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The Marram Grass Restaurant Review Anglesey

The Isle of Anglesey culinary offerings are on the up of late. Not only have they represented North Wales in Great British menu on BBC but they also have more Michelin Stars than the countries capital, which was awarded to Sosban in Menai. We will come to that in the near future as I had to book 6 months in advance and won’t be dinning there till April.

Not content with having to wait until April for some fine dining we managed to book into Anglesey’s other well documented eating establishment Marram Grass. Not your average restaurant and you would be forgiven thinking you’re more likely to see a greasy spoon on the site from the roadside as the restaurant is within a shed situated on a caravan site in the village of Newborough.

The outside of The Marram Grass Restaurant in Anglesey

I think this adds to the charm of the restaurant and sticks two fingers up to some of the more pretentious venues showing them you can muster up excellent plates of food and people will travel for it no matter how expensive the chandeliers are or how man thousand year old oak trees have been chopped down in order to make the tables.

The restaurant has been transformed inside though and looks nothing like it does on the outside.

Inside The Marram Grass Restaurant in Anglesey

Seeing as we were up in Anglesey between Christmas and New Year without any plans we thought we would swing by for some lunch. We probably would of struggled getting a table ringing up a few days before normally but seeing that the majority of people on the island had two weeks’ worth of food shopping spilling out of the fridge we were lucky.

The Food

My favourite thing to do before and after booking a restaurant is to mull over the menu deliberating so I don’t take hours when I’m there but The Marram Grass serves only the freshest, in season produce and is constantly changing the menu so it was a complete surprise as to what we would have on the day.

Seeing as it was way past the acceptable hour of drinking for Christmas we ordered a bottle of white whilst we pondered over the menu, which were very reasonably priced I have to admit.

I did however think the price on the main courses was a lot steeper than I thought they would be considering it’s a café essentially, it’s location on a caravan park and we were dining for lunch. Mains on the menu ranged from £19 for fish of the day up to a hefty £35 for the Welsh Black beef, black cabbage, Portobello mushroom and textures of onion.

Not your typical pub or restaurant you would usually find on a campsite then but they did have fish and chips on the daily special at a much more reasonable £14. I thought this was handy for people who wanted to sample the place if they were staying on the camp but didn’t want to spend too much.

My body aching for anything other than turkey and a 12 cheese variety cheeseboard I was happy with pretty much everything on there today and luckily the menu wasn’t too expansive so I didn’t take too long to decide.

As we were due to go shooting later in the day (clays the real thing) I thought I’d get in the mood with a bit of game with the daily special of Pheasant and puy lentils for starter. Llio is mad for her soup at the moment so she opted for the crown prince squash, curried raisins with homemade sourdough and Hafod butter.

Treacle bread at The Marram Grass

We were presented with some fresh treacle bread and butter before the starters came. I’d never tried such bread before and was a good mix of sweet and savoury, which tasted equally as good with a good slather of butter.

As usual we fought over who was having what for mains as we usually prefer the same one but like to have a try of more than one dish. Llio opted for the lamb whereas I went for a pork fest, which included pork fillet, pork belly a crackling bon bon, pipped potatoes and a carrot puree.

Pheasant starter at The Marram Grass

The Pheasant was a really hearty dish for a starter with a decent sized portion of meat, well-seasoned puy lentils and chunks of tomatoes. Not too much going on with the plate to let the main ingredients do their thing.

Soup at The Marram Grass

Llio’s soup was a great big bowl of winter lovliness with freshly baked dunkable, buttery sourdough but I’d go for a portion of meat on my plate every time.

Pork main course at The Marram Grass

My main was pretty epic to look at and more than made up for on the palate. A good selection of different cuts of pork and different textures to balance it out as I love a good crunch to my forkful of food. Silky smooth mash and sweet carrot puree pebbled with slithers of spring onion and oodles of rich gravy splayed over the meaty morsels.

Lamb main at The Marram Grass

The lamb served perfectly pink on a bed of green lentil cassoulet and trio of celeriac with salt baked, puree and remoulade. The flavours packed a punch but I think my mains topped it with more little nuggets of goodies to feed on. The pork was £6 cheaper at £22 compared to £28 for the lamb, which I thought was a little steep for lunch.

I hadn’t committed to dessert yet but on mention of the saffron and yuzu panna cotta on the specials board I was sold. I’ve got a little obsession with the powerful Asian citrus fruit lately and keep a bottle to hand in the fridge to give an extra zing to dishes sweet or savoury so if it’s ever on the menu in something it’s usually top of the list by default. Llio was left a little full after all the bread with the dishes so I had to go it alone.

Yuzu panna cotta dessert at The Marram Grass

I loved the different combination of flavours and textures going on with the dessert from the wobbly citrusy burst of yuzu in the panna cotta to the scattering of crumbly chocolate bits and the sticky, chewy pastry esque shards of jolting from the chocolate filled parcels too. Sweet, citrusy chocolatey, soft, chewy, crunchy it had it all. I bloody hate a bowl of the same thing to plough on through I’ll be honest.

The Verdict

I couldn’t fault anything we were served and the service was excellent and very attentive although we were one of only two tables dinning at the time. Very friendly and helpful though none the less.The food was excellent all round, I liked the rustic vibe going on inside and the wine was very reasonably priced.
Price wise I thought it was a little steep for location and it being a café / bistro. Even though the food was lovely, we were dinning for lunch and I can’t say I’ve spent around £100 for lunch that often apart from special occasions.

Bill at The Marram Grass

Dinning in the evening I wouldn’t have any qualms at all but it would have been nice to have a few more reasonably priced lunch menu options. I couldn’t really see many of the clientele of the caravan site being able to afford to feed a family of 5 or 6 on the off chance when they couldn’t be bothered to cook on the gas stove for lunch, as it would be close to £250-£300. Well I can’t speak for everyone, but I know my family or mum at least wouldn’t be forking out that much for one meal for us.

Would I go back again? I wouldn’t go back for lunch for the price we paid, well not just a random lunch out. I would go back for an evening meal for a birthday or special occasion when up north or even to sample the tasting menu though.

I noticed on social media that the Liverpudlian brothers, Liam and Ellis Barrie who run the Marram Grass have announced they are building luxury appartments on the site just yesterday too so there are a few new things coming and the site will be changing dramatically in the near future and I hope them all the best on the new venture.

