Saturday, 25 May 2013

The Smoke House, Pontcanna, Cardiff, BBQ restaurant review

The Smoke House in Pontcanna is the third member of Cardiff’s BBQ restaurant trinity.

Having already got my paws dirty at the awesome Hang Fire and the less awesome Fire Island, I’d been looking forward to completing the picture with a visit The Smoke House.

The experience was enjoyable but...

Whilst Smoke House’s exposed wood, chalkboard and grey toned dining space is gorgeous

and they have a cracking range of interesting flavoured American craft beer (the citrusy Magic Hat IPA was particularly lush),

and service is super slick and friendly (complimentary pre-dinner pretzels and minging Hershey’s Kisses brought with the bill were a nice touch),

a BBQ restaurant is ultimately all about the meat, and it’s in this area that the Smoke House disappoints. 

A half rack of ‘Memphis’ style dry rub ribs (£13.95) were tender but hadn’t been trimmed sufficiently to remove the cartilage and small bones. More significantly, too subtle smoking and the drenching of the meat with sweet barbecue sauce contributed to a samey experience. Sides of apple slaw, crisp fries, and a pot of smoked garlic mayonnaise were very good, whilst a pan of BBQ sauce was surplus to requirements.

Mrs G’s pulled pork (£10.95) was tasty but suffered from the same problems - it was all just a bit soft and sweet. A bit more restraint with the sauce, a bit more smoking and some more textural contrast would have improved the dish. Sides of onion rings were good but lacked the uber-crispness of the best. A pot BBQ beans also contributed to the relentless BBQ sauce action.

A side dish of brisket (£3.45) was once again swimming in BBQ sauce. As such, whilst the pulled pork and brisket should have been dramatically different, there was actually very little to differentiate them.

Our other friends ordered slow smoked BBQ chicken (£10.95), a nice juicy half chicken with no discernible smoke flavour, and a Smokehouse burger (£9.50) which was described as good but unremarkable.

For dessert, a warm pecan pie combined a light syrupy filling with crisp pecans. A scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream was good but an unnecessary slick of chocolate syrup conspired to mask the flavour of everything else on the plate.

Baked New York cheesecake was pleasingly light but could have done with a citrus note to balance its richness.

Key lime pie with crisp pastry and a whipped, sharp, creamy filling was the strongest of the trio of desserts.

Our meal at the Smoke House was fine. In fact, it was only the smoked meat which was a real disappointment. 

But here’s the thing... a BBQ restaurant is all about the BBQ. 

The details:
Address - 77 Pontcanna Street, Cardiff, CF11 9HS
Telephone - 029 2034 4628

The Smoke House on Urbanspoon


  1. That's the first so-so review I've read.
    Me and my husband went around Easter and thought it was pretty good. Ribs for him, pulled pork for me, side of brisket - couldn't fault it. Fried chicken to start and key lime pie were also great. I want to go back!


    1. @Rae - It always seems to be fully booked on an evening so I'm sure there are tons of people who share your viewpoint! However, for me, in comparison to other BBQ meat I've eaten, Smoke House wasn't as good as I was hoping.

  2. me and my wife went last night and it was one of the best meals I've ever had. I had ribs and my wife had brisket. I happened to disagree with virtually everything you said in terms on bbq sauce and meats. I guess its subjective but I happened to find the meal, service and experience amazing. I am a BBQ fan and have eaten american style diner food all over the world and this really was one of my all time favourites. the key lime pie was the best I've ever tasted

  3. This actually reads like very reasonable review. To disagree with virtually everting in the above, hints at someone who cant understand the pont of subjective reviewing, and to be your favourite bbq place of all times when you have visited Americas bbq restaurants, just sound stupid, perhaps a tad sensitive to an hoest review ?

  4. I totally agree with anonymous 12/06. BBQ is all about the smoking of the meat not the drenching of the sauce!! When you do eat in an American BBQ place they do not drench it in sauce for flavour and true american BBQ places will only serve the pork. I have never tasted anything in the UK that comes close to american BBQ. I have eaten in 6 states, from Asia to Africa too and could never say my best meal was in Cardiff as much as I love it here. Susie -

  5. Get a decent Weber Smokey Mountain and do your own! Plenty of good butchers in Cardiff to get nice cuts of meat from. I regularly do my own oak & cherry wood smoked pork shoulder for about 10 hours with my own home-made dry rub, and it's plenty for a handful of hungry eaters plus leftovers which can be bagged and frozen. I will make a sauce to go with it (europeans tend towards the tomatoey rather than the thinner vinegary sauces they dish up in the states), but drizzle it on. You should try the meat as it comes first, with the smoke ring & dry-rub crust, and then add some sauce if that's how you like it.

    Got to agree with the original reviewer though - your meat shouldn't come drenched in sauce, especially if they only have the same house sauce on everything. It should be on the side for you to add if you want it that way.

  6. I'm looking forward to trying this place out before leaving Cardiff... however having done my own BBQ for the last 2 years now, I am concerned about the "relentless sauce onslaught".
    I agree with the anon commenter above, I've got a ProQ Frontier and it is simply brilliant. Anyone who loves American BBQ... just go and buy a smoker. It will be one of the best food investments you'll ever make :)

    I'll come back once I manage to get into this place! :D

    1. I think I need to invest in a smoker. Been contemplating buying one for ages but next Summer might just be the right time...

  7. Tried writing this before but my phone was playing up. Went there about a month ago now and it still irritates me. They didn't do themselves any favours by telling my wife they had a 6 week waiting list and then have no problem accepting walkups on the day. On to the food: just bad, bad bbq. The sickening sweetness is mentioned above but a special mention goes to the ribs that were badly trimmed and just tasted of mush (badly overdone) and the chewy brisket. My wife also sent back a steak that was like leather. The staff, once we were in, were friendly (if slow). Always disappointed by a place where I know I can cook better than they can on every front. So far from the best bbq in Cardiff it's unbelievable. Oh, and another vote for ProQ priducts here - a really good smoker for the money.