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The Alchemist Cardiff Restaurant and Bar Review

I went to the launch night of the much anticipated Alchemist a few months back, and i’ve been back since then for a cocktail or three. This time I thought i’d concentrate on what the molecular themed bar has to offer in the kitchen.

We were invited along to try lunch there a few weeks back, so we chose a Saturday afternoon to allow us the chance to tick a few more cocktails off the menu whilst we were there, without having to stumble back to work after.

We happened to sample some bite sized portions of some of the menu items at the launch, but there was far too much alcohol consumed to remember exactly what passed my lips that evening. This time I was back for a full portion and more.

The Food

Having just clocking off on the 3.5 hour Loving Welsh Food Tour 5 minutes ago, I had to dig deep into that special place in order to power through another three courses. For some this may be unreachable, but for me it’s second nature.

I opted for the duck gyoza to start. Llio was going for a salad for mains, so ordered two starters. Asian steamed pork buns with hoisin and a side of halloumi sticks.

The gyoza were soft and silky, filled with a fragrant mix of veg and shredded duck. A sweet, sticky dip added a burst of citrus. The steamed buns were decent in size, soft pillowy mounds, stuffed with soft pork. I drizzled the sweet, hoisin sauce for a tangy bit of moisture.

The halloumi sticks were fried in a layer of crispy, golden breadcrumbs, paired with a pot of mellow chilli mayo.

Not a bad start from all three dishes so far.

For mains I opted for a seared tuna, because I can’t remember the last time I ate fresh tuna. I opted for it pink in the middle and boy did they deliver on that front. Nothing worse than a sorry, dry and grey slab of tuna when it’s fresh.

tuna and rice cake - The Alchemist Cardiff

I’m not normally one to go for something with sweet chilli sauce, as I thought everyone had rode that wave to death a long time ago. I would of preferred something other that sweet chilli, that offered a fiery kick of freshness to add to the beautifully pink tuna but the dish sounded good apart from that. I loved the toasted slab of sticky rice that contrasted between spongy with a crisp outer layer, with ribbons of herbs layered through it.

I’m not sure what state the micro herb salad was in, when it went on the plate but it was a bit miserable by the time it touched our tables. It could of wilted in the heat of the kitchen or surrounding items on the plate, but the plate wouldn’t of missed it if it wasn’t there. The tuna was delicious though and made up for it.

crispy kale side - The Alchemist

I love a bit of crispy kale and often do them in the house to add to asian dishes for a seaweed like crunch so I went for a side of crispy kale with the main. This paired with the tuna really well with little crispy shards of garlic scattered amongst the leafy crisps.

The other half went for a Caesar Salad. More food her there.

caesar salad - The Alchemist Cardiff

After a bit of a breather to sample another drink after the mains, we decided on what sweets to order. I went for a white chocolate and rum mouse with coconut, rum, mango and lime salsa.

This was probably my least favourite dish of the meal. Not that I didn’t like it, it was just a bit boring. I couldn’t taste any rum what so over, but this might of been in part compared to the other desert, which was very potent in the alcohol department. I just thought the dish was a bit bland compared to the other dishes we had.

caesar salad - The Alchemist Cardiff

The other dessert was the cotton candy baked alaska. I’m not a fan of candy floss in cocktails as I think it’s a bit wanky to be honest so i was a bit apprehensive. I do like a baked Alaska mind, so we bit the bullet.

The mini mountain comes out with a mound of candy floss on, which I imediately though “Oh god, here we go” but they heated a little pan of spirit up, which was flambed and drizzled over the dish turning it a molten, sugar inferno. The candy floss didn’t last long and just shriveled into little pebbles of sugar luckily.

I saw the table opposite let her’s burn for a little too long before us and ended up a bit more singed that I would of hoped for so I blew out the flames just as the top of the Alaska started to turn golden in colour.

This was a much better dish that the mouse with it’s crunchy nuggets of warm sugar in a boozy syrup that I spooned with each mouthful of Alaska.

The Drinks

I’ve had a couple of cocktails here by now and tend to stay up towards the last block of boozy numbers that aren’t drenched in sugary syrups. Some of the tweaked classics like the white negroni, which was a lovely change and the old fashioned.

I was a bit disappointed with my last visit as I tried to order three drinks from the more potent, short and strong section but they didn’t have all the ingredients to make them. It was a Thursday, so I let them off. I was a bit peeved when the same thing happened with another couple of drinks this time considering it was a Saturday, you would think they would be fully stocked for t he menu.

cocktail at The Alchemist Cardiff

First up this time was the Penicillin drink, that came in a mini medicine bottle that i decanted over a large spherical ice cube. This was a bit more like some of the drinks I would order in Lab or Pennyroyal in terms of strength and lack of over the top sugary syrups.

My second drink, after not having the ingredients to my first option was a smokey number that came out in a round science lab beaker, on a tripod and was smoked in front of me. Having had my fair share of smoked old fashioned’s in my time, the drink would normally have been smoked in the glass, with a healthy chunk of ice to keep it cool.

smoked cocktail at the alchemist cardiff

This was smoked in the beaker and left on the tripod to sip at my leisure. The problem being the round beaker wasn’t the safest in the tripod and I just about managed to save it spilling several times. The other issue was the drink therefore couldn’t be chilled with ice, and i was left to sip the warm, smoked liquid like a 15 year old working his way through the ethanol in GCSE science.

I don’t care much for what glass the drink is in, well I do it should fit the drink. But I think the drinks tend to be a bit gimmicy here, whilst hindering on quality and taste. If you want to smoke it, fine. Just smoke it in a rocks or old fashioned glass with ice or a coupe as long as it’s been stirred the shit out of with ice. Just don’t give me a warm drink that I’m scared will plunge to the floor every time i put it down.

The Verdict

I was pleased with our starters, which were both flavoursome and decent in size. I really enjoyed the tuna and the rice cake, especially scattered with my side of crispy kale. I would of preferred something a bit less old school than sweet chilli, maybe a soy, gochujang or miso glaze but the rest of the dish was spot on.

Desserts were hit and miss. I enjoyed the boozy baked Alaska but the white chocolate and rum mouse was missing the main ingredient…rum.

I’ve had some decent cocktails here, don’t get me wrong but I don’t think the flavour and quality should be neglected just because you want to add a bit of dry ice for some theatrics or a bunsen burner and shitty round glasses that don’t sit in their tripod.

The staff are all really friendly and I like that they ask you before you even look at the menu if you have any allergies, so they can offer you a customised menu. That way you aren’t left disappointed, when you go through the menu ordering only to be told they contain something you’re intolerant or allergic to.

I’d probably have food here again, and it is a nice looking venue. There’s not much else like it in the centre of town, where you can get a decent cocktail (if they’ve pulled their finger out with the ingredients) and some good food that’s central.

It seems to be really busy in there every time i walk passed and every time i’ve been in there, which is unusual for Cardiff as most places are quiet apart from Saturday. If you are going for lunch on Saturday, I would recommend booking in advance as they turned loads of people away when we were waiting for the to clear our table.

Contact Details

117 St Mary Street
Cardiff
CF10 1DY

Web: thealchemist.uk.com
Tel: 02921 303755

Loving Welsh Food Tour of Cardiff

We were recently invited along to the Loving Welsh Food tour in Cardiff. If you haven’t heard of them, they run tours every Friday and Saturday, tasting your way through some of Cardiff’s best love independent’s and favourite delicacies (Yes we do have some!)

Just so that everyone knew were X marked the spot at the starting line, we were told to meet at Cardiff Castle for a 10.30am start.There were only two other Cardiff dwellers, apart from us and we still managed to rock up late, surprise, surprise.

Our tour guide for the day was Sian, who was Cardiff born and bred, but capable of delivering tours in a variety of other languages too. After giving our (Llio’s) apologies for our poor time management, we got right into a brief history lesson about Cardiff, the castle and how the Bute family shaped the small farming town into the great city it is today. I also found out that the Castle buildings were home to a music college, not long before I made it into the world and Sian learned to play piano there, which is pretty bloody cool if you ask me.

Luckily for us there, were no 5 metre high flags to follow, megaphones to deafen us or cattle prods to keep us in check for our meandering trail through streets and arcades, it was a nice casual affair in a group of around 10 of us.

First pit stop – Pettigrew Tea Rooms

We didn’t have far to walk from our meeting point, which happened to be just along the boundary wall of Cardiff Castle and one of my favourite breakfast spots in the Diff, Pettigrew Tea House.