Hawksmoor sharing breakfast review – Guildhall London

I’ve been dying to try the Hawksmoor breakfast for about 2 years now after seeing a pic on I think it was the Mr Hyde newsletter about the best breakfasts in the big smoke.

Hawksmoor if you’ve not had the chance to visit is a chain of Steak Houses and cocktail bars originating in Spitafields in London and named after the 17th century English Baroque Architect Christopher Hawksmoor. He happened to design the epic Christ Church around the corner from the first restaurant in Spitafields.

Their steaks are now legendary in London and afar but one of their venues tucked away in the cities banking district of Guildhall opens up early not for steak but a gargantuan breakfast platter for discerning ravished diners.

Ok so they do the usual too but I only had eyes for one dish (maybe two) and that was the sharing breakfast. Sadly the restaurant is only open Monday to Friday and stops serving breakfast around 10.30am and I only usually venture up to London on the weekend, hence the delay in getting my greedy chops through the door.

I decided to bite the bullet, travel up and book a hotel in London just so I could end this constant inner yearning for the early morning meat fest. Staying around the corner from Tower Bridge we decided to add a bit more excitement to the trip to the Hawksmoor Guildhall and have top gear esque battle across London (well all 1.5 miles) through rush hour with me on foot and Llio via London cabbies arch nemesis Uber. Armed with a fully charged iPhone and google maps at the ready we both said our farewells at the exit to the hotel and headed our separate ways in search of the restaurant.

Being a total stranger to this neck of the woods in London I was totally reliant on the power of google and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of finding somewhere whilst on foot you will know too well how much of a pain in the ass it is changing arrow direction in a heart beat and sending you around in circles.

Anyway 20 odd minutes later my power walk had turned to a limp from unbroken in Chelsea boots and sounding like I’d smoked 20 wood bines before leaving the hotel I was close to the X on the map. No sight of Llio and no expectant sign outside a building I seemed to walk past my intended finish point. I circled back, checking the walls for hidden clues to the venue where I saw the other half toddling up the bottom of the street. I was adamant I’d do a Topgear favourite walking into the bar thinking I’d won whilst Clarkson peers out over a newspaper with his drink so I was quite impressed my lard arse had steam rolled through the masses quicker than the pristine pimped out Mercedes.

The Venue

After a bit of ribbing and boasting about my triumph over man vs technology the we headed down into the bowels of the restaurant in the basement. The décor was classic gentleman’s club with panelled wood walls, burgundy leathered seats emanating ever so slightly more style than my much acquainted weathered greasy spoon or Wetherspoons for that matter that I’ve had to resort to, to satisfy my lusting for fried and griddled porky favourites.

Being around 9am there were only one or two other tables taken as most of the usual clientele were now busy behind their desks punching numbers. I didn’t need long with the menu, having digested every ingredient from each course in my brain over the two longs years I’ve had to wait. This was the only time a lobster benedict was going to be outshone on a breakfast menu.

Hawksmoor Guildhall London

The Food

I was in little deliberation about what to order although I was still unsure if I could bare to part with half the sharing breakfast. I waned to temptation and we ordered the breakfast for two, which comprised of:

  • smoked bacon chop
  • sausages, (made with pork, beef, & mutton)
  • black pudding
  • short-rib bubble & squeak
  • grilled bone marrow
  • trotter baked beans
  • fried eggs
  • grilled mushrooms
  • roast tomatoes
  • HP gravy
  • unlimited toast

Just in case that wasn’t enough and because I didn’t know when I’d be in the vicinity on a midweek morning I went full greedy bastard and ordered a side of lobster benedict.

Seeing as it was now gone 9am and a reasonable time to start on the alcohol I opted for the Bloody Mary No.7 from the Anti-fogmatics menu, which in American Folklore it was said a dram of liquor in the morning would ward off the effects of fog and dampness.

I’d only ever had a Bloody Mary once before in my life and that didn’t quite end as I expected on a flight from Sydney to Bangkok, which shortly followed by a viewing of 127 hours on the on flight entertainment.
If you aren’t aware of said film it involves a guy who gets stuck in the dessert with his hand caught in a rock. The only way to survive was to saw his hand off with a small knife. Needless to say the air pressure, close up of the mutilation and choice of sound effects of the film sent me to the lav’s to wash my face in cold water till the hot flush subsided.

Many years have passed since that turbulent event and I was now mentally prepared for my re-acquaintance with the Bloody Mary, The No.7 at Hawksmoor had been injected with steroids however compared to your standard affair with Horseradish-infused gin, tomato juice, Hawksmoor spice mix, a splash of Kernel export India porter.

I was toying with the idea of a corpse reviver No.2 but absinthe at whatever past 9 in the morning was a push even for me. The other half had a coffee.

Bloody Mary No. 47 at Hawksmoor Guildhall

The drinks came out first and boy did the Bloody Mary pack a punch. If the sprint across East London on foot to try and beat an Uber taxi didn’t wake me up the spicy potent concoction did. A pepper and salt rimmed glass of devils blood with heaps of spice and healthy measure of alcohol content. The London based Kernel Brewery’s Indian Porter floating on top made a nice little addition too.

It wasn’t long before the platter fit for Henry VIII arrived. It was a good job we had a booth style table or we would of struggled on a table for two with all the extras.
We took turns to decant the meaty cauldron onto our plates equally and sawing through the bacon crisp bacon chop.

The fried eggs some of the most intense orange I’ve seen and perfectly cooked glistening under the light instead of a frazzled dried out mess you sometimes get with a breakfast losing any sight of liquid amber.
I couldn’t fault any of the items on the breakfast. This was no standard breakfast though with each item shown love and attention. Not just Heinz or Costco 5kg tubs of baked beans but trotter beans, not just some left over cabbage and potato thrown together there were short-rib bubble and squeak so everything was taken up a notch.

sharing breakfast at Hawksmoor Guildhall

The grilled bone marrow was a little ineluctable towering over the side of the bowl and guarding the contents beneath. I’d only tried marrow once but was in a starter of beef carpaccio with little nuggets dolloped around the plate and that was a while ago. I was keen to give it another go but it wasn’t really my cup of tea and wouldn’t rush back. It was like a fatty gloop somewhat like a soft gristle that melted on the tongue, which would I imagine give the most intense rich gravy but straight in the mouth with a fork is a little step too far for my palate.

