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Halen Mon Salt launch of book, gin and Tide restaurant

We recently got an invite to Wales most famous salt brand Halen Mon for the launch of not one but three new ventures at the Coastal HQ along Anglesey’s treasured Menai Straights.

Normally I would have questioned a 10 hour round trip for a launch event but this was no normal launch party. Having used up my latest pot of black garlic ketchup on everything apart from my cup of tea, I knew Halen Mon had something special planned last Saturday.

Their famous salt is used by Michelin Star chefs around the world and even has a former president as an avid fan, with Barack Obama favouring the Welsh sea salt in his chocolate.

The Halen Mon range has exploded over the past few years featuring a hint of their white gold in the majority of products along with seaweed, spices and good old fashioned smoke.

Do Sea Salt book

The latest launch though is covering a few different areas and not just condiments. There is a book “Do Sea Salt” written by Jess and her parent’s, the founders of Halen Mon Alison and David. It’s lovely little book, featuring salt in all it’s greatness from history, why we use it, how to use it and some great suggestions on elevating humble recipes by utilising this great natural product.

I haven’t had a chance to sit down yet and get stuck into it properly but from a quick scan of the book, I’ll definitely be trying some of the ideas and I love learning about the history of anything food and drink related. There’s also a mention about creating your own sea salt, something I’d only mentioned on our last trip up to Anglesey back in April .

I said I wanted to get gas cooker and heat some water from the Menai Straights, to try and make our own Anglesey Sea salt before we got the invite to Halen Mon HQ, so this book will make sure I don’t waste hours of my life watching the water bubble away over a camping stove.

Jin Mor Gin

Well this was a surprise for me, as I only found out a couple of day’s before the event that they were also launching a gin on the night. Well I found out when they presented the first bottle off the still to Prince William and Kate on instagram, two days before.

 

The gin is a collaboration with the increasingly popular North Wales Distillery Aber Falls. Aber Falls, was setup initially as a the first Whisky Distillery in North Wales for over 100 years but as whisky takes 3 years and 1 day legally be called whisky, they sought out other forms of revenue in the mean time. They initially launched three gin’s to much success and have expanded their range more recently with an entry level vodka and gin along with a more premium offering.

Jin Mor Gin - Halen Mon Gin

Jin Mor launch night

The Halen Mon gin, will go by the name of Jin Mor and has the addition of their Halen Mon to the mix of botanicals. I was told that this was not just to add a salinity to the drink but because of the process that happens when you add salt to anything. It draws out moisture and oils from most things thuse drawing more of the flavour from the botanicals.

On taste, I was expecting it to have a saline kick to it but far from it. The gin was smooth, pleasant and delicious. I didn’t get to try it neat on the evening but did have more than my fair share mixed with a bit of tonic and it was exceedingly morish.

We had a goody bag to take home with a little bottle of the juniper spirit, so I will be taste testing it neat on the weekend for research purposes.

Apart from the salt there was nothing too out of the ordinary on the botanical list with the obvious juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and licorice although I didn’t see the full list.

I was half expecting a bit of the seaweed that they forage a just a stones throw away from the salt harvesting site that is used in some of their other products to make an appearance but that might be reserved for further down the line.

I’m sure the Halen Mon gin would make a very good martini or red snapper at the new cafe would be a good choice, using some of the other range of products such as the bloody mary ketchup for flavour, seaweed for umami kick, chilli for heat and a smoked salt and cracked black pepper rim. I might suggest this one to them and more than happy to work on testing to get the perfect mix 🙂

Tide Cafe

Last but not least is the new fresh food offering from Halen Mon called Tide. Not content with supplying kitchens and restaurants across the land with their excellent pantry staples, they are going one step further and opening a food outlet next to the Halen Mon visitor Centre.

Tide Cafe - Halen Mon, Ynys Mon

The food will be cooked in a fully kitted trailer next to the centre, offering alfresco dining and refreshments to visitors of the centre or just people wanting good coffee and fresh, local and delicious food.

We were treated to a number of tasters and appetisers whilst our fellow guests arrived to the sea front location. Halen Mon couldn’t have picked a better day, the sun was shining with hardly a cloud in the sky.

The Canapes consisted of freshly picked oysters from just in front of where we were stood with both pickled apple and some that had been shown the fire over a log burner, some 5 metres away with lashings of garlic and butter.

Crisp breads beautifully decorated with flowers with peppers and an amalgamation of pureed stuff, that both looked enticing and tasted scrumptious.

Then there were mini tacos with healthy slabs of golden pork, fresh apple and micro herbs for a kiss of savouriness. These just how i like tacos, stuffed, overloaded and more than my mouth can handle. There was no portion control either, to my delight, so I had a couple of each to pair with the gin.

The Meal

I could have easily have sat and filled up on the tasters, but we were there to sample something more substantial inside. I liked that everyone’s name card was somewhere random (or was it) so they made more of an effort to speak to others. I was sat 3 away from Llio but with everyone’s love of food and just enjoying life, we all had loads to talk about. There was someone who made his own chutneys that will be featuring on the menu to my right and a tea master that now works trading in spices on my left.

Hugh Fearnley at Tide launch - Halen Mon, Anglesey

Before the meal commenced we had a brief introduction by none other than Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, whom the new Tide chef Sam worked for, at his time at Riverside Cottage.

We were given a choice of wine as we sat down, with me opting for red, as I can’t take to all white especially if it’s too dry. There was never going to be a Blossom Hill being brought out that’s for sure and I wasn’t disappointed with the offering that did come out, a Valenciso Reserva 2009 Rioja. Not sure if this is true, but someone on the table mentioned it was the house wine at the fabled El Bulli in Spain. Well you can’t get much better than that for recognition.

Salad starter at Tide, Halen Mon

The first dish was very informal and more of a sharing experience, which was a nice change. We had some amazing sourdough, which is always a fav of mine baked by a friend of the family who was also sat amongst us, dining for the evening too.

This was alongside some asparagus cooked in loads of butter and garlic, new season kale that was so delicate compared to kale I’m used to without the large oversized stems and tossed in orange and raisins alongside a help yourself bowl of olive tapenade. I was a good boy and only ate two pieces of bread, even with the remaining slices plonked next to me. I’m getting better!

Welsh Lamb main at Tide Restaurant launch, Halen Mon

Onto the main course of Welsh lamb, served a luscious pink with a croqueta of slow cooked lamb inside too. Some fresh salad leaves, locally picked new potatoes with loads of butter and some extra greens. It tasted fresh, looked rustic and just as I would expect out of the River Cottage cookbook.

I enjoy vegetables, they just taste bland and dull when I cook them. Everything had it’s own bit of tender loving, yet not overpowering or overshadowing anything else on the plate. Seasoned to perfection, even though I thought there would be white ceramic tubs of Halen Mon within reach for everyone, we really didn’t need it.

We were sat / stood outside in the sunshine for the tasting of the gin and the canapes and it would have been lush to dine outside but it’s not quite summer in the evenings and the temperature tends to drop considerably, especially being right next to the water’s edge.

Roasted rhubarb crumble and custard at Tide, Halen Mon

With the logs being put on the burners outside, which was now churning out a decent heat, we were able to grab a chair, a glass of dessert wine and have a shmooze, whilst the dessert of stewed rhubarb, custard and crumble was handed out to very happy campers.

