Saturday, 17 December 2011

Guest Post by Neil Walker - The Rib Shakk – Close but no Cigar

Neil Walker writes the food and beer blog, and is based in Leeds.

Talented chef, and Leeds local, Anthony Flinn has built something of a foothold in his hometown over the years, with a seemingly endless empire of really rather good restaurants.

The simply named “Anthony’s” will always be his flagship eatery but it’s the beautiful setting of his Corn Exchange bistro Piazza which must be his crowning glory. If you haven’t been then I suggest you do so, it’s a great restaurant with a number of classy little independent shops skirting its border, in the beautifully presented arches which encircle the bottom floor of Leeds most beautiful building.

So it was with some surprise that I heard about a new restaurant, owned and run by Flynn, but which had a much more rough and ready menu of slow cooked ribs, fries and BBQ Sauce, and which seems at odds with the style of dining he has become synonymous with.

My initial impression upon arrival was a surprise at the lack of table service, and the slightly Nando’sesque dining experience of heading to the counter with your order and table number. Still, the menu is extremely good, with slow cooked brisket, full-on Flintstones sized beef ribs and a promise of expansive sides of succulent pork. Very promising.

We opted for a platter of pork baby back ribs, more BBQ pork ribs and a full beef rib, served with chips and chargrilled corn on the cob (£26). Oh and some extra sides of BBQ beans and ‘Slaw’ (£2ish each), along with a bottle of Chilean Cab Sav Merlot (£14.95).

Lets get the worst out of the way first. The pork ribs were way, way too cold. I didn’t send them back because we were starving and the fries and everything else were piping. Plus the actual flavour of the pork ribs was very good. Sweet, sticky, succulent and tender, but after a few minutes they were stone cold. In hindsight I should have sent them back.

The beef rib though was phenomenal. Charred, super tender, flavoursome beef in a smokey BBQ glaze that added to but didn’t swamp the lovely flavour of the brisket. Genuinely delicious and the highlight of the meal.

The chips and coleslaw were also excellent but the BBQ beans need a little work. I like the fact they were butter beans but they just tasted like butterbeans in a BBQ sauce, whereas the best I’ve tried are much more cooked down, and generally in a tomato based sauce with a BBQ edge.

Oh and the wine, it was pretty good and very reasonably priced. Though the reason I went for wine in the first place brings me nicely on to my final point – The beer menu is shockingly bad for such a good establishment. They’ve obviously opted for what they think are working class beers, with some misplaced nostalgia about the American South perhaps, but it’s a mistake. Blue Pabst? Please. Choose some brews that might actually compliment the food for Gods sake, or at least some beers with a modicum of flavour themselves.

To summarise, Rib Shakk has a lot of promise. The quality of the meat is very good throughout, the beef is fantastic and the idea is a good one. But a hell of a lot needs tweaking if this place is going to reach its full potential.

My advice is to give it a try while it’s 50% off for Twitter Followers and see what you think for yourself, maybe you’ll be more lucky than I was.

The platter
and the full thing - looks like a manly board of food!