Gravy should be a staple on any breakfast from now on if you ask me. I’d had it once with a ham hock hash at Cosy Club in Cardiff but this was something else. You can imagine all the juiced, fat and stock water they’ve got at their disposal at Hawksmoor and licked with HP, which I think should be banned normally with breakfast but it just added to the richness of the mahogany tinted liquor.

Lobster Benedict at Hawksmoor Guildhall

Not forgetting what would normally be the star of the show the Lobster Benedict. Luscious slathers of silky hollandaise coated the meaty morsels of lobster flesh mixed with gooey golden yolks of the delicate poached eggs. This decadent (side) dish was to die for but to set me up for the day I would have needed something a bit extra, so I’m glad it was only to sample with the sharing breakfast.

The Verdict

Ok so £80 is not your average bill at a greasy spoon for a breakfast but this was the epitome of grandeur to start the day off and smack in the middle of the epicentre of the city surrounded by the highest earners in the UK.

Did I enjoy it? Yes it was bloody lovely. Would I go back? You bet I would although I probably won’t take the piss as much next time and I’d love to visit in the evening to sample one of their legendary steaks, which I’ve been told by a well-known source they are some of the best in London.
The cocktail menu doesn’t sound too bad either.

ChamCham West African Supper Club Feast at Mocka Cardiff

I was recently asked to attend the first ever ChamCham supper club at Moka Lounge recently. Having sampled what they can do back back at the Roath Summer Fest in July I was more than happy to chow down on some authentic African cuisine.

I was joined by my partner (in crime) on the evening and fashionably late as usual but still rewarded with a welcome drink to get us in the mood for the imminent spice fest. The supper club was upstairs in Moka and was nicely decorated for the evening with some table nibbles of little crackers and what I found out to be some sweat inducing hot chilli chutney that certainly wasn’t for the faint hearted and glad i don’t fall into that category. It gave us a inkling of things to come and i was more than happy with a bit of heat.

Not having a chance to ponder over the menu prior to the event plus i thought it would be more fun having each course as a suprise although I hadn’t had anything like the menu read anyway when i did get a chance when we sat down.

The Food

I wasn’t sure on the plan of attack for the evening as there were quite a few dishes on the menu so I thought we would have a choice for each course. Little did I know how Nanu liked to party as we were having everything on the menu!

plantain and spicy beans at ChamCham supper club cardiff

 

First up on the starters was cubed sweet plantains with spiced baked beans with a twist, served with french melba toast. The guys told us the twist was they were actually baked beans used instead of the normal beans used in African cooking that take about 2 days to boil on low so they were more intwined with our palate back in little old Cardiff.

They weren’t no standard beans though. Delicately spiced and not to overpowering with plently of fresh limes on hand to add a citrus kick to each dishes. The soft plantains and crispy melba adding another level of texture to the homely dish. Luckily we were served each dish on it’s own to give us a bit of a breather in between.

oxtail soup at ChamChm supper Club Cardiff

Second starter was the oxtail soup with soft dumplings and crusty bread. This dish reminded me of my grans Welshy cawl she serves up for our tribe of 20 some Tuesdays up the pub and was so heart warming. Rich gravy with silky ribbons of oxtail mopped up with chunks of buttery bread. I could of filled up on this alone. I’ll be honest i’ve only had oxtail to my knowledge as a kid in Heinz oxtail soup but we all know that’s nothing to write home about.

granat chicken stew at ChamCham supper club

First of the two mains was chicken granat stew with basmati rice. Granat as I soon found out was peanut. Tender morsels of chicken with a very pronounced smack of nuttiness. I’ve played around with peanut and kimchi dishes but I’d never tasted anything quite like this.

Llio was a course of antibiotics from the doctors, which had led to a loss in appetite. Normally I’d doing a little dance under the table but seeing as we were only half way through and already had more than a normal 3 course meal I wained at helping her out.

In true African or at least in the ChamCham family the guys kindly offered to box up what she couldn’t get through. It wasn’t only her starting to struggle mind as the table next to us had taken up the offer to take leftovers home too.

jerk lamb shank at ChamCham supper club Cardiff

Something more towards what i’ve sampled in the past up next with jerk lamb shank, creamy sweet potato mash, red wine jus and side of seasonal root veg. I’d had their jerk chicken back at Roath Summer Fest along with a box of suprises but I absolutely love a good lamb shank if cooked well.

True to form the lamb was a behemoth of a portion especially considering we’d already had a main course with rice, but who am i to complain! The lamb was cooked to perfection and I could of eaten it with a spoon with it leaving the bone with little to no effort. A rich, sticky jus added a punch of flavour to the mildly spiced lamb mountain. The lamb was delish but the only feedback was it could of been a tad bit warmer for my liking but I didn’t leave a fleck of meat on the bone after resorting to what god gave me to get the last of it off.

Llio might of well have gone to sleep by now as the whafting trail of food being brought out turned her smile upside down as she struggled to eat more than a couple of fork fulls even though it tasted amazing. I wasn’t too disheartened as the lamb made it into my lunch box the day after and filled me up for the rest of the day too.

The group as a whole agreed on a half hour gap between the courses so we could do a few star jumps and squats to make room for not one but two desserts.

coconut loaf cake at ChamCham supper club Cardiff

First of the two was a homemade coconut loaf cake served with warm rum vanilla sauce. Expecting something lemon drizzle esque myself but the cakes were individually cooked somewhat like a muffin, doused in fragrant and boozy pool of white sauce. This was stodge porn to the max and we could of shared one between us…but i didn’t. I love coconut, i love rum and I put vanilla in most of my breakfast apart from bacon sandwiches. Coconut does have a tendency to dry things out, well at least when i’ve attempted coconut pancakes but the rum and vanilla sauce acted as the perfect lubricant between the spoon and my greedy lips.

ginger beer and coconut sorbet

Last but not least was as well earned dish to soothe the numbing gums from all the heat throughout the feast. A ginger beer, rum and coconut sorbet gave a pleasant zing and brought the tantalising journey through West African delicacies.