 

Thinking we were all done, after quite the feasting, a couple of wooden boards were handed out with gargantuan wedges of Welsh cheeses and a knife to do your worst. It was dark out there, but I think I would definitely have been caught shimmering out of the circle, cheese in tow to the nearest bush or rock, to polish it all off myself.

The Verdict

What an amazing evening we had, from start to finish. Everyone was so lovely not just the Halen Mon team but everyone we sat next to and had a chat with.

The food was outstanding. Everything was sources as local as possible, seasoned perfectly and you could taste the love shown to it. I will definitely be calling in to have tour around the salt production site and finishing with a bite to eat at Tide, the next time I’m up and on the island.

Halen Mon launch night

We bought our first Halen Mon ceramic salt cellar about 2 years ago at Waitrose in Menai Bridge and it takes pride of place in the kitchen and always in arms reach when we sit down for food.

We’ve also topped it up and bought a few other nicies from the range on Discover Delicious too including seaweed and salt mini pot, Bloody Mary Ketchup and my fav their Black Garlic Ketchup.

The gin was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Not that I thought it would be bad but I couldn’t fault the end product. You can buy it from their website at around £33 or the other half was back up in Anglesey last week with work and popped in and bought one in the shop next to Tide for the same price. We will definitely be showcasing it at a future Cardiff Gin Club event.

The book “Do Sea Salt” can also be bought from their website and in the visitor centre shop.

Contact Details

Address: The Anglesey Sea Salt Company Ltd
Brynsiencyn,
Isle of Anglesey
LL61 6TQ

Website: https://www.halenmon.com

Human Food Nutrition Bar Review

I recently got sent a sample box of bars from Human Food to review. I’d not heard of them previously but was keen to see what they did after learning they hailed from the seaside town of Tenby in West Wales.

I’ve tried my fair share of energy / protein / meal replacement bars over the years but I’ve never been drawn to any i’ve tried to be honest as I find them all a bit synthetic, especially the protein based ones.

Human Food started out as a pipe dream on Kickstarter and ended up being the highest grossing food product in the UK and the highest Vegan food product in the world at £80k of investment. After hearing that, I thought they must be onto something great.

So what is Human Food?

Human Food contains no artificial flavours or sweeteners, no added sugar, and no synthetic nutrients. It contains only organic whole-foods and whole-food extracts which have always been part of the human diet. Also, Human Food has been made specifically to support a plant-based diet, making it easy to live in a healthy, sustainable and humane way.

Human Food nutrition bar subscription

Human Food is a combination of 20 organic whole foods and whole food extracts, selected and balanced for optimal taste and bio-availability. Each bar contains essential nutrients that can be difficult to obtain from a plant-based diet, plus whole daily amounts of functional ingredients.

The bars come in 3 different flavours, but all containing the same base ingredients. The flavours are:

  • Red Bar – Organic Goji Berries
  • Yellow Bar – Organic Turmeric
  • Green Bar – Organic Spirulina

human food protein bar ingredients

The base ingredients come in the form of:

Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds (10g), Organic Dried Banana, Organic Dates, Organic Apple Juice Concen- trate, Organic Hemp Protein, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Figs, Organic Dried Apricots, Organic Cacao Powder (3g), Algae Extract, Organic Puffed Quinoa, Organic Mulberries, Organic Maca (500mg), Organic Quinoa Sprout Extract, Curry Leaf Extract, Organic Siberian Ginseng (200mg), Organic Mushroom Extract, Organic Black Pepper.

I was sent a mixed box of containing one of each flavour and a leaflet included in the packet gave some serving suggestions such as straight from the packet, blended in a smoothie or chopped and added to a breakfast of fruits, nuts and yogurt (which is one of my go to breakfasts too).

The bars contain only natural ingredients and Human Food have stated the bars have taken 4 years and over 200 iterations to get the mix just right. They contain 100% of the daily recommended intake (RI) of vitamin B12 and at least 50% of the RI of: Iron, Zinc, Vit D, calcium and Omega 3, as well as over 11 grams of protein, which I’m guessing is slightly better than a your regular bacon and egg McMuffin on the commute to work in the morning.

How do they taste?

I wasn’t sure which one to go for first, but ended up trying the tumeric bar, which comes in the yellow wrapper. I’d only ever put tumeric in a curry or tumeric roasted cauliflower, with both being savoury dishes I was intrigued at how it would work with the nuts and dried fruit ingredients.

Come to think of it, I’m not actually sure what tumeric on it’s own tastes like but whatever it is, it wasn’t overpowering in this bar. Tumeric is well known for it’s natural inflammatory boosting properties so it sounds like a good ingredient to get more of into your diet.

Complete daily nutrition bar review - Human Food

I was positively surprised with the tumeric bar, as I really didn’t know how it would fair without being in a savoury dish or food stuff. I use dried figs quite a lot in my overnight oats and breakfast yogurts so it had the same squidgy texture, with added crisp and crunch from the nuts.

Next up I thought I’d try adding it to one of my go to breakfasts, which is yogurt, where I normally add some fresh berries, dried figs, nuts, chia and oats as this sounded like a complete replacement when I didn’t have time to prep my breakfast.

Red Human Food vegan nutrition bar review

Instead of prepping the night before, I dolloped a few spoonfuls of greek yogurt from my fridge in work, tore up the berry bar into small chunks and dived in. I thought it made a good substitute for my normal fresh and dried mish mash of yogurt toppers, especially when pressed for time.

I think I’d still like to add a few more fresh berries to the yogurt, but this would make an excellent addition to get some missing nutrients added to my breakfast staple. They are handy as you can keep them in your drawer in work, along with a big tub of yogurt to save you when you haven’t had time to prep breakfast or mid afternoon snack.

I’ve still not tried the Organic Spirulina yet, as I’ve looked up Spirulina and it’s supposed to taste a bit earthy. I don’t think i’ll be trying it raw on it’s own, as I think it will probably be best suited to being blended in a smoothie with something a bit sweeter to balance it out. I’ll let you know how I get on when I give that one a go.

The Verdict

I did enjoy the Tumeric and the Goji berry bars. I felt like I was eating something really good for me without having to  force it down, unlike some health based food bars or shakes. It was dense, filling and kept me going for a good few hours. It would be perfect for a long mountain trek, where you need some energy without the added garbage most energy / protein bars cram into them.

I’d definitely introduce the Goji Berry bar into my morning yogurt mix for a satisfying blend of natural ingredients, after a heavy lifting session the night before as they contain a respectable amount of protein at 11g per bar too, along with the greek yogurt you’re looking at close to 20g.

The bars come in a variety of subscriptions priced at £3.30 per bar, from a taster box priced at £9.90, a two week trial at £33 for 10 bars or one off orders between 10 and 500 bars.

For further info on Human Food go to https://humanfood.coop

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The Dead Canary Gin Dinner Review in Cardiff

We were recently invited to the first in a series of gin dinners at Deaths and Entrances, the new bar within The Dead Canary and run by the same team.

The new bar opened a few months back and I loved the new flavour driven cocktail menu on the launch weekend.

The gin dinner was in collaboration with Quintessential Brands, whose gins were being paired up against the three courses of food we were being served that evening.

We toasted the night in with a welcome classic of Thom(as) Collins, to get the flavour receptors in full working order. The brand ambassador then give us a bit of history behind a Manchester gin that just so happened to be my very first purchase of gin some 3 years ago. Thomas Dakin, was the gin in question and comes in a not so standard rectangular bottle, with a large red sticker and branding on the front.

