It’s no secret that Smoak have been producing some of the best quality food that Glasgow has to offer for some time now. We’ve reviewed Smoak previously on the website, as part of our off topic ‘All Burger’d Out?’ section, but had never actually gotten around to trying one of their burgers until now simply because they haven’t always been readily available. At Smoak, the food itself has never been an issue; however, I’ve always felt that the guys had struggled to establish a solid identity simply due to not having a permanent, established location of their own. Smoak started out in the Variety Bar on Sauchiehall street, which is a great venue, but very limited in terms of what food the guys could produce. Then they moved to the; quite frankly, terrible ‘Sanctuary’ venue in the West End, which seemed like more of a fit for a greasy, post-clubbing, walk-of-shame kebab than it did for the fine food produced by Smoak. The guys made appearances at the Street Food Cartel event too, which always went down a storm, yet I still hoped that they’d find a good base of operations in Glasgow where they could really establish the Smoak brand. After a recent visit to Smoak’s new home at Pivo Pivo in Glasgow, I’m pleased to say they appear to have found that place.
Located just seconds from Glasgow Central Station, Pivo Pivo is a basement venue offering great beer and live music. I’ve always found the staff to be super-friendly and the bar to be the type that welcomes just about anyone. Whether it’s office workers, students or families, there’s always a diverse crowd in Pivo Pivo. Smoak’s brand and food does indeed feel like a good fit for the venue and it was nice to see a huge, prominent banner at the top of the entrance to the bar. For the first time it really did feel like I was walking into ‘Smoak’ and not a Smoak pop-up at yet another random bar. The venue may not be run by the guys at Smoak, but their set up at Pivo Pivo feels different than any of the others that they’ve had in the past. From their new home, Smoak can now serve up burgers every day and there’s a plenty on offer here. We decided to go for the ‘Porky’s Revenge’ and ‘Umami’ burgers, although it wasn’t an easy choice. The poutine and hot dogs also caught our attention!
The ‘Porky’s Revenge’ consists of a beef patty topped with smoked pulled pork, emmental cheese, candied bacon, slaw, onions, lettuce, tomato and Smoak’s own burger sauce on a toasted brioche bun. As you can see from the photos, it’s certainly one of those burgers that makes you sit up and take notice when it arrives at the table. The burgers are served open here, so you can see everything that’s on there before you start eating and the first thing that caught my eye was how good the pulled pork looked. Admittedly, I’ve become a bit bored with pulled pork – it appears on just about every burger in the city and is usually swimming in sauce. When pulled pork is done right; however, it’s absolutely delicious and can add a lot to a burger. Thankfully, this is pulled pork done the right way. Juicy, tender, full of flavour. You can actually taste the pork, rather than just barbecue sauce and it makes such a difference. The patty itself was the stand-out part of this burger. Have you ever eaten a really good burger only to have your hands still smell like beef several hours later? Well that’s exactly what I got with this burger. Served medium, the clearly hand-made patty delivered an extremely rich taste and was so tender that a light press of a fork was enough to begin to break it apart. It had a great, charred taste and appearance, without being burned and the cheese began to melt further into the patty with each bite. If you like your burgers smokey, then this is the one for you. The seasoned beef along with the powerful flavour of the pork was simply sensational. As you may be able to see from the photo below, tucked away underneath the pork was the candied bacon. If you’ve never tried candied bacon before then you’re missing out. This was as crispy as my pale arms in the summer sun, nicely caramelised and it offset the intensity of the other meat, without being too overbearingly sweet. The slaw and salad provided a nice, crunchy texture to finish it all off.
The brioche bun was soft, fresh and lightly toasted. It didn’t taste of bread that had been frozen and for the most part, it held this massive burger together well. It did get a little messy towards the end; however, but that was simply due to the amount of juices that were being soaked up by the bottom half of the bun. The same bun was used on the Umami burger, which didn’t break apart at all. The ‘Porky’s Revenge’; however, is a big, big beast and you just need to accept the fact that you’re going to get messy.
The size of the burger may be too much for some. I was pretty full before I got to the end of it. There’s actually an even bigger burger on the menu – the ‘Guadeloupe Peak’, but as far as big burgers go, this was more than enough for me. I know that many love big, food challenge-style burgers but this is more than enough to fill up just about anyone. If anyone orders and defeats the ‘Guadeloupe Peak’ though, please get in touch and send in a photo!
Admittedly, I wasn’t too sure about the Umami burger when ordering. Consisting of a beef patty topped with gruyere, tomato, mushroom ketchup, ‘beefonnaise’ and a portobello mushroom on a brioche bun, I ordered it more out of curiosity than anything else. The idea of a mushroom on a burger isn’t something I’d normally find very appealing – and I like mushrooms. I find that they have a very distinct flavour that possibly wouldn’t work well on a beef patty with cheese, bread and burger sauce. Despite my reservations, this recipe simply just works well. I had imagined a massive mushroom crammed on top of the beef patty, but it wasn’t intrusive in any way. It actually worked very well with the aged gruyere, which packed quite a powerful punch. An unusual burger, but one that very much surprised me. Much like the ‘Porky’s Revenge, the beef patty was beautifully cooked and was still the prominent flavour, despite a very strong cheese and the presence of the mushroom. In contrast to the first burger, this was one that you could hold in one hand and not make a mess with. A very laid back, easy going dish.
My only issue with the Umami burger was that I wasn’t really able to taste the ‘beefonnaise’ and wasn’t really sure what it actually was. There was quite a lot going on and I wasn’t really sure if what was dripping from the burger was supposed to be the ‘beefonnaise’ or just juices from the well cooked patty. I’d have preferred this to have been a little more emphasised, but that didn’t really take away from what was an excellent burger. All burgers are served with fries cooked in beef dripping & buttermilk slaw.
It may have taken them a while to really establish their identity in Glasgow, but Smoak are undoubtedly producing some of the best burgers in Glasgow and from a really great venue. The guys are working on opening their very own restaurant in the near future and from what we can tell, things are only looking up at Smoak. I just regret not ordering the poutine or frozen peanut butter & banana cheesecake too!
+ Delicious, well cooked patty.
+ Some of the best pulled pork in Glasgow.
+ Candied bacon was delicious.
+ Umami burger was unusual, but worked well.
+ Good bun. Very light & nicely toasted.
– The ‘Porky’s Revenge’ may be too big and messy for some.
– Wasn’t really able to taste the ‘beefonnaise’.
LEGAL / COPYRIGHT INFORMATION James vs. Burger Photography by Pamela Graham is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Based on a work at http://www.jamesvsburger.com.