Smokin’! – Restaurant review: Hangfire BBQ at the Pilot, Penarth

I really hate missing out on things, but something I’d missed out on until recently was Hangfire BBQ, a pop up restaurant that’s been taking the Cardiff area by storm since its launch, appearing at various different pub locations. When one of my local(ish) pubs, the Pilot in Penarth, announced that they would be hosting Hangfire BBQ every Thursday for a couple of months AND they would be taking bookings (unlike the early pop ups in Hangfire’s history), I realised I had no excuse to miss out any longer and booked to go along and find out what all the fuss was about.

Hangfire is the brainchild of Sam and Shaunna, who took an epic American roadtrip in order to discover what true American BBQ was all about. They’ve brought back the concept, serving smoked food at a variety of pop up and food festival locations, and claim that “Having experienced all the major State variations, they’re not only confident that they are able to recreate authentic southern style bbq, but are equipped to elevate it to the next level using British produce with unique flavour profiles.” Sounds good to me!

We were served by Shaunna, who is one of the most enthusiastic people I have ever met, and clearly genuinely loves what she does and the food that she serves. She talked us through the menu (a couple of dishes, such as ‘Burnt Ends’ and ‘Hush Puppies’ needed some explaining!) and told us how the meat is cooked – it’s all smoked, with smoke being the only thing that touches the meat, and thus takes several days to cook, which is why the pop up only happens once a week, and why the meat has a unique flavour! There was never going to be any choice for me other than pulled pork – one of my favourite dishes when done well. This, of course, was done well! Delicious, tender meat, full of barbecue flavour, and complemented by crispy french fries and a delicious slaw, which contained confit garlic, which added to the flavour without overwhelming it.

Pulled pork

Pulled pork

Mr W went for the ‘Hangfire Holy Trinity’ – which comprised some of the delicious pulled pork, some beef brisket and a sausage. Shaunna told us that they are proud to say that their sausages are the most expensive product they buy – which was a relief for me as I’m very fussy about sausages – and this was definitely reflected in the quality. Mr W’s sides were mote delicious fries and a green chilli stew – which wasn’t my cup of tea as it was a bit too spicy for me, but he loved it! We also had a side of Burnt Ends – cut from the pointier end of the joint of beef after it’s been smoked. I expected that these might be dry or even crispy, but they were lovely and moist and served with a delicious gravy. Sadly, they were out of Hush Puppies, but they’re something to try next time!

Holy Trinity

Holy Trinity

Burnt Ends

Burnt Ends

Homemade sauces

Homemade sauces

Unfortunately we were too late for pudding and it was all gone by the time we were ready to order, which I was practically distraught about, as I’d had my heart set on Key Lime Pie, which is one of my favourite desserts, but difficult to find done well in the UK. The other option was a brownie with bacon ice cream – this was sold out too, but I’d definitely like to try that in the future as well.

We loved our Hang Fire experience. The food was fantastic, and the fact it’s served with rolls of paper towels and wooden cutlery on the table, plus Sam and Shaunna’s amazing home made sauces – including Espresso BBQ and North Carolina Mustard, which tasted like liquidised Picallili – makes it feel like a pretty authentic experience. And what really added to the experience was Shaunna’s infectious enthusiasm – when someone is so passionate about their food, you know it’s going to be good, and it makes the experience even better. Combining this with the Pilot’s usual hospitality and relaxed setting makes me with the pop up would be a permanent thing, albeit that’s a bit of a contradiction in terms. But we’re definitely going to be popping in to their next pop up location…and I’m going to get some of that Key Lime Pie this time!


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