Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

Rub ya’self up – Returning to Rub, Birmingham

It has been a while since I have been this active on the blog let alone been in touch with my good friends at Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham, but I must say they have caught my eye of late on social media. They have recently launched a super saver menu to rival the mainstream fast food chains in terms of their value and quality while also going viral yet again with what I believe was the worlds biggest chicken nugget. Nugzilla is real.

I have made no secret that I have always been a proponent of Rub’s unapologetic spirit and the fact that the heart of the business seems to be very much worn on their sleeves. The jovial nature of their attitude towards food bleeds into their model of spreading their message on social media with things like this but ultimately they still have good food at their core. While Nugzilla and the challenge options in that sort of wheel house don’t necessarily appeal to me personally, it gets bums on seats and gives them a platform to show off the sorts of things I ate on Friday. I literally got into cooking traditional BBQ because of Rub Smokehouse and watching Brian Mujati’s YouTube channel so these guys have really imprinted on my development as writer and a cook, so it was a pleasure to be hosted by them again on Friday evening (06/07/18).

Upon arrival I was greeted by the smell of the art of meat alchemy and a really accommodating member of staff, (apologies for not remembering your name) seated at my table and was given 5 minutes to mull over the menu. I decided I wanted to go out like William Wallace and get Hung Drawn and Quartered, which as pictured below, is a platter of smokehouse treats and American inspired sides. To start at the top we have baby back ribs, pulled pork, Brisket, BBQ chicken with white Alabama BBQ sauce and Buffalo wings that’s are served with sides of onion rings, corn on the cob, corn dogs, fries and red slaw. Quite the list right? this can all be yours for £36 to feed two people or £68 for four, which when you break it down is actually very reasonable per person for the amount of food you actually get presented with while also seeing what their food is all about across the board.

It’s also worth noting I upgraded the fries to the ‘poutine’ option (gravy and cheese) which were really a really nice touch and not something you see very often on a British menu.

As ever for me my experience eating this was consistent and thoroughly enjoyable. I am a self confessed burgerholic but when it comes to a place like Rub I need some smoke rings and wings in my life. The brisket was moist while still retaining a healthy bark on the outside that ran into a vibrant pink smoke ring, the chicken and the buffalo wings were a flavoursome punch that packed the odd bit of crackling spice and the pulled pork was an equal partner in the dish as sometimes PP can get lost amongst the bold flavours of a smoked variety dish but it stood up well and in being served dry, retained it’s ‘porkyness’ rather than it just being about the sauce it was in.

One thing I have always struggled to get right on a wood fired smoker is the humble rib. A relatively cheap cut of meat that can be make or break for a cook if they don’t treat it with enough care. It has taken me a long time to be able to get up to a standard where I am even remotely happy with my own rib cooks (I can’t begin to tell you how many racks of ribs I have eaten while simultaneously pissed off about shoulda, woulda, coulda elements on the days grilling) but Rub are really consistent. Every time I have eaten their ribs I get the same effect. I get enough stability where I can pick them up without complete disintegration, enough give that I can pull the bone clean out of the rack or in this case just pull through it with a fork like I’m eating a cake, which in itself has always really impressed me. Something I learned very early on is that you can tell the quality of a smokehouse by how their ribs behave and Rubs ribs were very well behaved little guys.

It really does showcase the size of the dish when I haven’t even touched on the sides yet by this point of the post, however I don’t want to take any shine away from them. I have maybe had corndogs twice in my life as again very much like the poutine, they aren’t really something that has broken into the British culinary lexicon that often. A good example of the American carnival ‘anything on a stick’ attitude, the corn dog offers it’s participants a frankfurter that is deep fried in batter to create a breaded meat rocket on a wooden stick. Rub’s take on the corn dog is fluffy and almost decadent in it’s own way while also offering you some real variance away from the rest of the dish without being odd. It is certainly at home here but just allows you to go somewhere else for a quick minute… which is nice.

