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Afternoon Tea Review at The Angel Hotel and Oak Rooms in Abergavenny

We had an invite to attend a high tea at Abergavenny’s most renowned hotel, The Angel Hotel recently. Now normally I would have been just a little bit excited, but when I found out it was in collaboration with The East India Company I can’t repeat what words left my mouth. Not only celebrating some of the their finest teas but also a chance to try some of the cocktails knocked up by their resident mixologist with one of my favourite gins, The East India Company’s own juniper laced spirit.

If you’d asked me a few months back who The East India Company were, I probably wouldn’t have known much. But seeing that I’d included the gin in a gin and Indian food pairing tasting menu with a recent collaboration I’d done between Cardiff Gin Club and Purple Poppadom in Cardiff, I could probably recite the 400 year history off the top of my head after my research into the company.

I’ve always fancied staying at the Angel Hotel but never had the chance and heard the afternoon tea was the best in town. I did spend a couple of weekends in the town when they were hosting the National Eisteddfod about two years ago and I decided to treat the other half to breakfast there for her birthday. The fry up was very good and went down even better with the smoked vodka Bloody Mary I’d swapped the cuppa for.

I’ve always driven to Abergavenny when visiting and hadn’t ever occurred to me about catching the train, but it’s not much more than 30 minutes with no changes from Cardiff Central for less than £15. Knowing that The East India Company were travelling down from London with a bag of their finest gin and expertly paired cocktail spiking liquids, I think leaving the car at home was a wise decision.

Luckily for us the usual crappy Welsh weather had been on our side and the plans of having the high tea out on the terrace, in the sun were still going ahead. I’d even given the scalp a slather of 8 hour sun tan lotion just in case too before I left the house.

East India Company Gin Welsh 75 cocktail at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

All the guests were seated together on a long garden table with a canopy flared out to save those who hadn’t taken precautions with the factor 15 from blistering in the glorious sunshine, which I’ve found hard to grow used to lately.

To wet our appetite before the festivities commenced, we were served a round of Welsh 75 cocktails. A play on the delicious French 75, which is usually a concoction of gin, fresh lemon juice, Champagne and a dash sugar syrup. This Welshified 75 had the addition of cassis to give it a shimmer of red.

Whilst we sat sipping the amalgamation of sweet, tart and dry flavours from the cocktail, we were introduced to the team behind The Angel Hotel and The East India Company representatives who specialised in fine teas and of course my favourite tipple, gin.

Each course or plate of food brought out for the high tea was skilfully paired with fine and rare teas sourced from around the world, whilst being curated by The East India Company Tea Master about its history. I found this mesmerising hearing about someone who had worked in the tea industry for 30 years and who works directly with the tea planation owners after I’d read so much about tea, putting the gin pairing menu together recently. I’d sourced a Darjeeling Tea gin and created a tea syrup to go with the desert menu so the chance to have something put together by the experts in the trade was amazing.

I also didn’t realise that The Angel Hotel was had been awarded the prestigious Tea Guild award for it’s quality, selection and knowledge of tea and is the only venue outside of London to receive such an honour.

The Afternoon Tea / High Tea

Onto the high tea / afternoon tea. I wasn’t quite sure what the difference between a high tea and an afternoon tea was to be honest. I thought high tea was a pot of tea with some scones, jam and cream and maybe a few little cakes then an afternoon tea was something a bit more substantial with sandwiches and a few more pastries thrown in.

After doing a bit of research it seems it dates back over 100 years and was to do with the classes at the time. Afternoon tea was consumed around 2pm and was mainly indulged in by the upper classes as they didn’t have to work and it would keep them going until evening meal around 8pm.

High tea was more of a working class meal around 6pm because they couldn’t afford the time, privilege or money to wallow in such luxuries in the afternoon when there was money to be made to feed hungry mouths at home. This would be the only meal they would have after midday so was a lot more substantial as they wouldn’t have an evening meal around 8pm like the more wealthier people of the time.

Sandwiches from the afternoon tea at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

First up was the sandwiches, comprising of triangles of poached salmon, with lemon and dill, cream cheese and cucumber, ham and whole grain mustard and finally egg and cress. The sandwiches were paired with The East India Company Royal Flush tea. A Sri Lankan tea which got it’s name from the original tea bush that was planted by Prince Philip in 1954 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s first state trip to Sri Lanka after Coronation.

This was the only tea were recommended to taste with a little dash of milk. I’m not much of a coffee drinker, I’ll have the odd flat white on the weekend but I do love a good cup of tea and this was an excellent introduction to The East India Company Tea portfolio.

savouries for the high tea at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

The savoury plate was next out, consisting of bite sized spinach and ricotta parcels, coronation chicken tarts, sausage rolls, bacon, onion and cheese quiche, feta cheese, sundried tomato and pesto parmieres. I savoured every last morsel of the savouries with each manageable bite whilst sipping a Chinese tea called Da Hong Pao, which was light, pleasant served without my usual splash of milk.

East India Company Green Tea cooler at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

After allowing the group to work their way through the savouries, have a chat amongst the group and being enlightened by the Tea Master (I know what a job right?) we had the chance to cleanse our palates with refreshing glass of Dragon Well Lung Ching. A green tea from China, served cold in a highball glass with a healthy serving of ice, mint and honey.

This was divine and so well received after the walk from the train station in a pair of thick trousers in 25C heat and basking in the sun for the past hour or so in the terrace. It was so refreshing, but one couldn’t help wondering what a cheeky nip of gin would have done to liven it up a bit.

I was excited for the next course, not only because everything was saturated in sugar but it was my first chance to taste the Champagne of teas, the Darjeeling First Flush from India. I’d bought a bottle of Jindea Single Estate Darjeeling First Flush Gin to try pairing with the PP tasting menu and looked into making the Darjeeling Tea sugar syrup with first flush tea leaves until I saw the price of the tea.

The Darjeeling First Flush, which is the first of the tea leaves picked between November and March is one of the most expensive teas in the world and probably the first and last time I’ll be able to try it.

Dessert select with Darjeeling First Flush Tea at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

The tea was paired with raspberry cheesecake, bakewell tart, chocolate and nut baskets, custard slice, profiteroles, lemon and poppy seed fairy cakes, coffee and walnut cake and a lemon and raspberry tart.

