New Gin menu launch at Laguna Bar in Park Plaza Cardiff

Last week I was lucky to be invited by Park Plaza to sample the new offerings from their gin menu in Laguna bar and restaurant.

I’ll be the first to admit I was a late convert to the juniper botanical blended spirit but it’s my new go to spirit of choice. The initial hesitation to gin stems from growing up in a pub and no I wasnít an alcoholic child but my grandparents have ran a pub for over 30 years and I’ve lived with them on and off over the years. The problem was the only option we had 15 years ago when I first probably tried it working my way through the top shelf after my shift behind the bar was Gordon’s, Schweppes tonic and a plastic lemon!

One try I had and it put me off until a chance encounter with a wine and gin cellar bar in Chester back last year when I was introduced to what present day craft gin had evolved into.

Since then I’ve attended a few master classes and the Gin Festival down the bay last year and left with a new found knowledge of the craft and history of the stuff from the talks and tasting sessions down in the vaults in Portland House and a book of pairings for the 150 odd gins they had on offer, which has acted as my bible since then.

The Gin Tasting Event

I’d been to Laguna for the Gentleman’s afternoon tea and tried the amazing Sunday lunch but I’d not been for a while to sample the Gins on offer although I have been stalking them on Twitter seeing the ever growing selection they have behind the bar.

Cardiff park plaza gin tasting with Adam

There was a good mix of other bloggers invited to the evening at the Park Plaza with what promised to be a journey the new gin menu sampling 5 of the Gins in the range. I was a bit too keen I think and turned up first so I was kindly offered a choice of any of the ginís from the menu before the tasting commenced and everyone else turned up.

The menu had good balance of familiar faces and some that had I’d heard of but not had the chance to try. I didn’t want to double up and test any on the tasting options we were going through so opted for a new gin the Aviation. The aviation cocktail is probably one of my fav gin cocktails so this was one of the other reasons. I’d not paired a Gin with elderflower previously so this was a pleasant change to my normal choices available.

park plaza gin tasting gin bottles

Our host for the evening was a lovely chap called Adam who was very knowledgeable on the Gins we were sampling, giving a brief history behind the distillery, tasting notes and suitable garnishes to enhance the botanicals.

The gins we got to sample on the night were:

  • Sipsmith
  • Brecon Gin
  • Opihr
  • Caorun
  • Monkey 47

Adam told us about some of the botanicals used in the gins with some having around 5 unique neutral flavours to the German Monkey 47 brand that you’ve guessed it had a whopping 47 botanicals and a cool 47%abv.

I’d tried Sipsmith neat, well watered down with vermouth in a Martini but not tried it with a tonic and garnish. I’ve got a bottle of Monkey 47 in the house too but with the price on it it’s only come out on one or two occasions and Iíve always had it with lime twist.

I was keen to try the Brecon Gin as it’s only one of a handful of Gins produced in Wales and comes from the Penderyn Whisky Distillery the guys behind my favourite Whisky the Penderyn Sherrywood.
Mwsh had ordered an Opihr down The Dock down the bay not long ago but it came with an almost cartoon like chilli the size of my arm, which left me in hysterics so I couldn’t take it seriously at the time but this time it came with a wedge of orange, which cut nicely through the spicy notes of the Gin.

Gin tasting Cardiff Park Plaza Caorunn with apple

The other Gin on my to do list was the Caorunn. I’d seen the uniquely shaped bottle many times but not had the pleasure of sampling it before then. I was surprised to see it garnished with an apple and tonic, which I had never seen before and it turned out to be my favourite pairing of the evening. I think I liked the fact the apple parted with subtle hints of the fruit instead of the sometimes overbearing bitterness and burning taste of the rind of citrus.

Not wanting us to fall flat on our faces by the end of the tasting Park Plaza kindly brought out some sharing plates of nibbles so we weren’t too much affected by the powerful effects of some of the Gin on offer. Olives, cornichons, cured meats and breads with dips a plenty accompanied by some perfectly perfumed spirits, I was now in my oils.

Gin tasting at Park Plaza Cardiff with bulldog gin

After the tasting had come to a close and I’d polished off the lions share of the mezze boards we were given the option of trying one more gin to finish off a great evening of tasting. One I’d seen many times especially spending the best part of the weekend in the Bulldog pub in Krakow the week before was Bulldog gin. The gin was palatable but I’d say it was probably my least favourite of the Gins I’d tried that night but it was up against some stiff competition.

The Verdict

I enjoyed the Caorun so much we went out on Saturday and picked up two bottles from Asda in the World Gin Day promotions they had on. Armed with the menu and tasting notes they gave us on the night to take away in a goody bag we paired a Botanist and Caorun with the recommendations from the menu that evening.

Gin goody bag from Cardiff Park Plaza

I think the new gin menu at Park Plaza is a great idea as it can be quite intimidating ordering gin for the first time not knowing what tonic and garnish to pair with it but the options on the menu have obviously been tried and tested many times before making the final cut on the menu.