This is how I want every Saturday to start from now on, with thick wedges of Bara Brith and butter, savoury laverbread scones with cream cheese and chilli relish all washed down with some posh loose leaf tea form Caton Teas. Well there was going to be walking on this tour, so we had better make sure we had enough calories to keep us going till the next stop.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms

After polishing off the sweet and savouries from the first stop, we made our way through Bute Park on what must have been the clearest morning i’ve seen in Cardiff for a while. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Heading to the Civic Centre, the tour was mixed with little nuggets of historical information, which I love just as much as sampling my way through some classic Welshy food.

Stop 2 – Wally’s Deli

We made our way across town, whilst being pinpointed to spots of interest such as historically significant buildings that I probably pass several times a day without looking up and noticing them. The next time you walk through Queen Street or St Mary’s street, cast your eyes above the horizon, and you’ll be surprised by what might catch your eye.

Our next stop was at Cardiff’s favourite deli and ever expanding Wally’s, situated in one of the city’s famous Victorian arcades. I love popping in for for some charcuterie, biltong and to have a browse at their latest gin delivery.

We were treated to a selection of cheese including some welsh varities, along with tasters of cured meats. I loved the Welsh Black Bomber cheese. It does what it says on the tin, with an explosion of strong mature cheesilicous flavours going off in your mouth with each tasty bite.

Stop 3 – The Cottage Pub

The Cottage Pub Cardiff

What goes hand in hand with cheese and meaty nuggets on a cocktail stick? Yes, Alcohol, you’re correct!

Next up, and one of Cardiff’s oldest watering holes, was the Brain’s owned The Cottage Pub. You can’t get more Old School. We popped in for a pie and a pint a few months back, and it was like home from home for me with my grandparents pub.

Although Brain’s Brewery haven’t been brewing for quite as many 100’s of years as Guiness or have the mammoth marketing budget of the Black Irish medicine. What they do have, is rugby favourite Brains Dark. Also coloqually known as a “pint of Daaahke”, which were tasting today. From living with my grandparents in a rugby club till the age of 1, fuelled by barrels of Brains, I was well acquinted with the nectar.

Welsh beer at The Cottage Pub Cardiff

For those with a less malty thirst, we also got to try a tipple of fermented apples by my longstanding favourite Welsh cider producer Gwynt y Ddraig.

I never used to miss a bank holiday shindig in their straw bale dotted farm yard in Llantwit Fardre, when they first came onto the scene over 10 years ago. Sadly not everyone could keep up with the potent offerings, especially with the half a mile walk back down the mountain from the farm after supping on 7.5% rocket fuelled black dragon.

One guy I worked with broke his leg and had two months off work, falling arse over tit back down the mountain at one open day. In the end there were more St John’s Ambulance volunteers than patrons so they knocked it on the head.

Welsh Cider - The Cottage Pub Cardiff

On this occasion, we were gently ushered into Gwynt y Ddraigs back catalogue of ciders with a respectable 4.5% award winning Orchard Gold.

Stop 4 – Cardiff Market

After sipping our way through the two drinks and finishing off the last morsels of our Wally’s platter, which we took for the road, we headed to my favourite lunch time stop, Cardiff Market.

If you’re hungry and want something to eat for under £5 then this is the place to be. There’s not much you can’t find here and what you can’t they are probably in the pipeline to open with the likes of Ffrness, Holly Yolks and Milgi opening up within the past 12 months.

You’ve also got Thai, cheese stalls, old school baps, sandwiches and corned beef pies to choose from along with my weekly fruit and veg run and butchers. Oh and don’t forget the cat or gold fish upstairs.

Laverbread and cockles at Cardiff Market

Today we were starting with some Welsh (Wo)Man’s Caviar. Also known as laverbread, of which we had a taster in our savoury scones at Pettigrew. This time though we were going head first, with unadulterated slathering of cooked seaweed on biscuits topped with cockles and a few shakes of the vinegar bottle. This was my first time trying laverbread and cockles, as it is without being blitzed, mixed, deep fried or baked in some concoction. I’m glad I tried it, but I can’t see it making it’s way onto the weekly shop.

I’ve enjoyed cockle popcorn, the Bara Menyn cockle bomb for breakfast and the savoury scones at Pettigrew but on their own, not quite for me. Some people had 2nd’s so each to their own.

Faggots and gravy - Cardiff Market

Not content with sampling one dish from the market, we had another two stops to go here. Next up was the deli in the middle, and first up was the hearty classic , Faggots with gravy. My grandmother always used to do a banquet of faggots, peas, chips, gravy with bread and butter for the Welsh international games and this took me right back. Obviously, being a tasting tour, we got more manageable portions as we had a few more stops to go.

Clarkes Pie at Cardiff Market

Also on the menu at the deli, and something that would of went hand in hand with our pint of daaaaahk earlier was the humble Claaaahks pie (Clarkes Pie to non Cardiffians). Luckily for me, I still had a pool of gravy left in my container from my faggots, so I went fully valleys and moped it up with my meaty portion of steak pie.

Scotch egg at Holy Holks - Cardiff Market

With our last stop of the market, we headed over to a relatively new stall. Holy Yolks started life around the local food markets and we’ve picked a few freshly fried, golden, crispy globes at Riverside on a Sunday. There’s a couple to choose from and these not a hard boiled grey yolk in sight. Be prepared for a gooey amber dribbling mess around your face. But it’s definitely worth it. The honey i shrunk the pig is delish but they’ve got a bacon riddled version and a veggie (maybe vegan) too.

Stop 5 – Fabulous Welshcakes

After an onslaught of savoury goodies to dive into, we were not on full sail into something sweet. Nothing says Welsh and sweet more than a bag full Welsh Cakes. Even though there’s a few stalls churning out mountains of the stodgy Welsh favourite, we were heading out of the Market to try somewhere else.

Welsh Cakes from Fabulous Welshcakes Cardiff

Fabulous Welshcakes happens to be less than 5 minutes from work, and I often pinch a taste when they are holding samples outside the shop on Castle street on my lunch break. Going full circle, we’re now stood opposite the starting line waiting for the freshly griddled sugary mouthfulls to be bundled into a bag for us to devour.

We had the classic Welsh cake batter mix, but they do different varieties such as orange and cinnamon, chocolate chip. Although to purists these might be frowned upon, but hey if it’s good enough to eat, I don’t care what you call them.

Stop 6 – Bar 44

With the finish line in sight, we took a leisurely stroll up Womamby Street, nibbling our Welsh Cakes on foot. Well I finished mine before we left the shop but others were savouring each bite.

Last but not least, we headed into the red brick slightly underground tapas haven that is Bar 44 for a good chin wag with fellow food tourer walkers and something sweet and wet. We were presented with a couple of plates adhorned with rich, dark, meltingly delicious chocolate truffles flecked with sea salt.

Cava and chocolate truffles - Bar 44 Cardiff

We then had a choice of poison or coffee. The stronger options were beer or Cava. We had a bottle of the Vilarnau Brut Reserva to take up north, to celebrate Fiesta Calcottada and knew how banging it was, so there was no competition in my eyes.

The Verdict

Apart from the early start (yes 10.30am is early for me on a Saturday!) I loved every bit of the tour. I managed to try some of my old favourites, things that brought back memories from my past, growing up and some were totally new to me.
We also learned a lot about some of the history of Cardiff, which I always find fascinating along with taking in some of the amazing locations right on our doorstep that we all take for granted most of the time.

Yes i work in town and have tried a couple of the things we tried, but they are bloody lovely so I will keep eating them but even if you are local to Cardiff I’d still recommend going. We had a really lovely group that we were with and it was great to have a chat to some of the people to see what they thought of some of the food we eat or places to eat. We had people from Cardiff, further afield in Wales and as far as Canada.

If you aren’t from Wales or are visiting the city then this food tour would be at the top of my list of things to do. You get a guided tour around some of my favourite places to eat that you just wouldn’t stumble on if you walked across the city by yourself or know what to order if you did happen upon just one of them.

The cost is around £40 and as you can see, we had plenty to taste and places to visit in the 3.5 hour tour around the capital of Wales. We were invited along on the tour so our space was voluntary, but seeing as they picked my favourite spots to eat and drink, I’d have no hesitation recommending joining the tour one weekend.

