Saturday, 5 November 2016

Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, Barry

Remember me? I'm sure that I used to be a food blogger, once upon a time! This year has been completely crazy. I've started a new job and had so much going on, that Sun Sea & Sara has taken a bit of a back seat. Lots of food and adventures since you last saw me, that's for sure. I've been taking photos and posting up on Instagram, so hopefully I'll try and catch up on the blogging!

I've been so busy in fact, that I've managed to visit the incredible Hang Fire Southern Kitchen twice and somehow not told you all about it yet. So grab a beer and prepare to get very hungry...

It's worth the wait that you'll inevitably have for a table. They're still so busy that they're very often fully booked, and unfortunately I live just too far away to risk a walk in. However, I'd wait months (impatiently, granted) to get my hands on these Louisiana hot wings again. They have this addictive spicy, almost vinegary sauce on them and I can't get enough. I had them on both visits...and now I'm writing this again I'm off to book another table for a third batch.

I'm trying so hard to describe how good these are, but you just have to try them for yourself. Whilst gesturing to everyone else on the table about how spicy and juicy they are, with hot sauce dribbling down your chin.

I'm getting ahead of myself here though. Just in case you've been living in a cave for a couple of years and haven't bought any food from a truck recently, let me fill you in on the Hang Fire story (short version). Sam & Shauna are two awesome chicks who gave up their careers to eat their way around the US of A in search of the most badass barbecue and bring it back to Wales. They've really been the firing force behind the Cardiff street food movement, and still are. 2016 has seen the opening of their first restaurant down the at the beautiful Barry waterfront, which is going from strength to strength, while still maintaining a presence on the street food scene.

Number one rule on the day of your visit: Don't eat a thing all day.

If you're going for starters, get the hot wings. I don't care about anything else. But if you're not feeling spicy, the lil cheeky pies are a cute plate to share.

On my first visit, my friend and I (who is my equal in stomach filling ability) knew there was only one option. The Big Pit Plate. A sharing plate for two. Or should I say plates.

The meats: Brisket, St Louis ribs, Andouille sausage, Carolina style pulled pork. Oh and a little pot of glorious burnt ends and pickles.

The Hang Fire ribs are indescribable if you haven't tried them yourself. Smoked low and slow the Hang Fire way, with the pink smoke ring and the dry rub on top. Melt in your mouth good, the meat just falls off the bone. Ditch the forks and get stuck in.

Oh and the pulled pork. Oh and the brisket. Oh it's just all so good. I might not have blogged in a while but I really am all out of words to describe this barbecue heaven that is HF. Just go and eat it all. Except those juicy burnt ends...they're mine. Prepare to fight your whole table over those.

Nothing at HF is an afterthought. Even the carb tray was a fantastic mix of sides. A pot of slaw and pit beans each, a slice of cornbread and perfect chips. The light and tangy coleslaw recipe is in their book (available on Amazon, but I got free with a £20 hug), I made it for a BBQ and even my mayonnaise obsessed friends and family loved it. It just goes so much better with the meat than the usual claggy stuff you buy in the shops.

Even the sauces are made to their own recipe, the espresso sauce being my favourite drizzled on top of the chunky beef brisket.

While us girls worked our way through the Pit Plate, the boys both went for the brisket. Complete with burnt ends and piled high on Texas toast (which I think is a slice of garlic bread to you and I). That ring of pink around the outside called the 'smoke ring' is a chemical reaction, and is the true sign of a low and slow smoking of the meat (which you won't find at certain "smokehouses" that pop up around town).

Second time around, it was just Mr P and I on my birthday. I picked out the flat iron steak which comes with the dreamy chimichurri sauce and creamy bone marrow butter. The steak was so thick yet cut like butter, and just melted in the mouth. Don't underestimate the chips either, I was still picking at these skin on beauties long after I'd run out of room.

Mr P went for something he'd always wanted to try, that American classic of chicken and waffles, but with a sweet potato fry swap.

The verdict - as with everything else at HF - was awesome. Not being completely new to the sweet & savoury aspect (obsessed with bacon and maple syrup pancakes), it was just how he imagined it. The fried chicken had a great crunch, without being too greasy. The coating had a good balance of spice, including a hit of black pepper that cut through the sweetness. The waffles were huge chunky things, and I did enjoy the one bite I was allowed...

