Sunday, 9 December 2012

Fire Island, Cardiff Barbecue review, food blog

Update - Fire Island has now closed down

Cardiff is currently experiencing the biggest glut of new restaurant openings in a long time.  Over the last few months we’ve had Double Super Happy, Chapel 1877, Viva Brazil, La Cuina, Hide ‘N’ Sea, The Lansdowne, Cosy Club, Bill’s, La Cha Cha and Bar 44 Penarth.  

However, the arrival which has had me salivating with anticipation more than one of Pavlov’s dogs is Fire Island. Their description, “Craft beer, cocktails, wood smoked BBQ & Grill”, sums up the reasons.

Barbecue has been one of the major UK food trends of 2012. However, it’s something I know chuff all about. And, more than any cooking style it inspires a geeky fanaticism - obscenely long cook times, mystery rubs, secret sauces, and exotic wood mixes are all part its complexity. So, if I drop any BBQ faux pas, I can only apologise.

Fire Island is located in the former Glamorgan County Council Staff Club on Westgate Street. They’ve done a cracking job with the renovation and the New York warehouse feel is right on point.

So too is the house beer, Tiny Rebel BeatBox American Pale Ale. And, it’s an exclusive to Fire Island

Fire Island’s launch menu is reassuringly short, with a clear focus on BBQ. We were told, it’s going to get bigger and will include desserts. I hope it doesn’t get too much bigger as it reads pretty well already. In spite of this, the addition of desserts will avoid the necessity of a post-lunch cream tea in future…

With Rhys “the bottomless pit” as my dining companion, we thought it would be ill-mannered not to order 2 mains each; the danger of this being our food was nearly delivered to a nearby table of 4.

According to our friendly waitress, Fire Island has both a hot & a cold smoker and they make their sauces from scratch. Neither she nor I can shed any more light on Fire Island’s barbecue process.

The ribs were good. A dark smoky crust surrounded the firm & moist flesh of both half racks of baby back pork ribs (£7.50) and pork spare ribs (£8.00). The slather of sticky, sweet and tangy barbecue sauce also had us reaching for a forest’s worth of wet wipes. However, a portion of 4 ribs for £8 felt a little light.

Pulled pork (£7) was also delicious. Tender, lightly smoked shreds of pork were coated in some more barbecue style sauce. The generic crispy white roll did its contents a disservice.

Pretty much everything else can be described as a work in progress. Accompanying coleslaw and potato salad were light on flavour and seasoning.

Soft sweet potato wedges (£2.50) served with a dollop sour cream were highly troughable but needed a good crisping up and a shake of salt.

The biggest disappointment was saved for beef brisket slow cooked in Beatbox A.P.A (£8). It looked and tasted a bit school dinner; the slow cooking process imparting neither flavour nor tenderness.

So, how to sum our experience at Fire Island? Whilst lunch was hit and miss, the headline act (the ribs) were rather good. In fact, the prospect of a whole rack and a pint of Tiny Rebel is pretty tempting. It’s just the other details that need to get sorted as this new restaurant beds in.

The details:
Address - Corner of Westgate and Quay Street
Telephone - 02920 236091
Fire Island on Urbanspoon


  1. Im a smoking BBQ fanatic in cardiff and im really dissapointed by this it sounds like all my own bbq is better than that. Shame they didnt copy Bodeans in London.

    Real BBQ beef brisket should be so tender you can shred it like pulled pork, smoky as a fireplace and covered in a BBQ sauce you'd sell your soul for the recipe for.

    1. @anonymous - Yes, the brisket was pretty dire. However, I'd be interested to hear your opinion on the ribs. I don't remember Bodeans being significantly better.

    2. Im going to have to try the ribs myself when i next go down there heres what i know about how the americans BBQ Ribs.

      Some believe ribs should be cooked with a dry spice rub only and served with bbq sauce on the side, some do a dry spice rub and marinate as well while cooking. Some think ribs should then be cooked quickly - grilled so that still have bite and some think they should be slow smoked for 4 hours until they fall apart. When i did ribs last time i bought a slab of ribs from aj morgans in cardiff market, dry rubbed them and smoked them for 4 hours over oak wrapping them in foil after two hours and covering them in bbq sauce they fell apart after that and tasted pretty good.

    3. @Anonymous - Your ribs sound ace. Let me know if you ever cook too many...

  2. Went to fire island yesterday and was underwhelmed both by the food and the service. Chips were soggy and few in number. Coleslaw was greasy and tired and as you have pointed out,to encase a burget in such a cheao generic bun was lame. The beer selection was welcome but it took the bar 20 mins to make a simple cocktail. We asked not to be charged for the drink as it hsd taken so long and was of poor quality and the manager came over and through gritted teeth took it off the bill. Dont think i will be heading back anytime soon

    1. @Anonymous - Oh dear. Sorry to hear about your experience. Guess I don't need to add the burger to my search for Cardiff's best burger?

  3. I wouldnt bother no. Things do go wrong sometimes and thats to be exoected but its how complaints are dealt with that's the key. And they sadly failed

  4. I went in last monday to find they've stopped serving food while they work on the menu — luckily I'd been to Bill's before hand on only wanted a drink. I had the pulled pork and beef brisket just before Christmas and thought they were both tasty. Looking forward to trying the revised offerings.

    1. @Sam - Yeah, I'm looking forward to trying the new menu too. The bread rolls and brisket hopefully look like they've significantly improved.

  5. New menu is now available - it launched about 2 weeks ago (Sam must've only been a few days too early!). They've added, potentially among other items; burgers, combos and desserts.

    Unfortunately, just days after the relaunch they were all out of pulled pork so a common choice in our group was ribs and brisket combo. I usually ordered ribs when they're available and wasn't impressed with these - there was a length of cartilage along one edge which made 1/4 inedible! The brisket was lovely though so I may return for a pulled pork bun sometime.

    Tiny Rebel beer very nice - remember it being popular at the 2012 Cider & Ale festival too.

    1. @anonymous - Thanks for sharing your views - definitely want to try the revised menu. Glad to hear the brisket was good.

  6. terrible customer service!