Barbecue no longer has to mean blackened burgers, scorched sausages and your dad’s God complex coming to the fore over a bag of charcoal from the supermarket.
Southern Eleven, which opened in July this year and is located in the modern Spinningfields, promises its diners a ‘new style American BBQ experience’ with ‘home-style favourites reinvented with a contemporary twist’. Visiting as part of a family meal, we arrived twenty minutes early and were encouraged to sit at the bar and try out some of their extensive drinks menu. Beers, wines and soft drinks are followed with the option to ‘mix your own cocktail’ – upon picking your favourite tipple you are given the ingredients, ice and a shaker to enable you to assemble your drink yourself. Half of our party regarded this as an excitingly interactive feature, while the others saw it as a lazy ploy on behalf of the bar staff.
When shown to our table in the small dining area we were offered a selection of ‘while you waits’ (smoked nuts, olives, tortilla chips, chicken wings and so on) but our wait at the bar had allowed us to decide on mains so we ordered straight away. The menu is based largely around meat, which is, of course, barbecued. Pulled pork, beef brisket, short ribs and spatchcock chicken jostle for place against traditional Southern sides of cornbread, macaroni cheese and coleslaw. Vegetarians are not massively catered for here: while there are a couple of choices including salads (butternut squash sounded particularly good) and hot potatoes with various toppings, all of the main plates contain meat. Luckily enough, our party were all meat-eaters and rather hungry, so we ordered a wide selection. The food arrived promptly and looked exciting, served on wooden boards with fries in buckets and coleslaw in jars. The pot of tangy barbecue sauce which comes with almost every dish is served with an accompanying brush to paste it onto your ribs or slabs of pork or beef. Particular highlights of our order seemed to be the brisket: rubbed in the ‘S11 mystery mix of herbs and spices’ and cooked low and slow for up to twenty hours it is mouth-wateringly succulent, and the deep-fried pickle spears in their crispy batter were a surprising success. Desserts followed: Knickerbocker Glories satisfied with creamy ice cream, nuts, fruit and chocolate brownie pieces.
Overall it was an extremely successful family meal: the atmosphere was pleasant, while the restaurant is small it feels homely and warm, the service was fine and the food excellent. Value was also good as we happened to have a 40% off voucher thanks to one of the voucher books given out at the start of the year (otherwise mains range from £7.50 to £15.95). If your Freshers’ Fair loot is hidden under a pile of essays or books I would encourage you to get it out, find the voucher and go down to Southern Eleven to avoid your next barbecue experience being one of drizzle, paper plates and too much tomato ketchup.