Lurvill’s Delight Botanical Water Review with G and Tea cocktail

I was asked to test out the relaunched Lurvill’sDelight recently. For those unaware of the brand or product it was born out of the Rhondda Valleys some 100 odd years ago by twin brothers Harold and Lolo Lewis.

The story goes that the brothers used profits of the drink to pay for 150 local coal mining families in the Ynishir area of the Rhondda to travel to the states around 1900’s. The carbonated drink ceased production not because a decline in sales but from a shortage of one of the main ingredients, dock leaves in 1910.

Having heard about the relaunch back last year on social media, I was keen to sample the drink especially as it was initially brewed and bottled just over the mountain from my home town of Abercynon.

I found the botanical blend of Welsh Springwater to be rather refreshing, poured over a large 3″ chunk of ice made from my recently aqcuired ice cub tray from Amazon. This is definitely an adults drink as there is no added sugar, colour, preservatives or artificial flavours.

With hints of rhubarb, dock leaf, nettle and juniper the botanicals lend themselves very well to Gin and not just as a thirst quencher on it’s own. I did enjoy the drink by itself but it wasn’t as fizzy as I would of liked personally although that might of been something to do with the huge block of ice in my glass. It sounds more of a health drink and had that sort of medicinal feel when first trying but with a sence of nostalgia knowing the history behind the drink but the mellow flavours where made for marrying the juniper flavour with a good gin.

I tried a few different concoctions of gin and garnish with the Lurvill’s Delight but found the Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin to compliment it best. I gave the Negroni cocktail a go from the Lurvill’s website but I’m not sure if I used too much Campari but it overpowered the subtle flavour of the Lurvills Delight as it is quite bitter.

Where can I buy Lurvill’s delight?

I’ve been informed that bottles can be bought from a range of deli’s and suppliers in Cardiff with Wally’s deli being the most well known. They can be picked up online at Amazon with a crate for £20 and drinkstuff also had some in stock too after a quick search on google too.

lurvills delight g and tea cocktail

Lurvills Delight G & Tea

  • 50ml Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin
  • Twist of lemon
  • Dash of Lurvills Delight
  • Loads of ice

Fill a large goblet type gin glass with large chunks of ice.

Use a potato peeler to shave the skin of the lemon. Cut in half lengthways and twist the skin to release the essential oils but take care not to tear it in half then drop in the glass with ice.

Pour the double measure of Masons Yorkshire Tea Gin into the ice filled glass and top up with the Lurvills Delight to your desired strength.

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The Best Gin Martini Cocktail in Rome – Stravinskij Bar

Having tried the best Pizza in Rome and wandering around St Peter’s Basillica with a blistered and beetroot red scalp for a while with no hope of beating the qeueues into the Vatican before close there was only one thing left to do…rehydrate with a cocktail of course!

A quick scout online for the best places for a gin in Rome brought back some good results with a few hidden bars and speakeasy places coming out on top such as Jerry Thomas Speakeasy, Club Derriere and Spirito but none of them opened till around 10pm and it was just pushing 4pm.

One other place that kept coming up was the Stravinskij Bar at the 5* Rocco Forte Hotel de Russie. Aparently they do the best Martini in town and seeing that that’s my tipple of choice we were sold.

Roads were basically at a standstill at this time around the Vatican and google maps reconed it would only take an extra 2 minutes to walk the 1.3 miles from our location so thought this would be a good time to burn off the 3 million calories I’d consumed in the past 48 hours and seeing there was treasure at the finish line we set out on foot armed with my ever frustrating google maps on my phone.

The Bar

We arrived at the hotel after more than a handful of pit stops to browse at bloody crockery as usual. We walked through reception and headed to the back of the hotel where we guessed the bar might be. There were garden chairs and sofas nestled amongst heaters and unopened parisolls on a patio area in a courtyard between the hotel buildings but thought it looked a bit low key considering the reviews we had heard online.

I wandered over to one of the waiters to ask where the bar is and he said you’re in it to my slight dissapointment as we could see terraces overlooking the courtyard embellished in sunlight. Apparently that was the restaurant but the view looked so much better than the patio courtyard below and come on I’m from Wales who knowns when i’m going to actually see the sun again this year.

I wish i’d just ordered a plate of chips looking back now to sit up there with a dirnk but I was parched and needed to rest my little trotters. We pondered over the drinks menu whilst the waitress tempted us with an array of complimentary snacks from mixed olives, a variety of crisps and honey baked almonds. These got me pining for my first Martini of the trip with the tray loaded full of salty favourites and there were more concoctions on the menu than i’ve ever seen.

The Drinks

After some deliberating I opted for the Gold Bond Martini with both gin and vodka with a glimmering display of gold flakes swirling round in the martini glass. Pointing out the obvious it was a potent mix of alcohol, mixed with alcohol watered down with yet more slightly weaker alcohol pimped up with a healthy portion of gold flakes to jazz it up and lemon twist for extra zing.