Contact Details

Loving Welsh Food

Web: lovingwelshfood.uk
Tel: 01970 631731

Review of The Jean-Christophe Novelli Food Academy at The Corran Resort and Spa – Laugharne

After a bit of unwinding in the spa, we nipped back to the cottage to get ready for the meet and greet at the academy kitchen. Armed with a glass of bubbly on arrival, we got to see the ribbon cutting of the kitchen from chef and owner of the Corran.  We all got to introduce ourselves to the rest of the students for the weekend then Jean-Christophe talked to us about how the Academy came to be.

This was chance meeting with head chef of the Corran at an airport, where they got talking and got invited to visit the resort. He also spoke a bit about his cooking style and healthy lifestyle he aims to promote during our tutored cooking session the following day, which tries to dramatically reduce our intake of salt from cooking.

Jean Christophe Novelli talking at Corran Academy Laugharne

After being acquainted with each other, we were allowed to feast on the table of food that had me salivating for the past hour during the introductions. I’m a sucker for a buffet and although there weren’t any cheese and pickle on a toothpick or part baked sausage rolls I absolutely annihilated the wheels of gooey camembert the size of my head, moped up with fist sized pieces of fresh focaccia, meats, olives and a mountain of slightly more impressive items i’ve never had in a valleys 50th birthday shindig. A few more glasses of bubbles were consumed before we retired to our luxury farmhouse cottage to catch a few winks before a busy day ahead of us.

After an amazing breakfast of smoked haddock and poached eggs, we convened at the Academy kitchen, located next to the spa at 11 for a brief run through of the plan for the day. Being the first ever class, the timings and schedule were a work in progress. We were to have Jean-Christophe and the head chef talk through a fair few techniques and dishes, where we would then have the chance to have a go ourselves and get a chance to taste our little masterpieces.

Caramel

First on the cards for the culinary lessons delivered by Jean-Christophe was caramel. I’d made some alcohol spiked salted caramels in my time and a black toffee apple for halloween for my sister once so I was aware of the process.I’d usually use a sugar thermometer that I held, nervously inches away from liquid sugar magma till the contents of the pan hit that precious marker on the thermometer.

This time however we were letting our senses guide us as to when the caramelised sugar was at the optimum temperature and consistency. Another thing we learned though was that the type of sugar used along with the surrounding humidity in the room also influenced the final result. I’d just go for a bag of silver spoon granulated sugar in the past but Jean-Christophe and head chef Syril use something called isomalt that is a sugar substitute that is cleaner mix that gives the perfect glaze and cloud free finish.

The caramel can be used as the base for many a dessert or decorative purpose. We were shown how to make a apple tart-tatan in a pan then over. We also allowed the caramel to cool slightly before some of us got a chance to shape to shape it into sugar baskets and spring like sugar ornament.

Chicken Balloutine

Next up was a crash course in making the French favourite, chicken balloutine . A deboned chicken leg, stuffed with sweet potato and rolled into a sausage like parcel that is poached for around 10 minutes then left to cool. It can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for several days before it can be unpacked from the cling film and browned in a pan. Ideal for dinner parties and two days later, since i’ve been coaxed into organising our works Christmas dinner it’s featured on our chosen menu as the main course but substituted for Turkey instead.

 

Filleting Fish

It was now time for us all to get our hands dirty, by learning something that I will find massively beneficial, filleting a whole fish. I really enjoy fish, but I just stick to pre-filleted fish and that’s only once in a blue moon. Buying whole is usually much more economical too, as i’ve seen two whole seabass for the same price as two fillets recently in M & S.

filleting fish at Corran Academy

Jean-Christophe showed us how to gut the fish then fillet. Luckily for us, we didn’t have to gut the fish, we just did the filleting. I didn’t do as bad as I thought I would be we were told that trout is one of the hardest to fillet due to the bones. Not sure if that was true or just to make me feel better but I was happy with my effort.

Baked Seafood in Scallop Shell

Keeping in with the seafood theme, we now got to make a seafood dish of king prawns, scallop and salmon (even though the pink fleshy fish is usually of the menu for me) topped with ratatouille, mozzarella and fresh herbs of our choice. The scallop shell was sealed with a ribbon of pastry, so that the fish steamed inside the shell with the fresh herbs adding a fragrant, herbaceous perfume. Again, the idea was to cut down on the amount of salt in the dish so there was no seasoning with salt. We got around this issue by using olives in the mix, which are naturally salty.

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so it’s fair to say this didn’t touch the sides. I even ate the salmon, which when steamed with all the herbs and other fish was more than agreeable.

 

Scallops and Chicken Consomme

The Jean-Christophe Novelli Academy at the Corran Resort is going to headed up by head Chef Syril in Jean-Christophe’s absence, so it was time to hand the over gloves over to Syril for the next dish.

I love scallops, so I wasn’t too disappointed scallops were in the next dish too. This was a chance to learn how to cook the perfect scallop in a pan with a lovely golden crust, yet soft and tender in the middle. I learned to dry my scallops first and use a good quality, hand dived scallop as mine usually end up with a lot of liquid in the pan that just end up stewing, without a nice sear on them.

scallop and chicken consome at Corran Resort

A scallop starter dish would only usually have two pieces but this was a sharing platter for us to savour between us. The scallops were seared in the pan and plated beautifully with an intense chicken consommé that they create with 24 hour roasted chicken bones. To go with it, he served shaved, crispy fennel shards, a  fruity gel, aerated white foam and grapefruit.

The finished product was absolutely delicious. My only issue was I didn’t have the 8 scallops myself and had to share them.

Pasta Making

I’ve never, ever made pasta. The reason being, I’m too tight to invest in a pasta machine. Little did I know, you can make a decent attempt with your bare hands, a rolling pin and some elbow grease.

After a quick demo by Jean-Christophe’s brother from an Italian mother, we were handed some eggs, a bowl of flour and a rolling pin. After making a little well in middle of a small pile of OO Flour, we cracked an egg in and swirled it with our fingers, to incorporate the two together. Adding a little flour at a time, until I got the right consistency, it was time to start the needing by hand. Instead of getting the the pasta rolling machine out as I’d seen so many times on Masterchef recently, we got to work with a rolling pin on the two balls of dough.

Pasta making at the Corran Academy

After I got the thickness I wanted, we got some tips on making some of the popular types of pasta shapes. I’m definitely going to give this a go when I get back, especially attempting some filled tortellini or raviolli. the best thing is, it only takes a couple of minutes to cook too.

Soufflé

Being pressed for time, last up at the academy was a fruity soufflé. We didn’t get to make them ourselves but we got some really good tips on a dessert I really enjoy eating, but always avoided, due to their well known difficulty in mastering.

Soufle making with Jean Christophe Novelli at The Corran Resort

The secret to having that perfect, equal elevation that keeps it’s volume is the addition of corn flour to the mix. This goes in with the addition of freshly blended berries and making an indent to the edge of the mix so it rises equally.

True to form, the soufflés came out perfect. An equal elevation that kept it’s shape for ages after coming out of the oven. It didn’t half taste bad either to be fair.

 

The Verdict

What can I say about this weekend dedicated to my favourite thing in the world, curated by a 4 Michelin Star Chef in a luxury spa resort, staying in an epic two story cottage with a log burner? It was off the scale! I’d say my brain is thinking about food 99% of the time I’m awake, and 100% of the time I’m asleep. I’ve wanted to attend a cookery school for some time now, to learn some new skills and hone in on some i’ve probably been doing wrong my whole life. It’s not very often you get an opportunity to learn from a chef who has a total of 5 out of a maximum 5 AA Rosettes either.

This was the first course they have run at the Corran Resort, but seeing that they’ve built a swanky new kitchen and academy, they will be running a fair few in the near future. Jean-Christophe won’t be doing all the courses himself, but judging from the couple of dishes Syril talked us through, plated and served us in the evening in the restaurant, you are going to be in safe hands if you are interested in attending one of the courses.

We had a pretty intensive schedule pencilled in for the day, but had to skip a couple due to timing. Being the first run of the course, this was bound to happen as they needed to run one to gauge how long us novices took with a knife. It also depends on the people attending the course as some people just take everything in or are too shy to ask questions. Our class on the other hand, were firing questions at both chefs like a machine gun, so we over ran on a couple fo courses. This did mean that we got to learn a lot more than if we kept shtum though, so not all bad.

If you are looking to book a cookery course for either yourself, or a food loving family member, I’d highly recommend booking a class at the Jean Christophe Novelli Academy at the Corran Resort. If you want to buy for a partner but not too keen on cooking yourself, you’ve got a lovely little spa you can take advantage of whilst they are cooking up a sweat in the kitchen.

