High quality US-style takeaway and street food has exploded in Glasgow in recent months. Since the launch of Buddy’s BBQ & Burgers along with Smoak @ Variety Bar in November of last year, hungry food fanatics have been going crazy for pulled pork sandwiches, good quality takeaway burgers and slow cooked ribs. Smoak recently announced that they’d acquired a food truck and that they would be touring Glasgow, dishing out hearty food to the public. They also announced that they would be turning the ground floor of the SWG3 building in Glasgow into a pop-up restaurant, where Glasgow’s public could enjoy fresh, quick food prepared from both Smoak & Scoop’s food vans that would be on-site. Entry would cost £5 and everyone would enjoy a free drink on arrival. After the event sold out in a matter of minutes, the guys decided to add a second night (which also sold out).
As you’ll probably already know from our reviews, we are huge fans of both Smoak’s food so we were very excited for this event!
As we wandered into SWG3, we were greeted with a large sign reading ‘STREET FOOD CARTEL’ with an arrow pointing to a door at the end of the long corridor. Inside, a large warehouse with rows of wooden tables, a bar area and two large vans which were already getting the cooking underway. The setting was unbelievably cool and immediately we said that this is exactly what Glasgow has been crying out for. These types of speakeasy style pop-up joints are all the rage in cities like London and Manchester and it’s about time Glasgow got in on the action. The entire warehouse filled up with mouth-watering aromas very quickly, which managed to mask the faint hint of fresh paint that we could smell when we first arrived. After being shown to our table, we received our free cocktail, which came wrapped in a brown paper bag, which was very cool.
After a quick glance at the menu, we placed our order. The menu states that dishes are for sharing and recommends three per person. Most of the dishes were priced at around £6 each, so rather than order three each, we decided to go for four to share between the two of us to start off with and see how we felt afterwards. We went for the Ox Cheek tacos, confit and pork belly lettuce wrap, the chicken slider and mac & cheese.
The ox cheek tacos were absolutely delicious. They came served with guacamole and sweet pickled onions with a spicy dressing. I loved the sweet and spicy combination and the meat was so tender that it fell apart quickly. The meat had a very rich flavour and the tacos were well cooked and had a light, slightly crispy texture.
The pork belly lettuce wrap came served with a sweet chilli dressing and while it tasted very good, it resembled more of a salad than a wrap. The meat was served on top of a bed of lettuce and yes, you’re supposed to build the wraps yourself, but we ended up just eating the dish with a fork with the dressing drizzled over the top.
The chicken slider was our favourite dish of the night. It was served on a mini brioche with bourbon dripping sauce and plantains. It was juicy, messy and the bourbon dripping sauce made it really shine with the smokey, intense kick that it delivered with each bite. The plantain that was served on the side was delicious and I’d have asked for another side of that alone if it had been on the menu.
The mac & cheese was the only dish that we really weren’t fans of. It was served with a brioche crumb over the top and while it didn’t taste bad, it was very runny and didn’t look all that appealing. When I think of mac & cheese, I think of hearty bowls of pasta covered in thick, stringy cheese with bacon – not pasta swimming in sauce on a paper plate. It tasted okay, but was the only dish that I had no desire to continue with after the first bite.
After we’d finished with the hot food, we considered ordering more of the main courses, but having already spent £22.50 on main courses alone, we went for dessert instead. Two desserts were on offer – a peanut butter parfait with jam sorbet and a white chocolate cheesecake with a rasberry and bourbon cranachan. Both desserts were £4 and since there were two of us, we decided to get both. The peanut butter parfait was absolutely incredible – I’ll go as far as to call it one of the best desserts I’ve had. The peanut butter was strong and the jam sorbet was enough to mellow it’s richness and bring the perfect balance to the food. We also loved the bourbon raspberry cranachan that was served with the cheesecake – it was very boozy and reminded me of eton mess a little. Overall, both desserts were flawless.
As you can tell, we absolutely loved the food, other than one disappointing dish. All of it was pretty much perfect; however, we did feel it was a tad on the pricey side for what it was. For example, the chicken slider, while excellent, cost £6 and that was for one slider. For £7, you can usually expect to get three sliders with a portion of fries at a bar or restaurant or for an extra £1 – £2 you could pick up a full size burger and a side pretty much anywhere. The tacos that Smoak usually serve are priced at £4.95 for 4. These were £6 for three. Yes, here you’re paying for the experience and the creative dishes; however, we would have perhaps preferred larger portions and possibly just one main dish and a side with the option to get more if you wanted to. Again, we’re not faulting the food at all – it was near perfect, but we just felt that for the price, the portion sizes were a little small. On top of the entry fee, we spent £22.50 on main courses and another £8 on dessert – a total that would have been higher if we’d followed the menu and ordered three main courses each.
In summary, the food was, for the most part, absolutely fantastic but it was just a little too expensive. I’d have rather had a full size version of the chicken slider or a couple of larger tacos instead of several small sharing plates. We already can’t wait for the next event that these guys put on – the whole concept is absolutely fantastic as was the atmosphere and something that Glasgow has been crying out for. To add to that, the food is fantastic too and will only improve in the future as the guys iron out any kinks and take on board any customer feedback.
Overall, a great experience.
+ Great concept & location.
+ Near flawless food, for the most part
+ A breath of fresh air in Glasgow’s dining scene
– A little expensive.