Jols Restaurant Review Merthyr Tydfil

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

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

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

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

The Food

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

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

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

house made bread and brown butter Jols Merthyr

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

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

Welsh Rarebit starter Jols Merthyr

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

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

lamb main Jols Merthyr

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

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

duck and orange main Jols Merthyr

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

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

chocolate brownie ice cream dessert Jols Merthyr

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

Calabrisella Review Cardiff – Italian Restaurant Cardiff

After passing Calabrisella, which is based on the main high street in Canton a couple of times on the way to St Cannas and Pettigrew along with hearing the rave reviews all over the social web I was eager to try it for myself and so was Mwsh. Having fallen in love with Italian food from a trip to Rome earlier on in the year I was dying to see how it fared against the real Mccoy and the new wave of pizza eateries bombarding the Welsh Capitol of late.

We happened to have an impromptu visit whilst out on a sunny Sunday evening breaking our newly delivered cycle to work bikes in around the bay that saw us venture back into town and around Bute Park. Knowing they had a couple of tables out on the street outside the restaurant we thought we would make the most of the rare sight of sun in the sky and see what the fuss was about.

The Food

Neither of us were feeling that hungry but just an excuse to try Calabrisella so we went for the standard one pasta and one pizza to share between us. I’ve been on a mission to find the best Carbonara so this has become a staple choice and go to pasta dish for comparison when we do go to an Italian restaurant then we just choose whatever pizza we fancy there which happened to be the spicy option the Calabrese featuring Tomato, mozzarella cheese, black olives, chilli, pancetta and a first for me on a pizza baked potatoes. They also happened to have every San Pellagrino you could ever imagine in the fridge too, which had a huge thumbs up from me.

 

I was given the option of with or without cream in the Carbonara and for some reason said with without thinking, which I regretted at the time as I should of went as authentic to the real Roman recipe as possible and I never put cream in my famous interpretation either. Saying that the dish was very good when it came not that it would be any less with cream I just find sometimes it can be a bit over rich like the one I had at Cafe Citta recently. This wasn’t as loaded with cream so we managed to polish it off without struggling this time.

Calabrese Pizza Calabrisella Cardiff

The Calabrese Pizza though well and truely hit the spot. Thin, cripsy and not too overloaded yet not as tight as some pizza producers who basically give you a margaritta whatever topping you ask for as you will be hard pressed to find any toppings on them. This had just the right balance so that it didn’t all slide off when attempting to chomp on the slices. The right bit of heat with a bottle of chilli oil to hand if you wanted to up the ante a bit. The potatoes were absolutely devine as a topping and don’t know why I’ve never seen it before.

The Verdict

This has to be in my top 3 pizzas I’ve tasted and that includes the visit to Rome. A decent size pizza with ample toppings for sub £10 compared to the barely there and measly toppings I’ve had from street food vendors for not far off that price it goes top of the list of Pizzas in Cardiff to date but not qute beating number one spot from Ambers Wood Fired Kitchen with her goats cheese and proscuitto at The Eisteddfod last year in Abergavenny and 2nd spot being Pizza Sizza Caffetteria next to the Vatican in Rome with their mixed platter finger sized array of cheese beasts.

If you haven’t been to Calabrisella yet then get your ass there soon and if you have been there then you need no futher encouragement for a second trip.

Asador 44 Lunch Menu Review Cardiff

So after trying the eagerly awaited opening of Asador 44 for my birthday back in April for the evening menu and having our first taste of Old Cow, the revered Rubia Gallega aka Gallician Blond we have been meaning to come back to compare against the lunch time menu. Thankfully the lunchtime menu offer features Picanha steak and fries for just £10, which was a welcome relief as I don’t think I could ever justify an £80 steak for lunch.

It just so happened I’d booked two days off for Mwsh’s birthday so it seemed the perfect opportunity instead of going for our normal breakfast outing on a day off and we’d had a few the past few days having camped on Flat Holm Island then stayed the night at Holm house in the 2 days prior.