The rooms, well ours at least were amazing, a delicious breakfast and the evening meal was superb too. So get booking and make the most of this hidden gem.

 

Details

The Corran Resort & Spa
Marsh Rd
Laugharne
Carmarthen
SA33 4RS

Tel: 01994 427417
Web: thecorran.com

The Corran Resort and Spa Review – Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

We recently traveled to the home of Dylan Thomas in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire for the launch of the new Jean-Christophe Novelli Food Academy at The Corran Resort and Spa. I’d only ever been to Laugharne once and it was a brief stop to see Dylan’s boat house on the way back from camping down Tenby a couple of years ago so I wasn’t sure what else was around.

The Corran is located on the grounds of a 300 year+ farm house a short drive from the town centre of Laugharne. We thought we’d taken a wrong turn with my less than impressive google map reading skills taking us to what I thought was in the middle of nowhere, but we finally saw the resort coming into view from a narrow single track farm road.

The Spa and Novelli Academy building are built in a more modern outbuilding next to the car park  less than 100 yards form the reception within the original farm building. I didn’t know what to expect from the hotel as I’d heard mixed reviews online. Whilst carrying our bags for the weekend to reception we were blown away by the idyllic setting of cottages and converted farm buildings creating a perimeter around a grassy courtyard, drenched in sunlight that was hidden away from view when you first arrive at the car park.

Our Cottage Room

The Cottage at The Corran Resort - Laugharne

After checking in, we had a quick tour around the main building and were shown to our luxury cottage less than 10 metres from the reception building. Again, I really wasn’t expecting such charming, rustic lodgings set over two floors with a log burning heater taking centre stage on the ground living area, huge TV with original wooden beams making a big impact when you first walk in. To the left a massive bathroom with open top bath, exposed brick walls with a shower nestled in the middle of the room, attached to a rugged, old wooden pillar. The room was lush and I couldn’t wait to test out both washing devices. I’ve had actual hotel rooms smaller than the bathroom.

A doorway on a raised platform took us out to a decked area outside with tables and chairs that gave a sheltered escape to sip a vino away from the main hotel or enjoy a bbq if you fancied making the most of the summer sun. Back inside a set of stairs led to a mezzanine floor hiding a massive bed, some seats and area to get ready.

Terrace seating outside cottage at The Corran Resort

The room offered a fridge to keep drinks cold, with a couple of bottles of complimentary water, although I’m not a fan of sparkling. Tea and coffee supplies were also available. A box next to the log burner was filled with some logs, ready to light in the evening with a large lighter.

The Spa

We had a couple of hours to kill before we had to meet up with our fellow cookery students and Jean-Christophe of course, so we dumped the bags, threw some swimming attire on and made use of the complimentary robes in the room. We then trotted on over to the spa about 20 metres from our door and across the grassy courtyard.

Swimming pool and spa at The Corran resort and Spa Laugharne

The woman on reception was lovely and couldn’t be more welcoming. She gave us a tour of the facilities in the spa, which included indoor swimming pool, jacuzzi, chill out room and sauna. Unfortunately the steam room was out of order but by the time we did a lap on the other rooms we were pushed for time anyway. We happened to be the only people in the spa at the time so we had the whole place to ourselves, which was great.

They offer a full spa service if you’re there for the weekend and fancy making yourself look extra fabulous with an extensive list of massages and treatments. I forgot to bring any gym gear but was keen to have a nosey in and to be fair I was really impressed with the kit especially for a hotel gym. You usually just get a running machine, 5kg dumbbells and a half deflated exercise ball.

They had the usual runners, rowing machine and cross trainers but they also had an ample amount of kettlebells going up to 20kg. They had selection of dumbbells up to 25kg, which i’d probably struggle on these days and a cable pulley multi gym for all your upper body needs.

The Restaurant

The restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and evening meal was lovely. It’s also used as the function room for weddings and events and you can see why in the pictures.

I just don’t get why people pay to get married in a big white tent in a hotel, it could be anywhere and always look the same. They don’t need to do anything to the room here, it’s ready to roll as it is. Long glass chandeliers, vintage white chairs and long glass doors looking out into the adjacent grass courtyard that can open up during the summer for a perfect game of halves with inside and outside space to cater for everyone.

Breakfast Day 1

As we were staying for two nights I thought i’d go off piste with breakfast the first morning in the knowledge I’d get my full Welsh breakfast the following morning.

On top of the selection of cereals, pastries, fruit, cured meats, jams and honey there are a few other options you can have in addition if you want something a bit healthier than a fry up.

Both favouring a pescatarian breakfast, I opted for a smoked haddock and poached eggs, Llio opting for the smoked salmon and eggs.

There wasn’t a radioactive yellow fillet in site. What I did get was a generous, delicately smoked, white, flakey portion of hadock teamed with the most perfect poached eggs on top of a toasted muffin.

I had a very busy day planned ahead with the cookery academy so this filled me up with the fruit and pastries without the potential to leave bloated and flagging later on like a fry-up sometimes does.

I’m not a fan of salmon in any form but Llio enjoyed her smoked salmon and creamy scrambled eggs.

Day 2

After slightly more alcohol being consumed the night before compared to the first night and the thought of long drive down to St Fagans straight after breakfast to do a talk about gin for Cardiff Gin Club, there was only one thing on the menu today.

I loved the smoked haddock the previous morning but it was only right that I covered the other options on the menu for research purposes and put my order in for the full Welsh fried breakfast.

Full welsh breakfast at The Corran Laugharne

The oversized plate does make it look like a child’s portion but I can confirm it was ample in size in real life. Thick cut bacon, local sausages, tender wheel of black pudding, runny egg and actual beans. Beangate seems to be a common occurrence lately, with more and more places starving me of my daily ration of baked, tomatoey plant based protein, much to my dissatisfaction.

The breakfast was cooked to perfection with no chisel needed for any item on my plate, which i’ve resorted to carrying on my person when attending breakfast serving establishments in Cardiff of late.

Evening Meal

With all of us leaving the Jean-Christophe Novelli Academy clutching all of our fingers and thumbs in tact, it was cause for celebration with a bit of French dinning and vino to finish off an epic weekend stay at the Corran Resort.

A menu can’t be truly French in my eyes with out Fois Gras on the menu for starters and much to my delight they delivered.

fois gras starter at The Corran Resort Laugharne

Foolishly devouring the bread for the table as soon as it came out, I could of used an extra square to finish off my slab of rich, buttery goose liver. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man (or woman) in possession of a good fois gras, must be in want of an extra slice. Wherever you are in the world, the ratio of bread to spreadable liver concoctions is never quite right, so I won’t hold it against them as the dish was all that I craved and more (apart from an extra triangle of carbs).

For main, I went for the sirloin of beef cooked medium / rare, with carrot puree, potatoes and a rich jus. The beef was perfectly pink and meltingly soft. A sweet carrot puree, with the jus adding a thick lick of emulsion to each chunk of beef I used to mop up with.

Llio opted for pork with with wilted greens and little pearls of apple caviar. Both dishes were delish, but I was glad I had the beef as that just pipped the two.

Plenty more of the free flowing vino tinto was consumed in between courses, which then led to my dessert of molten chocolate cored pudding, nuggets of honeycomb, a swirl of caramel and a healthy slab of ice cream. This was a dreamy dessert, with lots of textures going on. Intense, rich chocolate, sweet caramel, a light bitter crunch from the honeycomb with a creamy ice cream thrown in, just because. Lush!

Llio struggled on her dessert, just from being full and not through lack of trying. I played the good boyfriend and helped her polish her creme brûlée with a healthy slice of brioche to slather the the crunch nuggets of sugar and blistered cream on for a decadent finisher. This was a close one to choose between and I think I’ll score them an even Steven.

The Verdict

I loved every minute of the weekend stay, from relaxing in the spa, falling from gazing at the inferno I created with my own hands in the log burner, letting it all hang out whilst showing centre stage in the huuuge bathroom. We then had the intensive schooling from chef supremo Jean-Christophe Novelli at the Academy, learning some very useful cooking and prepping skills in the kitchen.

I couldn’t fault any of the food we ate over the two days from healthy breakfasts of fish and fruit on the first day and finishing on a full Welsh fried breakfast on the last morning.