Yes I know, that’s one hell of a cake banquet for one person so we chose to share a plate between the two of us to save us from purchasing an extra seat each on the train journey home, especially as there were another two courses after this.

The East India Company loose leaf tea at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

Not only do they know their teas at The Angel, they don’t half know how to spoil you with the food and that rings true with the high tea too. I couldn’t fault any of the cakes but I just can’t imagine any mere mortal conquering the whole feast themselves, not that that’s a bad thing. I’m sure they would be happy to box anything up for the journey home once you’ve had a breather.

Earl Grey Tea with eton mess at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

Next we were served mini bowls of Eton Mess, one of my all-time favs and served with probably my favourite tea of the day the Black Vanilla from Sri Lanka, which bounced off the flavours of the Eton Mess really well.

The meringues were spot on being soft and chewy on the inside. There’s nothing worse than biting into a meringue and it bursts into dust like one of those joke golf balls that explode when you whack them.

Scones with jam and clotted cream at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

If that wasn’t enough to put anyone in a food coma, the final hurdle was in the form of warm scones, clotted cream and jam. Obviously this nearly led to a few fisty cuffs over who was right and who was wrong regarding jam first or cream first.

Having a whole host of people from across the pond gave me some security and re-assurance as cream obviously comes first with a generous dollop of jam, as the jam is easier to spread on top of cream than the other way around. We’ve nearly had a divorce many a time over this topic.

East India Company Gin Cocktail at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

To finish off a sumptuous journey through the tropical climates of Sri Lanka, China and India paired with equally delicious food from The Angel Hotel Kitchen we were treated to a Gin Tea cocktail by The East India Company mixologist. I’ve been playing around with G & Tea’s a lot lately but had opted to infuse a sugar syrup so it was good to get an insight into how a fine tea importer servers theirs up.

It was interesting to see they infused the gin with the Early Grey and add a sugar syrup later to sweeten it slightly, along with some ginger wine and a few dashes of the Angostura bitters. The original bitters that the East India Company soldiers mixed their gin from England with to create Pink Gin.

The East India Company soldiers can also be held responsible for creating the quintessentially British drink, the G & T by mixing their gin brought over from Britain, a little bit of sugar, water together and using it to make their daily ration of quinine more palatable to fight off malaria.

The Verdict

If I could pick the perfect day then sitting on a terrace in the sun, being served cocktails, the best tea you can buy, married perfectly with sweet treats and pastries would be right up there. I really couldn’t fault the experience and would highly recommend it.

Normally an afternoon tea is all about the cakes, sandwiches and scones but it was such a welcome difference at The Angel Hotel because the tea takes centre stage along with the food. Normally when i’ve gone for afternoon tea, the tea is actually an afterthought and you’re just served a choice of tea from a small selection and you get a pot placed on the table to brew. You’re then stuck with that pot till the end of the service.

I thought it was a excellent that they paired each plate of food with a different tea and really took us through a journey across different continents with their unique landscape that helps to impart it’s stamp on the tea leaves and it’s final taste.

I’d like to thank the team at The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny and The East India Company for a truly unforgettable experience.

Abergavenny Food Festival

One last note and that is Abergavenny Food Festival takes place over the weekend of 15th & 16th September in the town centre. I’m not sure what availability is like for staying the nights The Angel Hotel during the two day event that brings the very best craft food and drinks form around Wales and under the roof of the Indoor market and lining the town centre.

I’m sure there will be plenty of room to swing by for a drink or two, breakfast ( which is pretty damn good) or some food in the Oak rooms though.

The Angel Hotel and The East India Company Team

Contact Details

The Angel Hotel
15 Cross Street, Abergavenny, NP7 5EN

Phone: 01873 857121

Burger Theory Review at Kongs Cardiff

I was recently asked back to try out the burgers at Burger Theory at Kongs in Cardiff. I’d been a few times in the past and did a blog post after my second visit to the pop up kitchen on St Mary’s Street. I’m glad to say that things have improved quite a bit since then as it was still new on the scene and I did have a couple of issues on both my first two visits.

I decided to take my younger sister and her boyfriend to see how it faired against some of the other burger places a 16 year olds frequent in Cardiff these days and to get a younger persons perspective. I was offered a £35 voucher towards food so I paid extra for the rest of the food and drinks on the visit. Seeing as I wanted to compare against how they had progressed since the 18 months after they opened I thought I’d opt for the same burger I ordered on my first visit the Kimcheese featuring Beef patty, melted cheddar cheddar, kimchi, pulled beef rib with black pepper glaze, chipotle mayo (£11.95).

I was going to order the cola ham hock dirty fries I’d seen on the menu previously but they were a special and been replaed by the “You have goat to try these fries”, which were a Caribbean take on dirty fries, which consisted of Fries loaded with goat curry, melted cheese, lime and coriander aioli, pineapple and scotch bonnet sauce, coconut flakes.

My sister opted for the Cheese theory with Beef patty with crispy bacon, melted cheddar, house pickles, Dijonnaise, house ketchup (£8.75) and her boyfriend went for The Sherriff with Beef patty with crispy bacon, melted cheddar, onion rings, BBQ sauce (£9.25).

We fancied a chip fest so went for two standard fries (£2.95 each) and a side of halloumi chips (£6.50).

Soft drinks all round for the teens whilst I sipped on a pint of Tiny Rebel Cali till the food appeared out of the kitchen.

Kimcheese Burger at Burger Theory Cardiff

The Kimcheese burger had grown since my first visit and was an absolute whopper of a burger to be fair. I was close to doing a few tricep dips off the edge of the bun to allow my jaw to take it in for a bite. There was a lot of juice and I was glad I had my side of the table to myself so I didn’t drown the person next to me whilst I chomped away.

There was a decent amount of meat content with the patty, beef rib and combined with the other fillings it did taste really good. Again though there wasn’t much kimchi going on. I don’t think I had any of the advertised fermented Korean staple in my burger the first time I visited and I struggled to find much in it this time unless they had done a batch of their own quick pickled kimchi but there was none of the expected pungent condiment in my burger this time either. Apart from that I was pretty happy with the burger.