I told myself I was only going to order the £10 lunch deal on the menu but that was never going to happen really after seeing the standard menu peaking up behind the smaller lunch menu offerings.

The Food

There were four options for the £10 lunch menu

  • Charcoal squash, chard, beetroot, goats curd, hazelnut
  • 40 day dry aged welsh rump cap, asador fries, salad
  • Mackerel, endive, charcoal mayonnaise, capers, asador fries
  • Charcoal market fish of the day

They also do the following childrens menu for lunch:

  • Welsh beef picanha steak, asador fries
  • Market fish goujons, asador fries

I did fancy the fish option but had seabass the day before for lunch at Holm House so it was steak option for me cooked medium rare.

charred bread and jammon butter Asador 44 Cardiff

As I wasn’t sure what the portion size was going to be like for the price I thought I’d throw in some house made chared breads with the jamon butter and oil to nibble as we waited. I loved it last time with the little meaty nuggets of cured ham mixed into soft butter allowing you to actually spread or dip into the bread without masacring the doughy chunks unlike some restaurants who think it’s acceptable to store their butter in what seems to be liquid nitrogen sometimes. Sorry just a pet hate of mine frozen butter, just why!

 

Not one to pass off scallops on a menu they offered them by the portion baked with breadcrumbs and samphire so I just went for the one to turn my steak dish into a surf and turf. Thinking it might be an idea to eat my first vegetable in four days I went for a side of spiced charcoal cauliflower too and pot of the Romesco sauce as I can’t eat my fries without something to dip them in and I daren’t ask for ketchup at this joint i think i’d be barred for life.

I was suitably impressed with the portion size when the mains did come out I have to be honest and not just the steak but the portion of fries too. This was one thing I mentioned in my review of the evening menu where we had one portion of fries between us with a massive steak but the bowl of perfectly cooked, crispy skin on fries was probably bigger than the sharing one we had previously.

medium rare steak picanha lunch Asador 44 Cardiff

We both ordered our steaks medium rare with Mwsh snatching the first plate that came out that was a perfect medium rare whereas mine bordered more along the medium end of the scale although this wasn’t too much of an issue as it was perfectly pink and succulent. I love the charred, bbq effect the Parilla grill has on the steak crisping it up yet locking and sealing in all the juice and flavour.

The romesco sauce was ok to dip the skin on fries in but as we asked the waiter what was in it and the word chilli was in there I was hoping for something a bit spicier. It was an ok dip but we tried the peppercorn and the rijoca and bone marrow last time and it didn’t quite live up to those tasty numbers.

charcoal spiced cauliflower Asador 44 Cardiff

The spiced charcoal cauliflower was a good sized portion with a whole head of purple cauliflower slightly chared in the centre atop a creamy mayo like sauce. I’d only ever seen a purple cauliflower the day before in a fruit and veg shop in Penarth and was going to buy one for my nan for a Sunday roast or cauliflower cheese on the way back to the car but the heavens opened and had to make a run for it shortly afterwards.

The dish here was fine, I like anything with a bit of char on it from a grill and the sauce gave an extra hit of flavour but I couldn’t work out where the spiced bit of the dish came in as that wasn’t coming through for me so it could of done with a bit more of the spice they added for my liking.

baked scallops and samphire Asador 44 Cardiff

Last but not least the scallop came baked in it’s shell with a breadcrumb topping. It said baked with sampire although I only had one little sprig on my shell. The star of the dish though was the scallop though so I wasn’t too worried about a bit of greenery on the side. Soft and tender with added texture from the breadcrumb it did exactly what I was expecting. I only opted for the one so you can control the portion size depending on how hungry or how big your wallet is.

The Verdict

All in all I was very impressed, in fact I’d go as far as saying I enjoyed this visit more than the first as it was a more casual affair and the price was excellent value for money. We paid £45, which included £5 each for a glass of wine with the lunch, which wasn’t too far off 1/4 of the price we paid in the evening. Ok you don’t get the Gallician Blond here but the Picanha and fries on the evening menu comes in at £22 but was a steal at £10 for lunch.