It was the bottle that caught my attention and back then there were only a handful of gin’s on the shelf not a whole section dedicated to the juniper laced spirits, if you can call some of them that these days.

The Food

The first course went straight in with the big guns as a paired gin in the form of Berkley Square, the most expensive gin of the evening. The bottle just oozed premium, with it’s lions head and knocker along with thick walled square bottle.

Berkeley Square Gin bottle

The food dish consisted of honey baked feta with lavender and a thyme and rye crisp. What a first course! I love feta and the lick of honey combined with a gentle heat in the oven, gave it a ever so slight caramelisation. It also turned it heavenly smooth in the mouth and contrasted with the crisp and bread. I could have eaten more than my fair share, lets just put it that way.

The kitchen soon served our second plate of food that was paired with the Thomas Dakin gin in a cucumber and dill sour. A mackerel dish with cucumber and horseradish snow, a granita type iced affair with subtle horseradish. One of the ingredients in this centuries old recipe for gin was red coal, which was often taken as a snuff like powder to awaken the senses back in the 18th century.

Mackerel starter at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

We now call this horseradish, so it was intriguing to find out about how gin progressed outside of London during the time of the first gin craze and also matching the botanicals within the food too. I thought it was a very creative dish and i’d never tried a savoury granita, especially not with horseradish and certainly not as a starter.

The brand ambassador also spoilt us with some of the last remaining chocolates truffles they had made for them from a Manchester chocolatier that has stopped trading at the moment, which made them extra special as they can’t be bought again. Gin and chocolate, what’s not to love especially when the truffles were made to compliment the botanicals in question.

Thomas Dakin gin chocolates

Onto the mains, which consisted of pork tenderloin with carrot, dill and camomile broth, served with a ginger collins using the floral, Bloom gin. The cocktail made a lovely refreshing addition. A Collins, sometimes known as a Tom Collins at a basic level contains gin, lemon juice and soda. This is usually jazzed up with some additional syrups and carbonated liquid to lengthen it.

Pork and ginger collins at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner

Our final course took a flight towards India, to hold up against the spice of the final gin Opihr. The dish consisted of a mango kulfi, pistachio and grated coconut. Paired with a favourite classic of mine, the negroni. Not for the faint hearted and this cocktail does seperate the men from the boys or women from the girls, with it’s use of the bitter orange Italian aperitif Campari.

Mango Kulfi dessert at The Dead Canary Gin Dinner in Cardiff

The classic ratio of 1 part gin, 1 part sweet vermouth and one part campari is sometimes tweaked, to also include barrel aging or infusions of vermouth with the likes of coffee or cacao. This is always served with a twist or slice of orange for a natural sweetness against the bitter Campari.

A negroni is a hard drink to pair up against but the creamy kulfi and the sweet fruit of the mango leant itself to the spicy cocktail. My empty plate and glass bore witness to this.

The Verdict

I really enjoyed the evening and I’ve been to quite a few of The Dead Canary events now over the years from gin blending, afternoon tea-ki.

We were invited to this event this time around but I’ve paid for all the other’s I’ve been to there and there’s been a few. They recently did another gin dinner and I’ve seen whisky dinners too, for those of you who prefer the amber coloured barrel aged liquor.

I’ve seen a few more advertised events on my hit list to sign up to at The Dead Canary like the return of the Afternoon Tea-ki event in collaboration with Pennyroyal, which is back for Cardiff Cocktail Week.This features tiki cocktails and caribbean inspired plates of food to match them.

Ember by John Cook Review at Milk & Sugar – Yr Hen Lyfrgell

I was sat in a pub in pub in the Pembrokeshire Countryside a few weeks back, sipping on a pint of local ale whilst catching up on some socials. We’d been busy walking around Cardigan all day, then me foolishly braving the March Welsh sea by taking a plunge.

I noticed that Milk & Sugar in Cardiff were running a competition for two a table for two at their upcoming collaboration with local chef favourite John Cook, formerly of Arbenig in Pontcanna. Long story short, we managed to win the competition so were joining dinners on the launch night at the Yr Hen Lyfrgell on the Hayes. It was quite funny as we had seen John’s other side project Dirt being advertised at Crwst in Cardigan that same day.

Sadly I was late to the party with Arbenig, with chef Tommy Heaney taking over the venue before I had chance to sample his food, although John seems to have his fingers in many pie’s at the moment and I have managed to try his other incarnation with Dusty Knuckles Phil called Horn to Hide at Sticky fingers.

Anyone who’s anyone has probably set foot in Yr Hen Lyfrgell (The Old Library for you non Welsh Speakers) so I won’t bore you with the details other than saying it’s a lovely big venue for lunch for the whole family or to grab some excellent coffee for a chat on their long tables with friends.

The Food

The new residency from John and his wife Ceri is called Ember and the concept is 4 courses of locally sourced, quality food from a fixed price menu. There’s a one meat option menu (£40) and vegetarian (£30) option menu. Everyone eats the same, so there’s not quarrel’s over whose having the lamb because you wanted to try two different things on the menu. In my case it also saves me hours of changing my mind for two weeks prior to attending a restaurant.

 

Ember by John Cook menu in Cardiff

We asked beforehand if we could bring the (future) mother in law along but pay the difference and the guys were great and fitted in another space on the table. No half hour deliberating over the menu, it was three meat options and a bottle of the highly recommended Argentinian Malbec. That would have been my first choice anyway and at around just £20, I thought it was an absolute bargain for a bottle.

 

Argentinian Malbec red wine at The Old Library Cardiff

First up on the menu was a sausage broth, with creamed white beans, focaccia and olive oil. The sausage was soft and crumbed into the rich and flavoursome broth. A lovely crunch to the oily focaccia that I dipped and ladled full of the gravy, before mopping any remnants from my plate. A hearty dish that you could easily have dived head first into, in front of a roaring fire, with half a loaf to help make a dent in it. Luckily John has a bit more understanding of portion control than me, that allowed me to power through to the next three courses.

 

Sausage broth dish at Ember by John Cook in Cardiff

Next up was a plate of charcuterie with fermented onion and malt vinegar. I do love a healthy mound of cured meats, with pickles and red wine at the best of times and the addition of some toasted almonds, to add a touch of smokiness and crunch was kindly welcomed. I did enjoy the dish although for me and the general consensus of the table was, we would have liked maybe a bit of local cheese to break up the meat, even if it meant having a bit less of the cured pork, for a bit of variation.

 

Charcuterie at Ember by John Cook Cardiff

Onto the main event and I’d seen some teasers on Instagram of the beef ageing, at Cardiff Butcher. The course read: 55-day beef sirloin with celeriac, carrot and marmite and it came out brilliantly pink, on the custom made ceramic plates from a local potter. I had to dissuade the other half from collecting the full set in her handbag, before they came to take away each course, as they really added to the rustic charm of each plate.

 

55 day aged beef from Cardiff Butcher at Ember

The beef was so tender, with slight caramelisation on the crust that paired superbly with the rich coffee and marmite jus, oh and the bold red beauty in my glass from the Patagonia’s. The smooth, silky highly addictive celeriac got me secretly begging that someone left some of theirs, as I’d used my finger to painstakingly mop every last drop flavour from my plate. Unbeknown to me at the time, but the butcher and his wife were sat in front of us. I would have patted him on the back for that beef at the time if I’d known.