There was a bit of a mix up with the fries but probably due to me using the voucher to pay at the start for  part of the meal as the server wasn’t sure what to do with it. I ordered one portion of the goat curry dirty fries and two portions of the standard ones but two goat ones came out. They immediately gave us a serving of the standard and let us keep the other goat curry but wasn’t sure if I’d been charged for the two goat curries. I’d had £35 towards the food, which came to around £55 in the end so I wasn’t bothered too much about going back and checking with them or causing a fuss.

goat curry dirty fries at Burger Theory

The goat fries were amazing though and a great addition to the menu instead of the usual pulled pork or chilli beef you tend to find at most burger houses when opting for some dirty fries. They were a slow burner mind as the first couple of bites I thought oh, they aren’t too bad but a minute or two later I could of done with someone fanning me with a palm leaf whilst squirting my mouth with a super soaker 2000 filled with milk.

Not that I was complaining, I was expecting it to be hot spice wise but for me the meat could have been a tad warmer. They were pretty epic though.

halloumi fries at Burger Theory Cardiff

My sister has an obsession for halloumi fries and was very impressed with Burger Theory’s take on the deep fried slabs of cheese and so was I. Portion size was generous and they looked exactly like chips, I thought they had brought out two different thickness of potato kind at first until I bit into one.

She also smashed the Cheese Theory burger and gave it a massive thumbs up along with her partner who said it was the best burger he’s ever had. He attempted a stab at the goat dirty fries and like me thought they were fine at first but when the heat kicked in he bailed. They both enjoyed the standard fries, although they didn’t quite manage to finish them off. Not from lack of trying I might add, they were just stuffed from the burger and other bits and bobs.

The Verdict

I was a lot happier with my food compared to my first and second visit. The Kimcheese burger was still lacking on the Kimchi front though as I’ve always got a tub to hand in the fridge at home I was looking forward to a healthy portion in my burger.

The goat curry fries were a really nice change and if you like your spicy food, keep with them as they seem quite tame at first but they don’t take long to catch up with you when you’re least expecting.

I’ve heard rumours that Burger Theory will be opening up as a standalone restaurant in Cardiff in the near future so keep your eyes peeled on socials. I’m hoping they carry the bottomless burger brunch they do at the standalone Bristol venue to Cardiff too as that will be unreal.

If you’ve not been to Burger Theory before, it’s located at Kong’s Bar on St Mary Street, which is a basement bar next to Turtle Bay.

Grub Kitchen Pop-Up Restaurant at The Celtic Manor Resort

The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport recently held a special pop up menu for National Insect Week at the Newbridge on Usk venue featuring Grub Kitchen who hail from St Davids in West Wales. The Grub Kitchen aims to educate people in the benefits and environmentally friendly importance of using insects in our diet compared to the labour and energy intensive cattle farming.

They have a restaurant in St Davids that features varies insects in many forms throughout the menu and they’ve also devised and packaged up insect based cooking ingredients such as ground mealworms that can be used to make pancakes and ready made cookies that can be purchased from their website. After speaking to one half of the Grub Kitchen team who happens to be a doctor and researched the use of insects for sustainable farming methods as part of her doctorate and they now do a lot with schools and education on their farm too.

The Celtic Manor decided to bring the grub farm team and owner/chef to cook up an I’m a Celeb esque feast for some lucky patrons and I was half happy, half terrified of accepting the invitation to join them for the launch of the pop up menu. I’ve been to both the other hotels under the Celtic Manor umbrella but this was my first visit to the Newbridge on Usk. After nearly launching my phone and google maps out of the car window for sending me several miles in the opposite direction, we arrived at the idylic riverside location. I was so suprised when we walked inside as it was almost tardis like in size compared to the outside as it looked quite small when we parked up outside.

 

Insect cocktail and crickets at grub kitchen pop-up The Celtic Manor

Cricket belini with salmon at The Newbridge on Usk

bug farm insect flours and food

 

We were treated to a choice of buggy drinks on arrival at the bar with the options of ant infused Eccentric gin and tonic, pimms with some critters floating on top or a non alcoholic mojito with something else from the insect kingdom taking up solice in the glass. Opting for one of each of the stronger options so we could try both. It wasn’t long until the creepy crawly laden canapes started to appear on trays to sample.

No worm and mud sandwiches in sight luckily and what we treated to sounded pretty good on the menu if you can get your head around the main centrepiece being something you would try and fish out of your plate or drink on any other occasion. The first bite sized nibble was the hardest to embrace but once you got over the initial fear they weren’t actually that bad.

The only one I couldn’t bring myself to try from the canapés was the vol au von with the mealworms as unlike the other dishes this looked a bit slimy and reminded me of mini gooey grub worms that explode slime when I’ve seen them eaten on I’m a celeb and it would of sent me over the edge.

 

bug farm vau le vauns

Vexo insect sausage roll

 

After the initial canapés, some people left and those who stayed on were treated to a sumptuous three course meal featuring even more insects in its various forms.

Not shying away from the challenge I went for the Entomophagic tasting board featuring black ant and Pant-Ysgawn goats cheese croquette, curried cricket pakora, toasted cumin and mealworm houmous, bug burger bite and dipping sauces.

 

Insect tasting board at The Celtic Manor

 

If I hadn’t been told I would never have known there were ground down insects in each of the items on the tasting board but because I did know, I was playing a constant battle with my brain to re-assure it I wasn’t going to die. Well at least I was hoping I wasn’t. I think if i hadn’t been told about the insects I would of wolfed everything down and enjoyed it more, it was just the thought of what i was eating made me a bit hesitant. I did polish most of the tasting board off though.

For mains i went for steak. This came with baby and pureed carrot, roasted lettuce and a vexo bolognese. Vexo is Bug Farm’s own creation and is a plant and insect based protein that can be added to meals. The steak was a whopper and cooked perfectly for me at medium rare. What I’d learned here is that the insects were a bit less in your face as the canapes and you could easily eat around them with the main meal if you were’t feeling brave. I was happy to give most of the things a go though as this was a great opportunity and very different experience i just had to take by the (cricket) balls.

