Last October there was a unique first Tweat up event. I don’t mean a first in that it was a ‘Tweat Up’, in actual fact that event was Tweat Up number four. The actual UK Chilli Stand Off that took place was a first. A huge success that brought forth the current champion Carl Clarke AKA Disco Bistro. I also got to meet Mark Gevaux: AKA The Ribman that day and since then have been very grateful to him for all of his famous #holyfuck hot sauce that I use on my Billy Franks Holy F*ck Beef Jerky.
On April 28th this year, almost exactly 6 months since the above mentioned Tweat Up, they did it again! No, not another chilli off but a very similar styled food fest, this time called #RIBSTOCK. An event of ‘porkposturus size fielding 10, yes TEN of London’s top BBQ/meat specialist. Unfortunately Carl (who also did February’s @CornishGrill – Who Killed Bambi? Carl Clarke Disco Bistro Killed It – Cornish Grill Style) was not a contender this time but he did join me, along with his wife, Noshable Adam (he’s a lucky boy as Lauren suddenly remembered she had a hen party to go to and so couldn’t make this) & Victoria Stewart plus many others (about 600 I believe with 4,000 more who failed to get tickets!) for a wonderful fun day of eating and drinking in the Soho rain in order to decide who will win the title of ‘Great British Rib Champion 2012’. The contest was to be hosted by the suitably named, Richard Bacon. All credit for the idea and planning goes to Mark and JD, without them this would never of happened and many people would not have had to chance to gorge on quality ribs.
The exact Soho rain of this meat-mad event fell upon St. Anne’s Churchyard. The churchyard is a large area that housed a big centrally located tent that protected the voters from the typical British elements. The ten competitors each had their own individual cooking/BBQ stalls split with five on the north end and five on the south. There was an entrance from the west and on the east end there were bars, again under covered area, housing the cocktail specialist of Milk and Honey and London craft beer wonders Beavertown, Camden Town Brewery and Meantime Brewing Co. There was also a California ‘Cristal’ stall #FIZZSTOCK with Silas and @legslonglength and a VIP area. Guests could also pop around to the overlooking ‘Century Club‘ if and when they needed a comfort break. This was also the venue for the after party later that night.
At the back of the central tent was another stall, this time hosting the separate Hot Sauce Competition. There were 6 of the best hot sauces for a blind taste test and just like at last year’s UK Chilli Stand Off, huge boxes of Chilango’s Mexican chips to eat along with said sauces.
RIBSTOCK 2012 @St. Annes Churchyard, Soho. Chefs from and including…
Well there they all are, ‘on paper’ so to speak, but just note that Jeff was only asked to enter the competition a few days before as originally billed to compete was John Cadia: Goodman .
Now let me tell you about the food itself!
Mark Gevaux: The Ribman
Upon our entry to the evnet we did a quick right and found Mark with his usual array of ribs slowly cooking away, rolls being filled to bursting point and of course lashings of his Holy F*ck hot sauce Today it also included the one off ‘Christ on a Bike’ super hot version specially concocted for the event. Mark’s ribs are not unknown territory. I have eaten them morning, noon and night, quite literally (the morning rolls include an egg and my aptly thought up name of the ‘Holy Cluck’). Anyway they are always of the highest quality, soft, succulent and moist meat taken from the bones of the Mark’s baby back ribs. The roll was soft and fluffy and absorbed all of the delicious porky juices and thick dollops of ‘Christ on a Bike’ Holy F*ck sauce
Always the same – never a shame!
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★★ ★★
Jeffrey Roxas-Green: Redhook London
Well what can we say about Jeff. An unknown to some and as mentioned earlier, a last minute sub coming on for the withdrawn Goodman. Hailing from my own manor of EC1, I have had the fortune of meeting Jeff a few times as well as tasting some of the delights on offer at www.redhooklondon.com.
These ribs were proper ribs. They were, in my eyes and according to my taste buds, how ribs should be with a charcoaled crisp outer layer and juicy soft meat that falls off with each bite. There was an optional squirt of BBQ sauce that was tangy and spicy sweet. Additionally there was a shot of some homemade Bloody Mary and then a BBQ prawn to boot! Surf n Turf style Oh and a wonderfully crisp, tangy slaw that had, in Jeff’s own words “red onion, coriander, lime, honey, sesame oil, red peps, salt pepper and lots of love…and pineapple”!
