Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, Barry
It’s only in the last few years that barbecue has meant more to us Brits than cheap burgers and undercooked chicken legs. Now even Marks & Spencer has an authentic southern barbecue range
Two of the people responsible for this are the gals from the Hang Fire Smokehouse, Samantha Evans and Shauna Quinn.
I’d been wanting to eat their food since they were finalists - and then won - the street food category in the BBC Food & Farming awards but it always seemed too much of a challenge to track them down in some random corner of Cardiff.
Now they’re housed in a beautiful building just by the docks in Barry or Barrybados as it's known locally. Indeed when we arrive the sun is shining when it’s been tipping down in my home town of Bristol
Shauna, the noisy extrovert one administers bear hugs (not just to us, to everyone) and sits us down. "You have a birthday!" she shrieks gaily "and you can’t drink so YOU (pointing at me) will have to have The Surprise!"
She returns with a couple of shot glasses of bourbon and pickle juice. "Down in one!" she orders.
"I’m not doing it."
"Yes you are!"
"No I’m not"
I wait for her to drink hers then take a sip. She looks as if I’ve slapped her in the face. Sorry, sorry. Just can’t do it this early in the day.
At least I manage the pickle juice which is delicious. It obviously comes from the bread and butter pickles that are served with the brisket and burnt ends my chef friend Romy has ordered. This is a massive plateful of dark, savoury, fall-apart meat which would feed four with ease. We barely do it justice.
Romy's daughters don’t rate the chips but I think they’re fine though not as good as the slender crisp sweet potato fries that come with my smoked chicken and waffles. This is my star dish - perfectly fried chicken served with a creamy ‘black’n’white pepper’ gravy. Actually it tastes more mushroomy than peppery but sooo good.
A couple of quibbles - we had to wait a bit for our main course so this isn’t a place to come for a quick bite, on a Sunday at least. A good excuse though to order some of the amazing 'frickles' (deep fried dill pickles), break your teeth on some ‘cracklins’ (aka pork scratchings) or tuck into some sticky chicken wings.
And the desserts - sorry gals - just don't come up to the standard of the rest of the food. I suspect your heart's not in it. A bowlful of sliced banana topped with squirty cream may be authentic but doesn’t really cut the mustard. The brownie is fine though it could be a touch more squidgy.
There’s also a very short wine list which didn’t trouble me as this is a place to drink beer (from a good craft beer list). There's also - paying tribute to fellow Food & Farming award winners - cider from Andy Hallett and soft drinks Square Root whose root beer goes so well with the chicken I make it my match of the week.)
All I'm thinking about now is when I can next get back there. I wish Bristol had one too. (Hint.)
PS: A useful tip. There’s a fairly utilitarian Premier inn opposite which sounds a good plan if you’re going in the evening. I suspect it could get even louder and even messier. And even more fun.
The Hang Fire Southern Kitchen is at the Pump House, Hood Road, Barry CF62 5BE. Oddly they don't have a phone number - you'll need to book online. Opening hours: Wednesday to Saturday evenings, and Friday, Saturday and Sunday lunch. Expect to pay about £25-30 a head for food: our bill, which was mainly for food and soft drinks, came to to £96 for four.
The girls also have a cookbook out called the Hang Fire Cookbook which is published by Quadrille. They're on Twitter @hangfirebbq.
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