 

Steak with vexo bolognese at The Celtic Manor - Bug Farm popup

 

The vexo was put into a little pan so to use at my leisure and being in control of how much I wanted on the plate instead of it being served to me swimming in the stuff and spoiling the whole meal had I not liked it. Obviously it wasn’t beefy like a normal bolognese but it was totally edible.

For dessert I went for the dark chocolate terrine. Oh don’t worry there’s a few additions lurking in there too with a toffee mousse, salted clotted cream and cricket ice cream. The chocolate terrine was heavenly and I tried my very best to have half a spoon of each item on my spoon as I went on a mission to destroy the plate of dessert but I failed half way through the ice cream.

I annihilated the terrine and the salted clotted cream but by this point I was all bugged out. I think if I hadn’t done the canapes I could of powered on through but the constant battling with my brain and pictures I kept seeing in my mind of the insects as I took a bite just took their toll. I got half way through the ice cream but there were just a bit too many crickets for me in the end. The other half on the other hand said it was the best ice cream she had ever tasted so there you go!

The Verdict

Ok so what did I think about the whole experience? I thought it was an amazing idea to be fair and they were so creative with everything from the ant infused gin, the canapes and the three courses of delicious food we were treated to. Having a chance to speak to the guys who run the bug farm and hearing the back story on how it all started, what they do now and dreams of the future. I love how they get the kids involved and do a lot with schools too.

It’s definitely an area we should start to explore too to try and cut down on the amount of energy and waste we go through in the world with traditional farming. I’m really glad I tried the food and the nibbles and would definitely recommend it either at the Bug Farm in St David’s or if The Celtic Manor put on a similar pop up again.

I can imagine kids loving the chance to eat some insects without being shouted at for digging up the garden in search for them by their parents and the majority of people on my table devoured everything on their plates. It depends how weak a stomach you have or how much your brain takes over when you are eating something you think you shouldn’t be and everyone is different.

I thought it was an amazing experience personally even if I was playing a constant battle in my mind but I did try my best and finished the majority of my food.

To see what other events and special menu’s are coming up at The Celtic Manor take a look here.

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The Granary Restaurant Review – Newtown, Powys

I was recently asked to attend a little known (to myself) restaurant in the heart of Wales called the Granary in Newtown, Powys to try their new 9 course tasting menu. Not knowing much about the restaurant at first I did a little bit of digging and found out that the head chef has worked at some very reputable restaurants on his journey to heading up the kitchen at The Granary including the one Michelin Star Ynyshir in Machynlleth, two Michelin star Noma in Copenhagen and even further afield at The Little Truffle on the Gold Coast in Australia. Ok, so you can judge a restaurant just by where someone has worked but the menu sounded absolutely banging and right up my street.

The only thing putting me off was the 5 hour round journey to get to the restaurant and back home. Seeing as we’re in the middle of one of the biggest heat waves to grace the land of song, I thought why not make a weekend of it and throw a bit of nature in with the epic scenic route meandering through the Brecon Beacons then up to Mid Wales and go camping whilst we were up there. As luck goes I found a camping spot called The Dolau Inn just two miles from the restaurant, which was situated next to a pub and cost just £5 per person so it was game on!

 

The Restaurant

After a few fermented apple juices to hydrate ourselves after setting up camp, we took the 5 minute taxi ride into town and a short walk down a lane just off the main high street in Newtown to the restaurant.

The restaurant itself has been run by the same owner since 2009 and after speaking to some of the locals before we got there it has gone through a number of different directions since its inception with the most recent offering being tapas.

The re-branding, new menu and new direction under the guise of chef Seamus Russel has also seen the restaurant change its name to the Granary to tie in with the buildings original purpose being a bakers in the 1900 and selling grain during the 1950’s.

The outside building of the Granary Restaurant Newtown

The restaurant seating and tables at The Granary

The bar at The Granary Restaurant - Newtown

 

The Tudor style exterior flowed through nicely into the interior with exposed wooden joists and panelling throughout with stripped back low hanging lighting creating a warm atmosphere. We were the first to arrive and were offered a chance to grab a drink out the back first, which we inquisitively accepted.

Outside seating and garden at The Granary Newtown

Garden at The Granary Restaurant in Newtown

Garden snug at the granary restaurant - Newtown

 

Both going for a Gin Mare G & T, whilst we explored the peaceful and tranquil outside seating area that would be a summertime mecca if it was only located in Cardiff with ample an scattering of tables with rattan benches and cushions a plenty. There was even a snug up on a raised area with comfy sofas and a chance to shelter from the sun in the summer or warm the cockles up in winter with the connected wall mounted fire.

The Food

After embracing my inner Zen channelled through the Buddha statues dotted around outside chill out area, G & T in hand as backup we headed inside for a culinary journey through a foraged and fermented menu expertly curated by head chef Seamus.

tasting menu and gin at the granary restaurant

First up on the menu was the hispi taco, prawn, lime, cucumber and ant. I’ve never been one to purposely journey on through a dish with insects in but seeing as it was national insect week and I’d been desensitised once that week already with the bug farm pop up at The Celtic Manor, there was nothing a little helping of ants as seasoning would do to hold me back.

Hispi taco with ants at The Granary Restaurant

This was a very clever dish with fermented limes used to cure the prawns a la ceviche style, sandwiched between carved hispi cabbage leaves and cucumber. The presentation was on point and gave us a little glimpse of what we were in store for, for the rest of the evening. The ants would have been right at home nestled amongst the edible flower coating. Even the rustic looking plates and tableware were handmade by a woman locally and added an extra special touch to the dishes.

Leek and wild garlic plate at The Granary in Newtown

Second course saw us delving into leek, shallot, parmesan, wild garlic. Each of the dishes was explained by the chef so that no detail was left unearthed, which I though was excellent as the menu reads very simply but the techniques and process behind executing each dish goes way beyond the main ingredients listed. This dish for example was powdered in fine particles of charcoal, adding an extra layer to the delicate ribbons of leak and silky custard like core of parmesan and fragrant but mellow linger of wild garlic.

Sourdough bread and cultured butter - The Granary in Newtown

I was a little disappointed at first when sitting down and not having a chance to carb up on bread, but to my delight it was delivered after the 2nd course. God I love bread! Especially when so much love and attention has been made with the cultured butter and the sourdough both taking around 5 days to produce I was told. This wasn’t just any old Hovis, that’s for sure. Being a champion of fermented yeast I adore its sour taste just as much in a sour beer as my bread and this loaf took some beating, slathered with rich, buttery, yellow mounds.