The Verdict

Well what can i say I absolutely loved the evening from start to finish. From the delicious and perfectly spiced banquet to the welcome and hospitality from what was a total family affair. The group we sat next to gave us a bit of insight as they were friends of the family and it was exactly like attended one of their parties in the house with mountains of food made with love.

Everyone working were family from Nanu (the grandmother) the head of the kitchen who cooked the majority of the courses to the father and children all digging in, helping out and talking us through each course. They were all so friendly and really felt like we were one of the adopted family members.

doggy bag at ChamCham supper club cardiff

I loved that they boxed all the bits that weren’t finished for everyone who couldn’t finish to take home, that didn’t include me obviously. We also had a pot of Nanu’s now famous hot sauce to take home, which i’ve put to good use more than once since I got home.

The price for the evening with 6 courses was just £25, which was an absolute bargain. We were both asked to attend the evening as guests but we loved the expeirence we did give £20 tip each just because we both loved the food, the hospitality amazing and everyone was just so lush.

If you like your spicy food and a lot of it then don’t hesitate to book onto one of the next events because I know i will if they do a different menu. Not because I didn’t like it but I was living off it for a week with the doggy bag we took home so i’d like to try something else if they do alter what’s on offer.

Make sure you follow ChamCham on Facebook to find out about their next supper club event or upcoming food festivals they’re attending.

Lunch at Finsbury Avenue London

So I was up in London for some Microsoft Dynamics CRM training for a few days not long ago near the city in Broadgate London. Usually one to rustle something up the night before when in Cardiff I was a bit worried about having to live off sandwiches for 3 days especially on my £5 allowance with work.

I didn’t do any prior planning due to being with 4 other work colleagues and not knowing what everyone would like I just had a quick scout on google to find places to eat near the office and up popped HOP Vietnamese and I was sold. I bloody love a Bhan Mi so I said to everyone else you can go where you want but I my friends am going for a Vietnamese. To my surprise everyone else seemed game too.

Turns out Hop Vietnamese was located within the courtyard of some office blocks named Finsbury Avenue Square and it had a load of other street food vendors to choose from.

pork bahn mi at hop vietnamese finsbury avenue square, london

Hop Vietnamese

I had my first taste of Bhan Mi, the biggest street food export to hit UK shores from Vietnam at Bombers in Cardiff and I was a big fan. So much so I attempted my own Bahn Mi a few days later. Not specialising in Vietnamese cuisine in Bombers I was keen to try something a bit more authentic and Hop didn’t disappoint.

The place was absolutely rammed come lunch time, which is always a good sign. There were a few options to choose from such as protein vegetable salads served cold form the fridge included mung bean boodles, fresh veggies and choice of meat and sauce.

Hot boxes seemed popular and contained rice, shredded salad with various meats and sauces too but looked a bit more appetising that the cold noodle boxes as they smelt amazing.

There was only one thing on top of my list though the Chargrilled pork and pate Bahn Mi, which also came in a crusty baguette filled with fresh herbs, mayo, onion, cucumber, spring onion, pickled veg, chilli. Two the other guys ordered the same as they didn’t have a clue what to get and their faces said it all chomping on their first bite. This beat any other Bahn Mi including mine. Crusty bread paired beautifully with the slightly charred pork with fragrant spicy and herbilicous kick. For £6.95 I thought it was an absolute bargain especially for Central London.

Lobster Mac n Cheese at Claw , Finsbury Avenue Square, London

Claw

So after wiping the crumbs out of my beard from the Bahn Mi at Hop Vietnamese I went on the scout to see what other array of goodies were dotted around the square for subsequent days. One such unit was Claw, specialising in Mac n Cheese with a few seafood numbers thrown in for good measure.

Day 2 then was mac n cheese day but I wanted to go one better. They did a crab mac n cheese on the menu and a lobster salad so I thought I’d go off piste and the guys at Claw were happy to oblige with a little premium added on top for lobster mac n cheese.

The pot wasn’t huge, but they probably cater for the London appetite who can probably barely afford to eat with the spiralling house prices. I’d been hoping they would answer my request all morning after seeing the menu the day before and was glad I tried it but it could of done with being a bit warmer and a bit more cheese in the mix to make it a bit richer (if that’s possible with a dollop of lobster. Priced a bit more than my normal lunch at £9 for the lobster mac and just over £10 with a drink but it’s not everyday you see this on the menu.

submarine at sub cult Finsbury Avenue Square, london

Sub Cult

So I walked past this place the previous two days but didn’t have chance to take a glimpse of the menu. I’d tried to grab a duck bun from Yolk, which was basically next door for two days but the first day they’d sold out and my last day in the big smoke they didn’t start lunch till 11.30 and it was only 11.

Luckily for me I did get a chance to sample what the guys at Sub Cult had to offer. Seeing as it was my last day i thought I’d go balls out and opted for the award winning submarine club. Basically what looked like a random mix of some of my favourite dishes, stuffed into a manageable carb based shipping vessel. I wasn’t sure at first but I was a convert after finishing the last couple of scraps of the pork, crackling, scallops, calamari, rocket and lemon mayo. This came in around £9 but varies on market price for the seafood.

Other options looked pretty tasty too such as the rodeo consisting of rare roast beef, truffle may, grana padano shallot jam, pickled serrano chilli priced at reasonable £6.95 considering the £6-8 price on a sub at New York Deli in Cardiff. You do need to be super human to finish some of those in one go mind but for London it’s a bargain.

Other units

Yolk

As mentioned I’d attempted to grab a duck bap for two days , which also included pulled confit duck, crispy duck skin, smoked aioli, caramelised balsamic onion in demi brioche bun but it just wasn’t too be. This was priced at £7.50. There were a few other numbers temping me on the menu but so little time unfortunately.

Babba G’s

Specialising in Bhangra burgers and tandoor grill. I didn’t get round to trying this out but the burgers sounded superb. My colleague did manage to try one although he opted out of the nagga chilli double burger. I probably wouldn’t of wanted to sit in the afternoon training session dripping with sweat and snot either mind saying that.

If you’re around Broadgate with work or just in the area and looking for lunch, you have to go try out some of the traders lunchtime. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed, well you might be disappointed you’re not there for longer than 3 days to go through them all like i was.

Finsbury Avenue Square is located at London, EC2M 2PA.