There were a few others I was torn between but this was a good choice. It was a good job were were just sampling the one (at 22 euros a pop) we just thought we would see what the bar was like but I wouldn’t be steady on my feet after many that’s for sure.

Mwsh opted for a prosecco based fruity number although not of the martini variety. That was ok, had a slight Pimm’s feel to me and at that price I wanted a that hit of alcohol to headbut me in the face but it was a bit to reserved for my liking.

The Verdict

After being a bit disheartened at first not having a seat up on the sun laced terraces I did enjoy the relaxing ambience of the terrace down below (after about 15 minutes of some devil child bawling uncontrollably till the Russain looking child bride and Oil Oliagarch handed over said child to the stone faced nanny who soon got it to sleep).

It was a far cry from the tidal wave of tourists within the Vatican, noisy car and motobikes weaving in and out of traffic and the relentless assault of sales pitches from street reps trying to sell you JUMP THE QEUEUE tickets for the Sistine Chapel.

Ok so 22 euros a pop for cocktails isn’t cheap but this was a 5* hotel and one of the best in Rome at that plus the snacks we got probably would of cost us around 15 euros in any other bar no doubt. If we weren’t so pushed for time and was celebrating a birthday or something I’d definitely stayed to tick off a few more of the Martini’s on the list and would encourage anyone to swing by if you’re in Rome even if it’s just for one.

Negroni recipe

My first taste of a Negroni was the woodland Negroni at Duck and Waffle in London, which I have to admit wasn’t to my taste as it tasted like i’d just necked a bottle of pond water as it was seaped through layers of nature or moss as I’d call it.

I wasn’t put off though and knew there was more to this classic Gin cocktail as i’ve seen it cropping up a lot lately so after working my way through the taster menu at Mint and Mustard in Penarth last night we popped into Asda on the way home. I wasn’t quite ready for bed so left with a bottle of Campari in tow after hunting down a bottle of Noilly Prat Vermouth a few weeks back to make my own Negroni.

Negroni ingredients

2 x 25ml Gin (I used Portobello Road as it’s my favourite all rounder)

1 x 25ml Noilly Prat Vermouth

1 x 25ml Campari

1 twist of orange

Negroni cocktail making

Instructions

To make two add 2 x double shots of Gin, 1 double Noilly Prat and 1 double Campari to a large tumbler filled with ice and stir for a good 30 seconds. Take a potato peeler to an orange and peel a slither of the rind, twist and squeeze to release some of the oils in the orange and add to cut glass tumbler. Pour the Negroni mixture equally between two glasses along with thick chunks of ice to keep the glass cold without over diluting.

Gin Sake Martini cocktail – sakitini

Ok so I’ve been a late adopter of the classic cocktail the Martini since sampling a bloody filthy one at Lab22 in Cardiff just before Christmas. Not being a fan of Gin till about a year ago and the idea of putting something salty in my drink never really appealed to me before as I thought it wouldn’t be too far away from dunking a packet of ready salted crisps in your drink.

Who would want those 45 organically farmed botanicals being sacrificed by a salty snack? Then coming to think about it a packet of crips, nuts or olives always taste better with a beverage of the alcoholic range hence why they’re called bar snacks in the first place!

So for those who don’t know what a Martini is it’s one of the most simple cocktails known to man with a shot or two of alcohol watered down with a shot or two of more alcohol with a garnish of your choice plonked in the middle of the glass. Oh and it’s James Bond’s tipple of choice and he’s a more of a British icon than the Queen.

So there’s a choice of base alcohol in the Martini you can either go for Gin or Vodka and then it’s paired with a measure of vermouth. I can’t stomach vodka since my early 20’s and abusing the vodka red bulls as a student so I’m on team Gin Martini. You can go dry, which tips the balance more towards the Gin in terms of ratio or wet means more vermouth in your glass. Gin Martini is usually served with an olive or two or you can opt for a twist of lemon. If you want it dirty then a drop of olive brine is added to the mix or if you want it filthy a good glug of the stuff.

The good thing about a Martini is you’re never going to get short changed for your measurements here as most cocktail bars fill the glass to the brim with ice leaving you with a watered down heap of shitty fruit and smallest drop of alcohol. The martini comes straight up, no on the rocks after being shaken or stirred with ice to get a crisp temperature. What I can only describe as to the taste of a good Martini is very clean almost like you’ve just had a sip of minty mouthwash but it’s so morish.

Anyway I fancied making a Martini at home to try and use up some of the recent Gin purchases over Christmas and on recommendation by the very helpful guys at Lab22 I needed a good vermouth to pair with my gin. The vermouth of choice at Lab22 is Noilly Prat but even trying good ole Wally’s deli in town I couldn’t find any anywhere in Cardiff.

I headed home defeated with blisters bubbling at the back of my feet from my new daps from mother dearest for Christmas. After deciding on what I was going to cook for the evening and tipping towards something chinese I remembered I had some Sake in the cupboard. Sake being a fermented rice wine i thought I wonder how much different this would be to vermouth a fermented wine so thought there’s only one way to find out so went about making a Sakitini a sake inspired martini.

