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What made a mining exploration company repurpose a nondescript space in industrial Ndabeni into a smokehouse barbecue restaurant and microbrewery? To fill a gap for nearby Pinelands residents to enjoy drinks and dinner.

It’s a place to pop in after work to meet friends. The dinner-only customers are diverse, a mix of boys out with mates, hip couples, middle-aged women and families.

The menu is designed so diners order a few tasty dishes to share.
It’s casual and meant for fingers, and you can finish sweetly with a pastry or a sorbet cone. Most people start with ‘Snacks and move on to ‘Barbeque’ and ‘Sides’.

An unused garage in this unsexy, industrial part of Cape Town might sound like an unlikely location, but director/chef PJ Vadas says he never doubted that the concept would work.

hoghouse_006.jpg 8 questions to Chef Vadas

1. Why a Texan smokehouse? South Africans love meat and beer, so it’s a simple thing. We cook everything on fire (even our veggies) so it takes you back to braaiing. Hoghouse obviously offers pulled pork and pork ribs too, but it’s our beef brisket that few other restaurants do well.

hoghouse_200.jpg 2. It sounds easy. Is it? I came back from Texas and designed our mobile smoker, which we park out front. It took us a few months, trying different woods (we’re using rooikrans) to settle in. How it works is we put the meat in and wait. The technique is difficult because the meat has to be hung properly and can be sinewy, so there’s nowhere to hide. Ours is grassfed free-range meat from Spier.

3. Does an industrial space work? Yes, it’s a working brewery and we can smoke meat for 18 hours at a time without upsetting the neighbours. The cheaper rent allows us to have more space and more affordable food. People can eat well for R200 a head. The idea was always to have a restaurant for locals. We knew if it was affordable, offered quality food and had enough safe parking (customers park inside a security boom) people would come.

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4. The secret? It’s all about the smoker. There’s no gas, just rooikrans wood and hot smoking. It’s low and slow. There’s only salt and pepper on the meat. Our pulled pork smokes for 18 hours, while free-range beef brisket is tender after 14 hours.

5. What about beer? Five ales are all brewed on site. We can brew a 1000 litre batch at a time. Joachim Blackadder is a sommelier who manages the brewery and does our wine list – some wines are blended for us.

6. What’s popular? Our homemade hot sauce, beef brisket, and pig’s tails dipped in honey mustard.
We’re offering a Scotch egg coated in black pudding.
Every Friday we also smoke a pig’s head and then roast it to crispy – people are loving it.

hoghouse_263.jpg 7. What’s on the side? We have a lot of vegetarian regulars, which sounds like a contradiction, but the cauliflower with goat’s cheese, caper and sultana butter is probably our most popular dish. Pineapple Kimchi is a hit too. We do a braai broodjie of Spier’s potato bread, Huguenot cheese, onion and tomato, cooked on the grill.

8. Describe a Hoghouse regular. They range from 25-year-old students after a beer and brisket bun, to pensioners from Pinelands coming for a hearty supper. Some Stormers and Springbok rugby players recently discovered us. They tend to order smoked brisket by the kilo. Pinelands didn’t really have a bar and meeting place. Now it does.

*HOGHOUSE BREWING COMPANY, 42 Morningside Road, Ndabeni. Open Mon to Sat for dinner. Tel 021-531-0721, Hoghouse Barbecue

A version of this appeared in Business Day Homefront magazine in April 2016