Disappointment is all too common with places that claim to do real American-style barbecue in the UK. You get all excited, you giddily go in on the ribs and the brisket, and are ultimately disappointed by the subpar meat and lack of authenticity. So when we hit up Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, our usual scepticism (and the limited lunchtime menu) dictated that we go for the burger.
This is a classic pub/steakhouse burger. The patty is a plump seven ounces with a loosely packed pink centre. It misses a touch of flavour and could do with a bash more salt but has good texture to it. The fry sauce is a great example of the familiar sweet tangy notes of a classic burger sauce, and ordering the burger with 'the works' adds a great pickle relish punching a piquant sour next to it. 'The Works' also provides the requisite lashings of pub burger-esque salad.
The requested addition of cheese provided a thick slice of pretty strong cheddar, loading up the tangy flavour to high levels in the mix. Place all that in a pretty decent brioche, which had substance but wasn't dry, and what you have is a perfectly fine pub-style offering.
Oh how we should have gone for the ribs 'n' chicken platter. We managed to snag a couple of ribs off of a fellow diners' plate. Turns out if you stare incessantly at someone's food for long enough it makes them uncomfortable enough to hand over some of it. And they were good.
The deep, near-treacly, bark revealed a pink insides. The meat was great - it held up enough to be cut into individual ribs but pulled off the bone delightfully easily and was brilliantly soft. The bark to meat ratio meant that there was a great mix of the bite and intensity in flavour of the rub with the subtly smoky insides. It was all over way too soon, but we could have eaten racks of these baby backs.
Stalwarts of Cardiff's street food scene, Hang Fire have just opened up in the guts of an old hydraulic pumphouse on Barry Docks. This new permanent base means bigger quantities of different Southern-US-style barbecue meats, which the dinner menu showcases. The large place has been kept simplistic in design, with bare brick walls and wooden-slatted pillars housing leather banquettes and simple furnishings. Pictures of the pitmasters' travels adorn the walls giving it a feel similar to the homely barbecue places in the States. Give this place a bit of time and it too could become one of those weathered but reliable places to go grab some decent grub. We'll be heading back as soon as we can to test their smoker mettle on the trickiest of beasts, brisket.