With dining trends pointing to barbecue culture being pursued by restaurateurs across the globe, we’re led to believe that customers continue to desire not only luxury restaurant experiences but also refined and well crafted comfort interiors. From our travels across, we keep seeing this not only in NYC but in destinations as far flung as Beijing, Australia and the UK. Offering diners elements of the comforting, rustic and raw, this outdoor culture places a sense of the rural very much into the heart of many cosmopolitan cities, providing an oasis of nostalgia and comfort for customers seeking an escape from their hectic lifestyle or just a connection to their home.
The latest project by Blacksheep, Red’s True Barbecue, exemplifies how honest materials and salvaged traditions can both exemplify and translate into a sense of luxury, brand loyalty and most importantly, returning customers. Located at the heart of Manchester’s Albert square (22 Lloyd Street Albert Square M2 5WA, United Kingdom), Red’s True Barbecue draws diners from the street with its simple neon sign suspended from the ceiling of an old brick and stone building located on the corner of a street. As you enter, you are transported into a nostalgic experience of traditionalAmerican low’ n slow style barbecuing. Highlighting traditions and values true to Americana culture, the 6,000 sq space mixes humor to narrate the story between man and beast where the concept of mixing barbecue style food with theatrical vintage fairgrounds creates a compelling branded experience.
Upon entering the space, one is immediately stimulated by the neon signs (by Astra Signs), corrugated metal, composite wood paneling and use of metal piping. Plating on the contrasts between speeds, the pit master’s approach to cooking the meat is patient and slow in order to bring the flavors to the front and center whilst the fairground experience is ever evident, forward and loud.
Low stools, bar height stools, bench seating and banquette seating give the dining area a wide variety of sitting heights to break the space and offer a casual atmosphere. At a distance, the open kitchen enclosed with chain fencing provides the perfect cut off point between the kitchen and dining space, allowing for the noise and scents to creep into the main dining area. Exposed fluorescent tube lighting and direct pendant lighting fixtures with exposed metal housing keep everything industrial and unpretentious. At night, the kitchen provides a backdrop to the bar, which showcases a bespoke light feature reminiscent of a fairground. The lit bar flaunts the vast selection of craft beers and cocktails on offer, whilst a raised ‘pulpit’ like a DJ Booth, is the source of the rock tunes entertaining diners throughout the day well into the night.
Offering two enclosed dining areas to enjoy the Red’s True Barbecue experience, behind the front kitchen, there is also a 48 cover room suitable for private hire. Using upholstered tufted banquettes and blackened burnt timber paneling, the room reflects an unearthed burnt out pit and conjures up images of the traditional method of cooking meat. Another unique and dramatic space takes the form of the ‘rub room’. An almost hidden space, it again echoes the barbecue process whilst presenting the ultimate voyeur experience offering a direct view into the kitchen and the action within. The restrooms also take inspiration from the brand’s ethos with cubicles in the style of confessional booths providing yet another surprise for the diner and a further insight into the world of the brand.
''Throughout the design, religious iconography and messages converse with mortuary-like tables and butchers curtains to remind the guest of the journey of the product and the primal connection between man and beast. Reclaimed finishes, key clamp frames and exposed brickwork all enforce the raw nature of the product while neon signage and bespoke artwork layers to convey the attitude and distinct humor of the brand.''
Jordan Littler, Lead Blacksheep Designer.
Red’s True Barbecue is a fine example of how different cultures and fields are brought together to create new experiences. One cannot help but believe that both a stroke genius and trust between designer, owner and audience are necessary to create such a space. We can’t help but think about the subtle relationship between the experience this restaurant offers and the brilliant work of Danish filmmaker, Nicolas Winding Refn in ‘Drive’ and ‘Only God Forgives’ where he uses sound, sight and lighting to create such a complex and dramatic experience. If any of you are around Manchester, don’t forget to stop by Red’s True Barbecue and soak in the fantastic experience, not to mention the mouth wateringly good brisket.