It was great to sit down and enjoy a glass of wine and good food with the fellow academy students and sitting with Jean-Christophe. Chef  was in full entertaining mode, giving us some stories from growing up in rural France and how he got to where he is now, warts and all.

I was gutted we had to rush off early on the Sunday to do a gin masterclass and talk at the St Fagans Food festival because I would of made the most of the Spa again and tried to fit some pampering in from the masseuse.

We got chatting to the owner too, who gave us a run down of the events of Christmas. We’ve got our minds set on the New Years Eve extravaganza if we aren’t up North, which sounds like the perfect way to see in the New Year.

We were invited to attend the launch of the new food academy. The accommodation and food was complimentary but I really couldn’t fault our weekend stay and would go back in a flash. There’s not much around the resort but that’s the point, it’s all dedicated to escaping the norm and unwinding in the countryside with everything you need on your doorstep.

Details

The Corran Resort & Spa
Marsh Rd
Laugharne
Carmarthen
SA33 4RS

Tel: 01994 427417
Web: thecorran.com

Sosban Restaurant Review Llanelli

Sosban has been on my hit list for a while now but I’ve not got around to organising a trip down to Llanelli’s most highly regarded restaurant located within a listed Victorian Pump House close to the docks due to the fact it’s not within easy reach of uber.

If you’ve been watching this years Great British Menu on BBC you might of noticed head chef Andrew Sheridan representing Wales just last week, so it was exciting to be heading down with such a buzz about the place at the moment.

We booked in for the 7 course taster last Saturday at 6pm, which meant we could nip down on the train have a few drinks with our food and not have to worry about one of us driving or booking into a hotel for the night. The train from Cardiff Central was about 1 hour 20 each way and cost around £16 for a day return if you fancy doing something similar on your trip down to Sosban.

Not having been to Llanelli on the train previously and only stepping foot in the town once before, I wasn’t quite sure where in relation to the restaurant we would vacate the train. It’s a bit of a weird one really as the train station about half a mile away from the town centre and in the middle of streets of terraced housing snaking in all directions.

We had half hour to kill so we set off on foot with my best friend google maps, which ended up taking about 20 minutes. On the way back we opted for a taxi, which only set us back £4.

The Venue

I tried popping in to Sosban on my one and only visit to Llanelli but we got to the venue at 2.15pm on a Sunday and they closed at 2.30pm so we we didn’t bother in the end.

We made sure we had a good few hours ahead of us this time and once we hit the docks and followed the route of the old Carmarthenshire Canal. Meandering next to the muddy banks until we saw the chimney poking it’s head up behind the units of the business park it’s located on.

I love that the impressive, stone clad building has stood the test of time and is testament to the previous industry around the time it was erected in 1900. It will no doubt still be stood there in another 100 years, whilst the carbon copy buildings of this day and age look outdated within 10 years and age get bulldozed over after 20-30 years.

The pump house chimney overshadows anything else within miles and at night the stone fortress facade is illuminated by spotlights, making it all the more impressive. Inside, walls lay bare exposing the bowels of the century old Victorian industrial marvel. The name Sosban coming from both the tin plating industry during the last century and the Sosban Fach song that has become synonymous with Llanelli rugby and The Scarlets.

A harmony of contemporary style with autumnal farm barn feel with timber ceilings and joists, slate floor and leafy chandeliers paired with white walls, exposed stainless steel kitchen, lemon tree and perfectly ingrained walls of glass that filled the rooms with natural light.

Chef Andrew Sheridan

We were lucky to grab 5 minutes with the chef as it was really early and one of the first to arrive. He gave us a brief history of where he worked previously and found out that he worked at the fairy tale like Chateaux Rhianfa in Anglesey, which me and the other half had a leisurely stroll around back in April when we visited the Island last.

Also interesting because he was faced with the head chef of the Chateaux on last weeks Great British Menu along with The Whitebrook, representing Wales. I didn’t realise till he mentioned it but it was filmed nearly a year ago so it must of been torture not being able to tell anyone the results of the show and how he got on. He would neither confirm or deny whether he would be back for round two when it starts filming again in a few weeks.

The Food

There’s a choice of menu’s at Sosban with the option of dinning a la carte or the 7 or 9 course taster menus. Chef told us they had been churning out over 60 taster covers a night recently and I can imagine it’s only going to get busier with the recent stint on The Great British Menu.

bread and marmite butter at Sosban Llanelli

We were dinning from the 7 course taster menu, which started with my favourite…bread! Soft but dense mini loaf, halved to share and served with Netherend farm butter and a marmite butter swabbed on two little rocks. I could eat bread for days especially slathered thick with butter. The marmite butter wasn’t just a dollop of marmite mixed in but must have gone through some dehydration process as it was dry and grated onto the butter. I love marmite and toast and this provided a lovely yeasty, umami hit.

Our poison for the evening consisted of a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which i thought would suit the majority of the courses that lay ahead of us.

Tasting menu starters at Sosban Llanelli

Second and third courses were served together as they were bite sized portions. Well depending how big your bite is and I nibbled away at each one to savour the flavour instead of shoveling it down like I do when i’ve cooked myself.

The delectable mini nacho like nibbles consisted of:

Crispy chicken skin, smooth chicken parfait, elderflower jelly and grape chutney giving an amalgamation of flavour and texture

and

Sweet Potato Cracker, pickled mustard seeds that popped in the mouth, onion marmalade and creamy cheddar custard.

The cod 5 ways course at Sosban Llanelli

Next came the Chefs signature dish and the one served on Great British Menu, which is cod 5 ways. A take on the British seaside favourite, fish and chips. Perfectly poached cod loin, crispy puffed cod skin, lightly battered cod cheek, mini fried potato cubes, burnt aubergine puree, which could not go without tiny nuggets of pickled gherkins to add a mellow vinegar tang to the dish.

hay smoken venison at Sosban Llanelli

Fifth course was the standout dish for me. Soft and tender blushing pink, hay smoked venison with beetroot ketchup, silky black pudding to add an extra earthy note that paired with a pang of tartness from the raspberries.

Sosban trifle dessert

With the savoury dishes over we went into the sweets and first up was the Sosban trifle. This wasn’t your average 70’s trifle from a birds packet. This was made from chunks of sponge, pickled blackberries whisky and lavender jelly and citrusy lemon curd to bring it all together. A decent modern interpretation of your nan’s favourite although I would of liked a bit more of a kick of whiskey in the jelly. Saying that I always go overboard when mixing alcohol with dessert and it never sets but a nip more in the mix wouldn’t go a miss for my taste here. I liked the little shards of cinder toffee to add a slight bitter, sugary crunch.

Coffee pannacotta dessert at Sosban Llanelli

The second dessert up and my fav of the two was a coffee pannacotta, chocolate and coffee textures. An assault of rich coffee aromas from the pannacotta, creamy chocolate ice cream and the gooiest chocolate brownie chunks. The malty nuggets gave a Malteser like crunch to the coffee dessert.

Cheese board at Sosban Llanelli

We thought this was the end to the food but we were surprised with a slate board with a selection of 5 cheeses, each paired with a different base and eating vessel and an assortment of different chutneys for each cheese.

Cheeses included:

– Barkham Blue – a medium strength blue veiny soft cheese

– Kidderton Ash Goats – a creamy ash coated goats cheese

– Black Bomber – a strong no nonsense extra mature cheddar

– Ogle Shield – a soft west country cheese. I’ve used this at home to make amazing cheese toasties. I stole the idea from producer and owner Bill’s Kappacasein’s at Borough Market in London, which are the best in town.

– Eve – a soft goats cheese washed in Somerset Cider Brandy

An excellent journey through cheeses from around the UK with some I’d tried, some I hadn’t but all of which I’d happily have adorning my cheese board in future. We both decided to have a large 10 year old port to help us finish off the cheese

This last course finished us both off and there was no way we were walking back to the train station unless someone rolled me there.

I was planning on sampling a few more drinks in the bar after the food but I was so stuffed, I would of struggled with anything after the wine and port.

The Verdict

You can see why there is such a buzz around this place and why head chef Andrew had is face on BBC’s The Great British Menu recently.

We were invited down to sample the tasting menu but The Sosban has been on my list of places to eat at for over a year now and it was definitely worth the journey down to Llanelli for. The 7 course taster menu costs £55 per person. The 9 course will set you back an extra £10, which will get you the addition of a chargrilled Jumbo Prawn, prawn mayonnaise and puffed potato and a saffron mousse, orange ice cream and cookie date crumble to take you from the mains into the desserts.

