Taste Test: A Multi-Course Lunch Where Everything Is Made With Coke

This week, the iconic Coca-Cola bottle celebrated its 100th birthday. To mark the occasion, the American-style BBQ restaurant Surly's has brewed up a new menu that uses Coke as the primary ingredient. No really. The specials on offer include Coca-Cola BBQ chicken wings, a pulled pork candied apple sandwich with Coca-Cola BBQ sauce and Coca-Cola glazed pork spare ribs. Read on as we don our bibs and investigate...

Surly's is a Surry Hills based bar and restaurant that specialises in American BBQ and smoked meats. This week, it is officially teaming up with Coca-Cola to offer customers a limited-edition menu made with the popular beverage. In the words of the restaurant:

"During this week-long southern spread, patrons can expect to sample cuisine that is slow cooked and succulent, infused with the distinctive Coca-Cola flavour and delicately balanced to create the perfect combination of smoky and sweet."

While it might sound bizarre to some, the practice of cooking food in Coca-Cola has become increasingly popular. You've probably seen it feature on reality TV shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules. We even featured a recipe on Lifehacker back in 2013. Surly's new menu attempts to make the concept a bit fancier.

"Coca-Cola is a really fun ingredient to use because of its naturally sweet flavour which really shines through in a sauce,". explains head chef Brendhan Bennison. "To mark the 100th Anniversary I’ve made a one-of-a-kind, thick, sweet homemade BBQ sauce which will add a punch of flavour to our pork and chicken recipes.”

Here's the menu in full:

  • Pulled pork sammy with Coca-Cola BBQ sauce and candied apple
  • Coca-Cola BBQ chicken wings
  • Coca-Cola glazed pork spare ribs
  • Glazed chicken with Coca-Cola BBQ sauce

Intrigued, I headed down to Surly's with my colleague Amanda in tow to sample the joint's sticky wares. Unfortunately, the restaurant's cutting-edge smoker wasn't fired up when we stopped by for lunch. As it turns out, the pork spare ribs and glazed chicken are only available at dinner time, so bear this in mind if you're planning to eat there.

With the aforementioned victuals off the menu, we plumped for the pulled pork sammy and BBQ chicken wings. We were served the chicken wings first (pictured above) which were damn tasty. It comes in a dinky basket with ranch dipping sauce and a few sticks of carrots and celery.

The BBQ sauce is classic Americana: thick, smoky and sweet. In fact, it was probably a little too sweet for my liking -- especially towards the end. I'd recommend sharing this dish with a friend rather than polishing it off solo, otherwise you might feel a bit queasy by the time you get to your fifth wing. (On the plus side, Surly's provides an assortment of hot sauces on each table, so it's possible to temper the sugar with a dollop of heat.)

Next up was the pulled pork sammy. Unlike the familiar chicken wings, this was a unique proposition that I haven't encountered in other pubs. As it's name implies, the chief ingredient is pulled pork smothered in BBQ "Coke" sauce and topped with candied apple slices.

In truth, it's more of a burger than a sandwich (a common Americanism) with a large bun housing the ingredients. In edition to the pork and apple, it also comes with jalapeno peppers and a mayo sauce along with a generous serve of hot chips. Like most pub burgers, the pulled pork sammy is tough to get your mouth around due to its generous size -- I ended up parting the buns and attacking the insides with a fork which seemed to work well. The candied apples -- which are actually soft and moist -- tasted wonderful with the pork. The sauce may be a little too sweet for some; the inclusion of jalapenos is definitely welcome.

All in all, I was impressed with Surly's new menu -- but I wouldn't call it particularly "Coke-esque". If nobody told me cola had been used in the cooking process, I doubt I would have detected its flavour. Which is probably a good thing.

I also asked Amanda to share her verdict. Here are her thoughts:

"I am not a great connoisseur of barbeque chicken, so I can’t say that the Coca-Cola chicken wings tasted like every other barbeque chicken. However I highly suspect it did, albeit sweeter. We were provided sticks of carrot and celery with our chicken to cut through the sweetness, but I found myself wishing for more. The sauce was sticky and the chicken moist, but unless I had been told there was Coke in there I would never have guessed.

"If I strained my tastebuds, I thought I might have been able to taste a hint of Coke in the pulled pork burger, but it could just have easily have been wishful thinking. Or apple. Pieces of stewed apple made the burger moist to the point of sloppy, which certainly made it easier to cram the huge meal into my mouth (which I’m sure looked super attractive).

"I also appreciated the burger’s jalapeños -- I am and always will be a chilli fiend -- though I suspect some others won’t appreciate their accumulated effect by the time they’re three quarters of the way through. But as I chomped my way through the sweetness began to feel a little overpowering, and I found myself reaching for my carrot and celery sticks. I think maybe the Coke sauce with the apple was a bit much.

"That's not to say it tasted bad – it was a serviceable pub meal, if a bit sweet. I’m not sure I’d order it again, but maybe sweet burgers just aren’t my thing."

Surly's Coca-Cola Birthday Menu will be available until 22nd November. You can make a reservation at the restaurant's website.


    Everyone is going to claim this is gross but I've had food with coca cola in it and it's not really noticeable, even if you are looking for it.

      Coca Cola chicken wings are the best! ^_^

        I would like to try this. Have you got a particular recipe your swear by or did you get them pre made somewhere?

          Here's how I make it:

          - Marinate 600g of chicken wings in soy sauce and pan fry both sides on medium heat (5 minutes per side)
          - Drizzle more soy sauce then add half a can of regular coke (don't use all the other variations because you need all that sugary goodness)
          - Put a lid on the pan and let it cook for 10-15 minutes
          - Take the lid off and let the sauce thicken. Should take another 5 minutes.

          Such a good recipe. Let me know how it turns out for you!

            I also usually add a little black pepper (also maybe a bit of mirin) to it and when the chicken is done I thicken up any remaining liquid by letting it cook for a little more and adding corn starch.

            I am trying this to ight myself, i added a bit of brown sugar to the marinade as well and did another batch with a bourbon hot sauce i had laying around. Will let you know how it goes.

    Interesting marketing ploy ... not much appeal beyond that.

    Regular Coca-cola is around 10% sugar (weight by volume - 10g/100ml) which to most people tastes very sweet hence it's appeal as a soft drink.

    But this plays against it for this kind of ingredient base for savoury foods. Back off to avoid excess sweetness and there won't be any noticeable taste difference, per the above review. Add enough to change the flavour and the sweetness will be off putting.

    Perhaps they could try it for making brownies or some other dessert where the sugar content would actually be useful.

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