Last but not least was a truffled chocolate with bay leaf caramel, hazelnut and cultured cream. This reminded me of a deconstructed snickers and the ill-fated Cardiff Burger and lobster snickers dessert, but on steroids and with a lot more love. Basically 4 of my favourite things on a plate, what’s not to love? Apart from my obsession for adding whisky to anything with chocolate or caramel, but I’ll let them off, as not everybody is an alcoholic and adds alcohol to every course.

 

Truffled chocolate and caramel dessert at Ember Cardiff

Rich, chocolatey, nutty and a faint vegetal addition to the delicious caramel. Again, I was trying to subliminally convince both my fellow dinners that they had a gastric band and they’d eaten quite enough at this point and I was going to take one for the team and resentfully finish off all three plates. This didn’t work, so I just ordered more wine.

 

Empty plate at Ember restaurant Cardiff

The Verdict

I was gutted about not booking into Arbenig before it closed, so I was super chuffed I got the chance to sample some of John’s food and for free, after winning the twitter comp. The Ember residency takes place each week over the weekend, for the next couple of months at least and after speaking to John and Ceri, they are looking at introducing a new menu each month. This is excellent news as there really is a lack of decent restaurants in town and once you’ve been to one, it’s a while before the menu changes.

I’d be more than tempted, in fact I’d be more surprised if I didn’t come back in May, to see what’s new on the menu. £40 each for 4 courses and bloody lovely bottle of Malbec for £20, that’s more than a bargain in my eyes. I’d like to say a big thanks to Milk & Sugar and Ember for treating us to a table for two and a bottle of wine as part of their twitter comp. I’ll be seeing you again soon!

For booking a table at an upcoming Ember evening at Milk & Sugar’s Yr Hen Lyfrgell head to Wriggle who are now running the bookings. If you want a discount on your first purchase then remember to use the code AUHPSS when you register on wriggle and click referral.

Höst Copenhagen Restaurant Review

Apart from Warpigs, we had been living off market food and just grabbing a bite to eat as and when we could since landing in Copenhagen, but I wanted to at least have one experience of Nordic cooking on our 3 day trip.

After a bit of googling and a recommendation from a friend we visited in Malmo, Sweden that afternoon we took a punt on Host. I would have loved to have sampled Geranium or Noma, whilst were in the country but to be frank, they are taking the piss with the pricing. For Noma it’s £300 per person for the tasting menu, then another £200 on top for paired wine. £1000 for a meal for two is outrageous, when our whole trip didn’t even cost that.

 

Tasting menu at Host Copenhagen

 

I was really surprised to find the tasting menu at Host, just £55 for 5 courses. Ok, it’s not the 105 courses at Geranium, but I also don’t own a an Amex Black Card. For a welcome glass of fiz, paired drinks for each course, coffee and chocolate, this bumped the price up to a much more reasonable £105 per person at Host. This meant I could even afford to eat for the rest of the month when i got home too, WINNER!

Before we came to Copenhagen, I had another restaurant on my hit list called Jah Izakaya & Sake bar. I found out that both restaurants belong to the same food collective called Cofoco.

The Restaurant

Host was located just over 1km from our hotel. We tried to book a taxi en route but they didn’t want to know as it was so close and Uber has been banned there, so it was on foot we went.

The restaurant was a situated on the corner of the street, luckily for us on the same main road we walked from the hotel, so there was no weaving in and out of back streets to find it. The interior was a fusion of industrial lighting paired against Scandic design and wood everything. I really liked it as it felt warm and endearing from the bitter wind on our trek there.

 

 

There was a hole in the middle of the wall with perspex, giving an insight into the workings of the kitchen and the gold splash board behind the cooker, that we saw scrubbed after nearly every pass. It was so clean in the kitchen, we’ve never seen anything like it. They literally scrubbed the kitchen, top to bottom every half an hour.

The Food

Opting for the evening at Host package we had our glasses topped with a sparkling wine to ease us into the evening along with a bowl of fresh, crunchy balls of dough with a whipped buttery cream to smother in, till our hearts content.

Shortly after we were also served our first paired wine to go with the first course. Not our first course, but one of the many surprise additions to our menu we gladly welcomed.

The wine, a Lil Buteo with almost Perry like qualities in both taste and cloudiness.

 

 

The surprise course was a sort of shrimp on toast with a waffle instead of bread. Not sure of the exact mixture within the prawns as it was lost in translation and wasn’t on the menu. It was bite sized and well received by both of us.

The first course on the menu was a Witchflounder with cauliflower and blue mussel sauce. A soft, meaty and white chunk of fish, ladled in the creamy mussel sauce at table side, flecked with mini florets of broccoli and the crunch of nuts to add a bit of texture and bite.

 

 

Next was one of my favourite dishes of the evening. Soft, tender slithers of birch smoked scallop meat, tossed in a subtle horseradish cream with a kick of sweetness from the cubes of apple. A simple concept but executed fabulously. Presentation was on point too, sat on a bed of stones.

We were treated to another surprise course next. An artichoke soup with crispy shards of fried artichoke sprinkled over. This was delicious and the crispy bits on top left me wanting my own pot, to douse every dish with. If I was in the corner away from prying eyes, I would of licked the bowl clean.

To go with the dish we had a mini tree that was hiding a few extra surprises to nibble on.

 

 

Another seafood course was up next in the form of Norwegian lobster with sea buckthorn and pickled carrots. The lobster meat had an almost charcoal, smokey BBQ taste to it, which I thought worked perfectly with the Yuzu IPA beer it was paired with and the zingy pickled carrots.

For our next course we had a choice of cod or beef. Having had a mainly fish fest so far, I was swaying more towards the beef. To make it easy, Llio went for the cod with lingonberries and crispy chicken skin and I went for the beef tenderloin with lingonberries and celeriac for a 50DKK surcharge. The beef also came a different, more punchy red wine, to go with it.

 

Beef main dish at Host restaurant Copenhagen

 

As expected the beef was meltingly tender, with a healthy scattering of crispy celeriac. The same sauce was used on both the cod and the beef, which was interesting. It could have been the lingonberry as I couldn’t work out where else it was on my dish.

We were now past the savoury courses and into something a bit sweeter, along with our final glass of wine came in the form of a 28 year old dessert wine.

Rose tinted and sweet, but not sickly sweet as the dessert of liquid nitrogen frozen hazlenut ice cream with pear and white chocolate didn’t warrant a roundhouse kick of sweetness to match it.

 

 

The bowl resembled the little Calipo Shots I used to love as a kid. With the multicoloured, frozen balls of ice, giving you a multitude and explosion of fruit, chocolate and nuts with each spoonful.

Our final dish was our last surprise course too. This featured a metallic, spherical meringue dome, dusted with a fine crimson powder atop a creamy base with added foliage for effect.

 

Meringue surprise course at Host Copenhagen

 

To be honest, I think I preferred this dish to the actual one on the menu. Even though the ice cream, chocolate and nut balls were nostaligic, this just tasted and looked like a grown up dessert. Again not overly sweet, but the flavours just worked in tandem.

Last but not least was the chocolates and coffee. The chocolates came out presented amongst some wood chippings, with around 3 varieties to savour and one making you question whether you were actually about to chomp on a nugget of wood, it was so realistic.