 

Quinoa and Butternut salad

Quinoa Salad Ingredients

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 6 full stalks of cavalo nero
  • 2 shallots
  • 125g quinoa
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch of flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 bunch of mint

Dressing Ingredients

  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 dessert spoon of Pomegranate molasses
  • 2 teaspoons of Harissa paste
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 1 roasted garlic clove from above
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper

quinoa and butternut salad recipe

Instructions

  1. Empty the quinoa into a sauce pan, with a stock cube and a squashed garlic clove and top with water. Bring to boil and cook to packet instructions. Usually around 15 minutes but make sure they aren’t too mushy, you still want a little bite to give texture. Drain and put to the side to cool when cooked.
  2. Peel the butternut squash using a potato peeler for ease and to save your fingers instead of using a knife.
  3. Slice into 1 inch thick disks, cut each disk into 1/8’s so they cook quicker.
    Drizzle with olive oil then use your hands to make sure they are coated well. Place on a baking tray and season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Take 5 garlic cloves still in their skins and squash with the back of a knife. Place on top of the butternut squash spread out and place the butternut squash in the oven on around 200C for around 20-25 minutes.
  5. Halve and peel the shallots. Place on the baking tray with the squash after around 5 minutes of the squash being in the oven.
  6. Slice either side of the cavalo nero stalks so you are left with the leaves. I prefer cavalo nero instead of the ready cut bags of kale as they always have the thick stalks attached to the leaves and they take forever to remove compared to the whole cavalo nero leaves.
  7. Slice the leaves into 1 inch thick strips, coat with olive oil or fry light and add to the baking tray for around 10 minutes but keep checking as they can burn quite quickly depending on your oven.
  8. Remove the tray from the oven, checking that the butternut squash is cooked and soft. Set aside and leave to cool.
  9. In a bowl add the juice of 1 lemon, good glub of quality olive oil, the pomegrantate molasses, a cap full of red wine vinegar, harissa paste. Take a medium sized clove of garlic from the roasting pan with the butternut squash, remove the skin and crush on a chopping board, then crape with the end of the knife to make a paste.
  10. Add the roast garlic paste to the dressing, season with salt and pepper and stir. Taste and adjust the proportions of the ingredients to taste as some brands are stronger than others.
  11. After everything has cooled down, remove the roasted garlic from the tray and place the rest of the cooked ingredients in a large bowl.
  12. Empty the cooked and cooled quinoa to the bowl with the chopped parsley and mint and stir to combine.
  13. Drizzle the dressing over the top and continue to mix with a large spoon so that everything is equally mixed and coated in the dressing.
  14. Place in the middle of the table and dig in. This would feed two as a main with some meat such as chicken sausages that I paired with it or four people as a side dish with several other plates.

Duck and Waffle Restaurant Review – London

Having first looked at the Shard for lunch and them being fully booked I remember seeing some pics from the cocktail guy I was following on Instagram and some of the awesome views of london in the backdrop of his cocktail snaps but couldn’t rememeber the name of the place.

Turns out it was Duck & Waffle, so our attention turned to making this our friday lunch / pre Taste of London treat for 2 day trip up to the big smoke. Lo and behold this too was booked but after a bit of gently persuasion on the phone we managed to get a booking for 3pm at the 42nd story restaurant.

I studied the menu religiously for about an hour after we booked and checked out the cocktails on offer on the cocktail guys instagram trying to decide what I wanted to sample bearing in mind I was going to a food festival straight after it and didn’t want to spoil that seeing as that was the original reason for the trip in the first place.

Not knowing entirely where Duck & Waffle was located we decided to head to Spitafields for a browse as neither myself nor Mwsh had been to the area before and it was close enough walking distance to the restaurant rather than a Top Gear esque dash across the capital with 30 minutes to spare had we gone on a trek around the other side of the river beforehand.

This was either a brilliant idea for my next outting to London or complete torture having stumbled on the line of street food traders outside Spitafields market for kerb streetfood and trying my best not to order one of each after pacing up and down the street 3 or 4 times with hawk eyes on the mounds of simmering pans and smouldering hunks of meat slowly cooking behind the serving counter.

What was i thinking I had an hour before going for a pre-dinner then a food festival and I was being tempted by the conjouring whafts of delights on offer in front of me! Who could blame me mind with fries, gravy, poutine and rib meat from none other than “Rib Man”!

Common sence prevailed and with just a coffee, mulled wine, pint of the kernel, mini lemon meringue cake, taster of beef brisket, sample of tea, nibble of brownie we headed towards the tallest building this side of the river for lunch in the clouds at Duck & Waffle.

Outside of the duck and waffle building

After stepping into the lift and seeing the number 42 button I knew I had to film our ascent to the highest 24 hour eatery in the capital bolting through the floors and skyline in almost lightening speed to the very top of the Heron Tower at 110 Bishopsgate and towering over the gherkin just across the road.

After a brief stint looking over the drinks menu in the bar we were ushered to our seats right next to the window. Ok it wasn’t the side we were hoping for with views of the Gherkin but we were happy just to get a booking and the views were still pretty impressive.

The Drinks

Having first seen the Woodland Negroni nestled between a mini forest in a bowl on instagram and being gin based I knew this was going to be my first option on the menu.

 

Seeing the prices at around £14 it wasn’t going to be a one of each on the menu, plus I wanted to take in the ambiance, make it in one piece to Taste of London I opted to saver the drink. There sat a huge square ice cube taking centre stage in the glass keeping the cocktail at optimum ice cold temperature but without melting and watering the drink down to a slurry of watered down crap. As i’ve recently learned it’s all about the ice and the ice can make or break a drink from my newly found knowledge at the Gin Fest in Cardiff not too long ago.

I’ve always just been handed a half glass filled with spirtis, chunk of skinny ice cubs and topped up with mixer, which ends up melting within minutes and ruining the contents of my glass shortly after.

At the gin fest we had oversized glasses with a shot of gin, garnish of fruit, a mound of huge ice cubes and just a dash of of tonic meaning the glass stays freezing cold, the mixer doesn’t dilute the ice so the drink stays at the perfect equilibrium of ice to drink ratio.

The drink itself tasted of the forest for sure and details as follows:

‘damp gin,’ Campari, sweet vermouth, formica rufa infusion, slow dripped through layers of nature.