I’d like to try one of the fish and chips options on my next visit for lunch but I’d highly recommend the steak on the lunch menu for the price. Ok you have to buy a drink but the £10 for steak and chips is probably the best lunch deal in town considering the quality of the beef being used and not some laser cut piece of gristle you might get from other restaurants for around the £10 mark.

Zuma Restaurant Review Rome

So it was our final night in Rome and it was only by chance we found this place because it was recommended to us by a guy in Bocci when I was buying a shirt on the way past after our cocktails in the Stravinskij Bar.

Instead of heading back to the Vatican for our bus back to the hotel we realised it was more or less the same distance in a straight line to the hotel so we thought we would scout out somewhere for another cocktail and maybe some nibbles. I got distracted by Boggi as I had a gander around the store at the Venice train station and we asked for a recomendation for some cocktails nearby and the guy said they do good cocktails and sushi at Zuma at the Fendi store.

Just a short walk up the street and just on a street to the right of the Spanish steps was the Fendi store with the Zuma restaurant taking up the the rooftop terrace with a bar and Japanese restaurant underneath.

It took us a while looking for the entrance to the restaurant / bar inside the store but we managed to find it taking the lift to the top floor. We were met by a concierge at the top who kindly showed us to a table for two on the rooftop terrace. It was around 7pm so still quite early so wasn’t too busy up there and we were hoping for a sofa with better views of the surrounding City horizon but unfortunately they were reserved for groups of 4 or more.

After spending 22 euors per cocktail in Stravinskij Bar i was quite relieved to see the damange of around 12 euros a pop here.

I decided to follow on with another Martini but a more fruity one this time although it wasn’t quite as potent as my previous offering at Stravinskij. Armed with the menu we had a browse through the snack menu when all of a sudden I had the insatiable urge to order one of everything off the menu. We had a quick chat to the waiter who informed us that the resaurant downstairs offered a larger selection of food than the terrace so we decided to book a table ASAP downstairs.

The Restaurant

A short descent one floor in the lift and again we were kindly welcomed by the concierge at the front desk who escorted us to a vacant table, passing the open kitchen with smouldering hot coals kissing juicy chunks of meat sending whafts of smokey bbq scents across the room and a big massive smile on my face.

The decor with dark frames with ambient lighting behind fusuma portraying a traditional japanese building inside.

The Food

The good thing about the Zuma restaurant in Rome is that they have not only 1 restaurant but 3 restaurant menu’s but with the choice of ordering something from each to give you a different take on japanese food on your journey through the evening.

The waitress was ever so helpfull in explaining the menu and giving recomendations on what to order and quantities to suit.

So were weren’t sat in hunger we decided to opt for the spicy tuna sushi as we pondered over the menu, which was like a Japanese tapas / sharing type of afair. This suited us as we could have a little nibble, a bit of wine and order a bit more if we were still peckish rather than have one giant plate, eat the lot, feel bloated, unable to finish the wine and leave feeling sick.

Spicy tuna sushi roll Zuma Rome

Sold to us as spicy, the parcels of rice, with tuna chunks had a smudge of semi spicy mayo esque sauce on top with the standard pickled ginger, wasabi and soy. I don’t mind a little bit of sushi but I’ve been scared after a bout of food poisoning after grabbing a Spicy Tuna wrap at Yo Sushi in Paddington before boarding the train back to Cardiff a few years back.

We wolfed the sushi down, which was good don’t get me wrong but I just feel like i’m eating sushi as it’s healthy and not because i’m actually enjoying it if I’ve got a massive slab of sashimi in my mouth but luckily there were only little slithers of tuna. It was spicyish but not overly spicy for my taste.

coal fired chicken skewers Zuma Rome

Next up were the coal fired chicken skewers. The plate arrived with two skewers with dainty pieces of seasoned chicken wings attached and some fresh lime. This was probably the least exciting plate albeit one of the cheapest. Chicken was edible but it wasn’t in the same league as any of the other plates and there wasn’t much meat after you disect it from the skewers and bones.

chilli squid - prawn and black cod gyoza at Zuma Rome

Still on the bite sized and snack menu, we ordered the prawn and black cod gyoza and a bowl of chilli squid as standard.

