There's Barbacoa, Jamie's central London restaurant with Adam Perry Lang and an on site butchery, there's also a further raft of restaurants round the capital, such as Bodean's - not to mention the various street carts and pop ups adding to the mix.
To show we're not slow on the uptake, Manchester now has it's own homage to the BBQ phenomenon in the shape of Southern11, in not one, but two locations. There's a small offering at the Arndale food market, but the main event happens in Manchester's glorified capitalist centre; Spinningfields.
It's a genuine surprise when you go somewhere and see one thing and experience something completely different. At Southern11 it was luckily a good surprise. The interior is shiny shiny new new and feels like it's trying to cosy up to the city types lunch crowd, the presentation is all chopping boards, buckets for chips and kilner jars. I'd usually consign this to the flashy gear, no idea list of establishments that unfortunately pull in the millions through style over substance; Southern11 is somewhat different. It is a little flashy, but the food and the service are spot on.
Southern11's mission is 'hospitality the Southern way,' serving BBQ foods cooked in the traditional way (they even have traditional Oklahoma smokers supplied from the only UK guy to win the Jack Daniel's cook off) and believe in sourcing quality produce from local suppliers.
The boy chose the Hickory Wood Smoked Belly Ribs after eyeing up several other coming out of the kitchen. When the dish arrived the meat fell off the bone and you could taste the sweet licks of hickory smoke; the meat to bone ratio was very favourable and even left enough for me to steal. The only downside to the dish was the fries, a but flabby but the homemade BBQ sauce made up for that.
Hickory smoked belly ribs replete with brush for BBQ sauce
I ordered the pulled pork; soft, juicy and very sweet. The side of jalapeno cornbread added and welcome spice to cut through the dish, and wasn't overly sweet like American cornbread can be (thankfully!). Homemade slaw was crunchy and fresh, made with only a smattering of mayo so no horrible sludgy pile to plough through. The dish was a little small compared to the boy's ribs, but at £8.95 I wasn't expecting a whole pig.
Pulled pork and jalapeno cornbread
Southern11 is a mixed bag. Looking and feeling akin to a higher-end chain restaurant with a very affordable menu, they seem to really care about good food, good service and good quality produce. Hopefully this good food, low costs ethos will catch on else where, as usually the mere whiff of 'rare breed' bumps the price up to £20 or more.
I'm not sure how authentic Southern11 is as I've never been to the deep south and have a feeling the BBQ shacks don't serve Parmesan truffle fries and are a little more rustic with food hygiene coming second to taste. However Southern11 do great things to meat and are a fresh breath for Manchester's culinary scene. You're not going to find fireworks here; but well cooked, honest food and lovely staff are winners in my book.
Ps - the bar is super well stocked and they do cocktails too.
Pps - Southern11 has really great toilets, but has really confusing toilet door signs.
Price for two mains and two bottles of beer - £26
Food - 7/10
Service - 7/10
Atmosphere - 7/10
Value for money - 8/10
Total - 29/40
Go again - Yes it's brilliant for a relaxed, informal meal at little cost.
Southern11, Unit 26, 3 Hardman Street, Spinningfields, Manchester M3 3EB - 0161 832 0482 - firstname.lastname@example.org