Carolynne Dear takes on 'the beast' at Smoke & Barrel, the second American-style BBQ joint to open in Hong Kong this year.
All set and ready for service at Smoke & Barrel on Central's Wyndham Street.
It turns out American smokehouses in Hong Kong are like buses - if you wait long enough, two come along at once.
Over the summer, the territory welcomed Smoke and Barrels into the fold, a predominantly takeaway joint on Graham Street and not to be confused with Smoke and Barrel on Wyndham Street, which opened this autumn.
Smoke and Barrel Wyndham Street is a restaurant rather than a take-out outfit and boasts old-school American BBQ classics courtesy of ‘The Beast’, a wood-fired smoker imported all the way from Missouri, US. Meats are smoked ‘slow ‘n’ low’ in-house, for a traditional, Texas-style BBQ flavour.
The restaurant is the brainchild of chef-restaurateur duo American Chris Grare and Brit Arron Rhodes who opened Kinship, also in SoHo, earlier last year.
The new enterprise is helmed by Grare along with Christopher Tuthill, who boasts roots in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and most recently led the kitchen at The American Club Hong Kong. He also has nine years working in Texas, birthplace of the great American BBQ, under his belt.
“Barbecue is a way of life in the States,” he says. “I’m excited to share my passion for smoking meats with our guests at Smoke & Barrel. We’re working with some serious smoking and grilling equipment which is arguably some of the world’s best.”
The hand-crafted smoker sits pride of place in the restaurant and was acquired from a family business in Missouri in the US Midwest. Nicknamed ‘The Beast’, it’s fed with traditional hickory wood and is the first real wood-fired smoker to make its way to Hong Kong.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to tuck-in for the restaurant’s soft opening earlier this month.
Smoke & Barrel is located on the corner of Wyndham and Glenealy and is a generously-sized space with an al fresco balcony and a mix of high and regular-height tables with comfy leather banquettes, dark wood panelling and low-hung lights. It’s casual, comfortable and perfect for groups looking for a convivial night.
Meat-lovers heaven - 'The Beast Platter' at Smoke & Barrel.
We started with cocktails and selected a variety of dishes, including starters to share, plates from ‘The Beast’ and grill and plenty of sides. While this is one space that is definitely for the meat-lovers, we did have a vegetarian in our group who was adequately catered for.
Grandpa’s Smoked Cauliflower with harissa sauce and pomegranate was a hearty hit, as was the more-ish bowl of rich mac & cheese, thick-cut fries in BBQ spice and loaded tater tots. The stand out side however was the thickly cut wedges of sweet-tasting corn-bread, perfect for mopping up the tangy harissa sauce paired with the cauliflower.
Meanwhile, the carnivorous side of the group were plied with huge sharing platters of gleaming cider-glazed baby back ribs, mounds of Carolina pulled pork, tender all-American brisket that fell apart at the merest prod of a serving fork and smoky salt and pepper chicken. Eyes bulging much larger than our stomachs, we ploughed in - fortunately the staff were happy to doggy-bag what we couldn’t quite finish. The dishes were rich, satisfying and a lot of fun.
For dessert, we managed a shared slice of Mississippi mud pie and a couple of dishes of Bourbon and caramel-topped soft serve ice cream. While the savoury dishes were sensational, I could have foregone the sweets.
We finished the evening off by staggering around the corner to the late-night bars of Wyndham Street, managing a swift gin and tonic before social-distancing rules cleared the strip at midnight and we headed for home lest our Uber turned into a pumpkin.
Smoke & Barrel is soft-open for dinner Monday to Sunday, 5 to 11.30pm, and for brunch from October 10, 11.30am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday, HK$388 for three-courses and HK$198 for two-hour free-flow package.
Smoke & Barrel, 1/F-2/F Wyndham Mansion, 32 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, smokeandbarrelhk.com