Tender rings of squid with a nice crisp and spicy texture to the dish, these were up there with some of the best calamari I’ve tried and boy I’ve tried a few. The gyoza were just devine. A nice caramelisation on the base but silky smooth parcels filled with suculent and juicy nuggets of seafood. I could of eaten two plates to myself.

I think I would of died and gone to heaven if i’d had my way and ordered the Wagyu Tomahawk Steak although it would of cost me more than the 3 day trip to Italy altogether so I opted for the spicy beef tenderloin as a compromise.

Spicy beef tenderloin Zuma Rome

They don’t mess around here and don’t have you waiting long at all for each course. The beef arived already diced into manageble chunks. The meat was so tender, doused in soy, sesame and flecks of chilli. I don’t know how they managed to get beef this soft and melt in the mouth cooked over hot coals but i’m guessing they must of braised it or tenderised it in some kind of soy based marinade first. After my first chunk I immediately remembered buying some beef braising sauce from a Japanse deli a few months back my mind went wandering off thinking of how i could re-create the dish when I got back. This was easily the best plate of steak I’d ever tasted.

soy glazed bbq sweet potato Zuma Rome

After ordering a couple of meat dishes we thought we’d get some vegetables down us too, so we ordered the sweet potato dish. Also fired up over the hot coal they came slightly chared, yet soft in the middle with a delicious, salty soy glaze. These will definitely be making an appearance come BBQ season back home too.

We had probably had more than enough to feed a family of 4 by this point but the waitress finally twisted our arm and we opted for the lamb chops to finish off the main feast as she said it was her favourite on the menu.

lamb cutlets Zuma Rome

Flame licked, crispy lamb fat cooked perfectly pink in the middle. I don’t know how it took me 6 dishes to convince me I needed this lamb in my life but I’m glad I came around to the idea as lamb is one of my fav’s especially gnawing every last crispy morsel off the bone at the end. My innner caveman making an appearance.

Any other waitress would of looked at us in disgust at the amount we had just ate but ours was so lovely and on point with the food and drinks from start to finish. Well we were in Rome so I planned on eating like an Emperor before the curtain closed on our blink and it’s almost over trek across Italy. Dessert it was!

chocolate and Nikka Japanese Whisky dessert Zuma Rome

I was tempted to have a Japanese Whisky on the side with my food but the white wine was flowing ever so well so I decided to opt for some of it in my dessert instead. One hell of a concoction filled my dessert bowl with chocolate parfait, tonka bean marshmallow, Nikka Japanese Whisky jelly and chocolate shards. I’m sure there must of been another 10 ingredients working their magic in there but I couldn’t pick them out.

This was decadent but the whisky jelly wasn’t as potent as I’d hoped and the whisky didn’t come through that well but it was a very good dessert.

banana green tea and peanut caramel dessert Zuma Rome

As we were doing a sharsies one dessert just wasn’t enough so also on the table to share was a banana and green tea cake, coconut ice cream and peanut toffee. This surely was the finishing dish to top off an amazing first experience at Zuma in Rome.

Soft sponge, sweet sticky and nutty caramel puddles complimented beautifully with the coconut ice cream and smashed peanuts. Again I wept a little at the thought of having to hand over half of it although that was probably wise considering the 20 million calories i’d just consumed in such as small space of time.

The Verdict

This was probably the most expensive meal I’ve ever had out but I’d also say it was probably the best dinning experience I’ve ever had to date. We did have a feast fit for an Emperor and the service was first class. The waitress was so attentive filling the wine, checking we were ok, giving recommendations, the speed they delivered each plate was insane. The flames must of just licked the meat with never more than a few minutes from ordering to tucking into each plate but what came was absolutely spot on flavourwise and quality.