The Hang Fire Southern Kitchen is everything I'd hoped for when I heard they had a restaurant. Aside from the utterly faultless food, the Pumphouse is beautiful and a Pinterest dream (check out the toilets). The staff are super friendly and there's just a good fun vibe about the place. Despite the fight to book a table, it's organised so that it never feels crowded. The drinks list is pretty hefty, with a good stock of craft beers such as Beavertown and Brewdog, which all go well with the food.

Grab some friends, and go book a table now here! Don't forget to end with a pickleback!

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Sunday Best - The Grill, Celtic Manor

I've visited Celtic Manor a number of times, but hadn't yet experienced their Sunday Lunch. A few weeks ago, a few friends were down in the area for a stag do with Mr P, so accompanied with the ladies we had a few rounds of (crazy, obviously) golf and then headed over to The Grill for lunch.

This was the first time we've experienced The Grill, as we've usually leant towards the Rafters restaurant on previous visits. The Grill is the clubhouse restaurant, which overlooks the Roman Road golfcourse. That doesn't mean a lot to us non-golfy people, but it is a pretty view nevertheless, even on the grey and drizzly day that we had.

A couple of lovely crusty mini loaves were brought to the table while we reviewed the menu, with the usual hunk of creamy butter and a heap of salt for the unhealthy ones like me to pile on top to our hearts content...

Although named 'The Grill', the menu is pretty extensive, including burgers, salads and pastas amongst the meaty grill offerings. A couple of the party had these options, and they looked quite good, but we're here for one thing only guys. Winner winner, chicken dinner.

A juicy chicken breast with a charred crunchy skin was placed upon a pile of wonderfully fruity red cabbage. I absolutely love red cabbage on a roast but unless it's Christmas it rarely makes an outing, so I was happy to see this. Coupled with a handful of roast veggies and a purée, made for quite a sweet dinner.

The two roasties were pretty much perfect in my eyes, with the ideal crunch to soft ratio (I know, I'm becoming a real potato nerd). Chicken gravy is never going to be the star of the show, but even so I could have done with a little more than the spillage that we got. No jug means a docking of the points I'm afraid.

However, at £16.50, it made my eyes water just a little. I'm well aware that this is the Celtic Manor etc, and I didn't go expecting 'Toby Carvery' prices or sizes. There was no extra gravy or vegetables, and as lovely as the chicken was, I did expect a little bit more. I can't help compare the fact that this one dish cost more than the entire 3 courses at The Ruperra, and the quality there was just as good, or even better.

A few of us rounded off lunch with dessert, and there was one offering that caught my eye, the cola and cherry sundae. We ordered one, with a couple of spoons.

Now this, was amazing. Drool worthy. The entire thing was like a cherry cola float, and I loved the retro sundae glass to go with it. Cherry ripple ice cream, with cola gel and cherry compote swirled through, topped with some kind of amazing fizzy cola whipped cream. No prizes for guessing whose spoon did the biggest damage.

Hiding at the bottom of the glass was a glorious little chocolate truffle which burst full of cherry goodness when bitten into. This was a total dream of a dessert, and I'd happily pay the £7.50 for this again. It was huge, and easily enough for two people to share.

Dessert just about saved the day for us at The Grill. Lunch was lovely but not spectacular, and the service could have been improved. As most of us were on driving duty, our drinks order was not complicated, but what we received was incorrect and it took a number of tries to get some water, and then the bill, to the table.

Then there's the prices. With barely a main meal on the menu for less than £15, it isn't very purse friendly. Add that to £3.60 for a pint of postmix Pepsi and £4.70 for a Fosters, it can easily add up for a family. Oh, and don't forget the 10% service charge added automatically to your bill (a huge bugbear of mine). Ouch.

As a special evening meal, I think the prices could possibly be justified, but personally, there are much better Sunday lunch deals out there than at The Grill. Even some of the other Manor restaurants offer a set menu Sunday lunch at much better value, so it's worth looking around first if you're after somewhere special.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Stable, Cardiff

I know I go on and on about food, but you may remember me harking on and on about a little pizza and cider haven in Newquay here called The Stable. Well back then I thought that Fistral Beach was the only one, but not only do they have numerous branches, they've also brought a piece of their West Country lovin' to Cardiff.

