After visiting the Smokehouse and Cellar again, I feel the need to update this review.
Excited about going for the second time, I rang up to try to reserve a table. After asking what times were available, I asked to book for 9pm just to be told that I needed to go on to an app to make the booking.
We turned up and were seated promptly behind the beer tanks. We placed our order reasonably quickly but were left waiting for about 30 minutes for the food to arrive. Waiting for drinks was marginally shorter, although we could see them sat on the bar long enough for me to wonder whether I should just go and get them myself. In a busy restaurant you expect a reasonable wait, but when tables that came in after you have finished eating before your food arrives…
All the way through our stay, boards of half finished meals were carried over our heads as staff tried to squeeze through the space available.
The food this time was “OK”. One expects the meat on ribs in a place such as this to fall off the bone and it didn’t – it was stuck to them. A burger was overdone.
We raised a complaint at the end of the meal. Whatever the circumstances of such complaint, one does not expect to be surrounded by 5 or 6 staff at one time and to be called “blind” by Jamie behind the bar. The offer of free drinks was revoked as we had “caused a scene” in front of other customers.
It looks like Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar has fallen victim, like so many other places in the city that show early promise, to forgetting what makes it popular. In the couple of months between visits, my opinion is that it needs to start concentrating again, both on the quality of its food (which has to be its primary offering) and caring less about its image and that of its staff.
Start doing things well, rather than just appearing to.
Brass coloured beer tanks used to be a rare thing, but now they’re cropping up all over Manchester – in Cottonopolis, The Oast House and Albert’s Schloss. The latest place to have some is Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar on Lloyd Street.
Opened just last August, the Smokehouse is a little bit of a curiosity for me. Just up the road, separated only by a Gentleman’s Club, is Red’s True BBQ. A few streets over if the aforementioned Albert’s Schloss. If places were able to sneak off in the night for a wicked deliance, Red’s and Albert’s would have produced the Smokehouse with Red’s brain and Albert’s beauty.
The interior is woodwork and brick and fancy lighting and, although dominated by the 4 tanks of Pilsner Urquell by the bar, is spacious. Unlike Red’s, when I went smoke wasn’t pouring out the doors of windows of this place!
The decor reminded me of being in a bar up a mountain at a European ski resort (albeit more industrial), but the menu is more representative of American fare. The menu itself is huge, and reasonable. At it’s heart lies the fire pit, manned by Jason Latham, who apparently regularly competes in smokehouse competitions, specialises in smoking and grilling and was brought over from Solita.
The Pitmaster Mains offer a variety of ribs, pork and chicken, some of which has been smoked for 14 hours. For the hungry, but more reasonably to share, is the £38 “Big Smoke” which gives you a bit of everything. Along with burgers that are more like lots and lots of meat with some bread, Po Boys and, (well, I guess they have to) salad, there are cuts of fish and steak, hanging skewers and pizzas cooked on the live fire pit. The proper mains would set you back around £10-£15, although full racks of ribs are more expensive.
The food is special. I have a thing for food cooked properly, and this takes it to the next level. I think this is going to be a regular place for me as something different to Indian and Chinese. I had a king rib and we also ordered a Miss Piggy burger and the St Louis spare ribs. All came with one of a choice of fries, some slaw, salad and watermelon. All of us began to struggle and all finished far too full for dessert.
One telling thing is that eating was a very quiet affair! That probably tells you how good it was.
My worry, and it was a Tuesday night at around 20.30 that I went, is that place was far from full. I hope that the location of the Smokehouse doesn’t place it too close to Red’s which is established having got their two years earlier.
That’s the problem with not being the first – you have to be more than just the same as your rivals. In my opinion, Manchester Smokehouse and Cellar is well capable of establishing itself as a great place to go to eat in the city.