Pigs head with caviar - The Granary Newtown

Not that it would have bothered me but the next course of pigs head didn’t come on a silver platter with an apple in its mouth. Instead if came crowned in something a bit more regal in the form of Osietra caviar, sat on a bed of squash surrounded in fermented barley with droplets of kelp. I would never have put pork and caviar together myself but when I think about my preference of pork, which would be adorned with glass like shards of heavily salted crackling it married together flawlessly. Sweetened by the soft squash and a pleasant umami hit from the kelp.

Duck with blueberry and beetroot main course The Granary Restaurant Powys

Another meaty dish was up next in the form of duck breast, blueberry, hazelnut and beetroot. Duck being one of my favourite meats if cooked correctly I was more than excited to see how it would be plated up. Even though my favourite potato sidekick to duck dishes, dauphinoise potato wasn’t anywhere in sight, the sight of me wiping the plate clean with my index finger after I’d savoured the last mouthful of duck I think it was fair to say I wasn’t too disappointed in the end. Cooked pink to perfection, the sweetness of the blueberry helped tame the gaminess of the meat.

Pineapple - coal ricotta and rocket granita at The Granary Restaurant

Course 6 was a fusion of sweet and savoury before we went full steam ahead into dessert with pineapple, rapeseed, coal ricotta and rocket. I don’t know what sort of witchcraft they taught the chef at his previous posts but this dish was crazy. Sweet pineapple, savoury rocket granita, with a helping of dairy in the form of welsh gold infused ricotta. Simple raw ingredients yet executed brilliantly by transforming them with some well thought out techniques, lots of time and a little sprinkle of love.

Rice pudding with rhubarb dessert at The Granary - Newtown

The freshly foraged haul came into its own in the next few courses with rice pudding, oats, rhubarb and wood sorrel. This put my regular overnight oat breakfast to shame. Smooth pudding with added crunch and texture from the crispy oats with a spoonful of the sweetened rhubarb was divine. Topped off with hand carved hearts out of the wood sorrel that brought not only a visual touch but another layer of flavour too.

Strawberry and elderflower dessert at The Granary in Newtown

Having only tired elderflower in gin, it was about time I tried it in it’s fresh form with some strawberries, olive oil and drizzle of elderflower gel. Soft, fresh and fragrant. The strawberries were so sweet and a classic pairing with the elderflower.

Final course and dessert at The Granary Newtown
Last but not least we came to the lemon and white chocolate fudge. Bite sized nuggets of lemon and a rich, indulgent chocolate and raspberry to finish off a perfect and flawless meal.

The Verdict

Well what can I say… From not having heard of the granary to learning about the chef and then getting excited about the 9 courses on offer for the June menu this did not disappoint and was definitely worth the 5 hour journey there and back.

The flavour pairings and techniques used were so clever and after finishing our meals, we were allowed into the kitchen to speak to the chef and take a look behind the scenes. There were some very British ingredients on the menu but I loved how they were tweaked with Asian flavours and techniques with ferments like koji, which I’d learned about only the night before whilst watching “The Mind of a Chef” with David Chang on Netflix.

Nothing was just thrown in a skillet and plated up, everything in each dish required patience, time and nurture with some of the ingredients requiring days if not weeks to prepare. There wasn’t one thing that past my lips that I didn’t like.

I really hope the restaurant gets the rewards it deserves and from eating at some other Michelin star restaurants recently I can’t see any reason why The Granary under the direction of Chef Seamus Russel can’t reach the same heights any time soon and although I never ate at its previous incarnation, I think they’ve found the winning formula at last.

I hope the locals do give it a chance and check out the amazing food although speaking to a few in the pub after our meal it might just be ahead of its time in Newtown after describing some of the dishes and ingredients and they pulled a face and said it was expensive. I think it will take off it’s just there is nothing else quite like it around and once they walk through the doors and sample the food, it will do all the talking.

If you are onto something as good as this though people will travel for it. I travelled to Anglesey from Cardiff to go for food at The Sosban and Old Butchers for my birthday, which is 4.5 hours there and 9 hour round trip so this is nothing from Cardiff or Shrewsbury about an hour away.

9 course tasting menu at The Granary - Newtown

The price of the 9 course tasting menu costs just £50, which by Cardiff Standards is bloody cheap as I’ve seen some veggie tasting menus recently for not much less. We ordered a bottle of white wine after our gin and tonics to go with the food as we didn’t realise they did a wine flight to go with the food too for around £30 each. Bearing in mind this is 9 courses and the portion size of the drinks was more than generous. We were gutted we didn’t know at the start or we would of gone for that but they did allow us to pair the rest of our dishes with the wine when we found out and they were paired beautifully.

Our food was complimentary and would cost £50 each and with our two gins, bottle of wine and last couple of paired wines our drink bill came to £60, which I though was very reasonable. So normally that would have cost £160 but in the end we paid £100 with a £40 tip to the chef and front of house.

To top it all off they even gave us the rest of the loaf of sourdough wrapped up in cling film to take home. That was breakfast sorted for the morning with my 40p tin of sausage and beans cooked on my camping stove back at the camping site.