I've been dying to try The Stable ever since I missed their opening night, but life and all sorts of other food kept getting in the way. So with a quiet afternoon off work one day, Mr P and I headed into the capital to hunter gather ourselves some lunch.

We ordered ourselves a cider flight and had a nose at the menu. The cider tasting flights are such good value and a great way to try out a couple of ciders, if the 80-odd varieties on offer are a little overwhelming. They're served in 1/3 of a pint, so if one happens to taste like cat wee, you can palm it off onto your drinking partner... *look innocent*

Both the full and lunch menus were on offer, but surprise, we couldn't decide. Mr P went for the 'Monmouth Trotter' pizza from the lunch menu, and I picked the Wild Rooster pie from the main menu. I was sold by the roast potatoes, to be honest.

I know it might look pretty, but I really do hate it when someone shoves a lump of rocket on top of a pizza. It's so unnecessary and annoying, especially when said pizza comes with a side salad in a bowl next to it. Rant over.

Pizza was pronounced lovely and crispy, and with plenty of topping.  It felt a little on the small side, but that's probably our fault for being such naughty breakfast-skipping late lunchers. This was from the lunch menu too, so more than adequate with the salad for a normal weekday lunch. For those with normal sized stomachs.

I think I won in the food stakes to be honest.

Filled to the brim with big cubes of gammon and gooey leeks, it doesn't get much better comfort food than that. Combined with a couple of potato wedges and an amazing tomato salsa to dip them in, this was a winner. The pie pastry truly was very good, piping hot and flaky but sturdy, and went well with the ciders on offer. Even the salad was tasty and well dressed, and the pickled onion a nice touch. I do wonder what happened to the other half however...

A good start to a chill out date afternoon in Cardiff. It's not the same, however, staring out at Barrack Lane instead of a Fistral Beach sunset so I just can't quite get the same excitement as I did first time around. Nevertheless, I'm sure I'll be back with a bunch friends for a relaxed evening to make our way through the cider menu, and for some more of those lovely roast potatoes.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Sunday Best - The Ruperra Arms, Newport

Next up in the Sunday lunch series is The Ruperra Arms, situated in Bassaleg, Newport. I've been looking forward to trying lunch here for a long while, after many recommendations from friends and family alike. We saw on their twitter that they had a last minute table free for Sunday lunch, and at a loose end, we nabbed it.

The Ruperra is a seriously cute looking little pub, cwtchy corners and log fires for winter, and a twinkling fairy light garden for the summer. We grabbed our drinks (Tiny Rebel on tap = points on the board already) and settled in with the menu.

Sunday lunch is offered at £8.95, £12.95 and £15.95 for one, two and three courses, and in the interests of a good blog (how long can I use that excuse?) we went for all three.

First up was a smoked bacon Caesar salad for me, and a smoked salmon and crayfish parfait for Mr P.  There's not a lot you can say about salad, but it was a perfectly pleasant starter. Creamy cheddar cheese went well with the salty chunks of bacon, and the crunchy croutons pulled it all together.

The salmon parfait looked very pretty, and came with plenty of the bloody Mary sauce which pleased Mr P who's partial to the spicy cocktail.

I usually go for the chicken dinner, but the 7 hour roasted beef brisket sold me, and I'm so glad it did. I don't know what they did to that beef, but it was incredible. Thick slices were piled high on the plate, and were as soft as butter. Definitely worth every minute of slow roasting time, and clearly good quality beef as it wasn't sinewy in the slightest.

Mr P went for the chicken, and his reports from across the table were that it was a very good roasted breast of chicken, and most importantly for a roast chicken, still moist and juicy.

As you can see, the yorkies were huge and pillowy, and it came with both new and roast potatoes, and there's a stuffing ball hiding underneath there too. I'm not too keen on the bit of green strung across the top though, a little bit unnecessary?

Along came an extra jug of heavenly 'Nanna' gravy, thick and flavoursome and made with those glorious beef juices. It was lush, the entire jug disappeared between us both, and Mr P declared it "the best gravy I've ever had in my life" - that's a serious statement from a man who's seen a lot of roasts! There was a good selection of crunchy and vibrant veggies. I love a green bean so was happy to see those make an appearance.

My only disappointment was the roast potatoes, which looked perfect on the plate, but they just weren't crunchy at all on the outside. They were a good size and bronzed nicely, but just lacking the crunchy edges that I love so much.