Poutine was very pleasant and the gravy just helps you continue on when you start to hit a wall in the third quarter of the platter. Trust the process as Joel Embiid says or in this case just trust the poutine. Onion rings were probably up there with my top 5 onions rings as they were full and fluffy unlike some the scraggly shit I have been served elsewhere in the past. Slaw was refreshing against the heavy nature of the meat and the corn was… yellow. Because I haven’t eaten it yet… because the meal beat me and I essentially brought home an entire further meals worth like I always do when I go to Rub.

We are a few years down the line since my first visit and it is good to see Rub still pumping in it’s original vein. The spirit has not died and neither has the quality of the food. They embrace challenges and change and even enforce some of their own by trying to ‘break the internet’ and some may criticise that or think it to be at the behest of the quality of their actual product, but it isn’t. Which has always really impressed me. We are in the age of social media where even your local butcher is putting something rogue on their A boards in the hope you will tweet it and it will drive more business (or in some cases on Mumsnet or Reddit and you get chased out of business..), Rub has embraced that and built a reputation around big, bold, brash statements and an experience that anybody with an ounce of adventure in them wants to be a part of. It’s always been a interesting ride watching how they develop and long may it continue. Birmingham loves you so just keep doing you, as it’s still working.

 

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Rub: New menu,new level

Rub: New menu,new level

It really has been too long since I wrote anything let alone worked with my friends at Rub smokehouse in Birmingham, so what better time to make a return than when they release a new and improved menu?

I had been fortunate enough to be asked back to have a look at the new additions last week, so I jumped at the chance to pay them a visit as it had been a while since I had been in and was keen to see what had changed. First impressions of the new line up were that it was clear that it retains the stalwart dishes from the last menu while adding some of the social media breaking specials that they have become so famous for like the ‘Pizza taco’ and the aptly named ‘Birthday burger’ which I will explain in detail later in the article. Glancing at the drinks menu the cocktail options always seem to be a wonderful addition to an already interesting and varied experience when eating at Rub, however this visit was my first time actually ordering one, something I will hold my hands up to as I am usually a sucker for a good beer… however they have me covered yet again, as they now even have their own line of beer’s brewed by West brewery in Scotland on the bar. Of course working for a brewery myself this is of particular interest to me.

I arrived at 7:15pm which was a touch early but nonetheless immediately seated and looked after by the restaurant manager Anya, who was a wonderful host that made sure we wanted for nothing during our visit. She pointed out a few of the new additions to the menu and gave her recommendations, including the previously mentioned Birthday burger and the new mountainous chicken wing dish (2kg’s in total!). Now we didn’t end up ordering this incredibly brave new burger option but I have seen it and it really is something to behold, upon first viewing it can look a little bit crazy or frivolous but in truth it represents innovation, fun and the pushing of boundaries of what you expect to be able to order in a restaurant on the average high street. I have touched on the fact previously that Rub are unapologetically , fun lovingly brash with heart and soul that backs up the sheer volume of good quality food dispatched through the pass of that kitchen and this is fully embraced with the Birthday burger. It contains 4 homemade beef patties, American cheese, smoked bacon, pulled pork, burnt ends, fried egg, mac’n’cheese topped with toasted marshmallows all layered between Victoria sponge as the substitute for bread. Mental. Inspired but utterly mental! Thoroughly born in the spirit of Rub and this was demonstrated in the dishes we ordered too.

The Pizza Taco

We took on the challenge of the Pizza burrito, Rub dog millionaire and the Pizza taco. Now the Rub dog is an original menu entry but we had never got round to it before so my partner ordered that and I opted for the two newbies. They arrived promptly and only lacked some form of dramatic sound track as they skimmed past my head when being placed on the table, instantly making an impression was the red metal frame of VW camper that the taco arrived in. Parked before me was a freshly baked pizza base, lined with pulled pork and filled with brisket, pulled chicken, iceberg lettuce, breaded prawns, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and smoked cheese. A powerhouse of culinary ambition and invention. I love smokehouse food and this is the end game as far as I am concerned. The prawns were light and juicy without being greasy, the slices of brisket came with a beautifully thin bark which imparts it’s smokey goodness onto the sour cream and guacamole, the pulled chicken is also stunning but the main problem with this dish is that there is so many amazing things within it it’s quite difficult to explain it… so it’s a good job I took notes! This can genuinely be eaten by two people but only can be tackled by one if you are a real hero but be warned it’s a seriously big ask, you wont go hungry either way. It is fitting that ti arrives in a car because this dish is quite the journey.

