This past weekend, I headed down to Grillstock courtesy of Jack Daniels. Grillstock is a hybrid BBQ competition and country/blue grass music festival which is never more apparent than when you walk in. On one side, you’ve got a long row of food stalls culminating in the BBQ prep and judging area where a number of UK and US grillmasters competed for the top prize in various BBQ categories. On the other side, there was a massive stage with a full day long line up of bands to keep you entertained. No prizes for guessing which side I walked down.
Food: ★★★★★ Music: ★★★★☆ Atmosphere: ★★★★☆ Value: ★★☆☆☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
To be honest, Grillstock was a lot bigger deal than I was expecting given the location up in Walthamstow (or Awesomestow as the local mall is keen to brand it). There must have been dozens of food stalls with a good mix of regular traders such as Spit & Roast, Hotbox, The Ribman, and Prarie Fire BBQ as well as a number I hadn’t seen but wished I had the stomach space to try (I’m looking at you, Beefy Boys).
I started off doing a round of the BBQ Grillmaster prep area where a surprising number of contenders were carefully watching over their Weber grills and smoking chicken and ribs in the low & slow style of the competition. Even better, they were handing out “tasters” of the meats – and by taster I don’t mean a tiny shred of meat but rather whole chicken thighs doused in their signature sauce. And then 30 minutes later there were samples of ribs (ie entire ribs) on offer for anyone who wandered by for a chat. I had to drag myself away in order to have any space to sample one of the traders around. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to take any pictures of the succulent meats as I pretty much was covered in sauce myself and it was so tasty I couldn’t stop eating to take a picture.
Given the quantity and quality of traders, it was damn hard to decide which one place I’d try out. I settled on Almost Famous for a number of reasons: 1) I’d chowed down on BBQ chicken and ribs already, 2) I was considering going to Manchester just to try them so this would save a train ticket, and 3) I love burgers. I went for the Bacon Wonder Burger which is a double patty cheeseburger with bacon, sautéed onions, pickled onions, baconnaise, and “winning ketchup”. Yeah there is pretty much nothing on that burger I don’t love.
Overall, the burger worked in almost every way although I’m not sure what happened with the bun – it was nicely toasted and absorbent but for some reason the top was significantly larger than the base. The beef patty was juicy and, well, beefy, the sauces made it messy but deliciously so, and the bun gave a valiant effort but did fall apart to the end. Did it blow my mind? No, but it was very satisfying nonetheless.
On a beautiful day like Sunday, Grillstock was a perfect outing and I wish I could have gathered a group for it. However, therein lies a problem as tickets aren’t cheap at £30pp for one day or £45pp for the weekend. The ticket only gets you entry and any food and drink is an additional expense (although you do get the free tasters from the BBQ pit). Unless you like the music line up (and there are two stages so there tends to always be someone playing) which from the crowds’ reactions seemed to be a quality one, I can’t say it’s worth the cost just for the opportunity to try out the different traders. It’s best to think of this as a music festival with a fantastic food line up rather than a larger version of FEAST with music. I’d have loved some sort of ticket to just get into the BBQ area but I suppose that the food and music go hand in hand as it would be near impossible to control a split of the two without causing misery for those that want both.