The Gentle Cycling Company

The Smoking Barrel


Located in the township of Motueka on the Great Taste Trail Coastal Route, Hodgson samples a menu that includes slow barbecue smoked meats and seafood, and a huge range of disgustingly delicious donuts.

While succulent slow cooked barbecue and smoked meats are behind the name of this popular restaurant it is the fresh, handcrafted donuts that have made The Smoking Barrel almost world famous.

Plenty of people from all around the region make the drive to Motueka just to get their hands on those donuts so I visited them recently to check them out for myself and to find out more about the smoked meats and what drives the enthusiastic young couple who own the business.

The Smoking Barrel opened in the former Hot Mamas premises on High Street, Motueka in the Winter of 2016 and husband and wife team, Josiah and Rachel Smits bring a huge amount of experience to the business.

The menu incorporates traditional American low and slow barbecue smoked meats and seafood with bold, punchy and fresh flavours. “There is a strong smoked influence that runs through our menu but we also offer variety of fresh, non-smoked, vegetarian and plenty of gluten free options as well.”

Rachel said the smoker is like a magnet when it is operating, which is most days, “when the smoker is going, people come out and we talk about what we are doing and how we go about smoking the different products, Josiah often gives onlookers little taste tests direct from the smoker, it gets people excited and generates some great conversations.

“A lot of people are really interested in smoked foods because it’s been a kiwi way of life since way back and not just kiwis, smoking and grilling food over a fire using wood or coal is an ancient way of cooking and it’s making a comeback.”

Like many people in New Zealand, we have a smoker at home and we use it quite a bit (smoked tomato’s make great passata and try smoking some pumpkin for a pumpkin and chilli soup), once you have had proper smoked food you fall in love with the flavour but at The Smoking Barrel they take it to a whole new level.

Josiah tells me that “when meat has been lovingly and carefully smoked for the right amount of time, it can be a pretty special experience, the meat is usually in the smoker for 12 -14 hours in total so I’m often still at work at 3am and the smoker can be going 72 hours straight to keep up with demand, the longest single working ‘day’ was a 40-hour straight shift.

Getting back to those donuts! They now make around 400 a day in the weekends and have about 12 different types on any given day, “we have a large variety of flavours which we rotate, some with syringes, some filled, some filled then fried so they go all melty and gooey in the middle” according to Rachel.

And the last word goes to Josiah “we want to be known as a great restaurant and not just a donut shop, we have worked hard to find points of difference in everything we do from the menu to the service, the décor and our products.”

Thanks to Neil Hodgson for permission to use this article, first published 7/1/18