With a food and drink scene to rival some of the UK’s biggest major cities, Cardiff is home to several restaurant success stories.
Perhaps the best of the success stories to emerge from Cardiff’s foodie scene over the past year is that of Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, the first permanent restaurant from popular pop-up, Hang Fire Smokehouse. Hang Fire is the brainchild of Samantha Evans and Shauna Guinn. Around four years ago, Sam and Shauna quit their jobs and travelled to America for a culinary journey through the Deep South, keen to capture the essence of American ‘slow and low’ barbeque food.
Upon their return to the Cardiff, they put the techniques they’d learnt into practice in their own pop-up restaurant, originally based at The Canadian pub on Pearl Street in Adamsdown, before moving to The Lansdowne pub on Beda Road, Canton.
Today, the Hang Fire girls run their own restaurant and are widely regarded as the first female duo to bring ‘slow and low’ American BBQ back to Britain, in addition to being recognised for their role in invigorating Cardiff’s pop-up restaurant and street food scene a couple of years ago. Last year, the duo won ‘Best Street Food’ in the BBC Food and Farming Awards and, more recently, they published The Hang Fire Cookbook.
With such an eventful story behind its foundations, Hang Fire Southern Kitchen has found the ideal home in its permanent location at The Pumphouse in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan. A Grade-II listed building sitting on Barry’s historic waterfront, The Pumphouse has been revamped to create a rustic, relaxed dining atmosphere perfect for tucking into tasty BBQ-style dishes with a crowd of friends or family.
Honest and simple, the menu features obvious BBQ classics like burgers, steaks and grilled chicken, alongside soul food favourites like Creole Filé Gumbo and St. Louis Memphis-style spare ribs. Meanwhile, the drinks menu features a range of bespoke American-style beers that Sam and Shawna created with help from Sue Hayward of Waen Brewery.
Visiting the restaurant on a week day evening with my friend, Sarah, we were lucky that we’d booked in advance as there were barely any spare tables available. In fact, when Hang Fire Southern Kitchen first opened, there was a wait list of a few months before you could get a table.
We were greeted upon arrival and escorted to a table for two, just in front of the bar. Our waitress was very friendly and down-to-earth, happily talking us through the menu and sharing her personal recommendations of what to order.
To start, we shared the Cracklin’ (£4). Expecting to be presented with a bowl of homemade pork scratchings, Sarah and I were lost for words when this dish arrived at our table. A 12-hour smoked, puffed piece of pork crackling, so big that it hung over the edge of the plate, was accompanied by a tangy white bean dip. It was so awe-inspiring to look at, we had to take a moment to appreciate just how good this dish actually looked, before tucking in.When we eventually began to demolish it, we were just as delighted by how it tasted. Delicately seasoned with a light, bubbly texture, it avoided the extremes of blandness or saltiness. A drool-inducing starter for sharing; although perhaps a little too indulgent to polish off all to yourself.
For my main course, there was one dish in particular that really jumped out at me because it included two of my favourite foods – chicken and waffles. Hang Fire’s Smoked Chicken and Waffles (£14) is a delicious combination of on-the-bone, wood-smoked chicken in a crunchy batter, accompanied by freshly made waffle thins and sweet potato fries. Usually, the dish is also served with a jug of Deep South-style black ‘n’ white pepper gravy, but I switched this for the Alabama White BBQ sauce because it sounded amazing. However, Shawna and Sam have advised me to order this dish with the white pepper gravy next time I visit the restaurant – apparently they’re a match made in heaven (or the Deep South, rather)!
Opposite from me at the table, Sarah ordered the Pit Boss Plate (£17) to get a taste of Hang Fire’s different hickory-smoked, ‘slow and low’ barbeque dishes. The Pit Boss Plate truly lives up to the definition of a ‘meat feast’; a large platter of tender beef Brisket, Texas Toast, St Louis Ribs, Carolina-style pulled pork and a side of BBQ pit beans, golden French fries, pickled gherkins and house ‘slaw. After spotting me gazing longingly at her plate, Sarah kindly let me try a mouthful of each meat. The brisket was my personal favourite, with an irrestistible, smoky taste and tender texture that just left me wanting more. I already know what I’ll be ordering the next time I visit Hang Fire; the Brisket and Burnt Ends (£18) has got my name written all over it.
After polishing off our meaty mains, we were feeling absolutely stuffed and so we decided to give dessert a miss. Next time, I would probably skip the starter to save room for a sweet treat; I simply need to try Hang Fire’s decadent Deep South-inspired desserts.
I highly recommend a visit to Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, but be sure to book in advance in order to avoid disappointment. You can also catch the Hang Fire ladies at Cardiff’s Street Food Circus in Sophia Gardens on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout August and September – except for 16-17th September, when they’ll be at Abergavenny Food Festival (this also means that the restaurant will be closed from 16th – 18th September).
Hang Fire Southern Kitchen
Have you ever been to Hang Fire Southern Kitchen? What’s your favourite American-style BBQ dish?
Pick up a copy of the Hang Fire Cook Book here:
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