It’s forty years since Bethan & I first cooked for the public, so we’re always delighted to see a pair of ladies starting down the same road.
Samantha & Shauna are at the early stages of their career, and have got the important stuff – what they want to cook – nailed down.
They took a big trip to the US to learn to cook Southern BBQ food, and after the success of our trip to Pontcanna SmokeHouse last week we wanted to give them a try to finish our visit to the capital.
They don’t have a place of their own yet, so are popping up in other people’s kitchens – they do one evening at Porters in the town centre and one evening at The Canadian pub in what my estate agent friend calls “Up & Coming Splott”.
So how did it compare to last week’s excellent Smoke House?
We got off to a slow start as Hang Fire’s website (hangfiresmokehouse.com/) doesn’t have an address, and The Canadian isn’t known to Google, but we tracked it down to the corner of Pearl & Theodora.
It’s important to know that they don’t take bookings, and Hang Fire are VERY popular, so you need to be there in plenty of time.
Service is 5.30-9.30 on Fridays and 1-5 on Saturday.
We arrived just before 6 and we grabbed one of the last tables for a gander at the menu.
A pleasingly succinct and inviting menu, for sure. And well-priced with their most expensive main only £11, and they come with your choice of two sides.
Since most punters are new to authentic Southern BBQ, we were very pleased to see front of house supremo Shauna sitting down at tables like an old friend. Doesn’t the lady in the picture look delighted to have their homemade sauces explained to her?
Why did Bethan & I never sit down at a table with the customers? It’s a great idea!
We played a little safe & went with the brisket and the sampler plate. Yes, we should have gone for the smoked lamb but you can have too much new stuff in one evening.
The brisket was a tidy pile of meat served on Texas Toast (garlic bread variant) with the Chilli beans and fries as my two sides.
As with the Smoke House last week, I felt the long smoking did more to improve the texture of the meat rather than impart a big smoky flavour.
The meat was beautifully soft and beefy, and there was plenty of it, but if they’ve been cooking it for days I’d have liked more smoke-punch.
The garlic bread (OK, Texas toast) was good – soft, moist & garlicy – and thick enough to soak up the plentiful juices. But I’m not sure that garlic goes with beef like this. But then the people of Texas seem happy with it, so what do I know?
My highlight were the Chili beans. A potent blend of kidney & haricot beans. They were well spiced and with soft pork it made a generous pot of chilli con carne I could have eaten all night.
The chips were good without standing out.
Bethan’s sampler plate seemed to give us more joy.
Look at the size of those ribs! My hubby wouldn’t have ribs last week (“They’re just bone”) but the ones here were magical – where do they source ribs with so much meat on them? Why didn’t we have a whole plate of them? They’re a Southern classic for a reason.
The pulled pork again showed the benefits of smoking more in the texture (soft) than the flavour (“porky”). The wings too had plenty of meat and were expertly cooked.
The slaw was fresh and crisp but not too exciting in the taste.
This dish was all about the ribs and should we ever cross paths with these ladies again, we will have a full meeting with this meat.
Hang Fire are justly proud of their sauces. They make them themselves so they’ve none of the additives & thickeners of the commercial versions. Shauna sensibly shows punters how to pour them carefully.
No amount of careful pouring stops you finishing with a messy, gooey plate and a moist chin, of course.
The sauces skillfully balance their upfront flavours with a strong acidity. My sense of smell was heightened for hours afterwards. The Kansas City & Texas Espresso are excellent but a bit similar, while the South Carolina Mustard gives plenty of kick without being silly-hot.
Hang Fire just do the food, so the drinks are the responsibility of The Canadian. Although a Brains joint, it’s not at the CAMRA / real ale end of this chain’s spectrum.
I had the Barry Island IPA & Boilermaker IPA, two very hoppy beers that combined with the acidity of the sauces to set my taste buds tingling all night. Those meaty tastes couldn’t have been highlighted better and my mouth sang with BBQ flavours.
Bethan, meanwhile, was delighted with her “Mixed Fruit” cider. “Mmm, alcoholic Vimto!” she laughed.
As you can see, we ate everything, leaving only a pair of sauce-stained plates.
Each table has a roll of kitchen paper on it, and very useful it is too.
There were desserts available, but the place was so full with hungry-looking people we felt mean so we gave up our table to a group of hungry-looking folk. Look at them delightedly photographing each other!
And look at the fine bearded men in the background – hip without being hipsters!
Reading this review back, I worry that I seem a bit negative. Yes, there were a few things I’d have done differently, but you can’t have everything your own way.
We were delighted with Hang Fire. It’s a great asset to the community, and I hope the owners of The Canadian get down on their knees to thank Sam & Shauna after every evening they’ve filled their pub for them. The one time all evening we saw an empty table I took a photo of it, such a rarity was it.
Hang Fire at The Canadian is great food, a fun atmosphere, all run by knowledgeable people who avoid being stuffy.
And very well-priced – our food came to just £21 and the bottled beers are a little over £3.
I was slightly surprised that, in the final analysis, they didn’t trounce the Smoke House, but I’m happy to call an honourable draw.
I wonder whether Sam & Shauna will get their own place, or carry on with their peripatetic life.
II’m sure they know that running your own premises gives a whole new world of headaches, and they seem to be enjoying concentrating on the food.
In fact, I’m quite jealous. If I were twenty years younger I’d be doing a sweep of Aberystwyth pubs with under-used kitchens.
I wish these ladies the best of luck, and recommend you go & visit them. Just don’t leave it too late.