Sake Martini cocktail recipe – Sakitini

3 x 25ml Gin – I used Portobello Road as it’s a great all rounder

1 x 25ml Sake

1 twist of lemon

Instructions

Two make two put 3 x double shots of gin and 1 x double shot of sake in a large tumbler with thick blocks of ice and stir for a good 30 seconds.

Take a potato peeler and peel a slice of lemon, cut in half length ways, twist and squeeze to release some of the oils and drop one into each glass and top divide the liquid between the two glasses.

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The best mulled cider and spiced rum recipe

Since the clocks went back last week it’s been absolutely baltic here in lil old Wales and no better time is there to get the winter spices bubbling away in some real medicine to warm the cockles.

It was bonfire night on Saturday so I thought there’s no better occasion to get the first batch of mulled cider on the stove for a walk into Cardiff to watch the fireworks by the castle. There are loads of recipes online for mulled cider but I’ve concocted what I think is the best one I’ve sampled yet, well it is made by yours truly so I’m not at all biased! Oh and mine contains a little bit of extra chest warming capabilities in my special ingredient…spiced rum.

Mulled cider and spiced rum recipe (enough for at least 4 glasses)

  • 1 litre of your favourite cider – I used 2 x cans of Thatchers Gold
  • 250ml of good quality apple juice or more if you want a less potent mix
  • 75ml of spiced rum or like me I used 50ml Sailor Jerry’s plus 25ml cider brandy
  • 4 star anise
  • 4 sticks of cinnamon
  • 1 apple sliced in half then into smaller slithers
  • Stick a single clove into about 6 of the slices of apple
  • 1/4 of an orange sliced
  • 5 all spice berries if you can find them or half a teaspoon of sound all spice
  • 2 teaspoons of brown sugar

 

How to make the mulled cider and spiced rum

Put all the ingredients into a saucepan, give it a stir and put on a low to medium heat to gently heat the mixture. The idea is not to boil the alcohol that would just be a waste and we don’t want that now do we?

Have a spoon to hand to check it by tasting it every couple of minutes but should take about 10 minutes depending on the power of your hob.

Once you’re happy with the temperature making sure it doesn’t melt anyones lips off, use a ladle and pour into 4 glass mason jars and try to get some of the star anise, cinnamon stick and fruit into each one to allow the flavours to continue to impart some of their wintery magic into each glass.

Tip: If you’ve got a slow cooker I did a batch last Christmas day putting everything in the slow cooker on high about an hour before our Christmas dinner was served and had it with our food for an extra Christmassy treat. 

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Wriggle Cardiff Discount Code and review

New on the daily deal discount scene if you haven’t heard about it yet is Wriggle. It popped up on my Facebook a week or two ago so i thought i’d have a nosey around on the site and signed up and to be fair i’ve been pretty impressed with the deals on offer so far in Cardiff since I signed up.

Instead of the usual chains and garbage you have to rummage through on some other well known daily deals sites they’ve hand picked some really good local favourites of mine with discounts from Crafty Devils Brewing Company, Chez Francis, Spit and Sawdust, Pizza Pronto, Dusty Knuckle Pizza’s and Lab22 cocktail bar to name but a few.

The first few deals that came through on Wriggle Cardiff happened to be lunch time deals but as I don’t live or work in Cardiff at the moment I (with tear in my eye) had to wait a whole 24 hours to see what deal they were pushing.

I waited too long to take advantage of the discount at Chez Francis with a 3 course meal and wine for just £11.50 so i’ve made it my mission to check first thing in the morning since then and bagged myself a 3 course cocktail taster at Lab22 on Chippy Lane in Cardiff for just £12.50 instead of the usual £25 but using the wriggle discount code AUHPSS I got £3 off so had 3 expertly crafted cocktails with side nibbles for just £9.50!! Absolute bargain.

espresso martini with lab22 discount voucher from with wriggle cardiff

I was hooked already and was gutted with tonights offer of 5 x 1/3 pints at Crafty Devil Brewing Companies bar and bottle shop with bar snacks for just £5 as I was up nanny Carole’s for Tuesday night supper up the pub! Bearing in mind I had 4 x 1/3 and a pint in Brewdog for £20.50 on Saturday night this was a real steal if you ask me.

All was not lost though as I’ve booked in for a £3 pizza and drink at Pitch on Mill Lane tomorrow night. I would of even pushed the boat out for a double header with pizza again from Award winning Dusty Knucle Pizza for just £2 on Thursday night, which is just up the road from the Crafty Brewing Company in Canton but I’d I’ve been eagerly awaiting the Gin Fest that night down the bay. I’m hoping to sample some new botanically infused white liquor and hopefully stock up on some 1724 tonic water whilst i’m there too as I’m running low from my recent trip to get some in Harvey Nichs in Bristol.

