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BBQ Collective at The Hop

The Hop

The Hop in West One is one of a series based in Yorkshire, with other venues based in York, Wakefield and Leeds. Run by Ossett Brewery, their focus is real ale and live music.

I had never been in The Hop before this point. It was just somewhere that wasn’t on my radar. All I knew about it was that the food theme was predominantly pies. Well, that has all changed along with a refurb in mid-August and now the BBQ Collective are in residency in the kitchen. I was invited to try out the food and I was intrigued to try the promised authentic American-style BBQ.

Once inside, you feel that American bar vibe with the decor and memorabilia. There’s a large seated area around the bar and stage and more room upstairs. We found ourselves a table, a bit near a loudish speaker, so pick carefully if you want a quiet evening, but the music added to the ambiance.

 The Kitchen

The menu reflects the BBQ ethos of ‘slow and low’ cooking and all smoking is done on site using a custom-made American smoker. There are ribs, brisket, Texas hot link sausages from Beeches, and buttermilk fried chicken, amongst other classics.

You can watch chef Jeffrey Wright at work in the open kitchen and he gave us his recommended dishes to try to get a decent taste of the BBQ flavours. When we ordered, I had this niggling feeling that we had ordered enough for six people between two.

We started with hush puppies, ordered out of curiosity as I’d never heard of them. They were described to us as deep-fried cornmeal and they come as a sharing portion. For £4, you get a generous amount. They were golden and crisp on the outside with a soft, light, almost cake-like texture inside. You get maple butter on the side to dip into, which was moreish. I think they may not be too healthy but I was trying them for research purposes.

Hush Puppies

I pepped mine up with a dash of the Kansas BBQ sauce which was sweet and the Texas BBQ sauce which had more of a kick to it. To save room for the dishes to come, we didn’t finish all of them as they were a meal in themselves.

Onto the main event. We had the four meat sample platter (£25), which actually was only three meats as they’d run out of the Texas hot link sausages. You got pork spare ribs, Jacob’s Ladder beef rib, pulled pork and pickles. We got extra pork to make up for the lack of sausages.

While I remember, you don’t get plates, because the idea is to get stuck in, be at ease with the company you are eating with and get your hands (and probably face) dirty. Keeping napkins to hand is recommended.

The chef came over and talked us through what we had and how it had been prepared. The Jacob’s Ladder is cooked low for eight hours over a mix of hickory and apple wood. This gave it a dark, bark-like crust which had a toasty, coffee-like taste. The meat cooked on the bone like this meant it had plenty of flavour and it was tender under the crust.

The pork ribs are cooked a bit less, just under six hours, and are marinated with a light glaze. Jeffrey explained that he likes the meat to speak for itself and tries to avoid overwhelming the natural flavours. If you want to add other flavours, there are the BBQ sauces for dunking and we had the Asian coleslaw as a side, which was made using fennel, mint and coriander. This provided freshness to cut through and balance the richness of the BBQ. I loved the pickles which they make in-house.

Meat Platter

The highlight of the platter for me was the delicious pulled pork. The shreds of meat were juicy and tender and the smokiness was pitched just right.

We also indulged in the buttermilk southern fried chicken (four pieces £11). The meat is marinated before frying to make it extra succulent, which it certainly was. The outer skin was crisp and golden with a subtle seasoning. Our chosen side was smoked sweet potato. These are roasted whole to absorb the woody smoky flavours, then the flesh is scooped out and the skin is fried and served on top in shards.

As we were feasting, Jeffrey shared the story of his travels across the US – North Carolina, Tennessee and Kansas City, to name a few – to gain experience and knowledge from the best pitmasters, so he could get the BBQ just right. Originally from Minneapolis, he has had a love of BBQ cooking from a young age and now he’s in the kitchen with his trusty authentic American smoker after a career in investment banking, putting his devotion into practice.

Pecan Pie

In the eating, it is clear that time and effort has gone into getting the smoking perfected. I enjoyed the food. Our problem was we had just ordered too much. We did find room to share a slice of pecan pie with Our Cow Molly ice cream though, and I took home a doggy bag with the leftover pork and chicken as I never like to waste food. The chicken shredded worked well in a Thai-style noodle salad the next day.

The Hop is the place for a few beers and to share food with friends. Just don’t go with a vegetarian.

Words & Images: Ros Arksey.

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