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Red's True Barbecue Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield bangs cutlery on the table and shouts "Beef Long, Beef Long!"

Written by . Published on February 18th 2014.

Red's True Barbecue Reviewed

BEEF Long. Oh please sing me a song of your tender beef long.

Red's True Barbecue is now open and occupying the site of the hapless Livebait in Albert Square. This is the Leeds-based company's second restaurant, twice as big as the original with 160 covers. It's a guaranteed winner in Manchester. 

The flesh flakes like a dream. There's lush fat in there too which adds a raw grace. The whole thing is a thing of beauty in a dark world. 

The food theme is southern states USA. This means gooey and sloppy but because Red's are such a clever bunch and do it so well you don't mind.

The place is a revelation to me.

The old Livebait gets meat

The old Livebait gets meat

I can be very fond of burgers (as shown in my recent review of Almost Famous here), but much of that hush puppy and grit cornmeal crap from down Dixie leaves me nauseated, sweating and unnaturally full. 

No doubt this is down to the UK providing a pale imitation of the epic scale of what fatties in Mississipi, Louisiana and Arkansas (the three most obese states in the USA - click here) grip in their pearly-whites. 

But even in America I've tried this style of grub and found it wanting, akin to eating huge logs of trans fats covered in batter and served on lard. To be fair I've eaten this in cities such as Washington and Philadelphia not in the heartlands of the Deep South. 

Red's is starting to put me right about the delights and variety of southern USA food beyond the burger. I'm becoming a convert. Clearly this is not nosh for those on a diet, vegetarians or super-models who like to nibble between swigs of Ciroc, but it can be bloody bang-on. And juicy. And table-lickingly good - this is the messiest food style created. 

The menu with the message


The menu with the message

So let's sing that song for the glorious beef long.

It costs £15.95 for two people or £10.95 for a single rib. Get the £15.95 one because you won't want to stop eating it. The dish arrives as a pair of ribs and is thick and perfectly barbecued after being dry rubbed, marinated and then smoked for up to eight hours over hickory and 'fruit woods'. 

The flesh flakes like a dream and is covered in a rich sticky barbecue sauce that enhances without shouting the meat down. There's lush fat in there too which adds a raw grace.

The whole thing is a thing of beauty in a dark world. Ok the meat is essentially an offcut but so what, the care and attention makes this pauper a prince.  

Gordo cleans a bone

Gordo cleans a bone

This level of preparation comes at a cost, the fit-out and kitchen kit, the huge industrial smokers, spicers and what not cost well over £1m. The trips to the southern USA by the owners to get it right must have cost a fair packet as well. But the results are notable. Red's provides, for instance, the only palatable jerky I have ever eaten, the only one that doesn't feel harder than a navvies boot caked with mud and caught in a snap frost. The same can be said for the crackling. 

Meaty beef long


Meaty beef long

The rugged, chunky, spicy Texan smoked sausages are more swooners with sweet dill pickle spears (£9.95, but really one portion at that price is enough for two).

The £10.95 half-chicken with a sharp glaze is almost as good as the beef long, moist all the way through and never dusty with cotton-wool texture. It's halal so suitable for most faiths.

Red's it seems have invented Tex-Mecca.  

An absolute love


An absolute love

I could go on. The sweet potato fries are fine, the pit beans excellent, smoked for 12 hours, sweet but bolstered with 'burnt ends' in other words, pulled pork, onions and spices. All these sides come in at £2.95 and are titled 'divine sides'.

There are 'humble' ones too including giant onion rings, skin-on fries, slaw and grits (the horror, the horror) for £1.95. When you grab a main dish you get as part of the price a choice of one divine or two humbles.

But what about the burgers?

Well, there's nothing wrong with them but the other food on the menu, the ribs, steaks, sausages and so on are the point of difference with Red's. Try those first.

Having said that my son thought the vast Pit Burger was a star with all that streaky bacon and meat piled upon meat cosseted within a brioche bun and wearing an onion ring like a hat (the most expensive burger in the place at a whopping £15.95).

Pit Burger


Pit Burger

The burger Mancunians have already been flocking to is the donut burger at £12.95. Hundreds were sold over the first weekend of opening.

I don't understand this.

The donut burger is just too much with its 2600 calories laden with sweetness battling hard to find its place in all the savoury. Apparently the dish was dreamt up by Luther Vandross. While looking that up I read that he died in 2005 from various conditions brought on by his lifestyle and diet. You've been warned. Only have this burger if you are the type who likes to have their dessert with their main.