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★★★ ★
Ben Denner: Lucky Chip | Slide bar
Moving around anti-clockwise through the ‘chef circle’ we found ourselves at Ben’s haunt. Ben has a few haunts these days selling his amazing ‘Hollywood’ themed burgers. You can find him at the Sebright Arms pub, Nettle Market and soon in Soho’s new Slider Bar. My favourites from last year can be read in my post Lucky Chip: My Top 3 2011. Ben was also in last year’s Chilli Off but due to blind testing and the chefs not being on hand, his dish didn’t get the justice it deserved. This time around however, 100% redeemed and in my books delivered the best ribs of the day! Even with a potential 7 more ribs to try I knew this was going to be very hard to beat. In fact at first the ribs weren’t ready, but all good things come to those who wait: and I waited a couple times getting to the end of the queue and then just missing out. Persistence paid off though and later on in the day Ben had probably the biggest queue that I have ever seen, besides maybe the ones outside IKEA on a bank holiday Monday with a sale on!
The ribs were enormously fat, almost the size of a man’s fist. The meat just fell off with ease and the under belly ribs used provided the sweetest, juiciest fat I’ve had in a long time. The meat was incredibly tasty and Ben had been up for hours creating his ribs in sauce and then vac packing them closed right up until cooking time. Bravo mate.
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★★★ 1/2 1/2
Sebastian La Rocca: Barbecoa
Diving for cover from the rain we switched it up for now and headed through the ‘dining room’ to check out what some of the other chefs had on offer. I had already noticed a few people eating these ribs and instantly darted forth with my nose leading the way through smoky waves to find Barbecoa. At the helm was Sebastian La Rocca and his army of helpers. These ribs that I had seen around on people plates were chunky and smothered in a dark sauce with fresh chillies and coriander leaves too. I thought I would love this one a lot!
Unfortunately, as good as the meat was, the extremely sweet thick covering of sauce left me a little disappointed. Even the hotness from the fresh chillies, spring onions and aromatic twist of coriander didn’t break down the rather sickly sugariness. I will definitely be heading over the restaurant soon www.barbecoa.com though to try more as the quality of meat and cooking was spot on.
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★ ★★★
Moving over to the other chef called Ben, this time Mr. Spalding, I had huge hopes and was anticipating his take on ribs more than most. As the ex-chef of Roganic, where I had just annihilated the new menu a couple days before, and the bookies favourite, I was very excited indeed for these ribs.
Alas it was not to be. Maybe I was unlucky, but after receiving a very large rib on my plate I soon found it was really mostly all bone. The little meat that was attached stayed firmly fixed and was more of an effort to bite off than one would hope. The sauce had great flavour but I wasn’t here for a ‘Sauce off’. Still, I know Ben’s reputation and am looking forward to him opening his own restaurant soon.
Will Yums = ★★★★★★ ★★★★
Andy Annat: British BBQ Champion
Staying over in the North West corner of the churchyard I spotted the self proclaimed ‘International BBQ Crackerjack’ that is Andy Annat. This guy is ‘BBQ 24/7′ and looking at the delivery of cut ribs on a large chopping board ready for punters to take one away, I was salivating at the sight. The ribs looked amazing. They were glossy, wet, sticky and downright dirty. I grabbed one quick sharp, just as I noticed I’d cut in front of a very large queue of people waiting. Like a stealth ninja (in my black rain coat) I grabbed a rib, got my card stamped, dropped off a bag of jerky in exchange and was off.
Wow, these were really good ribs indeed. I can see why this guy is a champion in his field, or pit. You can tell the ribs had been brined for a while (or at least I think they had) before the marinating of spices and the cooking of a pro delivered me this great tasting rib piece. The meat fell off as it should. It was a beautifully pink colour and the fat content, although slender, was deliciously big. Great sauce and great ribs!