I was completely stuffed by now, especially after mopping up all the rich gravy, but I was too intrigued by the dessert menu, or more specifically "Steve's OMG brownie"...

A chocolatey hunk of naughtiness with a scoop of creamy vanilla bean ice cream and the most picture perfect of strawberries. This was a real slab of thick, rich chocolate. Just the thing for chocolate lovers.

Mr P went for the lighter side of dessert, with a lemon posset and shortbread biscuits. I'm not one for those type of desserts, but he absolutely raved about this. Probably the better option to round off a filling lunch and cleanse your palette, but this girl needed the chocolate.

For £15.95, I honestly walked out of The Ruperra feeling like I'd robbed them. The standard of each course was outstanding, and just unbeatable for that price. I can't wait to go back and try out the normal menu, and I'd go back for Sunday lunch in a heartbeat.

Make sure you book up ahead (details here) as this place gets very busy and booked up quickly. There were some walk ins turned away while we were eating. Oh, and have the beef. Trust me.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Urban Tap House, Newport

I love this place so much I kind of want to keep it all to myself so that I've always got a seat. But that wouldn't be fair on anyone, and besides, I talk about it way too much to keep it a secret.

Tiny Rebel and therefore Urban Tap House are easily the best thing to have happened to the 'Port in such a long time. Get your butt out of Friars Walk and up to the Market and try a pub where there's not a pint of Carling in sight and your dinner's ingredients are sat on a deli counter less than 20 metres away.

Mr P and I were after all of the carbs (as per usual) and decided on a pizza to share and some sides. I really fancied the breakfast pizza, but we compromised on the 'Signature' which was pulled pork, BBQ sauce and candied bacon dust (£9.95). Yes, I was sold on magical sounding bacon dust.

To cover all the necessary food groups we added some sweet potato fries (£2.50) and some pulled pork dough balls (£4.95).

In hindsight, the pizza might have been enough. Enough for three people that is. Gargantuan is the only adjective big enough to describe it. Oh, that and lush. The deep sweet and smoky BBQ sauce made with 'Dirty Stop Out' stout really elevates the pulled pork to another level entirely.

The sweet potato fries were the perfect balance of crisp and crunchy on the outside, but unlike so many other establishments who obliterate the potato element completely in the fryer, they still retained some soft sweet potato goodness.

Never ones to over dress or under order, us two. These dough balls had to come home with us and get devoured later on with a beer for tea instead, as they were just too much to fit in. Huge chewy doughy balls to pull apart and dunk in some more of that Dirty Stop Out BBQ sauce, filled with even more pulled pork.

The incredible Tiny Rebel beers are the other reason we keep coming back to Urban Tap House (both Cardiff & Newport). If you get a chance to try 'Stay Puft' when you visit, please do. It's a delicious marshmallow porter, and probably the most flavoursome pint I've ever had. It's glorious. It's like melted toasted marshmallows in an espresso. 

The menu will be undergoing a revamp soon, and as the majority of the produce comes from the Market next door there are always new specials to try out. There's a bunch of events coming up over the summer, and with a sizeable beer garden to soak up the sun, maybe I'll see you there eh?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Sunday Best - The Halfway House, Blackwood

Welcome to my new series - Sara's Sunday Best. I've recently had a lot of my friends and family asking about the best place for a good ol' Sunday roast and it set my blogger bells ringing. I decided to throw myself on the line for you readers, and set out to find the yummiest roast around.

My lovely arty husband helped me design the scoreboard below, and we chatted about the most important bits of a roast to be scored, and the ultimate score out of five. Out of five 'Nans' that is. I don't know if it's a Welsh thing, but the highest accolade you can ever get for a roast dinner is "That tastes just like my Nan's dinner" so the bar is set very high my friends.

Up first is The Halfway House, Blackwood (ish). Local for me, and only a few moments away from the Bryn Meadows Hotel & Golf Club. Thinking of where to go and get fed one weekend, we remembered the most amazing sandwich we'd had here a few years ago, and decided to go back and check out the full dinner.

We'd booked for 12.30pm, and when we got there it seemed almost deserted, and odd that although there were only the two of us, we were sat on a small 'in the way' table. However, by the time we sat and ordered, it soon filled up.