So why is Wriggle different to other daily deals sites?

The difference between Wriggle and other daily deals like Groupon and Livingsocial is that when you buy from them you have roughly 3 months from purchase to use it but with Wriggle they advertise the deal for a specific day in the next coming week and between the window of opportunity like 5pm-9pm for example and you have to use the deal then and only then. They also don’t seem to have the somewhat infinite amount of vouchers available like some other sites but then that’s probably down to the size of the traders and because it’s only available for exchange between a few hours on a specific day but that’s what makes it better in my eyes.

I’ve lost count how many times i’ve bought a daily deals voucher with no idea when i’m going to use it in the next few months whereas with Wriggle there’s a sense of urgency and I like the knowledge in knowing I’m going to use it and sample some great local food and drink in a day or two and makes you move your ass to sort it out asap.

I’m not sure if the deals are going to feature some of the local favourite independent traders in the future as heavily as it has done in the launch and for such amazing prices but let’s hope they don’t take the easy option and poison the site with chain after chain like some other daily deal sites.

Sign up to Wriggle Cardiff and discount code

You can sign up for Wriggle Cardiff here but have also launched in other large cities in the UK too to take advantage of but make sure you use the Wriggle discount code AUHPSS to get money off your first deal.

A guide to whats on and where to go for beaujolais nouveau day in Cardiff in 2016

Working in IT as I have for the past 10 year’s the IT crowd isn’t exactly known for it’s partying, bright lights and nights out so Beaujolais day was unbeknown to me until last year with a short stint working for a business networking company down in Newport last year as they were putting on their own event.

I didn’t sign up myself as I thought it was just for the members of the networking group and chatting about work outside of work…well that’s a big no no as far as I’m concerned because when I’m out having food or the drink that’s the last thing on my mind.

I did nip into town in the evening to pick a mate up from the Chapel event and that’s when I realised how big the day was and how many people went out to celebrate it. I then came to the realisation that it wasn’t just for brown nosing the boss or you’re next big contract win, it just looked like a good excuse to guzzle a shed load of red wine and chow down on some decent grub on a school night without feeling guilty so I vowed next year I want some of that!

You might be thinking what the hell is Beaujolais day anyway? Well Beaujolais wine is made from Gamay grapes from the Beaujolais region in France. It is celebrated on the 3rd Thursday in November when 12.01 midnight the wine goes on sale just weeks after it’s fermentation and sets off on a race around the globe to it’s eager wine fan’s waiting to sample the young wine. The wine is said to be easily drinkable due to it’s method of fermentation called carbonic maceration and contains less tannins that standard red’s but it’s these tannins that preserve the wine so it shouldn’t be left to savour for long periods and is best consumed within a few months.

So this leads me on to what’s going on this year and who is celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau Day in Cardiff and the surrounding areas in 2016.

arbennig-logo

Arbennig Restaurant

Price: £35

What do you get?

3 courses and a glass of Beaujolais wine.

Menu items including Chicken liver parfait Burnt onion butter, sourdough toast, pickle starter, Bavette steak, Cafe de Paris butter, black cabbage, Parmesan main and Chocolate mousse Peanut butter, salted caramel dessert.

 

Visit the website

bar-44-logo

Bar 44

Price: £49.95

What do you get?

Tapas style 3 courses and half a bottle of Beaujolais and traditional spanish music for entertainment.

Menu items including 20hr roast fresh iberico ham and fillet beef pinchos, mojo verde.

bar 44 beaujolais day menu in Cardiff 2016

Visit the website

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Chapel 1877

Price: £49

What do you get?

3 courses, a glass of beaujolais and entertainment.

Visit the website

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Park Plaza

Price: Sold out

What do you get?

3 courses, a glass of beaujolais and entertainment.

Visit the website

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Pier 64

Price: £45

What do you get?

3 courses, cheese platter, a glass of beaujolais and entertainment plus shuttle bus to the afterparty at Peppermint from 7pm.

Menu items including chicken liver & foie gras parfait and Grilled Medallions of Welsh Beef.

Visit the website

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Madame Fromage

Price: £35

What do you get?

Featuring cheeses and wines from the burgundy and Rhone regions for tasting.
Arrival drink and nibbles, Beaujolais wine on the tables, Beef Bourguignon dinner and apple tart dessert.

Visit the website

chez-francis-logo

Chez Francis

Price: £24.95

What do you get?

3 courses and a glass of Beaujolais.

Menu items including pate de Champagne and Boeuf Bourguignon.

chez-francis-beaujolais-day-menu-cardiff

Visit the website

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Potted Pig

Price: £30

What do you get?

3 courses and a glass of Beaujolais.

Menu items including cod cheeks with puy lentils and sauce verte, whole roast poussin with orb of joy & matchstick fries.

Potted Pig beaujolais day menu 2016 in Cardiff

Visit the website

Park House Restaurant

Price: £45

What do you get?

3 courses of fine dining and half a bottle of Beaujolais wine.