Donut burger

Donut burger

The decor of the place is busy as busy can be. I've never seen so many fixtures and fittings. Co-owner James Douglas says it references basketball cages in the States. It works well. Better again is the neon. This is cheeky, witty and the sort of thing you want to take home and put in the bathroom to surprise guests. The tattooed nun looks like she might have a story or two.

Tattooed nuns - ooh dirty


Tattooed nuns - I believe her

There are several moods in different rooms, the main space with the cages, bar, stage and the big kitchen, then a secondary space with panelling and a less cluttered feel. One hidden and sinister booth has a steel table with a plughole in the middle which is perfect for those evenings when a human sacrifice is required. Full moons and the like.

The blood will naturally flow to the middle


The blood will naturally flow to the middle

The manager is Sean Finnegan, a well-known face on the Manchester scene, and an affable, astute and wry leader, who seems to be getting the best from his staff. For my taste the American tendency to over-ask if we're all right needs toning down a bit but then this is early doors and all the staff are keen. 

Drinks are spot on, get yourself a beer from Brooklyn, the Pennant on draft is excellent, or even a US of A, IP of A Shipyard. The Pinotage South African is a good combo for most of the meats if wine is your thing and the pickleback piskey is great for eccentrics (click here).

The bar


The bar

The other co-owner with James Douglas is Scott Munro and is South African. He's a redhead which explains the name of the burgeoning chain. He's also another affable sort, big smile, big baseball cap and about seventeen feet tall. His enthusiasm for his restaurant could light up a small city and all its Christmas decorations.

Red's is a fine new addition to Manchester providing a distinctive and excellent take on southern USA food.

I'll be beef long back.

You should try it.

Still, I'm sort of pleased that even Red's can't perform total magic. Grits and hush puppies still taste like hell. Jeez, American friends, give the grits up. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 


Red's True Barbecue, 22 Lloyd Street, Albert Square, City centre, M2 5WA. 0161 820 9140

Take out available

Rating: 15.5/20 (remember venues are rated against the best examples of their type - see yellow box below)

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 4/5  
Ambience: 4/5 

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.






Beef Long and in the right corner - help - gritsBeef Long and in the right corner - help, it's grits

Scott MunroeScott Munroe (Red)


Texan spicy sausagesTexan spicy sausages

Basketball cages of funBasketball cages of fun

Hickory cheese on toastHickory cheese on toast

Some of those Red's ribsSome of those Red's ribs

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41 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

"It's halal so suitable for most faiths." Phew! I was gonna say. Now we're talkin'. Take that 'Rump 'n' Ribs!

10 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

The amount of bacon on those burgers doesn't shout HALAL to me...

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

There is no way any restaurant can be Halal, if it serves heaps of pulled pork, sausage, bacon etc. It's merely simple marketing ploy to appeal to the Muslim community. How can you guarantee that the Halal chicken isn't cooked in the same oven/pan as the pork?

Charlie BFebruary 18th 2014.

Dear Anon, they say on the menu that the meat is cooked separately and we have to believe them. Big legals if they are fibbing.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

I think we should all eat the same meat. Denmark has the right idea. They banned Halal and Kosher today.

Jonathan SchofieldFebruary 19th 2014.

They banned it because of this review? Wow the reach of Confidential has spread.

AnonymousFebruary 22nd 2014.

Thanks for mentioning that they serve halal meat. It is something that I always check on before I dine as I won't eat meat that has not been stunned before slaughter.

AnonymousAugust 25th 2014.

85% of Halal meat in this country is from animals that have been stunned before slaughter. To source Halal meat from animals that have not been stunned is not really that easy. I would imagine that most restaurants and catering establishments would be unlikely to be able to obtain it in sufficient quantities.

AnonymousAugust 25th 2014.

Wow! 15% of meat is Halal ie. made to suffer whilst bleeding to death. That's a lot of meat. Cats heads in a bag on the curry mile anyone? Disgusting!

GimboidAugust 25th 2014.

Most recent Anon... isn't there a bridge you should be hiding under?

Adam ParryFebruary 18th 2014.

I went here with my wife last Friday after trying to get in to Almost Famous and told that we would be waiting 2hrs We were offered a seat straight away and the staff were really friendly. The food was ok but not amazing; I had Ribs and Wings with a side of Texas Toast. The ribs towards the end were extremely dry but the wings were great and the BBQ sauce was also great Pass on the Texas toast it was a very poor effort and nothing more than semi-melted cheese on thick white bread. My wife had the pulled pork nachos, which were huge but tasted great, and enough to share between two people The biggest fault was that it took 40 minuets for us to be able to pay! A good 30 minuets of that was just waiting for the waiter to come over and give us our bill after asking for it twice and then 2 attempts to pay with fault card machines

EmmaKate83February 18th 2014.

