Sosban and the old butchers review – Michelin Star Restaurant Anglesey

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

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

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

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

 

Inside the restaurant at Sosban and the old butchers Anglesey

 

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

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

The Food

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

rhubarb and custard dessert at sosban and the old butchers

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

Bottomless Brunch Review at Revolucion de Cuba Cardiff

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

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

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

bottomless brunch menu revs de cuba cardiff

Brunch food menu options:

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

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

heuvos rancheros at revs de cuba cardiff

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

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

brekkie burrito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch Cardiff

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

Drinks

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

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

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

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

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

mojito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch cardiff

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

Burger Slider Afternoon Tea Review at The Celtic Manor, Newport

It was only a few weeks ago we got invited to the launch of the new Mulberry Cocktail bar at the Celtic Manor but it was there I noticed the upcoming Afternoon Tea’s with a twist taking place across the Celtic Manor Resort.

Being a favourite of mine for Afternoon tea and having tried three of the past variations such as the Standard Resort Afternoon Tea, Willy Wonka Afternoon Tea with my sister at Christmas and the Easter chocolate one back last year I was more than keen to try something a bit more meaty. My luck was just in as they’ve just launched the Rib Smokehouse Slider Afternoon Tea at the Coldra Court branch of The Celtic Manor, which is a short drive up the road from the Resort so I jumped at offer to test out the meatilicious offerings on this Afternoon Tea.

The Coldra Court spent it’s previous life as a Hilton Hotel but was acquired by Celtic Manor less than two years ago and they’ve slowly been upscaling it since then with the addition of the restaurant and recently refurbished health, fitness and spa facilities. The Rib Smokehouse has been open for nearly a year now and is quite a striking site from within the hotel lobby with it’s amber lighting ,wood and rose gold styling cutting through the white décor of the lobby and hotel reception.

Rib Smokehouse review at Celtic Manor

The Slider Afternoon Tea

We couldn’t of picked a better day to attend the Slider Afternoon Tea as we attended the Business Growth Awards the night before, got in just before 2am and had the delightful responsibility of working a Saturday shift at 9am for a few hours so I was in dire need of something to bring me back to life. This was definitely what the doctor ordered.

The slider afternoon tea was comprised of savouries with a selection of 5 mini burger sliders of varying fillings and tiny skin on fries followed by mini sweets to finish. You also have the option of any teas or coffees to help wash down the mini meat banquet.

The slider fillings we got to tuck into were:

  • Butcher’s cut bacon and Welsh extra mature Cheddar cheese slider, with plum and apple chutney
  • Smoked pulled chicken and The Rib’s homemade coleslaw slider
  • Thai fishcake and prawn slider
  • Brecon venison burger with redcurrant mayonnaise
  • Smoked bone marrow beef burger with BBQ sauce and crispy onions

sliders at Celtic Manor afternoon tea

If you’re not feeling hungry I don’t think this one’s for you but I was ravenous and unashamedly destroyed each slider in quick succession. Size wise they were quite generous considering you have 5 to get through and even though I rolled my eyes at the site of the tiny fries to start with, there was a reason and I have eyes bigger than my belly the majority of the time.

My pulled chicken slider was properly stacked and required extra attention not to cover my face in sauce, but I’ve had plenty of practice and a bit of a pro by now. My favourite of the 5 though was the Thai fishcake and prawn slider, which was wonderfully fragrant, had a slight crisp on the outside but soft and tender in the middle. I would of happily of attempted an adult sized portion of this. We were offered a chance to have any sauces to go with the platter and I just opted for ketchup but I would have loved a smudge of sriracha mayo to give a little kick of spice to the slider.

thai fishcake slider at Coldra Court, Celtic Manor

I had to take a minute or two after meticulously licking each finger of any meaty residue and composed myself before planning my attack on the wooden drawer of sweets that sat in front of me.

First up was the vanilla milkshake to rid my taste buds of any remnants of savoury flavours and prepare my mouth for an onslaught of rich, sweet and sticky sweets.

  • Mini peanut butter doughnut
  • Pecan pie
  • Mini custard slice with raspberry gel
  • Mini vanilla milkshake

warm pecan pie with Slider afternoon tea at Celtic Manor

I’d never tried a pecan pie before so that was next up. It was still warm, with a crunchy base almost caramelised pecan topping with rich buttery filling. To be fare this was a pretty big portion of pie seeing as we had a few to get through. Not that ever having a large portion of dessert is a bad thing, the other half did struggle to finish her one off. I on the other hand powered on through like a trooper.

peanut butter doughnut at Rib Smokehouse, Coldra Court

I obviously didn’t read the menu properly and assumed the doughnuts were submerged in salted caramel but it was a peanut butter sauce. A bit like a salted caramel, peanut butter hybrid although less sweet than salted caramel. I liked every last bit from the Mason jar although I would of liked the sauce a bit sweeter and more on the salted caramel end of the scale but still with a peanut butter punch.

