As I headed to the new Red’s True Barbecue branch in Headingley for their extravagant launch, I was apprehensive; could they really have pulled off recreating their famous Leeds branch that left people, myself included, talking about the REDs experience for weeks after?
The hot and sunny afternoon that provided the backdrop to the launch made it all the easier to appreciate the great location of their new restaurant; a prime spot on the Otley Road, which thankfully offers outdoor seating. This great choice of location in the centre of Headingley was bolstered by the offerings of live music, which kept diners entertained all evening. It was clear that within this somewhat smaller venue, the unique atmosphere that REDs is known for had been reproduced, just on a more intimate and actually more enjoyable level.
They may implement a bold marketing strategy that compares their food to having a religious experience, but this strategy is not without substance. For myself and my lucky dining companion, it was as it normally is, all about the ribs. The BBQ hype has slowly but surely been taking over UK high streets in the past couple of years, however REDs manages to take this to another level. I chose the full rack of tender St Louis ribs with both humble and divine sides of corn and skin on fries, while my co-critic opted for Baby Back ribs, BBQ chicken, fries and slaw. Both left us fully satisfied, though admittedly struggling to walk the short way back from Headingley to Hyde Park.
Although the other options may be easy to look past, anyone who has visited REDS in the past will know they specialise in more than just pieces of barbecued meat. They have a great range of steaks, salads and burgers, including the Donut (yes Homer Simpson style donut) Burger, which is perhaps the most ridiculous creation since Hot Dog Pizza Crust. They have, however, somehow managed to make it work; probably just as well as they’ve gone to the bother of trademarking it.
The small details, like the five different choices of sauces and their recommendations of which meals to eat them with, make REDs more than just a meal out. Don’t take the LS word for it. Those less fortunate than LS queued for over two hours to have a taste of BBQ heaven, which is the real testament to the incredible food and atmosphere that make the REDs experience.