Visit the website

logo_le_monde-3

Le Monde Fish and Bar Grill

Price: Sold out

What do you get?

3 courses and a glass of Beaujolais wine.

Visit the website

The Pot Bistro

Price: £27.50

What do you get?

3 courses and half a bottle of Beaujolais wine.

Menu items including baked sardines, Bouillabaisse and Tarte au Pommes.

Visit the website

Bully’s Restaurant

Price: £29.50

What do you get?

3 courses and a half a bottle of Beaujolais wine.

Menu items including Moules mariniere frites, Boeuf bourguignon, pomme puree, roasted root vegetables and Pear tarte tatin, pastis ice cream.

Visit the website

bully's beaujolais day menu in cardiff

giovannis-cardiff-logo

Giovanni’s on Park Place

Price: £26.95

What do you get?

3 courses and a glass of Beaujolais wine.

Menu items including Cozze – mussels in a creamy, garlic and white wine sauce, Anatra all’ arancia – pan fried duck breast served in a delicate orange sauce.

Visit the website

mojo-bar-logo

Mojo Bar – Newport

Price: £36 for 3 courses or £55 for 6 courses

What do you get?

3 courses and half a bottle of Beaujolais wine.

Menu items including Mussels with lemongrass, chilli, cream and fresh herbs, Pan fried duck leg, crispy breast on a bed of sauteed spinach, blackcurrant and Baked vanilla egg flan with Armagnac marinated prunes.

Visit the website

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Abergavenny 2016 Eisteddfod Festival Food Review

Being a non Welsh speaker the thought of attending the annual Eisteddfod sounded a bit stupid to me in past years as I just assumed it was a week of church choirs and schoolchildren singing in a language I didn’t understand. It sounded like a cross between a school assembly and being stuck in an Christening on a Sunday afternoon except I wouldn’t have a clue what was bellowing out of the peoples mouths around me, so not thanks i thought.

 

This year’s event was set to take place in Abergavenny so only an hour up the road and with the largest Waitrose I’ve seen this side of the bridge in the centre of town along with the offer of a free ticket, a sofa to rest my head in for the night and the promise of some festival food and cider I had a welsh translator app downloading onto my phone within seconds!

The event is in full swing Monday to Saturday but the grounds do open on the Saturday and Sunday for a nosey around and to sample the local produce and street food vendors on offer before the masses of historical school children. Not only that but what I could only imagine as being like walking through M & S on a Sunday full of geriatrics only on a grander scale taking up the whole walkway talking to Doris and Dai they haven’t seen for a whole 7 days since their last visit for a Rotisserie chicken and a packet of dutch shortcakes to go with their afternoon cuppa, which drives me mental and has me cursing the grey haired lane hoggers under my breath!

The weather was set to be gorgeous all weekend so off I went Saturday afternoon in the Fiat up past Merthyr on the A470 towards Abergavenny, which must of been the furthest i’ve managed without using my sat nav as i’m bloody useless at directions.

Anyway I got in and managed to sneak through the back entrance to save my disco ravaged legs strapped up and e45’ed to death from a night of old school house disco dancing to Sasha at the Tramshed on Friday followed by an afterparty at Club Ifor Bach for Time Flies event with some Ibiza legends on the turntables. I must of burned over 5000 calories and sweated enough to liquids to fill the Rio Olympic swimming pool so I needed re-charging with some stodge and fermented apples like yesterday!

The Eisteddfod 2016 Festival site was much bigger than I imagined but luckily for me the fence I jumped over was right next to the food stalls and beer wagon. (I did have a ticket don’t worry I was just meant to walk about a mile around the perimeter to the front entrance and I wasn’t in the mood with my half melted skin graft needing inside legs blistering with every friction burning step I took)

I was a bit disappointed with the number of food traders having been to the Cardiff International Food Festival and the Royal Welsh a couple of weeks before but there were a couple of new faces but the first one I spotted was my good friend Gabriel of The Spanish Buffet with his wizard like churning of his cauldron / paella pan into golden mounds of Balearic comfort food.

I’d sampled his epic Paella down in Cardiff the month before and known him for a while from creating his website thespanishbuffet and had a chat the week after to catch up and see how the festival season is going at the Royal Welsh so gave him and wave and headed on to find something my ravaged lips hadn’t gnawed at before.

El Sals – Nachos

When you’re feeling like death what’s the first choice you scramble together on a plate in the house? NACHOS because you can throw the whole cupboard and fridge on there with little nuggets of cheese, piquant pockets of saltiness from the brined jalapeños, the refreshing taste of tomatoes with probably the only vitamin my body had seen that day tossed in fresh coriander, piled with chipotle pulled pork and fresh guacamole now then El Salsa load that bloody plate up thank you please!