It has just opened and is overwhelmed by the hype, give it a chance. Why not wait a few weeks to let it die down rather than rush in guns blazing and then slate it on a review to put people intending on going, going. This is after all somebody's livelihood and I for one love to see these places open up in Manchester instead of Living Ventures taking over the whole city...

crisbyFebruary 18th 2014.

What are the vegetarian options like? ;)

2 Responses: Reply To This...
MeatyFebruary 18th 2014.


FoodieFebruary 18th 2014.

Onion rings

David BishopFebruary 18th 2014.

Heard pretty mixed reviews on the one in Leeds.. will give it a go this weekend.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

Went on Saturday, the place was buzzing and there was a queue but we didn't wait long. The pulled pork was friggin amazing, ribs and wings great too. Make sure you go hungry as the portions are pretty generous! Will defo be returning! :) happy days

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2014.

Are you allowed in if you don't have a beard?

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 20th 2014.

YAAAAAAAAWN. Not everyone who has a beard is a "hipster" either you boring bell.

AnonymousFebruary 20th 2014.

Is there any room to park my retro Penny Farthing that i picked up from my favourite antique shop in the Northern Quarter?

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2014.

Some of the lady Chorlton folk types have beards. Very much like the dark downy hair you find on the upper lips of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern girls.

Geoff BainesFebruary 18th 2014.

2600 calories?!! Still, I'm game..

MrcFebruary 18th 2014.

I had doughnut burger last week - mainly because I work out so 2600 calories just goes down a treat(no guilt involved), plus I am always a fan of sweet and meat . It was just enough as the burger meat is juicy and deep in texture and flavour. I would avoid sides etc with this, burger and fries is just enough. On the minus side music way too loud, had to use a make shift megaphone to shout food orders to waiter and the decor feels like a fairground explosion, if you like that kind of thing.

I heart DavidFebruary 18th 2014.

Not heard from 'bonkers' David in a while. Where is the rant linking grilled meats to his dislike for the local Labour Party? I miss him.

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

TWO THOUSAND, SIX HUNDRED CALORIES. That is absolutely revolting. The food looks good, but on that scale it's just unnecessary.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

I dont think callories should ever be counted on restaurant food, eating out should be a fun social experience about the taste.

Calum McGFebruary 19th 2014.

Why not? Some people can have fun and eat healthily. The two are not mutually exclusive...

AnonymousFebruary 19th 2014.

went to the leeds outfit, it was okay braised brisket was a bit dry & cold, overall thought it was a tad expensive

Swiss JamesFebruary 19th 2014.

Had the feast- (think that's what it's called? 4 person sharing platter, served in a bin lid). Chicken, ribs, brisket, sausage- loads of stuff. Everything was excellent, will definitely be back. Plus I got a taste for grits in the South and am pleased to see them on a Mancunian menu. Tasted as good as any I had in the states

AnonymousFebruary 20th 2014.

Had the long rib, by god it was good. Go hungry.

AnonymousFebruary 20th 2014.

I had the Mexican egg cocktail. Lots of salsa and deep fried corn bread. Mmmmm tres bueno.

JoachimFebruary 27th 2014.

Went for a drink Monday, decided to return tonight Thursday with the kids as a treat, Tried to book a table but told company policy is not to reserve tables, so fair enough turned up, hey what 1/4 of the restaurant closed off because some footballer is having dinner and didn't want autograph hunters pestering him!??? Its things like this that put off the real people who will use the restaurant in the next few years not just because its new and trendy!

AnonymousApril 24th 2014.

I went a few weeks. Thought the ribs were excellent and the wings were good, if not a little over powered by their herb seasoning. What drives me mad at places like this; is when they use frozen chips, they are always a serious let down. If you're you're going put the effort in to installing a kitchen that costs a million pounds, the least you could do is make your own chips, it's not hard and although it's slightly laborious, the results are worth it!

AnonymousMay 6th 2014.

I took my boyfriend for his birthday but I am veggie, the nachos are amazing and so filling! He had the doughnut burger and we shared sweet potato fries, normal fries and giant onion rings, both absolutely stuffed! Wanted to try dessert but had no room, not even to share one. I thought it was really reasonably priced and was not disappointed, looking forward to going again

Ghostly TomSeptember 2nd 2014.

I miss Livebait...

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