Contact Details

The Granary Restaurant
17 Parker’s Lane, Newtown, Powys, SY16 2LT

Phone: 01686 621120

Nikka Coffey Japanese Gin and Miso Mackerel Recipe

Miso and Japanese Gin mackerel ingredients

  • 2 fillets of fresh mackerel
  • 2 teaspoons miso paste (I used white organic miso from M & S)
  • Juice of 1/2 a charred lime
  • Small bunch of corriander chopped finely
  • 1 small chunk of ginger grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 chilli chopped finely
  • 6 teaspoons of Nikka Coffey Japanese Gin (Or sub for another Japanese Yuzu Gin)
  • 3 teaspoons mirin
  • 3 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

Asian salad ingredients

  • 1 carrot julienned
  • 1 carrot sized daikon julienned
  • 1 handfull beansprouts
  • 2 inch thick cucumber cut into batons
  • 1 spring onion sliced thinly
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

gin and miso mackerel ingredients

Instructions

  1. Put a frying pan on medium to high heat.
  2. Slice a lime in half and put one half, flesh side down in the dry pan for a couple of minutes to char.
  3. Slice the spring onion and peel and julienne the daikon. Add both to a bowl of cold water to get some of the harshness out for a few minutes.
  4. In a bowl, add the miso paste, juice of the charred lime, chopped corriander, grated ginger, garlic powder, chopped chilli, Nikka Coffe Gin, mirin and rice wine vinegar and give it a stir. Put to the side for dressing the dish later on.
  5. Take the daikon and spring onion out of the water and pat dry. Peel then julienne the carrot. Add to a bowl or plate with the washed beansprouts, daikon, half of the spring onions and give a little toss to combine.
  6. Add a little oil to the pan and cook the mackgrel skin side down first. I used a griddle pan and the skin stuck to the pan after a minute but was cooked through so i pulled it off the fish and put to one side to add as a topping later on.
  7. Turn the fish after a couple of minutes. They don’t need too long as they can be quite thin.
  8. When the fish is cooked through, remove from the pan and place on top of the asian salad.
  9. If you removed the fish skin, chop it into little shards.
  10. Drizzle the miso dressing on top of the fish and top with sesame seeds, the rest of the spring onions and the crispy little shards of fish skin.
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James Sommerin Discount 6 course taster menu voucher

Travelzoo have just launched a new discount for a 6 course taster menu at Penarth’s Michelin Starred James Sommerin Restauranton their website.

Set along the Penarth Promenade just a stones throw away from the sea, it’s a fantastic location with menu to match. The voucher is available for £89 for two dinners for lunch between 12-2pm from Tuesday to Sunday.

If you want to dine with friends a discount voucher for James Sommerin for 4 dinners will cost £169. It’s a surcharge of £20 each per person to dine at dinner in the evening if you can’t make it for lunch.

They’ve even got an overnight package including bed and breakfast for two for £199 if you fancy making a weekend of it in Penarth.

To buy the discount voucher for James Sommerin then visit the Travelzoo website.

Sosban and the old butchers review – Michelin Star Restaurant Anglesey

Being a frequent honorary islander on the Isle of Anglesey due to the other half being born and bred there, we’ve been slowly ticking off some of the best spots for food there over the past year and don’t ask me how many months (queue  red cheek syndrome).

We’ve been to local favourite Lobster Pot and then Marram Grass over the Christmas period but it’s our 6 month spot on the waiting list for Ynys Mon’s only Michelin Star restaurant Sosban and the old butchers we’ve been counting down the days till.

Having just missed the last round of bookings where 6 months of tables at the 12 seater restaurant are released and snapped up in the blink of an eye but we were lucky enough in October to book a table for Menai Bridge’s hottest ticket in town.

The menu is a closely guarded secret until you arrive and you are taken on a journey from sea to farm through the 9 dishes of the tasting menu, expertly crafted by a single chef in a tiny kitchen. Apart from a someone who sometimes helps with the dishes there is only one other person working at Sosban and the old butchers and that is wife of the chef and front of house, which makes it an even more of an extraordinary feat to be awarded such a highly sought after accolade of a Michelin Star.

 

Inside the restaurant at Sosban and the old butchers Anglesey

 

Located at No1 High Street in Menai Bridge in an unsuspecting mint coloured building, inside just 6 tables and whilst we dinned just 10 of us eating. They’ve kept the old tiles on the wall from when it used to be a butchers and with just a small back bar and pass where the food comes out, you have the waitress’s full attention. It’s like dinning in someone’s front living room, which immediately put me at ease being my first visit to a Michelin Star restaurant as I imagined most of them can be quite pretentious. I loved how calm and relaxed it was this side of the kitchen, although I’m not sure chef would say the same single handily serving everyone in the restaurant Thursday to Saturday.

There is just one menu and you are only told once you arrived although we opted to keep it a surprise and learn of each dish as it arrived and the cost of the tasting menu is £80 per person. It was a little hard to order a bottle of wine, our own fault opting to keep it a surprise as we didn’t know what drink would best suit the dishes. We opted for an Argentinian Malbec at a cost of £28.

The Food

We were served a couple of appetisers to keep us going until the more substantial dishes came out such as crispy cod skin, curried banana and peanut, which had a lovely crunch but instantly melted on the tongue.

Another crispy one followed with kale bomb with crispy leaves, Caesar dressing and sprinkled with pecorino cheese. Small and bite sized, well two bites as I wanted to saver it instead of going down without touching the sides. They both packed a punch for their size.

Next up was a plate expertly curated by the host and offered something to entice all of the senses. A nugget sized portion of soft tender lamb entombed in a rice crispy esque skin with a dollop of laverbread mouse. Soft, crispy, tender and moist encapsulated into a manageable bite.

In the centre of the plate lay a misty vessel waiting to be opened, which when opened released a hit of smokey juniper leaves. This was presented with a purple cube of the softest marshmallow ever to enter my mouth but with an earthy beet lingering taste.

 

soda bread and butter at sosban and the old butchers - Anglesey

 

Appetisers done with, next up was my poison. Warm, freshly baked bread with homemade butter and generous mountain of sea salt, no doubt hailing from the waters some 50 metres away. The bread was almost pudding like, fluffy and sweet with the soft rich butter and added crunch and explosions of salt with my overzealous application of sea salt. The bread would of worked equally as well with jam and clotted cream if by a miracle there had been any left.

 

asparagus yolk jam and truffle starter at sosban and the old butchers menai bridge

 

On to the starter of asparagus with yolk jam, welsh truffle and a scattering of almost toasted breadcrumb like crispy chicken skin. I do like asparagus when it’s cooked well but there’s nothing worse than a soggy one. This as expected was cooked perfectly and when transported into one’s mouth mixed with the rich toppings brought a thick emulsion of flavour when both yolk and truffley chicken skin collided.

The other half usually detests asparagus but you would have been hard pressed to have found a scrap left on her plate.