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★★1/2 ★ 1/2
Lukas Lakomiec: Opera Tavern/Salt Yard Group
Not much to say here. After just a couple hours they had no ribs left. Massive disappointment and huge schoolboy error in judgement meant many people left without the treats of Opera Tavern’s offering. Well not exactly true, just that of a porky offering as there was lovely chocolate cake and shots of single barrel Jack Daniels as a consolation. In fact, after six servings of sweet, spicy, smoky ribs – it was a welcome break. However, I’d much rather of had Lukas’ ribs.
Will Yums = ★★★★★ ★★★★★
Red Dog Saloon
Coming over from the east and reppin’ the west(ern) ‘Authentic American BBQ’ on Hoxton Square, these guys can cook ribs. They boast award-winning hickory smoked ribs and ‘the best wings’ in London on their website www.reddogsaloon.co.uk (my favorite are at Meat Liquor: Believe The Hype). I was looking forward to trying the 16hr smoked ribs in their award winning hickory and mesquite wood smoker from across the pond that I’d read about, oh and they’re said to be St Louis style too! My favourite! See my review Join The Queue,The Pitt Cue (Co).
So I took myself a nice rib, freshly carved off the rack and sank my teeth in. Really good, very smoky and tangy too. The guys were really friendly and seemed to enjoy the free bags of jerky I handed out. The rib didn’t last long, surprisingly after I’d had so much to eat but it was tasty and before I knew it the bone was bare. That in itself is a great compliment and with the restaurant not far from my flat I am definitely heading over there soon for more.
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★1/2 ★★1/2
Two rib stalls left to visit and the penultimate was the guys from Cattle Grid. I have to say I have not heard of them, but I won’t forget them that’s for sure, and for all the right reasons. Cattle Grid have restaurants in London, Windsor and in Leeds and so were being billed as Ribstock’s official North of England entry. Check them out at www.cattlegridrestaurant.com
Carl’s wife and I both got plated up and unfortunately she drew the short straw, or rib in this case, but I got a huge portion. Fat ribs submerged and wielded into a meaty mass of porky pig. The meat took a little bite and tear to come off but was no real effort at all. Proper mouthfuls of meat too on my three piece. There was no mass of sticky sauce and that was something I liked a lot. Not sure when I’ll ever be in Leeds, maybe if we get them in the cup one season I’ll pop in for a feed on an away day trip, but for now, I think I’ll head down to the London base sometime soon.
Will Yums = ★★★★★★★1/2 ★★1/2
David Rood: Cabana
Now Cabana is a place I have eaten before. There is a venue near my office at St Giles next to Byron hamburgers, and if anyone knows me they know I have had a few of them in my time. In fact I once technically ate 14 in only 11 days and you can read about that during The Movember 2011 ‘Gizz-Mo’ Byron Hamburger Reward Challenge. Anyway back to Cabana, a Brazilian joint in the heart of central London, they do like their meat and lots of it.
The ribs were actually similar to the previous ones that Cattle Grid had served up. Well, in terms of size and structure, however these did have a sauce added. I am not sure why, for me it kind of ruined what would have been an excellent entry. In the end the sauce, as tasty as it was, should of been served on a plate of spaghetti rather than a BBQ treat. I have a feeling their entry in the hot sauce competition was actually number 5 but that’s all I’m saying about that – I’ll let the conspiracy theorist amongst you worry about that.
Well I managed to eat 9/10 different ribs and missing out on the 10th was not my fault, so I was very happy indeed. After many more of the wonderful cocktails on offer and deliberation with my fellow pork munching peers I decided to go cast my vote. It was a very tough call and I was torn between a few. I loved the traditional rib of Redhook, especially with its bloody mary, prawn and slaw extras but I also had a huge admiration for Andy Annat and his expert BBQ number. In the end, however, I voted elsewhere and Ben, whom I’ve got to know since the Chilli Off last year, came through on top. He was definitely my personal favourite, just. In fact most people I spoke to were all in similar predicaments about which of these three to choose from.
The results were soon announced with the porky named Mr Bacon and in fact Ben came a gallant second. The winner though was Jeffrey Roxas-Green from my local seafood and steak house, Redhook London. A great result really considering when we spoke only earlier in the week he was not even sure if he would be there, but thankfully for everyone at Ribstock he put on his white kit and came off the bench to deliver the winning goal.
Well done indeed Jeff and if you don’t need those Porsche knifes I’ll take them off you to cut up some Billy Franks