Lasagne Burrito

The Lasagne burrito is a much simpler dish but by no means something that should be underestimated. I have been cooking and eating Italian food since I was a child and a good lasagne really is the benchmark of success, you live and die by your lasagne. It’s all about the balance between each layer and no aspect within the lasagne should overpower another, creating an evenly layered, luxurious dish that almost melts in the mouth. Taking this into account I can openly say… guess what? nailed it. A velvety aromatic ragu hides within to create this beast of a fusion between the tradition and simplicity of Italy and the comfort food behemoth that is Mexico.The only difference between this and you’re Nan’s best Lasagne is this delicate pasta dish is then put to bed in a crunchy nacho wrap and served with fries and a side salad. It screams decadence and provides some very satisfying eating! Swap in the sweet potato fries for a real treat.

The Rub Dog Millionaire

Last but not least on the food front is the Rub dog millionaire. This is a real classic as far as the original menu goes and was one of the original social media hot potatoes that made such an impact when Rub first arrived on the scene in Birmingham. This horizontal mountain of a hot dog is made up of a half metre of smoked pork dog with caramelised onions, pulled pork, jalapeños, pickles and cheese served with BBQ beans and skin on fries. The sausage is the star of the show and has a delicate skin that gives a satisfying mouth feel and a subtle smoke flavour that permeates throughout this extensive railing of pork. However if you partner that with the silky pulled pork on it’s brioche base and the refreshing kick of the jalapenos followed by the sharp spike from the pickles you get a dish that doesn’t get bogged down by it’s own rich components. A great dish that still really holds up after all this time on the menu, which is clearly why it is still there.

Cocktails

Going back to the range of cocktails that I mentioned earlier, I ordered the Cooney island cooler – a fairground ride of a cocktail complete with Broker’s Gin, Fresh Strawberries, Cotton Candy Syrup, Lemon Juice & Vanilla Soda. Served with it’s rainbow cotton candy hat, when I saw the cocktail arrive it dawned on me that it is possibly the campest thing I have ever ordered… but incredibly fun when you see it for the first time! Becky ordered a Peanut butter jelly thyme – a marriage of Buffalo Trace, Thyme, Peanut Butter, Raspberry jam, White Chocolate Syrup, Lemon Juice & Whole Egg. Served with a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. I’m no expert on cocktails but they were really enjoyable, not being too strong or too sweet that it overpowers everything or has you on your back within the first few sips. The cooler was really fresh and I recommend this to cut through any big challenges the menu may send your way, whereas the peanut butter jelly thyme is a much richer addition and would compliment a sweet dish really well.

Rub Ruby Lager

BEER! I like beer. Most people like beer. I work in the beer industry and I talk about beer all day every day and I’m very lucky to be able to do it, which i feel leaves me well equipped to talk about it outside of work!  The last time I was able to get to Rub they had a few select beers on keg that fit their theme but this time I noticed on their bar they have added some of their own branded beers that have been brewed for them by the West brewery in Scotland. I went for the Ruby red lager which was decent to be fair. I am not a 100% committed lager drinker as I am a fully initiated Ale-ite so I always take some serious convincing when it comes to lager. I ordered a half as I was also on the Cooney island cooler throughout the meal but seriously, what is a mass of smoked meat without beer? Exactly my point… nothing! Upon receiving my half pint I took in it’s amber colour and it’s malty aroma, which was pleasant and appealing. Tasting reveals a rich, biscuit base flavour and lingering malty, caramel notes that dissipate into a mild earthy kind of bitterness. For a lager it feels very much like an ale in it’s application with it’s low carbonation and more complex set of flavours, especially when compared to the usual suspects in the category. I would recommend this one for those particularly heavy moments when you think you can’t quite finish that Birthday burger. Lock and load guys. It is a good entry into the world of beer for Rub but I would love to see what they have planned for the future as knowing these guys they won’t let anybody get too comfortable before they raise the bar again and add something else to their arsenal. Maybe a nice IPA or a smoked porter to mull over while I’m picking my dessert? Just a thought!