It took me back to my teens and reminded me of sleeping rough up the mountain whilst camping with just a sleeping bag neslted between the wilderness, cooking up a meat feast tin of beans and passing around the “hooch” of the day. It did what it said on the tin but I have to admit it wasn’t entirely my cup of tea but then I don’t know what I was expecting after seeing the pictures and reading the description.

After deciding to take it easy on the wallet and the alcohol levels in my bloodstream I played it safe with the white wine after the first cocktail but these were a really good wine.

The Food

Onto the main highlight of the visit and took us an eternity to finally decide on our plates of choice as we wanted to try quite a few things but also didn’t want to spoil the evening spent eating at Taste.

Day menu at Duck and Waffle

What I did know was I breaking the cardinal sin and not sampling the signature dish the Duck & Waffle but it just looked a bit boring and not really worth the £17 for a waffle, duck leg and egg even though I love duck and partial to a good waffle. I fancied trying something a bit different today.

What we ordered

Well I knew for a fact I was going to order the ox cheek doughnut so that was top of the list priced at £12. This was my favourite of all the dishes and combined sweet yet meaty proportions within a perfect balance. The doughnut was pretty huge and a lot bigger than I though but at £12 you are hopping it’s going to be something worth chomping on especially sharing all the plates between two. I had the honour of cutting into the perfectly crusted dough ball, doused in paprika sugar and laden in sweet sticky apricot jam, stuffed in tightly compacted nuggets of ox cheek.

Ox cheek donut at Duck and Waffle London

I was deliberating for days whether to try the bbq spiced crispy pigs ears as my stomach has got a lot weaker over the years honestly no pun intended but I’ve grown a lot more squemish with what i’ve got on my fork and my stomach turns if i over think something unusual sometimes but I bit the bullet at £5. I’m glad I did go for it as they were like a pimped up version of pork scratchings. Long shards of crispy, tasty pork skin flecked in a light spice. I would of prefered a jug of rum cask cider to compliment it rather than my goblet of wilderness mind. These were deliscious and wish i’d ordered a bag to take away and have looked at recipes to try and recreate these at home since visiting.

Crispy pigs ear at Duck and Waffle London

We got talked into trying some of the smaller tasters by the waiter but just opted for one of each to share of the bacon wrapped dates with linguiça sausage & mustard at £3.50 and a crispy polenta with parmesan & truffle for £3. Both equally as divine and moreish and could easily have scoffe a handfull of each being the dainty size they were but we were told they were bite sized on ordering so we weren’t supprised when they came.

bacon wrapped dates and crispy polenta Duck and Waffle London

We wanted to try one of the breads and fallen in love with cornbread recently so it was between the Lamb Keema, Hara Bhara Sauce or the maple glazed cornbread, harissa yoghurt but I’m not too keen on maple syrup and know it would of spoiled my plate so opted for the lamb keema. Both were priced at £7. The keema was good although it was less carb heavy and less of a plate than the cornbread but that was obvious being a flat bread and probably the best option to just sample the flavour and not get overly bloated. It was good although I’d probably order something else next time as it was good but not amazing. I’d probably go for the Nduja and Gruyere next time, which is a spiced spreadable pork salami sausage meat and cheese.

keema naan at Duck and Waffle London

We decided on one more plate and again torn between two with the  Pork & Apple Corn Dog with chiptole mayo priced at £12 or the Miso Glazed Rabbit, Roasted cauliflower, suet biscuit and crispy cabbage at £12 but went for the smaller of the two the corn dog just because we didn’t want to overdo it and eat too much and ruining the evening’s plans. This was tasty and quite different to what I expected as I thought it would be more of a minced pork like kofta kebab but was more pulled pork covered in a batter.

apple corn dog chipotle mayo at Duck and Waffle

Feeling quite full at this point and knowing we had a good few hours left of eating that night we opted for a coffee to finish the meal instead of a dessert but there were a few dishes that caught my attention.

The Verdict

All in all it was a great experience and would definitely recommend trying Duck & Waffle if you’ve not been and was a very memorable event. The food was a bit pricey but it is London and you’re paying for the novelty of dinning so high up. Unlike the shard who charge £30 just to go up to the top and have a minimum of £30 spend if you fancy dinning although I’m sure you would blow that in no time.

The food was good and I liked the tapas style small sharing plates as opposed to a starter, main and dessert. You have to try one of the cocktails and does make a great instagram pic too if you’re sat by the window as we were.

Bwyta Bwyd Bombai

I’ve been to Bwyta Bwyd Bombai (3B’s) a few times previously but only had a takeaway biryani on the way home from work when I’ve been feeling lazy and not sure if i’d make it through the journey home without something in my belly.

I was invited to drop in and sample some of the lesser known items on the menu at 3 B’s last week to my excitement as I follow them on instagram and been intrigued by some of the food they’ve been dishing out and posting lately.

Bwyta Bwyd Bombai differs to your standard indian restaurant as they primarly focus on street food you would most certainly seen being cooking up on the roadside in Mumbai, which is where the chef and owner  Shakshi was brought up and taught her trade by her family.

The restaurant is located in High Street Arcade a few doors down from the  Cardiff Institution that is New York Deli.The place offers a more relaxed dinning experience making it great for lunch or a good dose of energy before carrying on a bit of shopping.

The Food

The guys took me through a good ole journey through the menu and offering some dishes i’ve never even heard of before, which is right up my street.

The great thing about 3 B’s is it’s proper finger food meaning you can get stuck in with your hands and make a mess especially with the fuzz i’m sporting on my face at the moment.

Bwyta Bwyd Bombai mixed bhaji puri and batata vada

I started on a few nibbles to get my apettite in check with the crispy rice puffs of Sev Puri and Dahi Puri with some with yogurt and mildly spiced and the other filled with chopped, fresh veggies and vermicelli noodles adding a nice crunch and texture. I was told they should go down in one so i was glad there weren’t too many others there at that time to witness my hamster cheeks chomping through each one.

Next up was a mixed bhaji selection with onion bhajis, that were more bhaji flatties compared to what i’ve become accustomed too but this meant that they were less stodgy and crispy throughout unlike some some i’ve tried at food festivals that were giant balls of bland stodge that i struggled to finish.