The drinks menu features some Welsh favourites from the Whiskey and Gin world such as Penderyn and Da Mhile.

Chef mentioned he is hoping to have a best of night coming up soon with some guest chefs joining him to put on a menu of menus and I for one can’t wait to snap up a ticket when they pencil a date in the diary.

Update: Sosban have just launched a discount voucher on Travelzoo offering two dinners a 6 course tasting menu for just £49 of 4 diners for £95.

 

Gymkhana Restaurant Review – Mayfair, London

Gymkhana is another restaurant I only found out about recently after researching gin and food pairing for a recent Cardiff Gin Club collaboration. The restaurant is a Michelin star Indian restaurant located in Mayfair and it was the Pink Gin menu that first caught my attention. None of this sugar laden, plastic pink gin bullshit but how Pink Gin was first drank by the British Navy over 200 years ago, with gin and bitters to give it a pink hue. 

They actually had a use back in those days too with the bitters used to treat sea sickness and counter the effects of not being able to refrigerate food by settling the stomach and aiding digestion. They were also enjoyed by the British in India during the British Raj an hour or two before Sunday tiffin.

After giving the gin and cocktail menu a once over it, it didn’t take me long to cast my gaze over the food menu, which turned out to be just as enticing. With several menus on offer from a la carte, tasting menus and feasting menus with varying number courses and prices for lunch and evening dinning from £25 to £90.

I was keen to visit the venue sometime in the near future when up in the big smoke and it just so happened I booked tickets to Meatopia, which took place a week ago. Wanting to try some the Martinis at Dukes Bar in Mayfair whilst I was up there it made sense to book Dukes Hotel for the night, which meant we were within walking distance of Gymkhana for lunch the following day.

The Venue

The Gymkhana Restaurant was only around 10 minutes walk from Dukes Hotel so we strolled across after checking out for our 12pm table booking. It would only be about 10 minutes from Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby Street too if you’re around the neck of the woods.

Gymkha Restaurant London

The venue is based on the old Gymkhana sports clubs in India that were frequented by high society to drink, eat, socialise and play sport. The theme ran right through the restaurant with dark wooden panelled decor and ceilings, prized stuffed animal heads from hunting and illustrations adorning the walls depicting cricket players, Indian Military officers and polo players throughout. Attention to detail was unreal, right down to the basement toilets with branded water toilet tank and a seating loo seat that resembled an actual throne. This reminded me exactly like the other half’s, aunties toilet in her cottage up in Anglesey. 

Seating consisted of green leather panelled benches around the outside of half of the upstairs with narrow dark wooden tables to seat tables of two. There were a couple of cubicles for larger groups too. We both thought the restaurant looked a bit smaller than we thought it would be upstairs but it was only toward the end of the meal and after visiting the little boys room that I realised there was also another room downstairs that was also full of dinners.

We were sat by the front window, on the corner so we had a full view of the upstairs but also a slightly larger table compared to tables in the middle. This was handy as we had a bit more table surface and saw one table struggle for room with drinks and a selection of plates each that happened to arrive at the same time.

The Food

The Feasting menu or hunters menu featuring 7 courses, which included prawns and a few different game birds costing up to £90 were only available in the evening. We were dinning for lunch so there was either the choice of a la carte, a set lunch menu with 3 courses starting at £25 or 5 courses for £38.50. No prizes for guessing what option we went for. Luckily for us there was a choice of two dishes for each course so we just asked for one of each to share so we got to taste a bit of everything.

Pink Gin menu at Gymkhana London

cocktail menu at Gymkhana London

After picking one of everything from the lunch menu, it was time to delve head first into the drinks menu. I’d seen a thunderbolt G & T on instagram so I was going to order one of those as they looked very nutritious but they didn’t seem to appear on the menu. I was also keen to try some of the pink gin’s with wonderfully flavoured bitters such as dandelion and burdock with Monkey 47. I’d taken some inspiration from the menu and ordered a bottle of the Jindea Single Estate Darjeeling First Flush to pair with the dessert menu at Purple Popadom, which we sweetened to match the sugary creme brûlée with the aid of a Darjeeling tea syrup.

I decided to go off piste for something totally different with a tequila cocktail from the punch and club classics menu called green leaves. This consisted of Tapatio Tequila, cucumber, green chutney cordial, lime and Himalayan salt, which I thought would be a good all rounder to pair with the different courses.

CARMICHAEL CUP cocktail at Gymkhana London

Green leaves tequila cocktail at Gymkhana London

Llio opted for something a bit lighter with an Indian inspired Pimms Royale. This fruity number featured Ciroc vodka, Early Grey tea, elderflower and vetiver grass, lemon, ginger, seasonal fruits and a touch of champagne for elegance.

Although Sake is usually more at home and Japanese restaurants, I read somewhere that the head chef at Gymkhana is looking to start pairing the food with Sake, which will be an interesting change. Sake is derived from rice though, which is a staple in Indian cuisine.

The first of the courses and usually my favourite part of an Indian and that’s the chips and dips. 

I liked that we had a selection of different dipping devices and not just a plate of standard popadoms, each with their own unique flavour and texture. I’d never seen the white bubbly variety called Sabudana Papads, which looked like little slabs of polystyrene at first but tasted a lot better than I’d imagine it’s lookie likey to taste. There wasn’t much of each dip to go around with the amount of chips we had but they were strong and punchy and a little went a long way especially the shrimp dip, which gave a good savoury contrast against the sweet mango chutney.

Potato chaat at Gymkhana Mayfair

The bowl of potato chat, chana masala and tamarind was plentiful and took us in to the first round of the starters. Soft potato and chickpeas layered in a sweet sauce, yogurt and crispy shreds of sev, a fried crispy potato noodle. This was a flavourbomb of textures and flavours that prepared us for the bountiful feast on the senses to come.

It was interesting to see Gymkanas take on some of the popular street food favourites in India compared to some similar dishes I’d tried at Bwyta Bwyd Bombai (3 B’s) in Cardiff, which does a very good selection themselves including the Potato Chat and the next dish coming up, the dosa.

dosa and kid goat methi keema at Gymkhana -London

The dosa is a cripy rice pancake like parcel with a filling and a selection of dips. The pancake can look overwhelming at first but the filling is usually limited to a few spoonfulls in the centre so it’s not too heavy.

This came served at the same time as the kid goat methi keema, salli, pao, which was probably one of my favourite items on the tasting menu. A medium spiced sauce, flaked with goat meat with crispy potato sticks that is meant to be mixed in and sandwiched between a bread roll. A buttery roll with a rich spiced meat and crispy shards of potato. I could of eaten 10 in a row they were divine!

Paneer Tikka at Gymkhana Mayfair

 

Well this is embarrassing. I thought the Paneer Tikka, Cashew Nut, Corn Chat was a stuffed chicken. Paneer if you’ve not tried it is an Indian soft cheese that looks like a cross between halloumi with the softness of tofu. It’s used in many Indian dishes as it keeps it’s shape unlike more well known European cheeses and is good at absorbing the spices and flavours it is cooked in. It also resembles cooked diced chicken if you’ve had too many Martini’s for supper the night before.

fish tasting dish at Gymkhana Mayfair

The Hariyali Bream, Tomato Kachumber was a here or there dish. It was ok but didn’t stand up to the other rich, flavoursome dishes on the menu but it was a pleasant addition of a seafood dish instead of a full on meat feast as I’d eaten half a farm the day before at Meatopia.

We’re now into the mains with two rice dishes, but only because we ordered one of everything to share. The first was a vegetarian dish consisting of wild mushroom, asparagus, morel & truffle pilau and probably my least favourite of the dishes. It’s the first time i’ve ever seen a dish seasoned with fresh truffle instead of the usual salt or pepper so this looked really impressive but I think it was the asparagus i didn’t like in the dish. I do like asparagus but it just wasn’t for me in this.

wild mushroom and truffle pilau at Gymkha Mayfair

The Samudri Seafood Biryani, Pomegranate & Mint Raita was miles ahead for me though and I don’t even like salmon. Generous nuggets of seafood such as prawns and a portion of salmon entombed in golden, perfumed rice, which I piled on top of the huge pile of scorched bread with dollops of Dum Aloo Benarasi & Lasooni Dal.

After soldiering on as best we could, we submitted in defeat at the two rice dishes and bread overload as nice as they were. All was not lost though as everyone knows there’s a second stomach always on standby to be called up when faced with dessert.

