Grant Kells has worked in a variety of restaurants around the world, including the legendary Flint at NewActon.
But for the past 10 years, he has dreamed of opening a southern barbecue restaurant and with the opening of Smoque, that dream has come true.
“It’s always been my favourite type of food,” Kells said.
“I went to the US and travelled around the south and did some cooking classes.
“I went all around Texas, Memphis and Kansas City, the three main barbecue hubs and learned that type of food, I’d always liked eating it before.”
At Smoque – located at Bailey’s Corner – owner and chef Kells uses a smoker, shipped over from Texas, to cook the meat. It’s one of just three in Australia and the first one in Canberra.
“It’s indirect heat, so the meat’s smoked with hickory chips for up to 16 hours,” he said.
“It’s not like Australian barbecue at all, it’s indirect flame … the meat and the fish and the vegetables are just cooked by smoke, hence the name.”
Despite the long cooking time, Smoque’s service was designed to be fast. On order, the meat is simply steamed and char-grilled, which gives it a caramel flavour.
Dishes such as the Smoque signature Texas beef ribs hold pride of place on the menu, but manager and co-owner Ash Fanning said it was important that the restaurant had something special for vegetarians or those looking for a lighter option.
“A lot of people associate barbecue with just meat, but we’ve really worked hard to include some vegetarian options,” Fanning said.
“We’ve got a vegetable plate and a vegetarian burger, that we think is maybe our favourite burger and we’re also doing haloumi that’s like a buffalo wing, so it’s not just a meat house.”
Smoque also features an extensive salad menu, perfect for a light lunch. The Woodstock includes lentils, green beans, beetroot, rocket, feta cheese, green olives and coriander vinaigrette. The Thanksgiving salad comprises turkey, quinoa, pumpkin, pecans and goat cheese.
“We have all of these really healthy options available as well, because we wanted to keep it fresh and keep the meals balanced for people,” Fanning said.
“Smoque doesn’t have to be a place that you can only enjoy once a month as a real blow out, you can eat here every day if you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle.”
Kells and Fanning have also worked hard at creating a distinctive look for the restaurant and they’ve been all over Australia picking out second hand furniture.
“We didn’t want to look like everyone else,” Fanning said.
“The bar was actually our floorboards, we tried to recycle and reuse as much as we could to make it unique, we like a bit of quirky. It’s meant to be a bit of fun.”
Catering not just to the city’s locals, Fanning said the restaurant would bring a taste of home to Canberra’s large American community. Smoque has already celebrated an election party and a special Thanksgiving Day.
The whole menu is available for takeaway and the fully-licensed restaurant also offers tap beer, wine and cocktail jugs.
A: 2/131 London Circuit, Canberra City
P: 6162 3350