If you’ve read any of our past reviews of Smoak, whether it’s been from their home at the Variety Bar or as part of the Street Food Cartel event, you’ll know that we’re huge fans of their food. These guys produce some of the best pulled pork, brisket and street food that you are likely to find in Glasgow and are only getting better. When Smoak announced via their Facebook page that they would be appearing at the ‘Sanctuary’ nightclub (formerly ‘BOHO’) on Dumbarton Road, we knew we had to check it out. Even more so once we also found out that they would be serving a fried chicken burger – the first burger ever to appear on Smoak’s menu.
We’re not going to go into details on the type of food that Smoak produces and their ethos. If you’re a long time reader of the site, you’ll already be familiar with their work. If not, you can check out our previous reviews here and here.
This experience was perhaps the first time since starting the website that we’ve left a venue both buzzing about the food, yet unbelievably disappointed with almost everything else. To sum up the experience, what we enjoyed was Smoak and their food, which as usual, was near flawless. On the flip side, Sanctuary itself, their staff and their service was beyond awful.
Let’s cover the good stuff first – this was easily the best chicken burger we’ve ever had. If you’re looking for the perfect chicken burger, Smoak are your guys. The chicken was fried in chorizo butter and topped with salad, chipotle mayo and paprika gravy on a toasted brioche. It was served in a basket and in terms of presentation, it was exactly as you’d expect from good quality street food. Taste-wise, as mentioned, it was pretty much perfect. The chicken was crispy, but the coating was extremely light. It gave off a very nice crunch and had a slightly smokey kick from the chorizo butter. Chicken can often be very dull and dry but this simply delivered flavour by the bucket load. It was moist and tender and everything a chicken burger should be. The chipotle mayo added plenty of strength to an already smokey taste and the paprika gravy helped add even more moisture, even though the burger would have been absolutely fine without it. The gravy finished the burger off perfectly and slowly trickled out of the bottom of the bun with each bite. Regardless of how in-depth we describe it, I’m not sure if it would be possible to convey just how good this burger actually was. Personally, I’m not the biggest fan of chicken burgers, but this one was up there with the best burgers I’ve had in Glasgow. Just delicious. At only £5, it was also fantastic value for money.
Unfortunately, the food is pretty much where the good stuff ended. Usually, we try not to focus on service and just let the food speak for itself. We would never really allow the service or venue to take away from an experience unless it was exceptionally bad. Well, this was sadly one of those occasions. When we arrived, we ended up sitting in the main bar area as the beer garden area was full. The beer garden was nicely set up and if we had sat there, perhaps we may not have found the setting as bad as we did. The rest of Sanctuary was made up of only three tables for customers to sit at and apart from the outside area, the rest was void of any atmosphere whatsoever and seemed very uninviting. The Sanctuary staff, who seemed to be more interested in standing around chatting or arguing over which songs to play in the bar, were almost non-existent at times. It seemed as if they wanted to be anywhere else but there. At one point, we sat waiting for drinks while one member of staff stood next to us, chatting to their friends who were sat at a nearby table while the others aimlessly wandered around doing pretty much nothing. We ended up sitting at our table for so long without any kind of service, drinks or our order being taken that we considered just leaving. We were obviously glad that we didn’t because the food was incredible, but overall, the service was beyond a joke. When we first arrived at the bar, I asked if it was possible to pay by card and was told that it was. When we got the bill, I asked if I could pay by card again and was told to just take my handwritten receipt to the bar. When I did, I was then told that the bill didn’t total enough money to pay by card. I obviously highlighted that I wasn’t told it had to be over a certain amount of money when I asked before ordering, but the member of staff simply told me that I’d have to go find a cash machine.
Again, we absolutely adore Smoak’s food and as mentioned, this was perhaps the best chicken burger we’ve ever had, but unless they brought in their own staff to run things, I very much doubt I’d go back to Sanctuary. None of the issues we had were with Smoak in any way. I’d much rather visit Smoak at Variety bar than go to this place again.
+ The best chicken burger we’ve ever had.
+ Fantastic value.
+ Chipotle mayo was outstanding.
+ Superb bun.
– Awful venue.
– Terrible, almost non-existent service from Sanctuary staff.
Have you tried this burger? Did you love it? If so, vote for it in the ‘Glasgow’s best burger’ award by clicking here.
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Smoak @ Sanctuary
59 Dumbarton Road