Meet the UAE’s first smokehouse – Perry & Blackwelder
The UAE has its first smokehouse. Yes we have Fümé with a handful of smoked dishes – but Dubai’s Perry & Blackwelder is a new casual American restaurant dedicated to all food smoked over a barbeque. It sits in Souk Madinat Jumeirah replacing the infamous and rather tired Barzar.
The longwinded name, P&B for ease of reference, pays homage to Henry Perry and John Blackwelder, who after the American civil war, took to the roadsides in the South to make a living running barbeque stands, passing on their craft to others.
Anyhow enough of the concept, what strikes me about the menu is that there are no appetisers per se, but a compact one-page choice of sandwiches, salads, smoked barbequed meats on the bone and off. If you’re veggie don’t bother going, there’s only a couple of dishes (and certainly no seafood). Oh and there’s no pork licence whilst we’re at it, which given how prolific pig is to this cuisine, is a real shame. Dishes come quirkily named, like Colt 45 and Brontosaurus. There’s a small cocktail list with classics (seriously good margaritas), and some interesting mixes served in mason jars.
At our very helpful waiter’s suggestion, we order ten chicken wings to share as a starter (larger portions of 20 or 30 are also available). It arrives in a wire basket with some crudités and a wonderfully smooth blue cheese dip, but the latter is served in a styrofoam bowl. Really Jumeirah, we’re in a five-star deluxe location, and yes the concept may be casual, but why just this one dish in plastic rubbish?! On the upside, the wings are bursting with juicy, succulent meat – there’s a hint of smokiness and spice (the marinade option we choose). We polish them off.
Onto our mains which both arrive in hot cast-iron skillets on a rubber place mat to avoid burning our fingers. Plastic’s fine in this case 😉 An upturned chicken (half portion) barbequed with a beer can. Now this one is a FooDiva special that I roast at home every now and again – but whilst P&B’s does fall off the bone, it’s really quite bland, with none of the expected smokiness. On the other hand, a huge portion of prime beef short ribs is smoked over mesquite wood, giving it a delightful, sweet, earthy flavour – this dish really does fall apart at the touch of a fork. Tangy sliced gherkins accompany both dishes.
Side dishes can be ordered in three portion sizes – a novel touch. The mac and cheese (a 14th century British creation by the way, not American) is the highlight – al dente macaroni with lashings of gooey cream and a mild cheese sauce. But the biggest disappointment of the evening is the over-cooked, stewed veggies – green beans and a portion of collard and mustard greens. Perhaps that’s a Southern trait, but wilted texture aside, they have zero flavour.
We share a seriously decadent and moreish banana pudding, once again thanks to our jovial waiter’s recommendation. Layered with fresh cream and bananas, it’s similar to a Banoffee, but sans the toffee – and comes topped with a couple of Jaffa-like sponge biscuits.
The structural bar elements of BarZar remain, but we sit outside on the lower terrace with its utilitarian, diner-style décor, and a view into the glassed-off kitchen. It’s just a shame that the ridiculously loud sound-checking for Dubai Film Festival ruins any chance of conversation. A month into opening and it’s practically empty for a Tuesday night – but then again P&B has not actively been promoted yet, so hopefully it will get busier.
The highlight of our dining experience is by far the exceptional service with a knowledgeable, chatty and relaxed waiter who manages to strike that fine balance of attentiveness without intrusiveness. At AED200 per person without alcohol, P&B is a reasonably priced restaurant but just remember it is a super casual night out. Some of the dishes require better execution and presentation (get rid of the styrofoam please), whilst a small selection of starters would enhance the menu. But kudos to Jumeirah’s new restaurant group for addressing a gap in the market by developing an interesting, home-grown concept. Here’s to a 3 out of 5 FooDiva knife rating.
Can anyone familiar with American smokehouses shed some light on P&B’s authenticity…pork aside of course?