 

Chocolates and coffee at Host Copenhagen

The Verdict

I loved my visit to Host, from start to finish. From the rustic Nordic ambience of the restaurant, to the friendly and charming service we received and not to mention the epic measure of pairing drinks with the delicious food. There were no 30ml shots of wine to go with each course, that left you gasping for liquid refreshment after the first bite of food. You get a full serving with each course.

I thought it was amazing value for money with it costing about £105 per person for around 8 courses, with 6 drinks and chocolates. Which by UK standards would be pretty good, but for the extortionate cost of eating and drinking in Copenhagen, this was an absolute steal without compromising on quality.

I’d highly recommend a visit to Host if you are ever visiting Copenhagen and I will definitely be interested in trying some of the other restaurants in the Cofoco family.

 

Contact Details

Address: Nørre Farimagsgade 41, 1364 København, Denmark
Website: https://cofoco.dk/en/restaurants/hoest 

Warpigs BBQ and Brewpub Review – Copenhagen

I saw Warpigs on a Netflix food show, starring American hip hop star Action Bronson not too long ago and when we booked a trip to Copenhagen I put it on my hit-list of places to visit.

I didn’t realise at the time that the venue was a collaboration between one of my favourite Danish craft brewers Mikkeller and the American 3 Floyds brewery.

The location of the Texas BBQ and brewpub was quite fitting, as it was located within the old meat packing district in Copenhagen. The expansive series of buildings has become a mecca for good food and drink in the city in the past few years. From a restaurant point of view, the buildings already have everything you need to setup shop with with the sterile environment and white tiles, which we noticed haven’t been altered much in most of the venues when we walked past.

Warpigs at the meat packing district in Copenhagen

We were staying less than a 10 minute walk from the meat packing district so we took a stroll over to see what else was about. The Warpigs brewpub looked huge from a distance but it is long and narrow from inside. They also have a merch and bottle shop next door, which had shut shop for the day by the time we got there.

There’s a communal dinning vibe going on with long tables in rows and some tables laid out across the length of the window to the outside, which suited smaller groups and couples. We managed to nab one of these seats pretty much straight away, considering it was rammed in there.

Drinks

There’s no table service so you have to order your drinks, consisting of over 20 Warpigs special beers, so you know your getting something totally different, which you won’t get anywhere outside of the venue. I went for a 6.8% Frank the Tank IPA and Llio going for the only sour on the menu at the time. They don’t do full pints and are more akin to an Australian scooner at 400ml for a large and 200ml for a smal or half. They were slightly high on the ABV, both being around 7% mark and they came to 131DKK or £16 in English notes. Not cheap, but then I’m surprised they don’t charge you to breath in Denmark as prices are outrageous everywhere.

Mikkeller beers at Warpigs Copenhagen

Food

For the food, you have to go up and order and it’s a bit like the school canteen, where you get a metal tray, tell the server what meat and what weight you want. They then weigh each item of meat in front of you and add it to the tray. Same goes for sides but these are per pot size, so no weighing involved.

Warpigs food menu Copenhagen

I had to have two trays to fit our food on as I went a bit nuts on the sides.

I ordered:

  • Southern fried shrimp
  • Hush puppies with pimento cheese
  • 1/2 lb of medium hot wings
  • 1 small mac n cheese
  • 1 small slaw
  • 1 small spicy pickles
  • 1/2lb hot links
  • 1 small burnt end beans
  • 1/2lb brisket
  • 1/2 lb of medium hot wings
  • 1/2lb smoked pork loin

The cost of the food alone came to 605DKK, around £73.50. Again not cheap considering we only had 4 meats and the smallest portion they did but then it is Copenhagen prices.

We both enjoyed the food, with the meat both tender and full of flavour. I was probably more into the sides as I love little nibbles but the meat we did have was damn tasty. Sadly they had run out of a few things I tried ordering like the pork ribs and special hot links but there was plenty of other things to choose from. These included the standard hot links and another pork special of smoked loin instead of the ribs, which had a nice crisp to the crackling.

Warpigs bbq and brewpub review Copenhagen

Also on the menu was beef rib, which would have been a contender had I not ordered the brisket but I’m not a great fan of ordering by weight when you’ve got a Jurassic proportion bone sticking out of the meat. It was also the most expensive meat per weight on the menu.

It was an absolute onslaught of food to be fair and I was left feeling a bit sorry for myself about 15 minutes in, after letting my eyes get the better of me when ordering. I’d have two minutes breather, a little burp then attack the smoked feast again before failing again.

We managed to fill two of the little paper bags with bits to take back home with us for a packed lunch instead of wasting it too, which was handy. I’d probably not need to eat for at least two days after what i’d just eaten mind.

The Verdict

I did like here, from the relaxed dinning, extensive beer list and just because I’m BBQ craving, smoked meat loving fiend.

Craft beer and hot wings at Warpigs Copenhagen

I couldn’t fault any of the food we had, apart from a slight issue with not getting my chicken wings and only realising part way through our meal. After showing them my receipt, they threw them straight in the fryer and were ready within minutes.

The cost of £73 just for food seemed a bit steep at first but in the grand scheme of the cost of everything in Copenhagen, it wasn’t too bad.

If you’re visiting Copenhagen I would definitely recommend a visit to Warpigs, if not for food then they are equally equipped to satisfy your fermented hopped needs with over 20 own brewed beers on tap.

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Albert Adria’s Cakes and Bubbles Review at Hotel Cafe Royal – London

By a stroke of luck, we found out recently that Albert Adria was opening his first restaurant outside of Spain, after watching Top 50 best restaurants in the world on Netflix.

We watched the episode on Albert and how he went from being awarded the best pastry chef in the world, working alongside his older brother at the now closed El Buli. You’ve guessed it, also voted the best restaurant in the world, during it’s heyday.

It then went on to document Albert’s own journey, with the creation of the totally bonkers “Tickets” restaurant in Barcelona. After a quick look on the tickets website, we saw a banner mentioning the launch of a new collaboration in London, with the luxury hotel Cafe Royal on Regent Street.

I was due to travel to London on the 17th, to judge in the People’s Drinks awards to find the public’s favourite gin, at the Colonel Fawcett bar in Camden. My star’s must of aligned that day because they had an availability at 7pm on that exact date. This meant I could work my way through 24 gins, go grab some food to sober up, then try some of the best cakes on the planet, before my train journey back to the land of song.

The Venue

I’m not sure what to call the venture as it’s not quite a restaurant as they only do cakes and not quite a bar because they only do bubbles, so lets just call it a very high end Cafe. Being located on the ground floor of the luxurious 5* Hotel Cafe Royal, it seems quite fitting anyway.

The cafe is located within the hotel, but with it’s own entrance a stone’s throw away from Piccadilly Circus. Located on the outermost wall of the hotel and surrounded in big glass windows, the marbled and gold interior really grabs your attention when you walk past.

Inside Cakes and Bubbles - Hotel Cafe Royal London

There was a mixture of tables for large groups, tables for two and a couple of bar stools next to the bar, that could be used for customers going solo.

The decor was classy yet not too pompous, for the location and being in such a luxury hotel, that demands around £700 a night for a room. A tall Japanese Fasuma esque door, acts as a partition between the cafe and the hotel. I did sneak out to have a look, on the way to the little boys room and the reception area was beautiful, especially with the Christmas decorations and huge chandelier.