 

salt aged lamb wild garlic and sheeps yogurt at sosban and the old butchers

 

The first of two mains was a succulent, generous slice of salt aged lamb with wild garlic and little pearls of sheep’s yogurt that burst with ever so slight pressure of the fork. Normally one to devour a meat dish in seconds, I carved away slowly at my lamb to savour the taste with the helping hand from scoops of the wild garlic and the sheep’s yogurt that cut through the richness of the meat and mellow the wild garlic.

The last of my glass of the Malbec married perfectly. I didn’t inspect the bottle at first but soon learned how potent it was after the first glass and having a bit of a head on already with it being 14%. Not a bad thing though as it was very quaffable.

Not being ones to waste ingredients, next up was the cod fillet that was skinned and said skin used for the first appetiser and the perfect time to order a fresh bottle of vino, although a white to go better with the fish dish. The price on wine was quite reasonable I’d say, with options from £20 up to champagne around £120 for an extra special occasion. Glasses aren’t advertised on the menu but the waitress was willing to allow us to purchase specific bottles by the glass but we ended up going for a bottle anyway priced again at £28.

 

cod pickled onion and ox heart main course at Sosban and the old butchers Anglesey

 

The menu read Cod, yeast puree, potato, pickled onion and ox heart for this course. The cod cooked beautifully and flaked with ease on contact with my fork. I loved the battered and fried pickled onions as they reminded me of pickled onion crisps I used to have after swimming lessons down my local sports centre when I was a kid.

The dried and shaved ox heart I’d seen only the day before on the Masterchef finals when they travelled to Peru, which I was very intrigued by on the show so I was more than impressed when I got to see it in real life on my dish.

 

rhubarb and custard dessert at sosban and the old butchers

 

Having worked our way through an array of savouries, it was now on to the sweets of the tasting menu and first up was the Rhubarb and custard as outlined by the menu but it was way more than just that. With a perfect golden globe of white chocolate nestled between stewed rhubarb and puffed rice. The chocolate globe waiting to be smashed to release the vanilla pebbled custard magma core.

The really liked the contrast in textures and flavours from creamy custard, soft rhubarb with dry and crispy puffed rice and velvety white chocolate. A very dreamy plate of dessert and like none I’ve ever tried before.

 

lemon olive oil and chocolate lolly dessert at Sosban and the old butchers - Anglesey

 

Last but not least brings us to the lemon, olive oil and chocolate final dish. I thought we were having a whole chocolate log when a huge log started making it’s way to our table, but it was just the base for the lemon, olive oil and chocolate ice cream lolly. Not too disappointed I didn’t have to attack a whole log as I was pleasantly full at this point and much to my surprise as I was worried I might have to pop in a somewhere for a bag of chips on the way home.

Light lemony ice cream, subtle hints of olive oil encased in a crisp chocolate shell. A perfect end to a perfect meal. The other half is still banging on about the lolly to this day some 2 weeks later.

The Verdict

As mentioned previously this was my first encounter of Michelin Star quality food and without a peek of the menu beforehand I really didn’t know what to expect, although I was worried everything was going to be laser cut and eaten with tweezers leaving me still hungry but this was far from the truth. We had 8-9 dishes although the first few were appetisers and just bites the starters, two middle courses and two desserts certainly filled me up by the end of it as I do have a bit of an appetite.

The service was excellent and thought the front of house delivered a curated journey through each of the courses and always at hand for drinks or anything else we needed whilst sat at our table. I loved how homely it felt and relaxed for the calibre of food presented to us. The food was delicious from start to finish. I was adamant I would have a tasting menu of salmon 8 ways as it’s one of the only things I don’t like and without knowing what was on the menu, but luckily for me there was no salmon in sight. The two fish dishes we did get were spot on though.

It is still unbelievable to me how a restaurant so small with just two people working there can achieve the heights they have got to, but it just shows the hard work and determination from both chef and front of house to deliver consistently good food through the different seasons and my hats off to them.

Drinks wise there was a good choice of wines, nothing too overboard with bible thick menus to choose as I’d still be sat there choosing now and a reasonable price point starting at £20 for red and white. I did see someone drinking beer, but I wasn’t sure what selection they had so another drinks menu with alternatives to wine would have been good as I always refrain from asking the front of house to recite the whole fridge from memory. I also saw a few bottles of gin nestled at the back of the restaurant near the pass and can’t remember all that were on there so again a menu would have been handy but they did have Monkey 47, which is a favourite of some friends of mine and not an entry level gin by any means.

So would I recommend Sosban and the old butchers and was it worth the wait? I would recommend Sosban in a heartbeat and you can see why it has such a long waiting list not only because there are just 12 dinning per evening, but the food is quite remarkable. If you haven’t been yet then head over to their social media on twitter to be in the know when they release their next allocation of reservations as that’s how I found out just in time in October.

Korean Air Fried Chicken and Asian Slaw

Asian Slaw Ingredients

  • ¼ red cabbage sliced thinly
  • 2 red onions sliced thinly
  • ¼ daikon julienned
  • 1 carrot julienned
  • ¼ cucumber cut into thin ribbons
  • Juice of 2 limes

I didn’t measure these but played around with little bits at a time till I was happy:

  • Drizzle of rice wine vinegar
  • Drizzle of rice wine / mirin
  • Drizzle of light soy sauce
  • Drizzle of dark soy (go easy on this as it can be really salty)
  • Drizzle toasted sesame oil

Top with:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Gochugarw flakes
  • Thinly sliced spring onion
  • Drizzle of honey
  • Chopped fresh coriander

Instructions

Sliced all the veg and add to a bowl. Add the seasoning and mix. Leave for at least 30 minutes and give one final mix before serving. Top with the sesame, gochugarw, spring onion, honey and coriander to serve.

Korean Air Fried Chicken Ingredients

The following are rough estimates as I didn’t measure

  • 3 teaspoons gochujang paste
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic grated finely
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger grated finely
  • 2 teaspoons mushroom ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon gochugarw red pepper flakes
  • Juice of half a lime
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons mirin / rice vinegar

Instructions

Add everything to a bowl and mix to combine. Cook the chicken wings or legs in the oven until nearly done and coat them with the marinade for the last 5 minutes and put under the grill till cooked through and sticky.

I had this served with a pitta but would also work nicely in a freshly steamed bao or some griddled tacos.

