Jim’s Smokehouse at the foot of Hockley is a recent addition to the restaurant scene in Nottingham. It is the latest venture by Prashant “PJ” Jaiswal who previously ran the Red Hot Buffet shack, and Rakono both at the same location. (I will be honest and say that I was never keen on either of those two places, great for office outings where no-one can decide what they want, but a nightmare for the digestion when faced with a plate mixed with random selections of Chinese, Indian, or Italian cuisine).
So it was then with a ‘tingle of excitement’ tinged with a ‘little scepticism’ that I ventured over to try out this latest venture where he is now running a smokehouse complete with an a imported smoker from the states offering up “American Low ‘n’ Slow BBQ“.
OK so we are seated and perusing the menu and things are looking promising. I have a bottle of Goose Island IPA and I can see a lot of BBQ description at the top of the page. “From the Smokers – dry-rubbed and marinated overnight and smoked for up to 12 hours”. They seem to have a wide range of styles from several of the renowned BBQ regions of the States; St Louis Ribs, Carolina Pulled Pork, and Texas Beef Briskets. I was just hoping that they were cooked in the regional way and not just names stuck next to meat. To be honest I was surprised not to see an ode to The Memphis or Kansas City style BBQ on there, but then again perhaps this is a case of not running before you can walk.
I tried to stop thinking about all the excellent BBQ I had eaten in the States and remember that I was in a theme restaurant in Nottingham. I figured that the best way to work out if this place has any legs was to try one of their combo platters. I would have liked a ‘slab of ribs’ but really knew I just had to try the pulled pork and maybe the chicken, and maybe the brisket. Heck why did I come on my own? I need to try everything, not just for quality control purposes but also to appease my personal ‘God of Glutton’. So I worked out my options and ordered the “1/2 Chicken, Carolina Pulled Pork, and Rib Tips” Combo for ‘gulp‘ £15.95
Fifteen or so minutes later this tray of meat arrived at my table. Yes I agree it does look a bit of a mess (I am trying to block out the image of the flaccid fries in a tin mug). Having said that I am not sure that BBQ platters typically have Feng Shui so I (momentarily) forgave, until I eat. Sometimes when I venture out on these myfoodhunt trips I kind of write up from memory and don’t always get the ‘review in the moment’, today I tried harder for you and jotted down a few thoughts as I was eating.
Now I usually love Rib Tips and sometimes I think these are the best bits, not as good as burnt ends but still tasty. For reference the rib tips are the short, meaty sections of rib attached to the lower end of the spare ribs, often these are the bits cut off the spare ribs when you are squaring up the rib like when preparing a St Louis Style Rib Cut. At the time I noted that the ‘Rib Tips smelt smoky but didn’t taste smoky and are a bit dry’. Looking back they were also a bit chewy, well actually a lot chewy. If they had been cut of a 12 hour smoked rib rack I would have expected them to be falling off the bones and be juicy and tender.
Ok so the chicken, this did look the best on the tray visually and I found it also to be a bit of a ‘hit and miss’ piece of BBQ. I noted that “chicken is on the verge of being dry but has a nice taste and the thick spicy BBQ sauce coating brushed onto the chicken transforms and elevates the whole thing”. Looking back I kind of enjoyed the chicken the most on the plate.
Now the thing that I was most excited about was the Carolina Pulled Pork, but sadly this was the one thing that truly disappointed me. It was so dry, it almost felt like it was yesterdays meat leftover in a tray somewhere. I am sure that it wasn’t but that was the kind of texture it had. You had to add one of the table sauces to turn it into a good enjoyable bite. I don’t want to sound mean but I have eaten a lot of pulled pork and this wasn’t featuring high on the list of all those that I have ever eaten. It may have been a bad day but I wasn’t feeling any love in this offering.
Lets talk about those sauces for a moment. It is true that often it is the sauce that can elevate and transform some humble BBQ and I have been at many Rib Fests across the States where some of the additions have been true genius. But, and it is a big But, every time the Meat was always able to stand on its own two feet (or in many cases four feet) as a naked item before the sauce came in to make it ‘all pretty and ready for the BBQ Prom’.
Now here at Jim’s Smokehouse I would say that they have done fairly well with the sauces. I am not saying that they are true to the original style or recipe but they did help to transform some of the meat on my platter. At the time I wrote ‘Pulled Pork needed sauce adding to it to get it going, the South Carolina Mustard sauce was the best one to do that’. I also noted that I “Like the East Carolina ‘Hot and Tangy’ sauce on the bits of chicken that were not coated in that lovely tangy sauce that they came with”. I will say that all three sauces were too runny and needed something to thicken them out, they were tasty though I will give you that.
Now I still kind of want to come back and give this place another go, mostly because I have a whole group of people that want to try it. I just had to come on my own at a really unpopular time (opening on a Sunday) to test them out. If I do come back then maybe I will suggest the Grand Feast but if I do they will need to ‘up their game’ with that Pulled Pork. While I was there a lot of people were having the burgers which sounded really good on paper and seemed to be going down really well. Should I try the ‘Wild Wild West Burger’? or is that too cheesy? It sounds good …quote “Just the way Texas cowboys would like it – pulled pork, beef brisket and cheeseburger topped with melted cheese, bacon, onion ring and bbq sauce”. But hey lets be honest I probably would only be coming here for BBQ, for a Burger I would be queuing up at Annies Burger Shack where you can feel the love in the burger.
Jim’s Smokehouse is located near the bottom of Hockley at 38 Goose Gate, you can check them out on Twitter and on Facebook
For another set of opinions check out the recent and honest reviews by Alec on Frusher on Food, and by The Friday Girl twice