Review – Big Eats Co.
Big Eats Co. have been running the kitchen at the Druids Arms for the past year. Their focus on smoked meats and BBQ fits in nicely with the meat themed regeneration of London Road and must be a huge catch with the student population scattered around that area. But does their brand of big Texan plates leave you shouting yeehaw?
I’ve not been to the Druids Arms since a very debauched night circa 2008. It hasn’t changed much. A lively atmosphere sums this Level pub up nicely and the place was packed out on a late Thursday night, some characters more unsavoury than others but all in all, fairly friendly. The tables, however, could have done with a really good wipe down. They had that horrible, sticky feeling of too many spilt pints and greasy fingers.
Grabbing the cleanest table available, we looked through the paper menus. Vast and quite difficult to both read and navigate, they contained an array of carnivorous temptation: pulled pork, brisket, wings, burgers, hot-dogs and a decent selection of sides. Big Eats Co. state that their meat is “sourced from butchers, farms and traders in and around Sussex” – it would be great to know specifics and whether the meat is organic – but perhaps are reasons as to why this information isn’t shared?
I ordered the Ribs ‘N’ Wings – twice smoked ribs marinated in Texan spices and cooked until they fall off the bone. Served with five buttermilk fried chicken wings, fries and appleslaw (£12.50), whilst my Texan native dining companion ordered the Cajun Pulled Pork – two day smoked pork with cajun spices served with BBQ beans, vegetable and bean rice & smoked cheddar corn bread (£9). The corn bread was omitted due it containing baking powder therefore not being gluten-free.
It’s worth noting that Big Eats Co. were very knowledgeable about what ingredients went into all their main dishes and happy to help with any dietary requirements and questions. It made a real difference to the overall experience.
Served on a long wooden board (what’s wrong with a plate?) my heart sank slightly at the Ribs ‘N’ Wings combo. The presentation did nothing but put me off. The ribs piled on top of fries just didn’t work and the paleness from the slithers of potato made the ribs look like they’d been Tango’d. A shame.
The pork slithered off the bone with ease. Tricky to eat without making a complete mess of yourself, as there was no way to cut the meat into ribs you could pick up. I ended up tearing flesh off with my fingers and shovelling it into my mouth like I was living in the stone-age. The sauce was sweet and sticky, but too globulous and had no charring which would have added a much needed depth of flavour. The cut of meat was slightly flabby and towards the end of my gluttonous binge, became inedible.
The wings, by contrast, were superb and easily the best I’ve had in Brighton so far. Piping hot and coated in a lightly spiced crumb, the chicken was cooked to perfection: pale white, juicy as hell and falling off the tiny wing bone with ease. The chicken wings were fun to nibble on and easily the stand out of our Big Eats Co. meal.
The fries? I was expecting a better quality. These had the hallmarks of frozen and from a bag. The slaw? Okay, added a much needed splash of colour to the combination and a satisfying crunch.
The cajun pulled pork was labelled as “a bit too dry” but then again, you’re going to have to work damn hard to impress someone who’s lived in Texas and experience the real rootin’ tootin’ deal.
All in all, a mixed bag. I’d be interested to see how the burgers and hot-dogs tasted and whether a slimmed down, more concentrated menu would fare better. Still, good luck to Big Eats Co, they’ve done well to secure a pub that hungover students will flock to when in need of something greasy, filling and for a decent price too.
Big Eats Co. Druids Arms, 79-81 Ditchling Road, Brighton.