I was tempted by the pork belly, but in the end we both plumped for the roast lamb. Slightly odd to see such varying prices between the meats, but all in all reasonably priced for what came next. Cauli cheese was an extra at £2.50, which is a must for me when it's on the menu. Child prices are just out of shot, but they were £3 less than the adult price across the board.

Our food came out of the kitchen very quickly, and just kept on coming. Roasties, a crunchy stuffing ball, a yorkshire, carrot & swede mash and the roast lamb were plated up and given a lick of gravy to keep moist and warm.

Then out came a bowl of crisp cabbage, a mixed bowl of carrots and peas, an extra full jug of herby gravy and the cauliflower cheese. Mind your toes...

The lamb was faultless, plentiful and flavoursome. The carrots (both mash and boiled) were sweet, but I could take or leave the average peas. I'm not the biggest fan unless they're of the mushy or marrowfat kind. Cabbage was well seasoned and still had a bite to it.

The most important part...the roasties were pretty darn good. Not quite as amazing as our previous visit, but that sandwich held high expectations. Crispy on the outside, piping hot and smooth inside. The stuffing ball was different to any I'd had before, deep fried texture with a lot of spicing. A bit of a surprise, but a nice one.


The cauliflower cheese sauce was really flavoursome, and so pretty flecked with herbs. My only criticism was that it could have done with just a minute more under the grill for me.

Service was lovely and helpful, with offers of more of whatever we needed, but not intrusive. I do hate that I'm always asked "How's your meal" when I've inevitably got more than what's considered polite shoved in my mouth.

After all that food, we were full as eggs, but I started out the afternoon with ice cream on the brain and ice cream I was going to get. There were some interesting looking desserts on the menu, but we opted to share a mint chocolate sundae.

Pretty standard pub sundae affair, more than enough for the both of us at the £5 price tag. I didn't (probably stupidly on my behalf) realise that it came with chocolate ice cream too, which I hate, so I skirted around it and snarfed all the minty bits. 

Totally stuffed, the damage was £30.50 for the two of us, without drinks. I can't comment on the beer selection as we were both on driver duties, so cokes all round.

For the first time in the series... let's get the Nan Score!

(P.s. If you like the look of Mr P's handiwork, take a look here at what he gets up to when I'm blogging)

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Feasting at Fistral

I think it's safe to say we filled our boots on our weekend away. My excuse is that we needed the extra padding against the bracing at Atlantic winds.... or that the food was just too good to resist.

We started our Saturday morning off in true lazy holiday style...full Cornish breakfast in bed with an unbeatable view.

However, the views and food downstairs in the restaurant are just as good. There's the usual cereals and fruits, a self serve buffet of full English items and cold meats, and you can also order from the hot menu. FYI, the eggs benny are awesome.

In between breakfasts, we found a food truck called Wild Foods, and devoured an incredibly crunchy wild garlic and nettle falafel. Very filling and just enough garlic to keep the vampires away.

Of course, who visits Cornwall without one of these? Heartbroken that my favourite pasty shop was shut, (I'm hoping that it was just for the winter) but this one filled in quite nicely.

Our deal included a 3 course meal on one night at The Headland, so Saturday night we stayed safe inside from the elements with a bottle of red to keep us warm.

Golden crunchy Cornish crab fritters with a creamy curried mayonnaise, with just enough spice.

Szechuan pork and spring onions. This dish was 100% prettier in real life than in this grainy light! A light and zingy starter with spicy marinaded pork.

Braised shin of beef, with a slice of fried polenta and garlic broccoli. The beef literally fell apart as soon as I stuck the fork in, and never underestimate the power of perfectly cooked broccoli! I could jump through the screen and eat this again right now.

The venison was pinker than the picture, and just as soft. The parmesan crisps added a nice crunch, and look striking, but are a lot harder to eat as a meal than they look.

I was a little disappointed with dessert. Cornish Gouda, quince jelly and biscuits. The jelly was both sweet and a little sharp, but that cheese barely stretched to two of the generic crackers.

Especially when over the other side of the table was this huge slab of sticky toffee pudding with popcorn ice cream. Deliciously sinful. It's probably a good job I only had a little slice of cheese, as Mr P was struggling and what kind of wife would I be if I didn't help out eh?

The restaurant is open to the public too, so if you're down this way at all, pop in for a cosy meal and nose around this beautiful building.