Shelf of The Cheesecake by Albert Adria London

The Drinks

As the name suggests, they not only specialise in desserts, but they had the most comprehensive list of vintage carbonated wines I’ve ever seen. Prices started around £9 for the house Champagne, with a few other glasses available by the glass up to around £100 per bottle. Anything higher, and it was by the bottle.

There wasn’t just Champagne available, but Cava’s and sparkling wines from around the world, including Essex right here in blighty. I opted for something a bit different in a sparkling sake, at £16 a glass or just shy of £100 for the bottle.

If you’re off the booze, fair play to you, they have a selection of freshly made juices on offer.

The Cakes

Back to what this place is all about, and that’s the desserts. You have a choice of a few appetisers, to get you in the mood, some fruit bowls and then the main course.

Albert Adria's Dessert Menu at Cakes and Bubbles - London

We opted for the chocolate eclair with praline to start, coming in two finger sized portions served in a gold vessel, for around £8. Other options included a carrot cake, that was another strong contender and a strawberry and chocolate marshmallow after eight.

Chocolate and praline eclair at Cakes and Bubbles - Hotel Cafe Royal Review London

Albert sets out to deceive throughout the cake menu and this was the start of things to come. It looked like a stodgy chocolate bar but was so light, with a crisp white, airy nougat inside. This was laced with swathes of praline and nuts. Oh, and lets not forget the little shard of gold leaf, on top of the dark chocolate casing, for extra bling.

Onto Albert’s most famous creation, The Cheesecake priced at £12. Using a play on words, the cheesecake was in fact made to look like a little round of cheese. With the outer casing mimicking the rind of an aged cheese in colour and texture.

Albert Adria's The Cheesecake at Cakes and Bubbles London

It looked hard to touch, but just gave way to a a gooey almost molten Camembert inside. The outside was made from white chocolate and you were smacked in the face by the strength of the cheese used inside. This was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted.

It played mind games with you as it was made to look like a savoury object, was made of chocolate yet still had an explosion of savoury from the pungent cheese. It wasn’t sweet at all though, which is probably why it forked so well.

Biscuit base for The Cheesecake at Cakes and Bubbles - Hotel Cafe Royal

The cheesecake was served with mini biscuits, that served as the standard crunch base of a cheese cake. I slathered the soft cheesy core onto the biscuits and ate together for a much needed contrast of crunch.

Last but not least, we had the frozen caramel and lemon cake (£12). Again this was different to any dessert I’ve tried previously and was a cross between a cake and a sorbet.

Albert Adria's Frozen Caramel and lemon cake - Cakes and Bubbles London

A zingy frozen centre with an added kick of gin to lift the citrus flavours and just make it extra naughty. A thin creme brulee like layer of caramelised sugar topped the dessert, which I gave a little smash with my fork and spooned in equal measures with the frozen, lemony core.

The Verdict

I’ve never been to Barcelona, so it was great to get to try some of Albert Adria’s desserts on home turf, even if it was over two hours on the train.

The eclair’s were good, not stand out for me but they were totally different in appearance and taste to what I was expecting. Not too bad at £4 a piece for the pair though.

I wish I’d opted for the carrot cake to start, instead of the eclair or just gone for both. The starter courses all seemed to come out in bite sized portions.

For those torn between a dessert or cheese board, then The Cheesecake is the ultimate crossover, for a hit of both. The strong, pungent cheese paired with the only lightly sweetened chocolate was indulgent and addictive.

I noticed a few dishes coming out with an egg in an egg cup, which looked very peculiar. It wasn’t evident from the menu what it was, but I’m guessing it was the egg flan, which mussed of been served inside an egg shell. Again thinking outside the box or outside the shell with this one.

The venue is situated inside a very high end hotel but the vibe here is much more relaxed. Everyone we spoke to from the team were very friendly but I think there wasn’t much in the way of organisation. I think they should of had one waiter / waitress between a couple of tables, who just looked after those tables. Instead it was a bit of a free for all, where we were approached by 3 or 4 people during between ordering and having our drinks, which was a bit confusing.

We got everything we ordered and we really enjoyed the experience, but a bit more thought or planning on the service would of meant it wasn’t like organised chaos.

I’d definitely recommend Cakes and Bubbles for some decadent, mind bending desserts if you are ever in London. We were lucky to get a table when we did by pre-booking two weeks in advance, but it was the first week of opening and it should die down slightly.

The bill for cakes and bubbles - hotel cafe royal london

We had a starter course to share, two desserts, a glass of Champagne sparkling Sake, which came to around £65. Not exactly cheap but then, you get what you pay for.

If you want a soft serve ice cream, with a few sprinkles and a plastic cup of coke for less than £5 for two, then there’s McDonalds. Albert has worked in the best restaurant in the world and been crowned best pastry chef in the world for a reason and you will pay for the constant experimentation to get desserts of this standard.

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Head of Steam Review in Cardiff

With the almost monthly opening of new cocktail bars on High Street Cardiff, it was a welcome addition to have the Head of Steam bar opening up next door to Beelzebubs on Church street this week.

There’s lots of change going on down that neck of the woods in the city centre, with a lot more planned with the redevelopment of the old pound stretchers and the adjoining vacant buildings on Church street too.

Head of Steam has taken over from the recently vacated Harvester restaurant and will be the companies 16th venue in the UK. I was asked to pop along to the soft launch last night to sample some of the 150+ beers and food on offer.

The Venue

I’ve passed the venue twice a day on the way to work since they’ve been giving the place an overhaul. The bar now covers two floors, instead of just the ground floor that Harvester was limited to.

 

 

The ground floor features a central bar with a mixture of movable tables and chairs and also booths to choose from. Large flat screen TV’s nestled around the wall’s rotate through the endless list of beers available.

Upstairs is reserved for mainly food, with no bar and table service. Theme throughout the venue is meandering towards the locomotive industry, hence the brand name “Head of Steam”. There’s references throughout to local railway trivia, but not too in your face.

The Drinks

Beers

As mentioned there’s over 150 beers available on draught, bottles and cans. You’ve got your standard pub offerings for those who aren’t too fussy about craft. There’s a couple of local beers from Cardiff favourites Pipes Brewery, then there’s Magic Rock and Beavertown, which I had the 6.7% Lupoloid that was very tasty.

 

 

They have a heavy focus on Belgian beers too, which is something i’m not too well versed with, so that should be something new to work through too for me.

Gin

I was quite impressed with their gin collection too. I counted 45+ that were in plain sight. Some of the regulars you would find in most bars like your Whitley Neil and Bathtub, then a fav of mine Scapegrace at the more premium end. There were a few new one’s I hadn’t tried too such as the Manchester Gin.

 

Gin selection at Head of Steam Cardiff

Whisky

Around the other side of the bar were the darker spirits like rum and whisky. A few firm Scottish favourites such a Ardbeg and to my delight a few Japanese ones too from Nikka and Suntory. I’ve tried quite a few of the Nikka range so I’m trying to work my way through the Suntory. They had the new Hibiki blended Harmony, which I haven’t tried since the aged 12 and 17 year expressions have dried up. I opted for the Suntory Yamakazi this time though, as i’ve seen it about, but not tried it before.