The Cookie Monster

Speaking of desserts… Two words to remember when ordering your after dinner treats. Cookie. Monster. This is the most deceiving thing I have ever ordered! We thought it would be really quite easy to hit between two of us and I was so… so wrong. I have officially dubbed this dessert the Tardis because I swear to god it is bigger on the inside. This gargantuan task of a sweet consists of (from the bottom) a cookie smeared with Nutella, a scattering of chocolate brownie, a large amount of vanilla ice cream, a crazy amount of melted marshmallow and another cookie, finished with another huge helping of Nutella. Doesn’t sound too much of a challenge on it’s own but please feel free to read the above again to see how much food I actually consumed and then reassess any judgement on my failure to finish it. I know I sound like a broken record but as puddings go this felt like it had been quite thoroughly thought about and was the result of a discussion that was along the lines of ‘how much of Rub can we translate into a dessert?’ and this really does translate so perfectly in its application. Another solid addition to an already stellar lineup all round really. Supremely fun and the epitome of true indulgence, as I mentioned earlier a dish like this could be paired with the peanut butter jelly thyme to create a wonderful match up as peanut butter is probably the only thing not in the dish!


In summary then, yet again the Rub team continue to push on into uncharted territory with some dishes while maintaining the quality (and quantity) that have made them such a successful and established restaurant in an area of Birmingham that provides some very worthy competition. The very presence of some of their dishes challenges the very essence of what seems acceptable while making you want to go with them on the journey. For instance, Heston and his incredibly detailed scientifically developed recipes are stunning in their execution and interesting to most but it completely alienates the common man. Rub manages to help everybody enjoy the ride while making food that little bit more intriguing to look at from a new perspective. You have to ‘get’ Rub and if you think it’s too far or not to do what they do it’s very much like a radio show, and like Chris Moyles often say’s, if you don’t like it don’t listen to it. Fortunately for Rub I would be happy to bet my last penny that most people pretty much love them for what they do, much like I do. Food should be this fun and it should be looked at as having no real boundaries, everything is fair gain in this day and age and these guys just totally understand that. If you don’t quite ‘get’ Rub yet then I would thoroughly advise you make an effort to get on board as your meal times will be all the richer for it.

A huge thank you to Sean, Anya and the team for looking after us.

Visit http://www.rubsmokehouse.com/ for details or to make a booking but don’t forget if you are in Birmingham city center you can also use the wonderfully convenient delivery service (provided by Deliveroo).


 

 

Jack Friday!

This week was a special week for Rub smokehouse and bar in Birmingham as there was a special event held on Friday night. To commemorate Jack Daniels birthday and the launch of ‘Jack Fridays’ Rub held an evening of specially created food and drink, including cocktails and an incredible feat of culinary ingenuity that I will cover a little later called the ‘Mac n Jack’ Burger.

I had promised my Fiance a night out a while ago as it seems to have been a while since we went out just the two of us and given the advert that popped up on my Facebook for Rub’s Jack Friday and the special relationship I have built up with them the past few weeks it seemed like the perfect option. So I booked a table for 8:45pm and rocked up ready to have a real feed, JD t-shirt being worn in the true spirit of the evening!

Broad street was buzzing by the time we arrived seemingly raring to go for a heavy weekend of bank holiday festivities and the high energy atmosphere as ever was carried with us and up into the lift into the restaurant which was heaving with patrons enjoying their hard earned Friday treats. We sat down and ordered a few drinks to whet our appetites before we got started and took a look at the menu, Becky ordering a corn dog out of pure intrigue while I pondered the many wonderful options available. Before long the drinks arrived and again in the spirit of the evening I went for a ginger beer with a single shot of JD’s finest, which seemingly did the trick to relax me after a long week.