The verdict: £7 fully loaded with chipotle pork I thought was a reasonable price for the portion considering you pay about £6 for a small tray of chips left dying in the open air for weeks on end with the gelatinous gloup of stingy nacho cheese, a teaspoon of salsa and a scattering of flavourless jalepenos in the cinema. To put them in the same sentence as cinema nachos though would be an insult to the girls of El Salso who knocked up the epic plate of Spanish happiness and would definitely recommend it. The guacamole was good too as sometimes they just spoon it out of a tub from Makro and the portions were as plentiful as you could want at a festival food stall if your anything like me and want small plates so you can tick off as many as you can before needing to lay down and have your stomach pumped for round two!

el-salso-nachos-and-meet-the-greek-chicken-souvlaki-eisteddfod-2016-abergavenny

Meet The Greek- Chicken Souvlaki Pitta

Well they were never going to gather dust on the table next to my pint of Thatchers Gold so it was only right to have a side dish to go with it and from being put off with the queue stretching and meandering to the entrance of the Wales Millennium Centre some 100 yards from the front of the queue of Meet the Greek at the Cardiff International Food Festival I thought I’d sample my first charcoal seared Chicken Souvlaki generously stuffed into a toasted pitta with shredded lettuce, fresh lemon, tahini and humous.

The verdict: I didn’t see what all the fuss was about at the Cardiff food fest with such a big queue of people waiting as I just saw it as a kebab but it was tasty and the toasted Halloumi extra was a nice touch. Worth the £7-8 I’m not sure, I did enjoy it but probably wouldn’t rush back if propositioned by someone new on the scene or one of my other fav’s on the festival scene in the near future.

Anyway after a few more ciders and as I didn’t get there till 5pm we headed back for a bit of cured meats, cheeses and bread for tea and that was Saturday night over with.

I’d been to Abergavenny a few times with the food fest and what have you over the years but never stayed the night or been there anywhere near early enough to catch breakfast so this time I was going to do it properly and find somewhere decent for a decadent breakfast of proportions whilst I was staying the night. After a bit of research online I couldn’t make my mind up and overlook the Angel Hotel as I’d heard the afternoon tea was good there but didn’t realise it was the same brand behind the Michelin Starred Walnut Tree just up the road, which I was denied sampling on Saturday as it was fully booked and they don’t open for Sunday lunch WTF what restaurant doesn’t serve food on what’s probably the busiest day of the year? Anyway my mind was set and I was going there for breakfast of which you can read the review over in another post when it’s finished as this is about the festival food.

I wasn’t planning on attending the Sunday at the Eisteddfod as I usually go up nanny Carole’s for her bicarb saturated roast on a Sunday but thought what the heck why not actually eat something with some flavour in on a Sunday for a change.

goats cheese proscuitto and fig pizza at the Eisteddfod 2016 in Abergavenny

Wood Fired Pizza – Goat’s cheese, prosciutto, fig and rocket pizza

After i’d left my full Welsh breakfast washed down with a smoked Chase Vodka Bloody Mary cocktail it was onto sampling the other delights on offer at the food stalls at the festival and i’m usually quite partial to a pizza especially a wood fired oven pizza. I studied the chalk board of concoctions and after finishing heaving from the first one on the list the Hawaiian (utter sacrilege in my eyes) my eyes were transfixed on what sounded like the most beautiful pairing to grace an ash crusted and blistered dough base…I give to you the prosciutto, goats cheese, fig and rocket pizza mamma mia! Anyway as soon as that volcanic puddle of cheese had dropped from the pizza cooks ashen peel that thing was snatched and savagely bubbling away on my gums the way it should as it tastes so much better with the inferno in your mouth blistering every surface with that pleasure and pain sensation I just don’t know why but I have to do it!

The Verdict: Everything about this pizza was perfect, the crispiness of the pizza base from it’s almost tracing paper thickness, the caramelisation of the cured pork strands of prosciutto, the oozing golden goats cheese tempting me in for another slice paired against the soft tender fruitiness of the fig and peppery rocket adorning the top. I was almost tempted to queue for another as I shared a couple of slices and wasn’t sure what time my next plate was going to come as there were no plans for the afternoons activities at that point.

Brecon Venison Farm – Venison Nachos

A few more ciders, a Caerphilly Hallet’s Cider to be precise were expertly savoured in under the glare of the suns rays perched on a bale of hay. Time for feeding 3 of the day and following the motto of go hard or go home it was time for sample 2 of the nachos on offer but this time it was venison nachos from the Brecon Venison Farm.

I went and ordered some veggie fritters whilst these were being assembled.

Back to the venison nachos, which the girl behind the counter was just spooning a bit of what looked like good ole Makro esque guac onto my plate as I neared with my bowl of veggie fritters.

The verdict: I think I paid about £7, which was about the same as the fully loaded ones from El Salsa. The plate did have a lot more meat on this time probably and with the cost of venison being considerably more than pork that didn’t seem too high but they were a bit stingy on the portion of tortilla chips and the guac looked a bit fake but all in all they did taste good and I love a bit of game meat and what better to match it with than some nachos so win win.