 

Yamazaki 12 year old Japanese Whisky at Head of Steam Cardiff

Cider

I think their selection of cider was the weakest link in the chain to be honest. The only true apple cider they had was on tap and that was Symonds but the rest were all fruit varieties, which I find way too sweet. They had Rekordelig on tap, a cola cider, which I did have a taster of but found it just tasted like cola and not much in the way of cider. I’d have struggled with more than a half. They you had some bottled fruit options such as rhubarb, mango and a strawberry one at around 4% so you can take a guess as to how sweet they were.

There’s plenty of good cider makers around in South Wales, so I’d recommend having at least one alternative to Symonds considering they have such a vast selection of beers but the rest of the ciders, I’d class as alcopops due to the lower abv and gut rot sweetness. Beezlebubs next door have around 6 draught ciders including Llantwit Fardre’s Gwynt y Ddraig.

The Food

The food menu is split into two, with around 14 starters or tapas options either priced individually or 3 for £12, with the option to upgrade to a tasting flight with 3 x 1/3 beers for £15, which I thought was a nice touch.

 

Sharing food plates at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

We opted to go for 6 of the tapas options between the 3 of us with a side of fries too. Not knowing what the portion size was going to be like, we had all intentions of having a main after it but we had eyes bigger than our bellies. I think if there had been 4 of us to share the plates as in one set of 3 for each, that sounded more doable.

We opted for:

  • Red pepper hummus with garlic corriander naan
  • King prawn tortilla
  • Sweet paprika chorizos in honey glaze
  • Japanese inspired squid with salt and pepper coating and teriyaki dip
  • Hot and spicy wings with chiptole mayo

We did ask for deep fried whitebait but got a second helping of the squid, sweet potato fries and go these plus standard fries and both flavours of the wings so there was a little mix up with the order. It was the opening night / soft launch and we were invited there for complimentary food so I wasn’t going to kick up a fuss.

I thought the food was of decent quality and there was nothing that arrived that I didn’t enjoy. The small plates are just £4 each so i’m not expecting michelin star quality here but what you do get was lovely. Proper beer food and I liked that they suggested a paired beer with each plate or for those opting for the beer flight with it just as I did.

The problem was, we had about 8 plates and 6 beers, so I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be drinking with what. It was only a suggestion though and I just had a taste of everything with everything. I loved the mini chorizo sausages in the honey glaze though, they were lush and the cherry beer that came with the flight.

 

Nachos at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

Having had an extra few dishes by surprise, main courses were off the question. We did decide to have a sharing plate of the pulled salt beef nachos for the table to pick on though. The tortillas were pilled high, with a lovely rich and smokey beef topping with melted cheese. The dips came in a big bowl rather than making the chips soggy, which was a nice change. No complaints for the nachos, and again, perfect beer food.

If we had gone for mains, there were choices of beef and coconut curry, sirloin steak and chips, Moroccan Harrisa salmon, pie and mash, a decent selection of mammoth sounding burgers or hotdogs. Price wise, i thought these were reasonable too, with mains around the £11 mark apart from the steak, which will set you back £16.95.

 

Sharing desserts at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

We went for a sharing board of 3 desserts to finish up, which consisted of chocolate brownie and ice cream, sticky toffee pudding and waffles with berries and ice cream. At £10 for all three, I thought they were a bargain.

The Verdict

They aren’t trying to be something they are not, in terms of food and offer good, hearty food for a very reasonable price. With starters or tapas at 3 for £12, mains around £11 and £3.33 for a dessert if you went for all 3.

There’s a lack of places in town for a reasonably priced, good bit of grub with some decent beers to go with them. I can definitely see myself coming back, especially as they are dog friendly too. This is downstairs only mind and they have a couple of chairs and tables outside, so I’d probably park myself outside with the mutt, with a beer and couple of small plates on our rounds around town on the weekend.

Private Chef in Cardiff – Private Dinning at Home with La Belle Assiette

Have you ever fancied sitting at home with a glass of wine with friends, whilst someone sweats over a hot stove, cooking up a feast for you all and then does all the dishes too, so you don’t have to lift a finger? Well apart from topping up your guests wine and aeroplaning said feast into one’s mouth.

If you didn’t know that was a thing, aeroplaning your own food or having someone cook up a three course meal for you and your guests in your own home, well they now are. Both of them. And I had the pleasure of relinquishing my place behind the cooker in my own home to a guest chef, courtesy of La Belle Assiette. They provide private dinning experiences not just in Cardiff but throughout Europe.

I recently welcomed chef Stephen Gallagher into my home to cook for me and my family. Speaking to Stephen, he’s worked at a few well known hotel resorts in South Wales area such as the Vale Hotel and more recently The Celtic Manor. Along with running his own pub and restaurant with a friend, it sounded like he’d had bags of experience in the kitchen.

 

Prosecco and elderflower gin liquer welcome drink for private chef event in Cardiff

 

That meant I could relax and just concentrate on pairing the food with drink and making sure everyone kept topped up, starting with a glass of Prossecco topped with a dash of Condessa Elderflower Gin Liqueur.

The Food

This being Stephens first private chef event with La Belle Assiette, he had a couple of example menu’s on his profile on their website, but he was more than willing to offer something bespoke if they didn’t take my fancy.

Not making things easy on myself to work with him to satisfy what was probably the most fussy bunch of eaters, we managed to wittle the menu down to the same mains and desserts for everyone. I’m not usually the one with the fussy label attached to me when it comes to food, but I was the one who didn’t want the starter as documented many times throughout my blog I just can’t take to salmon.

Instead of me ruining what sounded like chef’s signature starter dish and for those who really did like salmon, he kindly offered to do an alternative starter for some of us too.

 

Dinning table ready for private chef experience in Cardiff

 

I absolutely love carbing up on bread before a meal and is one of my favourite parts of a meal, slathered thick with salty butter. I meant to pop into Pettigrew Bakery for a loaf of sourdough, the afternoon of the meal, as it didn’t mention anything about bread on the menu. I was too busy buying some new glasses and booze though unfortunately.

Luckily for us, Stephen came prepared with a bounty of bread big enough to put Jesus to shame, which was well received, by none more than me.

 

La Belle Assiette Private dinning menu for Cardiff

 

Annoyed with myself, as the sound of the salmon dish sounded bloody lovely, but I just couldn’t. The three that ate the salmon concurred too. Us salmon dodgers were treated to a tandoori chicken, a whole breast I must add, with mint raita. Portion size would of filled two people to be fair, of lightly spiced chicken morsels and a cooling mint drizzle.

For mains, I was amazed I got everyone to agree on one dish, but then it was duck. Again the portion size of the breast was very generous and cooked perfectly pink for me. This came with oodles of a rich, meaty blackberry jus, that added a lovely fruity kick to balance out the natural fattiness of the duck.

We were presented with not only a duck breast, but a very impressive duck leg croquet, loaded with tender shreds of duck in a super crunchy crust. A sweet carrot puree and a velvety garlic mash.

 

Duck and blackberry main course for Cardiff Private Chef night

I know I was in my own home, but I was entertaining guests so licking the plate was sadly out of the question. I did however, happily finish off my mums duck. She really enjoyed the dish, she’s just not a big eater and had already consumed a whole breast of chicken for the starters.

For the duck I paired this with either an Argentinian Malbec or Oloroso Sherry, depending on the guests preference. I opted for the Malbec.

The third and final course, cooked and prepared by the chef was a Chai tea panna cotta, Earl Grey syrup, brioche toast and orange gel. Not having any prior exposure of what chef could knock up in the kitchen, I wasn’t entirely sure the both tea’s would work with each other.