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The corn dog was a really nice experience and again came quickly regardless of how busy they were which was great, not something seen regularly on these shores the Corn dog is a hot dog sausage coated in a cornmeal batter and deep fried. The result is a rich, crispy and indulgent little morsel that to be fair would go great as a side served with your food let alone a stater as it is billed, a great little appetizer all the same! For our main meals I naturally ended up going for the epic Mac n Jack as Becky chose the pulled pork platter.

Only when I saw a few of the Mac n Jack’s pass me by did I begin to worry about my capability to actually finish the damn thing! It was huge! A mountain of meat enriched with Tennessee’s famous exported whiskey and three wooden skewers holding it all back from gravity’s cruel and unforgiving attempts to bring it crashing down all over the serving tray. I was not waiting long before it was time to see for myself if I could manage this monolithic masterpiece and was presented with a tray containing the towering burger alongside a nifty little JD branded box containing my lightly spiced fries. The Mac n Jack burger is a coming together of two 6oz cheeseburgers, cooked with a JD ice cube on top of it to imbue with the whiskey’s deep flavours, their signature 16 hour slow Brisket with JD gravy, breaded macaroni cheese (Yes. breaded. macaroni. cheese. If I break it down into singular words its easier to process!) all pinned into a burger roll and garnished with a JD rubbed chicken wing.

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Now if you think its a mouthful when reading this then try eating it! It was a surprisingly fantastic balance of deep beefy flavours, rich and silky gravy with the crispy saltiness that comes from the crunchy breading and smooth insides of the macaroni and cheese cutting through the richness without being stodgy or overbearing. A real treat and something that I hope sticks around on their menu. I couldn’t possibly try and pick it up so I had to dismantle it using my trusty steak knife and break it down into parts, starting with the top part of the burn and using it as a vehicle for the wonderfully wilting beef brisket and slowly working my way through the first layer to get to the mac n cheese below.

Meanwhile Becky was enjoying her pulled pork platter, a rather decent helping of slow cooked pork shoulder served with two sides, her selections were the smoked cheddar mash and the corn on the cob. The pork was smokey and luxurious, with the hickory really coming through as a primary flavour and creating a perfect pairing with the smoked cheddar that was running through the mash. She seemed to really enjoy it but unfortunately she wasn’t able to finish it as she hasn’t quite got the glutinous resilience that I have stored beneath my relatively modest belt line, It was however willingly put into a takeaway box for us by a very helpful member of staff and enjoyed as part of lunch the next day.

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By this point the restaurant was starting to calm down and people were slowly disappearing to do whatever they usually do on a Friday night on Broad street, which for many I assume involved quite a lot more Jack Daniels than was on my table. Myself and my good lady however were sat waiting for me to complete Rub’s latest offering, by this point I was well into the 60z cheesburgers and the spiced Rub fries, which were a really strong aspect of the meal in their own right. Crispy on the outside and temptingly fluffy on the inside which were superbly complemented with a slathering of ketchup and French’s American mustard as most fries are.

Needless to say I didn’t finish the Mac n Jack, but as the trend that Rub seem to be developing since they opened in Birmingham goes, It was an incredibly satisfying experience that did not leave you wanting for more. An all encompassing combination of flavours and textures that leaves no stone of detail unturned, no craving unquenched and no belly empty. A great addition to an already stellar line up on the menu, only enhanced by the Jack Daniels party vibe. We finished the evening with a drink at the bar (Brewdog Punk IPA on tap. Don’t mind if I do!) and a quick watch of the band that was setting up for the evenings festivities. Unfortunately our parking time restraints did not allow us to see the whole gig however they sure looked the part and sounded great while they were starting up. I hope the gig went well for them as a bass player myself I can appreciate the hard working musicians of this world as well as the food.

So as ever Rub gave us a great night out with some great food and kept me busy while also reminding me that as greedy as I am, even I have my limits however much I would of loved to have polished off the Mac n Jack and gone again on another one. The staff were excellent in such a high pressure, busy environment and they kept everybody well looked after and happy as per usual. Great work as ever guys and I’m sure it wont be long before we see you again.

….Oh and Happy Birthday Mr. Daniels I am a big fan or your work!

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