The price of the Slider Afternoon Tea is £24.99 and only available on Saturdays for the month of March although we spoke to the waitress who said they are trialling it out for a month and if it proves popular it may make it onto the Afternoon Tea options regularly at The Celtic Manor.

The Verdict

Although the exterior of the Coldra Court doesn’t quite live up to the grandeur of the Celtic Manor Resort Hotel, the Rib Smokehouse definitely wouldn’t of looked out of place within the main resort and had been completely transformed from it’s former self. I for one really liked the décor and styling of the restaurant and would definitely see myself trying out the evening or Sunday lunch menu.

Inside Rib Smokehouse Celtic Manor

The £24.99 price point might sounds steep to some but most hotels usually up their price of their standard afternoon tea on the weekend to around £22 and I for one grudge paying that for a cress sandwich or laser cut ham. It was nice to have some actual meat content for the savoury selection and liked the variety of 5 different flavours.

Desserts were all on point and think matched the flavour profile of the sliders and would be something you would pair with them on a standard smoke house restaurant menu. One thing I would point out though, I’m not sure if it was just because we were booked in for the last sitting and the kitchen was on shutdown soon but we had the dessert drawer / wooden contraption come out near enough straight after our sliders arrived and before we’d even started on them.

I’m lucky as I’m a quick eater so the pecan pie was still warm but some people take their time so it would have been cold and we were really struggling for space on the table having had a table for two, it was a struggle manoeuvring everything around to eat, have a drink and have a conversation with the other half with the big drawer in the middle of the table.

Not that it detracted from the actual quality of the food and we both really enjoyed it but as a bit of feedback I would bring the sweets out after dinners have finished the sliders so there’s a bit more room to play with on the table as I was scared to move anything from fear of hitting the desserts over. Again this might of just been that we picked the latest possible time due to me having work in the morning and they wanted the pie’s coming out warm.

I’d recommend the Slider afternoon to anyone as a nice alternative to a standard sandwich fest. I know a lot of my friends wouldn’t be too keen on paying £22+ for a plate of sandwiches but would feel like they’ve had a bit more money’s worth with the slider afternoon tea.

It’s was due on till the end of March but just heard on the grapevine that it’s being extended due to popular demand. The other afternoon tea, which is coming onto the menu in the near future too is the Asian Afternoon Tea that I’m dying to book up that’s available between 2nd June and 1st July.

I love that The Celtic Manor like to keep things changing and always have a variety of different afternoon tea’s available so take a look on the website and see if there’s anything that might tempt you.

Park Plaza Cardiff and Laguna Restaurant Review

Seeing as I’ve now tried most of the menu’s at Park Plaza’s Laguna Restaurant in Cardiff, I thought it’s about time I wrote a review to let people know what they are missing out on if they’ve never been.
The Laguna Restaurant sits on the ground floor of the Park Plaza Cardiff Hotel on Greyfriar’s Road, a short walk from Cardiff Castle. Split into three areas there’s the dimly lit rectangular bar with booths seating 4-6 people for some cocktails or a spot of lunch, with the option of sitting out on the terrace weather permitting of course. The terrace is surrounded by trees and securing a bit of privacy from the hustle and bustle of town and has a tranquil feel from the slow flowing passage of the dock feeder canal right next to the outdoor seating.

Gin, cocktails and wine

All the drinks come from the same bar wherever you happen to be sitting in the Laguna. There is an extensive cocktail menu and we were invited to sample some of the ever growing list of Gin’s on the menu back last year, each expertly paired with a Fever Tree Tonic Water and garnish to compliment.

There’s a decent list of wine to choose from starting at a very reasonable £18 with the bar staff happy to help you choose with a little sample of a few on your hit list.

The only thing I was a little disappointed in with the bar was the selection of craft beers which I think could be improved by maybe showcasing one tap for local breweries on rotation so people staying that aren’t from the area get to sample a good local beer such as Pipes, Crafty Devils or Tiny Rebel. Wolf Rock was on tap, which was ok but a bit lower in Abv than I would normally go for.