We just ordered more of a grazing, tapas style meal but they cater for those looking for premium cuts and quality with the Wagyu tomahawk, lobster etc. I can only imagine how amazing the lobster would of tasted and that will be top of my list if I ever come back again.

I’d go back in a flash and would recommend anyone visiting the Zuma in Rome or any of the other sites around the world if this one was anything to go by.

Price cost around 170 euros but that included two cocktails, bottle of wine, 7 dishes and 2 desserts.

New summer menu launch at Chapel 1877

I was kindly asked to attend the new summer menu launch at Chapel 1877 this week on Churchil Way in Cardiff.

I’d been twice previously for food but on both occassions for the Christmas dinner menu with work two years in a row but I’d not actually dinned from the main menu. I do remember making quite a dent in the cocktail menu on both occasions mind and they were pretty good from what i can remember.

The restaurant is located in yes you guessed it a beautifully restored aunate Chapel with perfect attention to detail everywhere. I love the fact that the upstairs toilets both male and female toilets are located in old confession booths, so there are touches of character all over the place.

I didn’t realise till I attended Tuesday night either that you can get married and hire out the whole venue for weddings, with the ceremony taking place on a raised platform on the 1st floor, with guests taking view from seated areas surrounding the platform. They’ve also got, which was news to me too an underground room available for events and parties too although I didn’t get chance to see it but I had images of tales form the Crypt scenes and would make an awesome halloween party.

Tequila cocktail Chapel Cardiff

We got a welcome drink on arrival, some tequila concoction with lemoncello to wet the whistle and was the first time in a while i’d had a tequila on a Tuesday.

The Food

The aim of the new menu was to be fresh, seasonal but light yet filling enough that you could take outside and nibble on in the terrace in the sun with a lusicous cold glass of bubbles.

We had a condensed version to choose a course from each with 3 options for each course but from what I could see they looked like the stars of the show anyway.

I’ve fancied ceviche for ages and very rarely see it on a menu in Cardiff and it reminded me of my one and only occasion I’ve tried it in Miami and it was so fresh, fragrant and zingy with the citrus cured seafood I could of eated mountains of it. However the ceviche option on the menu this time was my arch nemesis Salmon one of only two food stuffs banned from my diet as I’ve tried and failed many times to condition myself to eat. Never the less if you like salmon, which the majority of the rest of the population do then I’d definitely recommend that one.

scallops and grapefruit starter Chapel Cardiff

Top of my list then had to be the scallops. served with grapefruit and fennel this was a welcome change to the standard pancetta, black pudding or proscuitto it gets served with 95% of the time at other restaurants. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work when I first saw the grapefruit but after a good year pairing my Portabello Road Gin with grapefruit twist I think I’ve built up a taste for it and it worked beautifully with the scallops. The fennel was subtle and not overpowering the delicate white meaty morcels and they even had those very chefy caviar balls i’ve seen both perfected and masacred on Masterchef recently.

Welsh lamb main Chapel Cardiff

Mains was a toughie to decide on with the pork dish coming with my fav potato gratin, crispy proscuitto and I’m a succer for a crispy sea bass and salty bed of samphire. In the end I settled for Welsh Lamb with crispy polenta and tapennade. The lamb was cooked to perfection with juicy pink flesh glistening and inviting me in with the sticky and rich sauce working in perfect harmony. I loved the crispy polenta, which added lovely texture to the dish and warm tomatoes and greens adding a good balance to the meaty dish.

I’d have to admit that usually I would of been wishing for a mountain of carbs and potatoes to fill me till i felt like exploding but I think that’s were I’ve been going wrong all these years as I just need to lie down after eating usually but I had just the right amount on my plate. I think it was nice not to have the plate not overcrowded and for those who want to fill up on extra stodge and carbs could easily order a side portion of potatoes, gratin or fries but more me I was just right. Plus I had to leave room for dessert obviously.

