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Home / Eating Out / Restaurant review: Hang Fire Smokehouse at The Lansdowne, Cardiff
Smokehouse restaurant

Restaurant review: Hang Fire Smokehouse at The Lansdowne, Cardiff

The foibles of our British weather used to make that most unique of dining pleasures – the al fresco barbecue under the sun – something like the culinary equivalent of Halley’s Comet. One or two days of blistering heat a year would justify the effort of retrieving and cleaning the barbie (for they are always somehow filthy, even when cleaned after use) and the wonderful delight of a coal-fired food frenzy could begin. Such reliance on the whims of the skies is no longer necessary. A preponderance of enterprising restaurants have cashed in on the barbecue phenomenon in recent years, making weather-dependent nosh a year-round pleasure. Another recent – at least to my mind – addition to the eating scene is the ‘pop-up’ restaurant: a fancy, almost Dragons Den-esque take on dinner with, typically, a burgeoning gourmet fast food start-up punting its wares in a more established premises.

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Happily Hang Fire Smokehouse – now resident at The Lansdowne pub in Cardiff’s Canton district following a successful stint at The Canadian over in Splott – comes minus any ponderous entrepreneurs and is instead chock-full of fun and food. Our first attempt to try out Hang Fire’s newest incarnation hit the skids on a busy Friday night when, such is its popularity, we were warned of a possible 90-minute total wait to first get a table and then get some grub. The fact Hang Fire is only in residence on a Thursday and Friday between 5pm and 9pm (though they tend to run out earlier) makes it feel like a gastronomic game of human Hungry Hippos, with everyone desperate to chow down before it all disappears. We returned early on a Thursday evening and managed to get a table straightaway, albeit a slightly squashed four-seater wedged on the end of the bar. The menu is an exercise in cheerful brevity – a simple single side of laminated A4 with a short but brilliant array of barbecue specialities. Pulled pork, chicken, ribs and beef brisket all vie for attention alongside a refreshing-sounding veggie burger and bargain £5 sandwiches. In the fashion of not being able to settle for one I opted for pretty much all of them by ordering The Hang Fire (£13) – a combination of pulled pork, beef brisket and smoked wings served with two sides from a choice of four. With my partner ordering the pulled pork (£10), also served with a pair of sides, we went for a sample of everything (a recurring theme) to accompany our meat feasts. And feasts they were. Despite their imposing appearance, served simply on a paper-covered tray and with only kitchen roll and a wooden fork as accoutrements, the mains were as light as they were delicious. The moment the first piece of juicy beef brisket crossed my lips sent me into raptures – smoky, rich and oh-so-subtly flavoured, this was one of the best cuts of meat I have tasted in a long time. Its yielding, melt-in-the-mouth perfection – after some 14 hours of cooking, I later learned – made it tempting to simply devour it immediately but I shared my labour of love, moving on next to sample the pulled pork. My commonest gripe with this dish is that it can end up overcooked and dry – not so here. This was gooey goodness and lots of it, with enough sauce to give a southern barbecue twang but not so much to overpower the quality of the cut. The wings – another easy one to get wrong – were also of the highest order, sticky and sweet, with plenty of meat on the gently-parted bones. The sides were no less impressive. Particular praise must go to the barbecue beans, loaded richly with chilli and Cajun spice and a delicious rush of meatiness and texture – pure pleasure in a pot. The maque choux (creole corn) was also a triumph, with sweetcorn (of which I’m not usually a fan) cooked with thyme, oregano and parsley along with a gentle creamy edge to provide a much subtler counterpart to the beans and meat. The house ’slaw was, by comparison, a tad mundane, though the seasoned fries were fresh and tasty if on the salty side. We made room for dessert and I squeezed down a decadent chocolate brownie (£3.50) – served cold and with an inspired room temperature ice-cream which had a butterscotch aftertaste – while my partner went for a lemon meringue (£3.50). It was, we were warned, the first night this dessert had been prepared and it had “a soggy bottom”. That didn’t stop it being a tasty and zesty delight, a crumbling mix of textures and tastes, but the frankness in letting us know epitomised everything that was good about Hang Fire – the knockabout charismatic service was as warm and fun as the food itself. Whether The Lansdowne is a natural home for this venture remains to be seen. While I enjoyed the meal, I wasn’t so keen on having a couple on probably their second or third date lumped in alongside me (and I’m sure the felt quite the same way about me). It all felt a bit cramped and rushed, as though nobody was quite sure whether they were in a pub or a diner and with the resultant forced formality of a GP’s waiting room. The concept of Hang Fire Smokehouse at The Lansdowne is undoubtedly great – it’s experimental and good fun, topped off with food that has to be the best take on barbecue I’ve tried in the capital. The execution perhaps need a little fine-tuning but irrespective of the microcosm of anarchy this is a must-try experience. Hang Fire Smokehouse is at The Lansdowne pub in Lansdowne Road, Canton, Cardiff, every Thursday and Friday from 5pm

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