Afternoon Tea and Restaurant

Then you have the restaurant area adjacent to the bar, which if you visit before 3pm is usually packed out from guests sampling one of the many sumptuous afternoon teas on offer. One of which being my favourite ever, the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea.

Gentleman's afternoon tea at Park Plaza Cardiff

Being International Women’s day at the time of writing I wouldn’t declare it not for women quite as poignantly as that Yorkie chocolate bar marketing strategy year’s ago but it definitely appeals to the inner caveman in me with the meaty, carnivorous bites on the platter. From chorizo scotch egg with Bloody Mary mao, Yorkshire pudding with slithers of rare roast beef and horseradish cream and mini venison burger to name but a few. Priced at £19.95 or £22.95 on weekends
They’ve got the standard afternoon tea for the purists and one of the Gin lovers the Hendricks G & Tea Afternoon Tea, which includes a teapot pot of Hendricks Gin cocktail.

In the evening there’s a few different menu options to choose from at the restaurant such as Pre Theatre Menu seeing as it’s located next to the New Theatre, which is available 5.30pm to 7.00pm Monday to Friday and the A La Carte Menu with starters around £7 and mains averaging £17, which is pretty decent for a hotel restaurant in my opinion.

Sunday Lunch

My first experience of the lunch at the Laguna was the day after being impressed with my Gentleman’s afternoon tea, which made me wanting to go back down the day after to sample a full meal in the restaurant.

Priced at £19.95 for 3 courses I thought it was excellent value for money. With around 7 options for starters with a few British Favourites like soup, prawn cocktail and salmon along with my choice of Chicken liver parfait, onion marmalade and toasted brioche.

With an extensive choice of meats, fish dishes and a vegetarian options there is something for everyone on the mains, which is great as there’s always one fussy eater when going out in a group. I opted for the local loin of pork as the crackling caught my eye.

Sunday lunch at Laguna Restaurant Park Plaza in Cardiff

Not venturing out all that often for Sunday lunch due to the fact my grandmother would kill me this was an excellent replacement for Nanny Carole’s Sunday lunch. My fellow dinner went for the beef though, which was perfectly pink, succulent and tender with the richest gravy I’ve ever tasted and managed to top my pork option but both were very good Sunday lunches.

There were more puddings than you can shake a stick at from Crème Brulees, chocolate tortes, sticky toffee puddings and a delectable selection of ice creams and sorbets on the dessert menu to finish off.

Wine and nibbles

mixed starter platter at Park Plaza Cardiff

After a stressful day of shopping a few weeks back we decided to nip in to Park Plaza to quench our thirst with a glass of vino. Seeing a few other patrons having a nibble we decided to order a mixed starter to share too.

Heading into the other option in the hotel, the lounge. Just off from the hotel reception is room with sofas and high backed chairs facing a long line of fires. We perched up next to a fire, glass in hand and tucked into an array of salty, crunchy nibbles whilst being seductively entranced by the flames of the fire. If you’re ever in town and just want to take your mind off things, I can’t recommend a glass of Marlborough Sauv Blanc sat in front of a lit fire.

Lunch

Most recently we visited during the snow blitz on Wales last week when Cardiff came to a standstill and most other restaurants and bars closed to the public. Park Plaza were carrying on as normal so we thought what better option to take up a pew to thaw out next to the roaring fires with a glass of Red Wine and a 3 course lunch.

There were two menus to choose from, either the bar menu or the lunch menu. I was pleasantly surprised how cheap the bar menu was as I’d never had a look on previous visits with dishes around £8.
The lunch menu had a choice of A La Carte options or the 2 course express lunch for £12.95.

Goats cheese and mushroom bruschetta at Park Plaza Cardiff

I was feeling extra ravenous so I was worried how much the express lunch would fill me so opted for the A La Carte option with Goats cheese and mushroom bruschetta to start. Lightly grilled, the cheese became a gooey irresistible mess below the tender mushrooms and crusty bread. A light drizzle of balsamic gave a nice tang against the creaminess of the cheese.

Pork and mustard mash mains at Park Plaza Cardiff

I opted for pork again for mains this time pork belly, mustard mash, with meaty bacon nugget enriched gravy. The pork was tender, subtle mustard kick from the mash and married perfectly with the rich gloss of gravy.

cheese board at Park Plaza Cardiff by the fire

I went full boring and opted for a cheese board, but I had at least a glass of red left in the bottle so I thought it would pair well in front of the fire. A selection of around 5 cheeses of varying stengths, creaminess and ages, chutney and mix of crackers and grapes to tame the cheese. What more could you want.

