Sometimes when you go to a restaurant, you're not sure what to expect. Will you need to dress up? Is it gonna be fancy? Will there be three dozen pieces of cutlery to use in a strict protocol of etiquette? But sometimes what you hope for is exactly what you get. The name Grillstock promises music. It promises a good time. It promises BBQ sauce. Most of all, it promises lots and lots of meat. And boy does it deliver.
The first impression you get from the Smokehouse is the smell. The gorgeous, mouth watering aroma of BBQ wafting out of the door is enough to start you dribbling in anticipation before you even step foot inside. And once you do, you're greeted by an immense communal table constructed from railway sleepers and steel, and rock-a-billy music inspired by the festival. One of the walls is papered with pictures from the festivals and gleefully we could point out my brother who took part in the chicken wing eating contest this year.
The menu is very basic and split into BBQ plates where you can choose from various meats - pulled pork, beef brisket, chicken and ribs all served with a side of fries, slaw, cornbread and sausage. Yes, you heard that right. A side of sausage. It's the thing dreams are made of.
Next come the sandwich / hotdog / burger options including the awesome Lockjaw Burger - a beast of a thing consisting of burger patties, beef brisket, pickles and cheese which is so big it's held together with a knife (A KNIFE!) staked through the middle. Also available is the 'Grand Champion' - a gut busting dish of all four BBQ-ed meats with the usual sides plus BBQ beans (that also contain meat!) and burnt ends, the equivalent of BBQ gold in the form of the charred but flavoursome ends of the beef brisket. Finish it and you get a t-shirt and a bottle of sauce.
The four of us all went for a plate - two of us had the brisket, one had the pulled pork and the other opted for a half chicken. The food comes to you on a tray which adds to the no fuss charm of the place - our only complaint was that the paper the food rests on disintegrates after a while so you inevitably end up eating some of it but it's a small price to pay. All three meats were delectably soft - brisket was so meltingly soft, I could barely keep it on my fork without it falling apart and the pulled pork, unlike so many attempts at this dish by other restaurants, was flavoursome and very moist. I can't comment on the chicken as I didn't try any except for the fact that it too looked delicious.
The cornbread was sweet and dense and the sausage was smokey and moreish. The only thing I wasn't too keen on was the slaw - it provided a good crunch and change in texture but was a bit blah though I'm certainly not going to say it stopped me from enjoying my meal. I loved the BBQ sauce available in gigantic bottles spread across the table, especially the hot variety. It was piquant and vinegary and just the thing to cut through the sweet, sticky BBQ sauce. The portions were huge and I couldn't finish mine but nothing went to waste as Si & Jack cleaned my tray up for me.
The drinks ranged from bottled beer, hard liquor and American inspired floats as well as the novel option of beer served with shots of whiskey and pickle juice. Through research, the combination of Jamesons and picklejuice is called a Pickleback and is meant to be very tasty and peps up the taste of beer but no-one in our party fancied it on a Saturday lunchtime. However, we'll definitely be back. I want to get my hands on the ribs and I know that my brother would definitely want to attempt the Grand Champion.
There are a lot of restaurants in Bristol but I would say the Grillstock Smokehouse is in a world all of its own - one that embraces a no fuss, no nonsense atmosphere and concentrates on giving it's patrons the only thing a restaurant should concern itself with - a fully belly, a big smile and a good covering of BBQ sauce.