Chai Panna Cotta dessert from La Belle Assiette Private Chef in Cardiff

 

I wouldn’t normally have had much experience of tea until recently, when I was tasked with pairing an Indian food tasting menu with gin for Cardiff Gin Club. I spent a few weeks experimented with Indian spices, gins and a playing around with a range of different tea syrups.

I wasn’t sure if the highly perfumed Early Grey tea would work with the spiciness of the Chai tea but the orange gel brought together the bergamot in the Earl Grey with the cinnamon and cardamom of the chai. The panna cotta had a decent wobble to it too.

 

Jindea Darjeeling Tea Gin

 

Keeping in with the tea theme, I paired this dish with an Indian Inspired Jindea Darjeeling Tea Gin and tonic, with a twist of lemon.

The Verdict

This was my very first experience of having a private chef cook for me and my family in my home, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a little nervous too if I’ll be honest, that I’d invited everyone around and had no idea what the quality of the food was going to be like.

I really didn’t have anything to worry about though, as Stephen was very professional throughout the whole process. From putting the menu together, arriving early to make sure everything was prepped on time and the final output of the food to a very high standard.

 

Group photo of a private chef experience in Cardiff

 

It really was excellent restaurant standard food, without the hassle of leaving your own home. This would make an ideal choice for a dinner date with friends if you struggle with child care, spoiling family members with accessibility issues, who find it hard to leave the home or because why bloody not.

Why go to the trouble of dressing up, travelling to a venue, only to have them tell you what you can and can’t have, even though it’s you handing over your hard earned cash.

Why not design the night or special occasion, exactly how you want it. From the guests, the drinks, the venue and the bespoke menu, to suit everyone.

 

Me tucking into the duck main course for our private chef event in Cardiff

The only thing I was annoyed about, was that everyone was so stuffed after the food, nobody touched my cheeseboard that I spent about 30 quid on in M & S earlier in the day.

The experience was provided complimentary by La Belle Assiette but we really couldn’t fault the experience. I would recommend it to anyone who has thought about having a private chef, but not quite sure or to anyone who didn’t know you could have it done, for the same price of eating out at a restaurant if not cheaper.

Contact Details

La Belle Assiette Private Dinning
Chef: Stephen Gallagher
Web: labelleassiette.co.uk
Tel: 020 3318 5003

Meatopia Review – Tobacco Dock London

London’s annual celebration of smoked and bbq’d meat at Tobacco Dock, aptly name “Meatopia”, has been on my hit list of summer events for a few years now.

A post on instagram a couple of weeks before this year’s event still promoting tickets for the Sunday got my mind going overtime. I’d already booked a 48 trip in Dublin the middle of the week, but i’d be back on Friday evening albeit a little lighter in the pocket from Dublin’s notoriously pricey pints of their famous black tipple.

I couldn’t wait another year, so I booked two tickets for the Sunday sesh and managed to get a good deal on another hit list of mine in the capitol, Dukes Hotel in Mayfair, to go sample the best Martini’s in the world at the same time.

The Event

The event was set in the now listed, old Tobacco warehouse near the docklands in East London that’s now used as an event space. I’ve been there once for the winter Taste of London event but I needed about 5 layers to shelter from the outdoor cold then. We were now in the middle of a month long heatwave, so the outdoor waterside location was perfect for some smoking and grilling.

We got off at Wapping Underground station and it was just a 10-15 minute walk through the old maritime quarter of London.

 

The event was set over 3 days, Friday evening, Saturday and all day Sunday. With 20 of some of the best BBQ based food producers around the world, cooking up taster plates each day.They shipped people from all over, smokers and all to feed hungry visitors. They even had Wales’ most famous BBQ girls, Hangfire there on the Sunday too.

Each trader would have one signature dish, which was published in the programme for the day. Each dish was a taster or starter size, which meant you could plow through as many as your stomach could handle on the day, to try as many different dishes as you liked.

The payment method was 1 meatbuck per plate. Meatbucks were purchased at various points around the two storey warehouse location and cost £5.50. For London that was a bargain. For a food festival in Cardiff, you’d be fucked trying to find something that cheap!

Tickets cost about £30, to cover the cost of hiring the place, security etc on top but this was my ideal day out for me. With a host of craft beer brewers and Josh from Scapegrace Gin doing mini tasting sessions in the Grace Wagon outside along with the epic meaty offerings, I was in absolute heaven!

The Food

As there was a single dish per chef there were just 20 dishes to choose from. I’m guessing this made it way easier to accommodate the numbers and meant they can focus all their attention on one thing.

I had a good stab at what was on offer and we managed to try 10 out of the 20 that were available. Between the booze and the food I was pretty stuffed at this point and didn’t want to go overboard. Plus we had a table booked at Dukes Bar to try their signature martini’s so I needed to leave a little room to ft into my evening attire.

 

The Drinks

There was something for everyone in terms of drinks. There was a room dedicated to craft beers from a good range of brewers, some familiar and some I tried for the first time.

Summer and BBQ’s are traditionally paired with cider for me any anyway, so it was rude not to sample a pint of fermented apple juice whilst we were sat out in the sun, having a nibble.

There were a few talks going on throughout the day from brewers, wine makers and Scapegrace doing mini tasting sessions in their converted wagon. Scapegrace was the gin of the day too, with G & T’s available from the outside bar. Whilst on the subject of gin, we also bumped into Longflint Drinks, who I first saw on Sunday brunch a while back. They do a few varieties of pre-made cocktails from vodka, gin and whiskey.

They use East London Liquor Company gin in their hedgerow G & T and they kindly gave us a can to try after we told them we ran Cardiff Gin Club. They also offered to collaborate on a giveaway on our socials too, where we’ve just offered three lucky winners a case of the Longflint Hedgrow G & T cans.

We also managed to get chatting to some guy, whilst sipping almost neat Scapegrace gin by they’re truck about gin. It turns out, he’s the guy who owns and runs the Ginfoundry website, which we already followed on instagram. Their the guys who run the annual Junipalooza Gin festival at Tobacco Dock, that I missed this year due to being usher at my best mates wedding. I’ll be there next year, with two years of drinking to make up for.

I also noticed a bourbon bar too for those American BBQ lovers.

The Verdict

What can i say other than I had an absolute blast at my very first Meatopia. I get a bit pissed off when places charge you to go eat and drink, as you wouldn’t ever be charged to just rock up at a restaurant until you actually order.

I do realise that the cost of hiring the London venue must be quite extortionate, but to get nothing but a few samples of drinks, that the brands have no doubt paid an arm and a leg to be there and providing them free of charge for in excess of £30 is a bit of a piss take.

The traders are obviously paying a small fortune to trade there for the day too.

Apart from that, I loved every minute and would recommend it to anyone. One thing i was glad though, was going on the Sunday and not the Friday or Saturday. I’ve heard of the traders running out early on the Saturday and I can imagine it can be a bit over whelming with the crowds those days too.

Don’t get me wrong it was busy on the Sunday, but we didn’t wait longer than 10 minutes for a dish, which was perfect. We got to try most of what we wanted to. One place did run out and they were absolutely rammed all day. As a consolation though, they did offer us some buns that were leftover drenched in a rich, meaty gravy fair play to them.

I’m hoping to go back again next year and it will be the Sunday again for me.