Very often with hen weekends, the general ethos is go big or go home. This covers all activities whether you are strutting your stuff in a burlesque lesson, tackling the cha cha slide on the dance floor or consuming your body weight in an array of delectable treats. The latter was certainly the case when I attended a close friend’s hen weekend in Cardiff recently and we decided that the best bet for lining our stomachs before a rowdy night out was heading to American BBQ joint Smoke Haus.
American fodder has seen an absolute boom in popularity in recent years, with diner style restaurants appearing left, right and centre – this means that getting a unique take on this market can be easier said than done. I was intrigued to see how Smoke Haus would stack up and what they had to offer in comparison to other similar venues I had visited. For starters, the atmosphere was electric, with long rectangular dark wood tables ideal for large groups. There didn’t seem to be such a thing as a quiet table for two as it was all about creating a gathering, clustering together with your mates, the chatter and laughter of friends a constant background hum that instantly put you at ease. With dim lighting and background music to nod your head to, stylistically Smoke Haus hits a lot of traditional American notes. Vibrant coloured graffiti art paired with gleaming black motorbike – check. Sleek black backgrounds showcasing stamp like white logos and hashtags – check. A bottle laden bar revealing a wealth of spirits and liqueurs to wet your whistle – check. Polished wooden floors and an airy high ceiling gave the restaurant the impression of being a converted barn, once again emphasising that down to earth American vibe.
While waiting for our table to be ready we headed to the bar to order our first round of drinks. The cocktail menu was surprisingly well stocked, and with each drink just under £6 it was also rather cheap to indulge in something away from the usual wine or beer. With this in mind I opted for the immensely colourful Tequila Sunrise – I love the colour gradient between the fresh orange juice and the blood red grenadine sunk right at the bottom. Oh, and the generous kick of tequila peps things up nicely too. Served with a sunny splay of orange, I was slurping happily as we were led to our table.
Checking out the menu, it was your classic diner style fare with an array of steaks, burgers, hot dogs and grills, all offering mouth-watering amounts of meat. A carnivore’s paradise, I perused the options with glee before settling on one of the 8oz burgers. I went for The Hog Father, a single portion coming in at £11.95. As well as the juicy burger, I would enjoy swiss cheese, lashings of pulled pork, flavoursome streaky bacon and a warm BBQ sauce, all encased in a tasty brioche style bun. The main meal came with fries and coleslaw, although I traded my traditional fries for sweet potato fries. Uniquely, the meal arrived on a small, rectangular plastic tray, covered with a sheet of Smoke Haus embossed paper, giving the lunch time tray feel a distinctly classier feel whilst maintaining the theme. The burger was certainly impressive in size and I cut it in half eagerly. It was absolutely amazing, the flavour combinations simply perfect together. The pulled pork was a mini mountain on top of my oozy cheese covered beef, the bacon adding a stab of saltiness and the BBQ sauce lacing everything together with a rich and sticky sweetness. It hit my spot big time!
The sweet potato fries were tasty too, being thin, crispy and very moreish to munch on. They were served in a white oven dish which gave the feel that they had just emerged fresh from the oven. Splodging ketchup messily, I got stuck in. The coleslaw was pretty standard, served in a small black dip dish, hiding in the corner of my tray. Needless to say, I enjoyed my meal so much that I polished it off completely, loving every mouthful.
Price wise, I would say Smoke Haus is very reasonable. For my main course and two cocktails, I paid around £25. The service was also good, with our food coming out quite promptly considering we were a large group of 11. The waiting staff were friendly and brought over drinks nice and quick too. On the whole, I really enjoyed my Smoke Haus experience and would love to visit again next time I am in Cardiff. Seeing a hot dog waft past, I definitely have one of those bad boys on my ‘must eat’ list!