With a choice of three desserts we opted for a Mango Shrikhand, Yoghurt & Lime Sorbet and a
Black Carrot Halwa, White Chocolate & Rose Ice Cream to finish off the Indian lunchtime banquet.

Desserts at Gymkhana Mayfair

The Mango shrikhand is a sweet yogurt based dessert mixed with fresh mango that was stuffed in a sweet crunchy tuile like cigar coated in sesame seeds with nuggets of fresh mango and cooling sorbet.

The quenelle of carrot halwa was interesting, which is a sweetened dish made of grated carrots slowly cooked in ghee and milk. It was dense but not sweet enough for my liking but I really liked the white chocolate and rose ice cream it was paired with.

The Verdict

We had an absolute mountain of food between us and got to try all but one dish on the whole tasting menu by ordering one of each of the two options between us. This was Indian food like I’ve never tried and blew every other Indian meal I had out of the water and this was just the introduction to what Gymkhana is capable of. They’ve got a well deserved Michelin Star, based in the heart of Mayfair meaning they’ve got some very affluent customers who will be used to eating very good quality food, so they have to be at the top of their game to survive where they are based.

I didn’t like every dish but I did taste 10 and it’s all down to personal taste. It wasn’t that the food wasn’t good I just didn’t particularly like it myself. We dinned at the lunch time tasting menu and it was excellent value for money for what we had but I would love to go back in the evening to try the feasting or hunters menu featuring more luxurious ingredients. For twice the price I’d be expecting nothing less than a masterpiece but I think they could very well pull it off from what I had at lunch.

I’d also make a bigger dent in the cocktail menu as we dinned at 12 midday and had a day of shopping ahead of us, I didn’t want to go overboard so we only had the one cocktail each.

I would have no hesitation about recommending this restaurant to anyone and would love to dine there again, although I’ve got my eyes set on Dishoom in Shoreditch first before I head back.

We spent £116 for the 5 course taster menu for two and a cocktail each with service charge. The hunters and feasting menu is around £90 each, so I think i’ll have to wait till my birthday for that one.

Final bill at Gymkhana Mayfair

Twenty Nine Park Place Restaurant Review Cardiff

The latest venue to open by the Knife and Fork Fork group, the team behind Cardiff and Penarth favourites The Conway, The Pilot, The Discovery and The Old Swan is Twenty Nine Park Place. Located at, you’ve guessed it 29 Park Place just across from the National Museum of Wales it is their most central Cardiff venue to date.

I’ve had a pint or two and lunch at both The Conway and The Pilot in the past and become acquainted with their no nonsense, good hearty pub food so it was interesting to see how the menu would differ being in such close proximity to the likes of Park House and The Laguna Restaurant at Park Plaza.
I’d followed the venue early on before they opened the doors and was impressed with the promise of a pretty decent selection of craft beers. They had one or two local beers at the two other venues under the Knife and Fork Food umbrella but they seemed to be ramping up their offering here, which had the thumbs up from me.

The Venue

I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit the venue under the previous management that sadly went under less than 12 months ago so I wasn’t sure how it compared to the previous incarnation. The venue seems to be suited to a casual pint near the entrance and around the bar and the restaurant with seating split between round tables of around 7 seats to each in the middle and rows sitting 4-8 along the sides within a conservatory like extension to the main building.

 

Craft beer board - Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The illuminated craft beer board stops you in your tracks as soon as you walk into the venue, enticing you in to sample the ample selection of fermented hoppy nectar. On closer inspection they have a growing selection of craft gins for those who fancy something lighter on the waistline too.

The Food

We scouted out some of the starters we’d seen on socials from the recent launch night with them averaging £7 mark.

I was intrigued by the sound of the giant scallop, cauliflower puree, pancetta sand and sorrel for £7.50 as I honestly didn’t know if this was an actual living shellfish or some kind of mutant creation from the kitchen as it’s hard to realise scale on an Instagram photo.

 

fried muscles and cockles Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The other half and her mum opted for the ox cheek scotch egg, rarebit dip at £7. We also opted for some nibbles whilst we waited, which consisted of crispy cockles and muscles at £3 and some homemade bread for £2.50. I’d had deep fried cockles before but it was nice to try the muscles too. And the bread…well who doesn’t love homemade bread.

 

Giant scallop starter at Twenty Nine Park Place CArdiff

 

The giant scallop was served in a standard sized shell, which led me to poking and prodding the white squidgy mass in the middle to see if it was real or not. Not needing David Attenborough to explain to me in the end that this was a creation from the kitchen and not dredged from the waters of the English Channel.

The soufflé type concoction of what must have been scallop meat with egg quite remarkably resembled a scallop with a lighter, airier texture and more mellow flavour of scallop. Generous in size, it was enjoyable at first but became a little sickly towards the last bite or two. The pancetta sand added a nice crunchy texture and hit of bacony, fatty, lovliness too.

 

Ox Cheek Scotch Egg adn rarebit dip Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The scotch egg was decent in size although it could of done with a minute or two less as the yolk was almost hard boiled and meat a tad dry. The rarebit dip added a much needed dose of moisture though.

Opting to verge off main menu and try one of the sharing board specials. On the night, the options consisted of tomahawk steak, lobster or a picanha steak. Seeing as I was a tad hungry I know from past experience you don’t get much bang for your buck when it comes to lobster and even though the tomahawk looks pretty epic on a plate, you’re essentially paying for a steak plus what would normally be heading for the waste bin with the wing tip. If I was eating with dog Marley, I’d probably shared the tomahawk with him as it would have kept him quite for a few hours, gnawing at the bone.

 

picanha steak at Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

Opting for medium / rare, the steak came out pre-sliced more on the medium to well done, which was a shame as the thinner ends of the rump were a bit more chewy than I would have liked. I know the Picanha, a favourite in Brazil isn’t the best cut out there but when you’ve sampled it as part of the £10 lunch menu at Asador 44, you know how good it can be.

The fries were good though and we opted for garlic butter to dunk both the steak and chips in. There were a couple of cuts to choose from with varying weight and relative price around the £30 mark and ours came in at £31.50.

 

Lamb rump goats cheese risotto

 

The (future) mother in law went for the Roasted lamb rump, pearl barley risotto, radish, goats cheese with blackberries, which was a nice touch and priced at £16. Having had a taste of the dish I’d say it was the star dish of the night. Cooked a little less than our steak, the lamb was tender. The risotto still had a bit of bite, seasoned well and the goats cheese lent a rich, creaminess to the dish.

 

Argentinian Malbec red wine - Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The Argentinian Malbec we opted for to wash both dishes down was a hit too at £23.

Onto desserts and after seeing it on Instagram whilst sitting down and reading the menu I opted for Thibault’s citrus tart, meringue, lemon and mint sorbet. Knowing the master creator behind said dish worked under Laurian at Cocorico Patisserie and made it onto BBC’s Crème de la Crème I was hoping for nothing short of a masterpiece.

 

Citrus tart with lemon and mint sorbet

 

Sadly it didn’t all work together for me. I think the citrus tart and meringue would have been fine as it was but the lemon and mint sorbet was rock hard and way to bitter for me. I struggled with the sorbet both chopping bits off to eat and because it was too bitter on the palate.

The Llio had ordered a coffee whilst we decided on dessert but decided to upgrade it to the Café Gourmand to include some small pastries. She said it was ok but nothing to write home about.

 

Pina Colada creme brulee at Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

Her mum chose the Pina Colada Crème Brulee, coconut and almond tuile. There was lovely crisp, sugary top encasing the core of the dessert but for both of us who tried it, it was too fruity and overpowered the custard base layer.

The Verdict

To be fair to the restaurant it had been open for less than two weeks so it was a new venue, new team and new menu so it takes some time for that all to gel. The food was ok but could do with a few tweaks to get it just right and just a bit less in the oven on a few dishes.

The ideas are good but it’s just the execution that will come when they’ve found their feet. The desserts in my eyes need a bit of looking at as the lemon sorbet spoilt the dessert for me and the fruit in the crème brulee was just too much.

I will probably be back to the venue in a few months to see how they’ve developed or even to sample a couple of the beers they have on tap.

Maria’s Greek Taverna Restaurant Review Cardiff

It was the other half’s birthday a few weeks back and unlike us, we hadn’t booked anywhere to go. She’s fancied Hellenic Eatery for a while but it’s always be chocka block every time we’ve passed.

