Move over Old Monk – there’s a new cowboy in town. Welcome to Longhorns Barbecue Smokehouse, the ‘low and slow’ food arm of The Head of Steam bar in the former Old Monk on Norfolk Street.
The venue opened in April and has been tempting punters with dishes such as the ‘Bigass Beef Rib’ and ‘Memphis Hog Butt’ since.
If you’ve got a healthy appetite then whoa cowboy – or girl – you’re in the right joint.
And this isn’t a dreary bar in a dead-end town. The interior of this majestic, listed building – a lasso’s throw away from the Crucible and Lyceum theatres – has been transformed into a carnivore’s paradise, complete with a bar so well-stocked the drinks menu emulates War and Peace. This ‘island’ bar is the focal point of the venue.
As assistant manager Liam Sanderson points out, its location means that no matter where you’re sitting, you’re only a few paces from a beverage.
“It’s been well received in all honesty and if people don’t want to be too close to all the action then there’s somewhere cosier to sit too,” says Liam.
We opt for a booth with a solid wooden table, lit by oversized suspended bulbs, and mull over the menu. Meat eaters will drool over belly-busting ribs, wings, patties and brisket.
I wouldn’t recommend taking a dieter or a vegetarian – or, worse, a vegetarian dieter – but there is a house veggie option of a three bean chilli Sloppy Joe.
I choose Creole batter-fried shrimp with sweet potato fries, while he goes all out with a BBQ meat board – chicken wings, ‘Badass’ brisket, Andouille sausage, house ’slaw and three-bean chilli. We’re here for the full-on, belly-busting experience so we order ‘Pit Boss’ fries too – seasoned with salsa and jalapenos, smothered with Montery Jack cheese. It’s filthy – in a good way.
The mountainous pile of battered shrimps is well-seasoned, with a crispy coating over fresh, melt-in-the-mouth prawns. And the board is a masterpiece; tender meat cooked just right and generous portions.
You can tell the chefs care.
It’s easy to assume a pile of food served on a baking tray would be thrown together – but they’ve paid attention to detail, right down to evenly-sliced components of the salsa.
Longhorns cares about its food, too, and knows exactly where it comes from: their own ranch in Northumberland. It is rubbed with spices before being smoked over hickory for up to 24 hours.
“Longhorns raise the meat and prepare everything themselves”, said Liam. “Even the sauces are homemade. It’s very good food.”
It’s not badly priced either. Our monstrous meal, with two alcoholic drinks, came to under £40.