I know what you're going to say "how could she wait so long to try Holy Smoke?!" and I admit, I did wait a long time...For one reason mainly, I don't like the location of the restaurant. I don't like going to Porte de Hal, hence I waited for an opportunity = a few motivated big eaters and a driver looking for a good time! I basically hijacked a dudes get together ;)
It was a Wednesday evening, we had booked a table for 3 around 7:30 under the name GI Joe! We drove there and found a parking spot in front by chance, recognizing the restaurant by the neon signs hanging on the windows: "You love meat" - "We smoke it". I must say it wasn't very visible and unless you know what you're looking for, you are likely to miss it. So I kept an eye out and shouted and when I found Holy Smoke!
When we arrived, there were already a few people drinking bourbon and eating smoked meat on high tables. The restaurant smelled delicious and the bourbon bar looked stunning, couldn't wait to try a few bottles! We sat at a shared table, grabbing three chairs and diving into the bourbon menu, undecided about the food. We first ordered drinks: an ice tea, 2 beers, a tasting glass of Michters US1 American Bourbon (2cl) and a full glass of Smooth Amber 10y Whisky.
Holy Smoke has settled for a loft/industrial style with a long bricked wall, a huge bar filled with bourbon and whisky, some high tables and chairs and a lot of wood and concrete touches. We didn't go on the terrace but there is a cute one opened right now. Overall, I couldn't have imaged a better look for a place selling Texas BBQ and Bourbon!
With this "good start", we kick started the decision process on what we would eat. I wanted to try everything on the menu so we settled for the "Meat Porn" platter which allowed us to try 4 kinds of meat (ribs, pulled pork, brisket, sausage) but we also needed to try the Hungover Burger... At that point, we realized that some of the starters seemed reaaaaaaaally appetizing, namely the bone marrow and nachos!
Our order looked like this:
The drinks arrived on a platter: the 2 glasses of bourbon, 2 glasses of cold water, ice cubes and obviously the bottles so we could have a look at the label. To properly drink bourbon, there is a ritual to follow: first you wash your mouth with the cold water, then you enjoy your bourbon and around the end of your glass, add an ice cube to release new aromas! This method allows you to taste your bourbon 2-ways and to fully savor it...As well as challenge your taste buds!
The first starter arrived soon after we were done with the first glasses of bourbon. The bone marrow looked just awesome, I couldn't wait to dig in! The bones were served freshly out of the oven with some coarse salt, pepper, toasted bread and shots of bourbon. We spooned the marrow, sprinkling it with salt before "finishing" the bone: once your bone is clean, put one end in your mouth and pour the shot in it, then drink. Yup Holy Smoke is full of fun rituals, especially this one! Make sure to have your napkins ready, it can get messy...
Then came the nachos...At that point I knew we'd need a huge doggy bag because there was no way we would finish our food, even 3 of us! The ceramic plate was huge and extremely hot, definitely bigger than we expected. Just imagine a layer of nachos, tons of cheese, guacamole, tomatoes, cream cheese, beans, pulled pork, jalapenos. It was so rich and yummy and huge.... Absolutely delightful but impossible to finish since we still had a platter on the way.
About an hour passed between our starters and the arrival of the platter (rather slow service) but with all we ate before, it was actually fine. The platter arrived around 9:30 PM and what we received was quite interesting: a platter with our 4 types of meat, 3 sauces (mustard, bourbon, spicy) and 3 different sides (cucumber salad with an apricot dressing and sesame, potatoes with butter and coriander, coleslaw). I think the presentation was a bit less interesting than the bone marrow but the food was the real center of attention.
I tried every meat on the platter and I was soooo sad that my stomach couldn't take more in! I especially loved the ribs and brisket that were so tender and juicy... Every meat is smoked for a different time: the brisked is smoked for 20 hours, the pork ribs for 7 hours, the beef ribs for 10 hours and the sausages for 4 hours. All in all, the smoking process really changes how you enjoy your meat. If I could, I guess that's how I would eat it on a daily basis: tender, juicy, smoky. I really don't like a meat that is hard to chew so I was in heaven at Holy Smoke! Plus the marinades were to die for and really brought out the original flavor of the meat...
The sides were also interesting, I especially like the cucumber salad and the potatoes, man they were so tasty! I really enjoyed the flavors developed with these sides and they really complimented the meat. Additionally, you can decide how you want to balance your sides: more of the potatoes, more of the cucumbers, no coleslaw, you name it.
At the same time as the platter, we received the Hungover Burger, what a beast! This burger is no joke...There was so much sauce, pulled pork, brisket, beans, cheddar and toppings. Not to mention you get sides, 2 out of the 3 available = this is huge amount of food for 19€. I am not sure how GE managed to finish this monster after the Nachos but he did it! No food waste on his side :)
As you can imagine, I couldn't finish the meat porn platter... neither could Mr. Boyfriend, so we asked for a doggy bag. We ended up with 3 full boxes of meat and sides, enough to eat at least 2 more meals.
It was probably around 10:30 PM when we asked for the bill and were positively surprised. I won't say that eating at Holy Smoke is affordable but I expected a worse bill. In total our dinner cost 139€ for 3 for all our food and drinks, and for the amounts we received it's not bad. Clearly, Holy Smoke on the more expensive side but the quantities and quality of the food kind of justifies the cost. By this I mean:
Take into consideration the smoking process which takes between 4 and 20 hours;
The beef is a black Angus
The pork is a red label (farm pork)
The sausages are handmade at De Laet & Van Haeve, a butcher in Antwerp;
The Meat Porn platter costs 59€ yes but you receive 900 gr of quality smoked meat and the sides;
Holy Smoke is a stylish place with a great and well-mastered concept, however they're some downsides like the noise... Holy Smoke is clearly popular and has a lot of customers no matter the time of the day, hence expect to have to speak loud to be heard by your date/friends. Another thing would be that there is a limited number of seats that can be reserved. Holy Smoke allows only 50% of the tables to be booked, the other 50% are for grabs: first arrived first served so make sure to book early.
Overall, I am happy with the price/quality/quantity ratio as well as the experience (despite the wait to get the platter). Did you try Holy Smoke? How was your experience?