No Bones Jones – fried veggie fritters with chilli jam

I nipped over to No Bones Jones as I’d been fancying their fried veggie fritters with chilli jam since I walked past it on Saturday. I ordered some of the freshly plunged veggies that had just come out of the fryer, topped with chilli jam (or sweet chilli sauce to you and me, which made me a little disappointed by the false advertising) and I sneaked a ladle full of mint sauce over the top too.

The No Bones Jones verdict: These cost just £3 or £4 if you want salad but I was in no mood for rabbit food especially with my side of venison nachos being prepared as I ordered these. To be fair there was a generous portion for £3 with about 3 large fritters and a few bits of broken ones added to the tub.

I was disappointed with the chilli jam as I was handed the bowl with nothing on I said is this the chilli jam pointing to the only bowl on the side but that was some kind of tomato sauce and pointed to the plastic catering bottle, with what looked suspiciously like sweet chilli sauce. For £3 I wasn’t in the mood for expressing the ins and outs of the trade descriptions act so cheekily spooned a good dollop of mint sauce to pair with the chilli sauce over the fritters. I shared the plate of nachos and the bowl of fritters and they were rather tasty compared to the bag of indian sides I bought from Samosaco at the Caerphilly food fest not long ago but these were freshly cooked and still warm whereas they had most probably been cooked the night before and were quite flavourless and hard to break down to chew whilst cold and ended up going in the bin after a single bit of all 4 items.

There were quite a few other veggie options on the No Bones Jones menu on the day such as veggie lasagne and some chickpea curry plus I did notice sticky toffee pudding but i’d just fought my way through a generous chuck of salted caramel brownie i’d bought for a good friend of mine Llio Angharad’s birthday that day as she was working at the festival and annoyed she wasn’t celebrating her birthday as well as she should be and not had the chance to blow out a candle.

At this point i’d probably eaten the average human’s weekly calorie allowance so I called time on anything else passing my lips that night and so my quest for festival food was over on this adventure at the Eisteddfod 2016 in Abergavenny.

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Flavourly discount code for gourmet food box and craft ale subscription

I’ve been on a mission the past week signing up for every subscription service in existence i think! It’s probably something to do with my browsing history but i’ve been having a fair few deals popping up on my Facebook and one that stood out for me was the flavourly gourmet food box. Flavourly is like a giant graze box although you don’t have to worry about it being too healthy as there’s a few naughty things in there if you’re not counting your calories like me.

I’m a sucker for a bargain and good discount and the thing that caught my eye was the more than half price discount of the Flavourly box from the link on Facebook giving you £10 off the normal price of £17.

In the Flavourly box you’re promised 10-15 gourmet goodies from some well known favourites to upcoming and eager to break through food and confectionary producers from around the UK. You can either just get a random box delivered to your door or you can customise your box by doing a short quiz to let them know some of your preferences on the type of foods and cuisine you enjoy most and those you don’t.

My discounted Flavourly gourmet food box arrived at home yesterday and thank god my sister is on school half term to answer the door to the postie as I was dying to see what was inside and didn’t fancy taking a few hours off work to pick it up at my local post office, which is so local its over 10 MILES AWAY!!

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In my first Flavourly Gourmet Food Hamper I had:

  • Salted Caramel Popcorn
  • Rosemary and thyme pitta chips
  • Coconut sugar
  • Bakarwadi bites
  • Umami spiced garlic paste
  • Oregano infused rapeseed oil
  • Cook’s companion seasoning blend
  • Thai red curry spice mix, oil and paste
  • Superfusions berry mix
  • Janis quality mixture savoury snacks
  • Willie’s Cacao El Blanco chocolate

I’d estimate the box contents cost around £20 without delivery whereas I paid £7 instead of the normal £17 with the Flavourly discounted first box and £4 for delivery totalling £11. So yo are probably getting your money’s worth with the full priced box compared to some hampers that are quite expensive and you just normally end up paying for the packaging and box.

The good thing about these Flavourly boxes is they hunt down some great suppliers and producers that you won’t find in your supermarket as some are just starting out or might only be selling them at their local deli and food markets but that could be the other end of the country so it’s a good way of stumbling on some right nuggets that you would’t have come across otherwise.

If you’re thinking of testing out the Flavourly Gourmet Food Hamper but not sure on the £17+pp then get a £10 discount on your first box here.

Once you’ve signed up you can also keep getting discounts on your future orders by recommending friends and family with them also getting £10 off their first box but you also get £5 credit towards your next box. Who knows if you’ve got enough friends who don’t like eating bland crap like most people and you can tempt them to join up you might never have to buy another box yourself with the flavourly discount referral theme.

Want something to wash down you’re freshly delivery culinary delights? Flavourly also do a subscription craft ale delivery box too. You can get a mixture of boxes from all white for your pale ales and beers, all dark for your richer drinks and stouts or a mixed box to sample and pair with your snacks. You can also get a £10 discount on your first flavourly craft ale box paying just £10 instead of £20 and they even throw an extra two bar snacks to soak up the hopey nectar.