The Verdict

I think my actions speak a million words and I’ve enjoyed every visit to Park Plaza Cardiff and The Laguna Restaurant and will continue to visit, whether it’s to give into my sweet and savoury lusting for afternoon tea, craving for meat sweats with the Gentleman’s afternoon tea or longing to curl up in front of the fire with a good wine, even better food and good company.

There’s plenty to choose from whether it’s a light nibble for lunch, treating the mother or grandmother to some cakes and fizz or celebrating a birthday or wedding at the restaurant and I would recommend it to anyone.

Smoking Goat Restaurant Review Shoreditch London

I’d stumbled on Smoking Goat the week before in London when coming out of Dishoom for an afternoon beer and didn’t have chance to see what they did there.As we were in the neighbourhood walking back from training and with no prior plans we thought we would pop in and see what they had cooking for supper.

This was around 8pm on a Tuesday evening, which if it was Cardiff that’s all you would see was tumbleweed. This however was London and Tuesday or not it was packed out. We asked for a table but were told it would be 45 minute wait.

We put our name down and wandered around the corner to see if we would have anymore luck at Dishoom but that was even worse with them qeueuing to get in outside. Beer o’clock it was then till our table was ready so we nipped across the road for a swift pint at Shoreditch Box park.

kitchen smoking goat bar shoreditch

Time was up and we headed back to the restaurant and were swiftly seated. The restaurant was shrouded in darkness illuminated by beacons of light from the hot coal fired stoves along with dimly lit lights dotted around the venue. Not having had a chance to ponder over the menu, I ordered a Scooner of Beavertown Neck Oil to quence my thirst whilst giving the menu a once over.

The Food

The menu is a take on Thai Street Food with a drinking food section for snacking on with a you’re favourite hopped beverage.

The list included:

  • Chicken heart skewer
  • Barbecue Tamworth skewer
  • Cornish Octopus skewer
  • Northern Thai beef sausage
  • Steamed Menai Oyster
  • Roasted Chilli
  • Northern Thai Beef Sausage
  • Cornish Cockles Naam Jim
  • Chilli Fish Sauce Wings
  • Cured Monkfish, Young Ginger
  • Northern Duck Laab

I would of gone all out on at least half the items on the above menu but I was out with work so I pretended to be normal for the outing so we only went for the Northern Thai Beef Sausage and the Northern Duck Laab.

Having visited Thailand a few years back on the way home from Oz I was stupid enough to travel without my jabs so I was gutted I couldn’t make the most of the street food found on the side of the road out there although I did try one thing and that was a garlic sausage.

Bloody hell was it intense! I can still taste the overpowering roundhouse kick of garlic now but this Thai sausage cut into bitesized slices was a bit less punchy on the garlic side but god damn delicious none the less. We ordered two for the table of 4 where I’d wished I’d had one for myself.

northern duck laab smoking goat bar shoreditch

The Northern Duck Laab came with a health warning when ordering. Well not so much a health warning but I was made aware that it was the hottest thing on the menu and not for the faint hearted. A few of the other group seemed keen to try as they said they liked spicy food so we took a punt. I’d never heard of a Laab before but seemed to consist of ground meat with what i could only describe as half and half with sliced chillies, it was ferocious!

On the first bite you have a hit of fragrant meaty nuggets, crunchy texture and quite nutty flavour. I couldn’t work out if it was ground rice or chilli seeds I was chewing on but it didn’t take long for the powerful heat to tear through from my shoulders and up the back of my head and then came the sweats and sniffles. It came with a side bowl of spiced vinegar from what I could gather, so I gave a little dousing over the rice to try and tame it as best I could.

Everyone else bowed out after a spoonfull or two so I took one for the team and went at it alone putting on a brave face. Don’t get me wrong the dish was tasty as hell but it didn’t half pack a punch on the spice-o-meter.

Up next was the mains and not been here before we thought we would order one main each and share a couple of bowls of rice. How wrong were we. The waitress laughed when we read out the 5 mains between 4 of us. Fair play to her though she could of just taken the order but she assured us that the portions were very generous, which saved us a couple of quid.

barbeque goat massaman smoking goat shoreditch london

We went for one of the Barbecue Goat Turmeric Massaman as a couple of the group had never tried goat and seeing that it was in the name of the restaurant how could you not. We opted for 2 portions of the smoked brisket drunken noodles and some bowls of jasmine rice and lardo fried rice.