We tried calling them as soon as we got home from work but again, there was no room at the inn tonight. I’d seen a few insta posts about Maria’s Greek Taverna recently and thought it was along the same lines as Haelinic so we rang and got a table.

The restaurant was small and cosy inside and they seemed to squeeze as many tables in to fit, which did mean there’ wasn’t much room between the back of my chair and the table behind. Luckily for me nobody was booked in whilst we were eating or we would still be fighting to get out from under the table.

I liked the decor though as it really did look like it could have been nestled in a back street in Greece and seeing that we hadn’t had a holiday for a good few months I felt like I was having tea in the Med, especially with the heat wave we were currently in.

The Food

We had a quick scan over the menu as we hadn’t looked prior as it was last minute. There were a few well known dishes and you could either go for a mezze of little dishes or go big (what I was under the impression at the time) with some of the mains.

Marias Taverna Menu Cardiff

 

Based on pricing from some other well known establishments who specialise in meat skewers blistered over hot coals such as Saray I thought the mains seemed a little expensive. Based on the price difference of about 30% I thought this would be made up in portion size.

We opted for a few mezze plates and one main as we’ve been satisfied with a main between us with some side dishes at some other Cardiff restaurants of late and we thought we might of gone overboard on our options at first. We even though we might of needed a bigger table.

For the small dishes we went for beer battered salt cod fritters (£6.95), spicy Greek sausage with peppers and red wine (£6.50), halloumi fries (£5.50) then a portion of dips, Hummus and Tzatziki priced at £4.50 each as they didn’t do a mixed selection. I would of had the smokey aubergine one too but I refused to pay £15 for 3 dips as I thought it was extortionate.

For the main we opted for a mixed souvlaki with one chicken and one pork kebab with chips and pitta.

The food did seem to take longer than expected but we did foolishly ask for it to all come out together, so that may have been the issue. The Halloumi fries were really good and probably my fav dish on the table. Golden brown, slight crisp on the outside and lovely salty core.

The spicy Greek sausage was fine, not that spicy to be honest but we did finish it all off. The salt cod fritters were ok. If you like salt cod you probably would have enjoyed them. They were plate I was least expecting to like and just ordered them because I’d never tried salt cod and took a thought I would take a punt on them.

The breads and dips were fine with hummus and tzatziki with toasted pitta. They were just ok really nothing special and would of liked something a bit spicier or a mixed selection with smaller individual portions like we had recently with our mezze in Turkey that had about 6-8 little portions of dips that were the star of the show there. For 6 of the dips you’re looking at £30 here, which is absolutely nuts if you ask me!

Then onto the main, which to be honest for £15 I was pretty pissed off at. I was expecting a bit more substantial on the skewers but they were beyond disappointing for the money. I would of expected either sub £10 or 4 skewers based on the meat content for £15 compared to what you get at some of the places you can pick a kebab up on that road into Cardiff.

The Verdict

I wouldn’t say I disliked the majority of the food The only dish I didn’t like was the salt cod and that was personal preference. The food was ok and that’s as far as it went really but at that price it was way over priced in my eyes. We’ve paid £20 between us at Saray for two skewers, chips, breads, a selection of dips and pickles, mint tea and even had some baklava thrown in for free and we were more than content. The food at Saray and Sham Nights was more tasty too to be honest and near half the price I’ll stick to them in future.

Based on that I can’t see me rushing back to Maria’s. I’ll definitely give Hellenic Eatery a try further down the road but I’ll stick to Saray or Sham Nights or some top quality meat and tasty accompaniments for a very reasonable price.

For what we had, one bottle of water and a carafe of house wine it cost just over £50. Not a huge bill by any means but for what you can get both in quality and quantity at half the price this is probably the first and last time I’ll be through the door.

 

Bara Menyn Restaurant Review – Porth Teiger Cardiff Bay

Bara Menyn used to be one of my favourite breakfasts in Cardiff back when Catrin was running the kitchen out of Ffandangos in Llandaff, but they parted ways so they could concentrate on a solo project. From humble beginnings starting out at Castle Emporium on Womamby Street, Bara Menyn have now taken over an empty unit within the Gloworks office block at Porth Teiger next to the BBC studios in Cardiff Bay.

A new venture has prompted new branding, that blends in perfectly with the design centric location it now calls home. The kitchen and venue also pay homage to local Welsh produce throughout the food and drinks menu and with Catrin being a fluent Welsh speaker you’re more than likely to receive a warm Welsh welcome at the door too.

The Food

The Bara Menyn breakfast v1 at FFandangos has gone through slight change as most of the breakfast items came from the legendary Charcuterie, who has recently stopped production of his award winning farmhouse butchers favourites. Not to be worry though as Ariel Jones butchers has stepped up to the mark to supply some equally as epic cured meat.

We got invited to the soft launch the day before opening for friends and family to give our seal of approval, not that there was ever any doubt they would knock it out of the park.

So the menu as it stands features mostly breakfast and brunch items for them to find their feet in the new venue but I’ve been informed there will be lots to come in terms of supper clubs, gin and food pairing etc.
Seeing as I’m on a mission to find the best breakfast in Cardiff and seeing as Bara Menyn used to be near if not top at the previous incarnation it would be rude not to be the first to sample it. Full Welsh it was!

If you couldn’t quite face something substantial, the usual favourites were on there in some shape or form with eggs, bacon, avocado, sourdough toast etc.

The full breakfast, costing £9 is at the lower end of pricing compared to some other places i’ve tried lately with one costing nearly £11 for views of Bute Park.

The breakfast features in no specific order:

  • Butchers pork and leek sausage
  • Thick cut bacon
  • Black pudding
  • Tiger Bay bite
  • Mushrooms
  • Fried Egg
  • Home baked pulled pork beans
  • Sourdough Toast
  • Bara Menyn Bomb (also known by me as a cockle bomb)

The breakfast came in two parts with the main of the breakfast in a deep bowl and the pulled pork cowboy beans separate in a mug to stop it flooding everything else on the bowl.

It was an absolute feast fair play. Two types of sausage with the pork and leek and the Tiger bay bite, which had a thumbs up. I’d had 2 failed attempts and a decent toasted sourdough slice at my last two breakfasts so this crunchy wedge, dripping in proper butter dipped into runny egg yolk more than hit the spot.

I’m not always a fan of mushrooms with breakfast, not because i don’t like them. It’s just 9 times out of 10 there’s no seasoning what so ever but these were seasoned perfectly.

Being the world’s biggest bacon lover, the bacon had a thumbs up along with a wheel of black pudding that required no chisel to cut and just fell apart with little pressure from my fork. This is more than can be said about a recent breakfast at a well known venue on Witchurch Road that you might of seen on a recent Insta vid I uploaded. I didn’t know whether to eat it or cover a manhole with it.

The home baked pulled beans reminded me of our Cardiff Gin Club Gin Camp trip to Flatholm Island last year. Catrin pulled out an army sized container full of these to cure our hangover on the Sunday morning, which she cooked over the hot embers of the fire on the beach. These took me right back, especially as we were sat outside now basking in the sun with the smell of my plate whafting up my nose.

Last but not least and a curve ball if ever I’ve seen one on a breakfast and that is the Bara Menyn Bomb. It featured on the breakfast menu back at FFandangos as an extra but the size of you head. This time the cockle bomb featuring lavabread, coated in oats and deep fried had been downsized to a manageable bite and added to the full breakfast. It’s the ultimate savoury addition to a breakfast.

The Verdict

Knowing how passionate Catrin, the brains and cook behind Bara Menyn is about food (Nearly on par with myself, if that was ever possible), I was in no doubt the v2 would develop into something bigger and better than the previous venue.

Cardiff Bay is really missing somewhere to fulfil hungry bellies for breakfast and brunch. Come to think of it, lunch, oneses, dinner and tea to be honest so this is a much welcome addition to the endless number of chain restaurants down the bay.

It’s a close one with Pettigrew Tea Rooms breakfast but i think it might of just pipped it to the top spot of the best breakfast in Cardiff.

Being an avid supporter of Cardiff Gin Club too we’re hopeful we can put on a few collaborations in the near future too as they’ve got a licence with a fully stocked bar that already features some of our favourite Welsh Gin and Whiskies.

I attended the soft launch so we got our food and drinks for half price, but would and will be happy to pay full price on my next visit, which won’t be too far away I’m sure.

Contact Details
Bara Menyn
Gloworks
Porth Teigr Way
Cardiff Bay
CF10 4GA

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