Thursday, 17 April 2014

Bluegrass BBQ, High Wycombe

While I can get some awesome North Indian curries, enjoy a roast and a bitter in front of the fire in a a plethora of smashing country pubs and even get authentic wood-fired pizza that would make a Neapolitan jealous, Buckinghamshire has never been on the barbecue trail.

Which is why I read a story promising authentic American 'cue, printed last year in the local rag, with suitable amounts of derision and depression. To be fair, the story seemed so ripe for parody it would have been hard to invent; the opening of a new BBQ shack, owned by a Brit who had been to Texas, that was replacing the 'Ladies and Gentleman's club' (sadly, it's real name) on the back streets of High Wycombe. 

The story also reported Bluegrass would be kitted out with 'American vintage wall art, booths, a wooden shack counter and metal chairs... all juxtaposed next to a Tudor wall painting dating back to 1590/1600'. The food would be served on trays, and included jacket potatoes. I cried a tear of anticipatory despair.

So how great it was to be completely and comprehensively wrong; not only is Bluegrass serving true 'cue, it's also pretty damn smokin'.

Yes, there are jackets, but they are cooked in the smoker and loaded with meat, slaw or pit beans. The, all British, meats are all slow smoked for 48 hours and the team includes the only non-American Grand Champion of the Jack Daniels Invitational BBQ contest. As the websites states, that's a pretty big deal. 

And while, it's true, there's nothing revelatory, and very often lots that's depressingly derisory, about food piled in enamel dishes and tables loaded with rolls of paper towels, the heart and passion here proves this is more than some provincial bandwagon-jumping covered in a sheen of sugary sauce.

If sugary sauces happen to be your thing, then fear not as Bluegrass has standard ketchup and Kansas sticky bbq crowd pleasers. They also make their own spicy Louisiana sauce, a mustard-y Carolina sauce and a tommato-y Tennessee number. A side of the dirty mayo that they slather on their burgers is also a must for dipping your fries or, very good, onion rings.

Of course the real draw is the meat. Ribs are very good; crusty and yielding in equal measure, with a glowing pink smoke ring to assure you this is the real deal. Decent skin on fries come in stupidly large portions alongside, although I could always do with more of their vinegar slaw.

The brisket, my least favourite, is a touch dry for my taste, although I've yet to try it heaped on a burger, where I feel the double beefy hit would really shine. The burnt ends are better, get the beef combo to try both.

The pulled pork is great; thick juicy chunks of meat, singing with fat and smoke and ready to be sauced which ever way you chose. I'm also holding out for some real Texas style hot guts - smoked and served in a bun would would be good, chaps - although they do serve an English style sausage in a sub, topped with battered onion bits, alongside deli sandwiches and sliders.

The burgers are also worth a shout out; 'reverse seared - smoked precisely and finished on the char grill', these patties are smoky, deep and compact and work best with a good pile of shredded pork, onion rings, pickles, and dirty mayo for lubrication. Meat fiends can go with the Pit Boss, which adds brisket, cheese and bacon to the mix.

Puddings, if you get that far, are home made and even come in handy trays so you can take home the leftovers. Both the Oreo and Hershey Salted Caramel Pie and the Reese's Peanut Butter Cheesecake are as thoroughly wicked as they sound, and are worth every gloriously claggy calorie.

Of the trio I've yet to try the Key Lime Pie, but I have tried the Stewart's Key Lime soda. The height of bottled sugary artificiality, and quite delightful. There's also Jelly Belly and Jolly Rancher sodas, root beer and craft beer, although the the bottles of Dixie on my last visit could have been a few degrees cooler.

It may not be hard (the nearest recent competition coming from discovering local purveyors to keep me in supplies of both Mint M&Ms and potato vodka - not from the same shop, sadly), but Bluegrass ranks up there with one of the best things to happen to Wycombe for a while. 

While that might sound like being damned with faint praise, I've eaten plenty of barbecue recently and this place stands toe to toe with the best I've sampled on these shores. You also get to wash your rib-glazed hands post-feast in these snazzy metal pails, complete with oil can soap dispensers; almost worth getting sticky fingers for.

Bluegrass BBQ on Urbanspoon

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