclaimed and it's popularity has pushed it to expand to a second festival site in Manchester this year. Finding out they'd opened up a lunchtime market stand, a serendipitous trip to Bristol couldn't come fast enough.
St. Nicks Market is like Bristol's answer to a budget Covent Garden (with a hint of Camden Market), and the Glass Arcade is the open-air glass-roofed food stall artery that runs through the heart of it, with the legendary Pieminster counted amongst it's vendors nestled within the old Georgian Corn Exchange. Getting there at around 3, we caught the tail end of Grillstock's Saturday service: any brisket was long gone, but luckily there was still some of the pulled pork and brisket beans left.
Apparently everything here is pit smoked slowly over hickory, and the dinky smoker is in evidence; nestled in the back corner of the dinky outlet. And it is accomplished. Each thick ribbon of pulled pork retains a background of smokiness whilst you catch a touch of mild sweetness from the seasoning throughout, all infused within meat that is not dripping but has a solid level of moisture so it is pleasingly soft to bite through.
The bap is soft and glossy: a nice example of a classic burger bun, baked by none other than TV's expert flour lobbers the Fabulous Baker Brothers (well, probably not them, but their family bakery Hobbs House). And whilst the house slaw added inside is nothing special, it adds some extra juicy moisture and sensory crunch to the bite.
Arguably, the sign of a quality barbecue gaff is in the sauces as much as the meats. Again, they spank it: while the signature backyard BBQ sauce is a nuanced take on a classic sweet 'n smokey barbecue sauce, the subtle warmth of the hot sauce did it for us, and was pumped liberally over the pork and thus smeared across our gormlessly pleased mugs.
The beans were in no way shy of brisket, with a deeper smokiness than the pork, all suspended in a rich, thick bean-y sauce. It made us hanker for some straight up brisket like a doe-eyed canine next to a dinner table.
Dare we say it, Grillstock is consummate barbecue in the Regions. Fuck it, we'll say it beats some London barbecue pretenders hands down.
- Tickets are still available for the Bristol and Manchester Festivals this year. And a fully functioning Smokehouse, is coming to some place called Clifton (apparently it has a nice bridge) in the Summer.