Our summer of the BBQ joint took us to SmokeWorks on Free School Lane in Cambridge. I had been reading rave reviews about the place and it was about time we tried it out. We braved the torrential downpour (hence no outside photos) and walked into a restaurant with industrial décor and functional seating. It was smaller than I expected but then realised there was a whole other floor downstairs. We were greeted warmly and boy, did the place smell delicious. We instantly forgot all about the rain as we were shown to our table by our friendly server.
We knew the portions were big and it was going to be a filling meal so we saved our appetites for this dinner. We had a very early dinner (4:30pm) so the place wasn’t full yet. This gave me the opportunity to take photos without bothering any customers. I explored the basement (and the cool communal loos!) and I admired all of the little decorative touches, the exposed brick, lighting and the seating in the alcoves. They made the most of the limited space they have and it is laid out is a very functional way. The big red button at each table, which you twist when you want service, is an ingenious idea. The table number lights up on a big board, which is very visible to the servers. That way, they don’t have to continuously hover around the tables in the tight spaces and peek around any corners to see if they are needed.
SmokeWorks is part of the CambsCuisine group who have been running some of Cambridgeshire’s top restaurants. I could tell they have a good team in the kitchen as all of the food came out quickly and at the perfect temperature, true to their motto of “Slow cooked. Fast”. They brought in Vladimir Hromek, their Head Chef with an impressive culinary resume, who definitely knows his way around a smoker. I’m Canadian and I’ve had ribs in various parts of North America and in the UK too and quite simply put, the BBQ pork spare ribs at SmokeWorks were the best I’ve ever had. The three of us unanimously agreed!
The pork ribs were tender and succulent with a wonderful smoky flavour. We could easily pull the meat off the bone and the pork practically melted in our mouths!
The menu isn’t extensive, but it doesn’t need to be (unlike the restaurant that was there before SmokeWorks took over, which offered “152 main courses all freshly homemade”!). All the staples are there… chicken, pork, beef, ribs and a great selection of sides. The sweet & hot pickled chillis, fries and sweet potato fries were excellent. I was intrigued by the beef dripping mash and it was so silky and delicious, I found myself scraping the bottom of the bowl with my fingers (naughty I know, but I was hooked). I tweeted SmokeWorks about this and they started a “clan” hashtag for addicts. So if you’re part of the Twitter world and are hooked too, be sure to use #beefdrippingmashclan in your tweets. In fact, their salted caramel milkshakes are addictive as well and (amusingly) it went back and forth as follows:
My son had the smoked hot & spicy chicken wings, served with proper blue cheese dip (not the generic kind). He really liked the wings but, as he loves very spicy food, he would have preferred them hotter. The hot sauce provided wasn’t spicy enough for him. It would be great if they could offer a Super Duper Hot version for all of the spice fiends out there.
My husband and I shared the smoked & pulled pork bun, as it’s quite a lot to have with a rack of pork ribs. It was delicious, with a nice texture and I especially liked the flavours of the slaw. The brioche bun was fresh and tasty too!
We left pleasantly full but with the overwhelming desire to return as soon as possible. Now that’s a sign of a good restaurant… feed them well but leave them wanting more! I’m going for The Works next time, baby! BBQ pork spare ribs, pulled beef slider, smoked chicken wings, meaty BBQ beans, house pickles and fries… what’s not to love? Bring on the bib!
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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