There was a tamarid dip to add another punch of flavour to the items. Also on the plate were battered spinach leaves. Single leaves of spinach dipped in batter and fried that meant they kept their shape and had a nice crunch. I like a bit of spinach on my salad but never too keen when it’s added to warm dishes as it can get slimey sometimes but this worked perfectly deep fried in batter. So simple, yet effective.

batata vada at Bwyta Bwyd Bombai Cardiff

The third item on the mixed plate of goodies was the batata vada and it was something else. Creamy mashed potato and herby centre, which was deep fried leaving a luscious soft centre and golden hue crust. I could of eaten a plate of these on their own they were delish!

Indian street food in Cardiff samosa chole Bwyta Bwyd Bombai

You can’t have an indian without a samosa and the samosa chole comes pilled with chickpeas in a mild spiced curry adding an extra hit of protein. I’d attempted to make only my 2nd ever attempt of a curry a few nights before and wanted something with chick peas in instead of carb loading on rice so used some spices from Riverside Market but these were next level flavour compared to my first attempt.

chicken dosa at Bwyta Bwyd Bombai Cardiff

Struggling on I went for a chicken dosa. A light and crispy pancake type eating vessel made from lentils that i’m told is gluten free and vegan (apart from the chicken filling obvs). I was going to cut into manageable pieces but thought i’d embrace the traditional indian etique and just dived straight in with what i was born with. Tearing off golden shards of dosa and dipping in the chutney and medium spiced sauce.

There was also another option similar to the dosa but it used slightly different flour and was told it has a more earthy flavour compared to the dosa ingredients used.

Seeing as I was dinning alone I was getting pretty full now but after some careful deliberating I decided to power on through for a final dish of paneer bhurji. Paneer is an Indian cheese and i’ve used it once before, cutting into cubes, frying to give a nice crip coating before adding to a curry to add something extra to the chicken in the pan.

paneer bhurji in Cardiff

Here it was combined with spices and herbs in shards and presented like you sometimes have with rice and accompanied with a toasted buttered roll.  It seems they had kept the best till last, not that I didn’t enjoy the rest but with each plate I was presented each became my plate of the day in quick succession. The slithers of perfectly seasoned paneer were silky smooth and did look like rice from a distance but were much richer and morish.

Having a 2nd stomach for dessert I obviously had a little room left for a sweet. I asked for a suprise and to my suprise I had two come out on a tray…winning!

One was a bowl with two syrupy balls of Gulab Jamun. I’d had these previusly in Chai Street so already knew they didn’t look like much but were ample in size due to the sweet, sticky stodge. Again I liked the dish but I’d had them warm before and think i prefered them served warm to cold here.

gulab jamun dessert at Bwyta Bwyd Bombai Cardiff

The other dessert I had to work through was a pistachio and milk lolly. I absolutely adore pistachio and the milk worked well to sooth my slightly warmed gums after a baquet of spices and garam masala.

panha - raw mango juice

I also got to try raw mango juice called panha that was a bit oowooo i’m not sure about that but it’s a grower and a few sips in I was converted.

The Verdict

As I mentioned i’ve eated here a few times previously but it was the first time I got to try the street food offerings from the menu and loved that I got to try such a varied never before tasted dishes on the menu.

I used to be a phall or vindaloo type person going for the hottest on the menu but i’ve grown wiser in my years and like a good bit of heat and spice but nowhere near what I used to. Bwyta Bwyd Bombai from what I tried was all expertly seasoned and spiced but they were a mellow heat bordering on mild / medium so you won’t get any nasty suprises if you’re not a fan of spicy food.

I love my visit and as I was dining on my own i’ve been told I need to show Mwsh through the best options on the menu very soon as she was tied up (not literally) at the time.

I’ve seen regular deals for Bwyta Bwyd Bombai on the Wriggle Cardiff app during lunch time if you fancy giving it a try. Don’t forget to use the code AUHPSS to get money off your first order on the app too!

Spatchcock Harissa Chicken Kebabs

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken around 1.8kg
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely grated
  • 1 shallot finely grated
  • juice and grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
  • 3 dessert spoons greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons harrisa paste
  • Salt and pepper
  • Drizzle of olive oil

homemade harissa marinade

marinaded harissa chicken

Instructions

  1. To Spatchcock the chicken, turn the chicken over so the breast is facing down. Either take a sharp scissors or knife and cut down either side of the breast bone, remove and discard.
  2. Turn the chicken back over so the breast is facing up and the and the cut side underneath. Open up the carcas so that it spreads out on a flat clean surface or roasting tin and press down in the centre of the breasts until you hear it click and lays flat on the surface. Spatchcocking is great for reducing the cooking time down as the internal core temperature inside the bird doesn’t take as long as it’s one flat piece of meat now.
  3. Use a fine grater like the one used for Parmesan to grate the garlic and shallot very fine. Place all the other ingredients into a bowl and stir. I don’t tend to weigh or measure the ingredients so you can play around with exact quantities to your taste putting in more or less harrisa depending on how spicy you want it.
  4. Make some incisions in the chicken all over to allow the marinade to penetrate and work it’s magic. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage it in making sure to work it into all the incisions for ultimate flavour.
  5. Leave to marinade for at least 30 minutes or longer in the fridge if you have time.
  6. Once the marinade has had chance to absorb and leave it’s mark on the chicken, place the chicken in the roasting tin in the oven and cook for around an hour depending on weight on around 180-190C. Check the colour of the skin before that time to make sure it isn’t burning and amend the temperature and time accordingly so that it doesn’t blacken too much but cooked through.
  7. The juices should run clear on the thickest part of the thigh. Leave it to rest for a few minutes to save your little pinkies when carving or just yanking the spicy, slightly chared legs off.

filled harissa chicken and tzatziki pitta

Serve with

I served mine with with griddled or toasted mediterranean style pittas from M & S, halloumi, hummus, tzatziki, salad and a sprinkle of summac. Not that I have to say but would go great with a crisp white wine.

Jols Restaurant Review Merthyr Tydfil

I’ve been a fan of Jamie, the man behind the Jol’s brand and restaurant for a few years after sampling most of his streatfood plates he’s dished up since I first stumbled on him about 3 years ago.

