You know what a Donut Burger is right? I’m sure you can make an educated guess… A burger sandwiched between two doughnuts, you say? Yup, that’s pretty spot on. And do you know where you can get one of these insanely indulgent hybrids? Red’s True Barbecue in Shoreditch!
The first time I heard the name Red’s True Barbecue was during a visit to Leeds about two years ago. Our friends knew we were big foodies from London who liked to eat all of the sloppy stuff that was bad for you, so they suggested we go to Red’s, a new barbecue joint that had recently opened in the city centre.
However, fate and time constraints colluded against us and we didn’t manage to make it to Red’s that day. We went home to London and that was the last I heard of it.
Until this year… Suddenly there was talk. Talk that Red’s were bringing their smoky barbecue powerhouse south to London and they were bringing the Donut Burger with them!
Red’s opened on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch in July and I’ve been itching to get down there ever since and see for myself if they had more to offer than just a delicious burger inside a dessert. Finally, Friday was that day…
Housemade Beef Jerky (£3.95)
We started off with a little bar snack and ordered some beef jerky, which arrived in no time at all in a pretty paper bag along with our beers (incidentally, the very drinkable house craft lager). The big strips of beef were a little dry, but they have apparently been cured and air dried on site so I have to give them some credit for that.
I would have preferred something with a little more chew but they were still tasty. And if anything, it gave you an opportunity to sample the five different barbecue and hot sauces they have on offer here (see below), and for that reason alone it was worth it.
Now time to order some real food, and the menu at Red’s is extensive. There are four different burgers, four sandwiches, a bunch of different ribs, as well as steaks, feasting platters and combos, not including sides and starters. So a lot to work through. We just went for a few dishes below, and I should point out that we were seated right beneath the huge red neon ‘LET THERE BE MEAT’ sign, which looked ace but does mean that all my photos have the red glow of a Soho brothel about them. Sorry about that.
Ox cheek Bone Luge (£7.95)
Guaranteed to make every person read the name on the menu and then make a ‘WTF is that?’ face, first up we have the Ox Cheek Bone Luge. For those of you not familiar with a bone luge, let me enlighten you: it is essentially half a beef bone still containing the bone marrow, topped with slow cooked ox cheek and served with sweet onion marmalade jam, mustard caviar (basically whole grain mustard), a hunk of corn bread and a shot of bourbon.
The idea is that you are meant to eat the ox cheek and marrow with the corn bread and other bits and bobs and then scrape out all of the marrow with the spoon, and then luge the bourbon down the bone to wash any marrowy residue into your mouth. Simple!
In theory that’s great, in practice it’s really fucking difficult. But if you are going to take the luge plunge then just bear these things in mind: A) You definitely won’t look very sexy doing it. B) It’s really hard to do all three things at once (hold to mouth, tilt bone and pour bourbon) C) Don’t let somebody else pour the bourbon for you. Christopher poured all of mine at once and I ended up with most of the bourbon on the table. D) You will probably end up with bourbon and fatty bone marrow all over yourself.
Other than that, it was a fun experience and it’s probably worth doing it just for the shot of bourbon.
The Donut Burger (£12.95)
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the Donut burger! This baby consists of two burger patties, cheese, smoked bacon and dirty sauce sandwiched between two sweet glazed doughnuts and topped with a few crunchy onions. It was served alongside a chilli pepper popper wrapped in bacon and some skin-on fries.
The burger actually looked more impressive than I had imagined. The doughnuts were really sweet, obviously, and gave the whole dish a sticky, sweet tinge. The burger patties were a tiny bit dry and weren’t cooked to your preferred pink medium. They were definitely not the best burger patties I’ve ever had but then I don’t think that is why we are eating this, is it?
The bacon, however, was particularly tasty with a really strong smoky flavour and the cheese was good and melty. Overall I thought it was nice, really sweet, and a bit like eating breakfast for dinner. I would definitely eat it again and I can see how it would be good the next morning if you’d had one too many bourbons.
The Pitmaster S’wich (£10.95 – or with 2 sides for £14.90)
Crammed into this behemoth of a sandwich is brisket, pulled pork, smoked sausage, cheese, slaw, BBQ sauce, fresh jalapeños and a fried pickle on a brioche bun. It is basically an entire barbecue in a bap.
The pulled pork was really soft and moist, I am not normally very keen on pulled pork but I thought this was excellent. The brisket was particularly tasty with a deep, smoky flavour, really delicious and moist, I really liked it. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the jalapeño smoked sausage. It was fine but I feel like the sandwich didn’t really need it?
Plus because it is so garlicy you were tasting it for hours afterwards which kind of ruins your buzz. The splodge of slaw added a nice little crunch and the deep fried pickle added a great hit of sour. As a whole I thought it was really good and it meant you could try a little bit of everything. And at only £15 including two sides it was actually great value for money.
The two sides I chose to go along with my Pitmaster S’wich were Mac n Cheese (£3.95) and BBQ Pit Beans (£3.95) below. As a self-confessed Mac n Cheese super fan I found the one on offer here only fine. It was nice and did everything that you expect from a Mac n Cheese but was probably not the best I’ve have had in London. Definitely not up there with Hawksmoor for the creaminess and moreishness, or even Dukes Brew & Cue who served me up a mean Mac. BUT, I would still eat all of it. Because I am obsessed. The Pit Beans were kind of like glorified baked beans but with big lumps of burnt ends mixed in, which was ace. They had a real smokey flavour with a tiny kick of spice at the end. Good beans, nuff said.
Not pictured here were the Rib tips (£6.50), which are the trimmings from the St Louis pork ribs.
Just nice rib meat really. I did like them but was a little put off by all the little bits of tendon running through them which you have to pick through and is a bit gross. But I think that might be the nature of the beast.
Finally, I wanted to give a special mention to the waiting staff who were all really lovely and always on hand to crack a joke and tell us what the heck a meat luge is (I imagine they get that question a lot). They gave the place a really relaxed atmosphere.
So, was it worth it?
I should point out that I went with two Americans on this occasion who have both had real barbecue in Texas and they didn’t rate Red’s as highly as me. Personally I think for this side of the pond, Red’s True Barbecue is about the best we are going to get for a while and I would definitely go back.
However, I wouldn’t ‘luge’ again because although it was fun it was pretty messy, and the donut burger was nice but a bit of a gimmick. The other dishes are definitely worth investigating though. Some of the platters they had on the menu sounded amazing! So in the end we came for the Donut Burger but left yearning to return for everything else.