Bottomless Brunch Review at Revolucion de Cuba Cardiff

If you’re not familiar, Revolucion de Cuba is the older sibling of the student favourite Vodka Revolution and situated adjacent to The Hilton Hotel in Cardiff. Whereas Vodka revolution is themed around vodka, Revs de Cuba has a more latin affair with rum featuring heavily on the cocktail menu, live music early evenings and attracting a slightly older audience compared to it’s Russian themed counterpart.

I did go through a rum faze a few years ago, opting for the spiced variety so have been on many a night out in Revs de Cuba over the years but it’s never been on my radar to visit for food until I heard about the bottomless brunch they have just launched.

We were invited to the launch weekend back a few weeks ago to sample the brunch menu and see how the selected drinks menu held up against rival venues offering bottomless brunch with prosecco. The bottomless brunch craze seems to be sweeping over Cardiff of late but the food options tend to be limited to your standard avocado and egg based offerings, which I can do myself equally as well for a fraction of the price any day of the week. At Revolucion de Cuba however they’ve injected a much needed hit of flavour and spice with the taste of Latino.

bottomless brunch menu revs de cuba cardiff

Brunch food menu options:

  • Full grilled breakfast
  • Bacon and egg brioche
  • Cubano Benedict
  • Spanish omelette
  • Avocado Brunch
  • Brekkie burrito
  • Huevos Rancheros

Ok so there’s a few familiar plates but I like that they’ve had a Cuban twist such as the Cubano Benedict, which was top of my list but unfortunately as it was they were out of the pork. Instead I opted for the next dish on my hit list the Heuvos Rancheros, which i’ve attempted in the house a few times.

heuvos rancheros at revs de cuba cardiff

Revs de Cuba’s take on the tomatoey favourite is a flour tortilla topped with spiced black beans, tomatoes and mushroom. Finished with a fried egg, spicy rum sauce and crispy patatas.

Portion size was good, it wasn’t massive but this is a bottomless brunch so you want some space left for a cocktail or 4. I really enjoyed the dish to with just the right bit of spice nothing too hot to handle and it tasted really fresh for a chain restaurant.

brekkie burrito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch Cardiff

I’d definitely order it again but I’d like to give the Cuban Benedict a try first. My mum ordered the burrito and she must be the most fussy eater i’ve ever countered on this earth and she managed to polish off the plate too.

Drinks

Ok so you don’t get to order any cocktail from the main cocktail menu but this speeds things up ordering i guess so you can fit more into your 2 hour window of glutony.

For the two hours you get to order the following, one drink at a time:

  • Glass of Prosecco
  • Bloody Mary
  • Classic Mojito
  • Pint of Mahou
  • Tea
  • Americano
  • Soft drink

First up was the Bloody Mary for me. There’s 2 variants on the brunch cocktails menu depending on what poison you decide on. Bloody Mary is with vodka, Bloody Pirate comes with rum and the Red Snapper comes with Gin.

I wasn’t sure if the standard vodka was the only one in the all you can drink but they served me a Gin Red Snapper on the day but we were testers for the day so might of been given a bit of special treatment. I never used to be a Bloody Mary fan but I do seem to be adding them to brunch / lunch dates regularly lately and this was a pretty decent example. I only opted for the one and went onto the Mojito as I’d had enough of tomatoes after the meal too.

mojito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch cardiff

Everyone knows what a mojito tastes like although I’ve witnessed it is possible to masacre them in the past but seeing as it’s a rum bar they do a good job of them here.

The Verdict

There were four of us in the group and we all enjoyed what we were served up for food and the drinks. My mum was already planning taking the girls from work in a few weeks too, which is always a good sign.

The bottomless brunch deal is £20 usually and you get a choice of one of the food items on the special menu and as much alcoholic or soft drinks you can handle in a two hour time frame. This would make an excellent pre-game nibble and get you on your way if you ask me or the recipe for a very interesting day of shopping.

I’d definitely recommend it as I really enjoyed the food and you more than get your monies worth with the drinks compared to the standard prices on the menu there.

Fiesta de la Calcotada at Asador 44 on Friday 13th April 2018

One of my fav Cardiff restaurants, Asador 44 are throwing the most Spanish cultural festival i’ve ever seen this April. The Catalans go nut’s for their Calcots during the seasonal window and chow down on bucketloads per capita during the months of January to April.

I was invited over to have a sneak preview of what’s to come for the event at Asador 44 last week.

Calcots if you’re not already acquainted are a cross between Wales most symbolic vegetable, the Leek and a spring onion. The calcots are piled on a grill or bbq, skin, mud an all and till charred and blistered. When the fire has done it’s magic it releases a sweetness like none that i’ve ever tasted in an onion.

Calcots being cooked on asado grill at Asador 44 Cardiff

The blackened Calcots are then wrapped in newspaper and plonked on a table of waiting and hungry guests for an onion fest like no other.

So how do you attack these charred, oniony mounds?

Take the Calcot by the green leaves in one hand and peel down the outer burnt skin until you get to the clean, steamed and juicy core. Pull off the roots at the bottom then continue to dunk the exposed flesh into fresh and nutty Romesco sauce. Be warned, this is a messy occasion but I love getting my fingers dirty and there’s the bib and plenty of napkins to wipe yourself clean.

cooked calcots with romesco sauce at Asador 44 Cardiff

Theres usually plenty of Cava at hand to cleans your mouth between calcots and tradition has it that back in Catalonia they make their way through more than two dozen per person during a sitting.

So on the event Asador are organising you get:

  • Cava on arrival before tackling a plate of Calcots with romesco sauce
  • main course of cider house sirloin and sausage
  • Assortment of Catalan Cheeses
  • A chance to perfect the art of Porron wine pouring (I failed miserably with most of it going up my nose!)

Fiesta de la Calcotada poster at Asador 44

fiesta de la colcotada menu at Asador 44

Price of the Fiesta de la Calcotada is £40 per person for a 12.30pm start making it the perfect afternoon team outing or networking with a twist (pull and dunk). We had a right laugh getting down and dirty with the calcots and poring the Porron but can’t promise there weren’t any innuendos flying around during the wine.

To book contact enquiries@asador44.co.uk or call 02920 020039