I’ve also known about his first restaurant venture in Merthyr since it opened about 18 months ago but just never got around to trying it sadly till now. When I saw a Travelzoo deal on for 3 courses for £45 I snapped it up just for an excuse to venture up the top end of the valley in Merthyr. I used to work over Merthyr college for a year a while back so I was aware there wasn’t much in the way of competition of that standard although Nant Ddu wasn’t bad for food but Jol’s being based smack in the middle of town it was a little more accessible with the train station less than 100 metres away.

Anyway Jamie O’Leary the owner and Chef learnt his trade under the wing of well respected Steven Terry of the Hardwick, which gives you a bit of an idea on the standard he’s used to cooking.

Jol’s the restaurant took over a hotel I visited once for an authentic Aussie Pie and Mash for lunch one afternoon whilst working over Merthyr although it’s been re-done and fitted out a lot better than the dark and dingy decor that stood before it when i visited last.

The Food

The menu changes frequently and is seasonal making the most of fresh ingredients in season and to hand for the restaurant and when we visited last night I was quite suprised by how many dishes were on the menu compared to a smaller menu I’d seen previously when browsing on their social media pages. Not that that’s a bad thing although it did mean it took me twice as long to decide from the salivating induced state it left me in from reading it.

After some deliberating I bit the bullet and chose the brown shrimp, hummus, raisins and ras al hanout spiced cauliflower to start.

Mwsh originally opted for the pork terrine but sadly they were all out so the waitress came back and asked her to choose something else. Again it was a toss up between a few contenders such as wild mushrooms on toast, salmon or Welsh Rarebit but eventually opting for the later. As standard we opted for the bread to share whilst we waited for our first plates to arrive.

house made bread and brown butter Jols Merthyr

First out of the kitchen doors came a tray of pipping hot, caramel esque mound of dough glistening with egg wash, which led Mwsh to quote it as the most amazing portion of bread she’s ever seen or eaten. It resembled mini hovis loaf with a healthy Quenelle of brown butter and flakes of smoked salt to sprinkle on top. The combination of hot spongy freshly baked bread, slathered and saturated glutinously in brown butter and shards of the smoked salt set the standard for the evening really. Perfectly simple but it put a smile on both our faces from the first bite.

The first course wasn’t long behind. A genous bed of hummus topped with raisins, corriander, ras al hanout cauliflower, almonds, dainty brown shrip and a mopping vessel in the form of chargrilled flatbread. There was a lot going on with the plate and I was a bit dubious as I don’t usually go for little prawns, only  king prawns as they are meatier but it was bloody lovely!

Welsh Rarebit starter Jols Merthyr

Mwsh’s plate of homemade bread with rarebit more than packed a punch and a daily helping of bacon as it was the first time in four days we hadn’t had bacon. Rich with sharp cheddar balanced with the saltiness of the bacon it was delish. Mwsh was ever so jealous of mine in comparison even though hers was good so seeing as it was her birth month celebrations still I let her swap halfway through.

Mains next and I opted for the roast rump of lamb with cauliflower, red currant gel,cavolo nero, anchovy and red wine sauce with a side of tripple cooked chips for good measure. I seemed to be living off cauliflower the past two days between Asdador and Jol’s so it must be in season. Luckily there wasn’t too much to get through even though I don’t mind a portion with my meal but can get a bit hard to stomach with too much unless it’s smothered in cheese sauce.

lamb main Jols Merthyr

The lamb was tender, slightly pink and easy to cut through. Accompanying it was a rissole / bon bon like lamb parcel to get through too, which was a nice suprise. Crispy crumb with soft, flaked lamb centre. The plate was brought together with a rich emulsion of red wine and anchovy sauce to add moisture to the contents of the plate and help me through the mountain of crunchy triple cooked chips.

It’s very rare we just take a punt on a dish on our own as we usually make a joint decision so we get to taste a few dishes we both like, but luckily for us theres usually two strong contenders we’re both torn between so this makes it easier and we get to try both then too. She opted for the Roast Duck & Orange this time. A contemporary take on a french classic featuring seared breast & confit leg roll with caramelised endive, buttered kale, burned orange dressing and skinny fries.

duck and orange main Jols Merthyr

The classic Duck a l’orange for me is way to sickly and I’ve felt my teeth disolving from the barrel load of sugar in the sauce in the past but this was more complex and the burned orange meant it was more tart than the usual sweet sickly flavour that would put me off normally. Crispy skin yet tender breast alongside the confit leg falling off the bone into rich, meaty and juicy ribbons of duck with ease.

Dessert was include in the deal so who was I to pass up an opportunity to sample some sugar laden stodge. Again it was a joint effort in pinning down two desserts to share so I decided to go for the chocolate brownie with salted caramel, macadamia nut praline and brownie ice cream. I don’t think it takes anyone with more than a average IQ to work out it tasted just as good as it reads. Gooey centre in the brownie with extra creaminess from the brownie saturated ice cream. The nut praline added a good crunch and texture with hit of saltiness from the caramel.

chocolate brownie ice cream dessert Jols Merthyr

My only feedback was it could of done with a bit more salted caramel as I could eat it by the bucket but luckily Mwsh had a small urn full so I stole some of hers. For dessert she opted for the Apple and sultana bread and butter pudding with caramel sauce and clotted cream. If we weren’t already over the edge this was pushing us close and we both had to battle the demons to finish our plates even though they were both superb but we were absolutely stuffed after 4 days of eating like kings for Mwsh’s birthday.

The Verdict

Mwsh’s verdict was it was faultless and couldn’t give one criticism and mine was basically the same apart form a little bit more caramel with the brownie but I was lucky she had loads with her dish so I couldn’t really complain not that it warranted a complaint I just have an unhealthy addiction to the stuff.

We will most definitely be back and if you haven’t tried Jol’s in Merthyr yet then what are you waiting for, get booking now! As I mentioned we had a deal on Travelzoo for 3 courses for £45 but we paid for a few extras such as bread for £3, tripple cooked chips for £3, bottle of Sauvingnon Blanc for £19 and £1 or £2 supplement on our mains as I think we got up to £22 value but ours came in at £23.

Starters come in at around £7, mains £22 and desserts around £7 too as a rough guide and the latest menu can be seen at http://www.jolsfoodco.co.uk/menus. Jamie will be bringing the Jol’s streetfood trailer to Womamby Street for Feast Fest Cardiff for a month starting last weekend to the end of August both Saturday and Sunday if you want to see what he’s rustling up in the mean time.