The “dirty food” revolution – gourmet versions of BBQ, burgers, hot dogs – doesn’t seem to be coming to Aber any time soon.
But you don’t need to go abroad to that London – you just need to swap Aber’s streets of litter and student vomit for Cardiff’s streets of litter and student vomit.
We were in town anyway, and the capital now has several interesting American-style eateries.
So we put on our vintage sneakers, grew our hair, and got on our fixed-wheel bikes for The Smoke House in hipster-central Pontcanna.
The BBC has a big outpost nearby which has led to a boom for production companies, web developers, and cross-platform strategic brand development consultants.
Pontcanna is now home to a generation of media types – from film directors through to bloggers, and you won’t see them having a plastic pack of sandwiches for lunch.
The Smoke House is unpretentious yet fashionably on-trend food, which has made it popular with the logo’d t-shirt & beard gang. We were the only people there who neither DJ’d at the weekend nor had a baby buggy the size of a VW.
The menu is based around pieces of well-prepared, well-cooked dead animal, washed down with interesting American craft beers.
I made the mistake of having the wine (bit bleuh, but <£4) otherwise everything was excellent.
I had the pulled pork, BBQ beans, fries, slaw and onion rings.
The smoking wasn’t heavy, but it gave the meat a great depth of flavour.
The BBQ sauce was sweet & powerful. I’ve read some grumbling that its too sweet and “one-note”, but I approved. It’s a great punch of taste that brings out the porkiness.
The onion rings were superb – huge, handmade, perfectly cooked. A great antidote to the scruffy, cocked-up effort at Abermule last week.
The pot of BBQ beans were just what a cowboy would eat – slow-cooked soft, juicy and with a subtle seasoning. The slaw was thoughtful and cut through the richness of the other ingredients.
Finally, the fries were superb. They may look pasty in the pic, but they were great.
I was a very happy lady.
Although not as happy as hubby.
He loves a strong, hoppy beer and went for the Goose Island IPA from the specials board. £4.25 might seem a lot for 330ml, but this is a top-end beer rarely seen on these shores. He was even wilder about his steak.
“New York Cowboy” isn’t a cut I recognized from the menu, and it turned out to be a hefty T-bone.
The dry rub brought out the meaty taste, it was cooked to medium-rare perfection, but the revelation was the juiciness.
My husband’s happy consumption was soundtracked by him struggling to come up with more synonyms for “moist”.
He had worried initially about a 400g steak – and had insisted that I have a good portion to help him out – but once it was in front of him I can’t say I saw that much of it.
I was a bit cross that he hadn’t had anything from the smoker – one of us should have had the ribs as that’s the whole point of this sort of thing, but he started on about how they’re all bones.
The burgers looked excellent – I took this photo of someone else’s plate as he was having a mid-meal break.
And we should have had more of their beers – that 6.9% Brooklyn IPA would have sorted the men from the boys – but we were feeling a bit full and tired.
And if we couldn’t face more booze, then we definitely couldn’t face dessert, which is a shame as I adore both New York cheesecake and Key Lime pie, both of which were under a fiver.
In short, we loved the Smoke House.
If I went to a bar in America with such a great range of beer and tasty food I’d be tutting about “Why don’t they do this in Britain?”.
I’m still tutting about “Why doesn’t anyone do this in Aber?”
We were pleased to see the place so popular, and indeed, we hadn’t booked and got the last two chairs.
Our bill was £40, half of which was hubby’s steak, but it was worth it to see his blissful face.
It was also lovely to see proper hipsters in their natural habitat – we mid-Wales folk only ever see them on the TV.
We thought we’d gone there hungry, but clearly not hungry enough.
The only thing stopping us going again is we want to try the HangFire in less-trendy Splott, which only opens about ten minutes every week.
We need to go back to Cardiff next week so will keep you informed.
Facebook Page (no proper webpage, alas)
029 2034 4628
77 Pontcanna Street CF11 9HS