I grabbed the goat dish as soon as it hit the table, which gave absolutely no resistance to my fork when pulling at it. The flesh was so tender. Sadly in a rush I forgot to spoon some of the curry sauce it was steeped in and by the time the others had finished sharing it out there wasn’t any left. The curry flavoured with fermented shrimp paste, lemongrass, tamarind and a kick from thai spices. The goat was soft and gently spiced and on the other end of the spectrum compared to the lab in terms of heat but was very welcomed. Even though it had been cooked low and slow judging by the texture but it could of been a tad warmer when it was served as it was a little cold by the time it reached us.

smoked brisket drunken noodles smoking goat shoreditch

As it was pretty dark in the restaurant I couldn’t quite see what I was spooning onto my plate when it came to the brisket drunken noodles. I’d bagged myself a decent portion it seemed but I don’t think I managed to  get a single shred of the beef but what I did have was spot on with lingering flavours of holy basil and wild ginger.

I struggled on with the plate of Duck laab into the mains so sprinkled the remnants on my lardo fried rice not to waste it. The lardo rice was a healthy portion of fried rice with chunks of house cured back and belly of Tamworth pig fat nestled amongst the the fragrant rice with side of hot nam prik chilli dip. This was packed full of flavour and liked the dip so you could season to taste. The left over laab added an extra kick of heat too.

empty plates at smoking goat bar shoreditch

The Verdict

I really enjoyed my first visit to Smoking Goat as I love a bit of Thai but it was unlike anything you would or what i’ve found in and around Cardiff with more of a street food late night Thai canteen vibe to it. I couldn’t get over how cheap it was not only for London considering I’d had a takeaway in Cardiff for two for more than we spent per person here and I was still hungry with that. The portion sizes are very generous and mains only around £13 and more than enough for one person. We shared 3 mains and that was plenty with some rice.

I’d definitely have a stab at a few more starters or the drinking food if i went again.

Would I go again? Too right! It was a welcome change to what I’d been eating at the time and everything was fragrant, tender and a good kick of heat if you like that. With a drink each a couple of starters, 3 mains and rice it came to just £20 each for 4 of us. I’d spend more than that on a takeaway for myself at my local Indian or Thai takeaway let alone dine in and eat.

Address: 64 Shoreditch High St, London, E1 6JJ

The Marram Grass Restaurant Review Anglesey

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

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

The outside of The Marram Grass Restaurant in Anglesey

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

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

Inside The Marram Grass Restaurant in Anglesey

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

The Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treacle bread at The Marram Grass

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

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

Pheasant starter at The Marram Grass

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

Soup at The Marram Grass

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

Pork main course at The Marram Grass

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

Lamb main at The Marram Grass

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

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

Yuzu panna cotta dessert at The Marram Grass

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

The Verdict

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

Bill at The Marram Grass

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

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

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

Hawksmoor sharing breakfast review – Guildhall London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Venue

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

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

Hawksmoor Guildhall London

The Food

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bloody Mary No. 47 at Hawksmoor Guildhall

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

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

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

sharing breakfast at Hawksmoor Guildhall

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

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

Lobster Benedict at Hawksmoor Guildhall

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

The Verdict

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

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

ChamCham West African Supper Club Feast at Mocka Cardiff

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

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

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

The Food

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

plantain and spicy beans at ChamCham supper club cardiff

 

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

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

oxtail soup at ChamChm supper Club Cardiff

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

granat chicken stew at ChamCham supper club

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

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

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

jerk lamb shank at ChamCham supper club Cardiff

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

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

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

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

coconut loaf cake at ChamCham supper club Cardiff

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

ginger beer and coconut sorbet

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

The Verdict

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

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

doggy bag at ChamCham supper club cardiff

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

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

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

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

Lunch at Finsbury Avenue London

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

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

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

pork bahn mi at hop vietnamese finsbury avenue square, london

Hop Vietnamese

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

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

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

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

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

Claw

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

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

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

submarine at sub cult Finsbury Avenue Square, london

Sub Cult

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

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

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

Other units

Yolk

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

Babba G’s

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

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

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

 

Duck and Waffle Restaurant Review – London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outside of the duck and waffle building

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

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

The Drinks

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Food

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

Day menu at Duck and Waffle

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

What we ordered

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

Ox cheek donut at Duck and Waffle London

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

Crispy pigs ear at Duck and Waffle London

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

bacon wrapped dates and crispy polenta Duck and Waffle London

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

keema naan at Duck and Waffle London

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

apple corn dog chipotle mayo at Duck and Waffle

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

The Verdict

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

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