Sadly for me and this is nothing i can put blame on The Chapel for but the only two food items I don’t like crept into the menu with salmon on the starter and banana ice cream paired with what is usually one of my favs chocolate and salted caramel. I know i’m a rare bread and everyone else I know likes both of these so I can see both plates being popular with others.
The lemon posset sounded like a strong contender too but I’ve a new found love of creme brulee after being late to the show from only trying it a few weeks back from Wild Fig with their sticky toffee pudding offering at Roath Yard / Streetfood Circus.

Cherry Bakewell Creme Brulee Chapel Cardiff

Here at The Chapel, they went for a bastardised version of the creme brulee by morphing two dessert favourites into one with the cherry bakewell creme brulee with lemon shortbread biscuit to dunk. Crispy shards of hardened, molten sugar crust with silky custardy centre and cherry bombs hidden away within the mix too. It was a strong dessert and with only my 2nd experience of creme brulee I was still suitable impressed. What would of been the cherry on top so to speak for me would of been some boozy Luxardo Marachino Cherries they drop in the bottom of a gin aviation cocktail instead of standard cherries but then that would probably add a few extra quid on top of the price but the dish was good as is, but here’s to dreaming.

The Verdict

The new menu launched on Wednesday 5th July for those interested in sampling what’s on the menu and I saw on my Twitter feed yesterday they are even doing a lunch menu for £5 and i think it was just £2.50 to add a pint or glass of house wine too. I could really fault anything on my plate to be fair and ejoyed my two other visits for the Christmas Dinner menu.

They do a 7 course taster menu that i’ve seen show up on Travelzoo now and then, which I might snap up the next time I see if floating about if this experience is anything to go by.

Details

Address: Churchill Way, Cardiff, CF10 2WF
Tel: 029 2022 2020
Website: www.chapel1877.com

Turtle Bay Restaurant Review Cardiff

Being a lover of independant’s it’s very rare I go to a chain restaurant these days let alone make a repeat visit within 6 months.

The restaurant in question is Turtle Bay, a Carribean themed restaurant located on St Mary Street next door to Kongs. If spice isn’t your thing you might want to skip this place as there are plenty of chilli’s of all varieties especially in the revered Carribean staple Jerk seasoning that pops up on many of the mains and sides with bottles to hand to smother some more onto the plate if you’ve not got enough heat to content with.

Turtle Bay is also a popular retreat for wetting the whistle as they are known for their cocktail happy hours offering 2 for 1 from open till 7pm then 10pm till close.

The Drinks

I’ve popped in for a cocktail a few times of late to take advantage of the 2 for 1 drinks offer. As i’ve got older and after being a recent gin convert I find most cocktails very sweet and remind me of 18-30 holiday in Magaluf compared to the subtle neutral flavours of gin.

There’s a good selection of cocktails in the offer to be had but you do need to choose two of the same. My first choice happened to be a Carribean take on the classic long island iced tea.

Not a bad choice as the cola substitutes the overly sweet mixers of most cocktails and had a decent kick to it compared to some other bars offering 2 for 1. I usually find the 2 for 1 cocktails at most places just means you get the same amount of alcohol just divided into two glasses so really you’re just getting more mixer. So instead of having a double shot in one for say £7 you get two cocktails for £7 but you get a single in each topped up with sickly pre packaged mixers.

After chatting to the barman and telling him we popped over to see what the place was about after being served watered down 2 for 1 cocktails nearby earlier in the evening.

Secret Cocktail Menu

I was glad to hear that they had a secret cocktail list not on the main menu and this happened to include gin martinis.

You get a choice of vodka or gin Martini and also get to choose Tanquery I think it was or Sipsmith, which of course I opted for the more superior Sipsmith option. Unfortunately they didn’t have any olives or lemon rind to hand to make a dirty martini or just a bit of citrus touch as I would normally use. They did have lime but I don’t like lime in my Gin and I couldn’t complain for that price.

Gin Martini at Turtle Bay Cardiff

The measures were spot on with the Martini too with a double helping of Sipsmith Gin, shot of Noily Prat Vermouth. So for around £7 you get two double decent quality gin watered down with fortified wine, what’s not to like but it’s not for the faint hearted. I let a few of my mates sample a sip and all but one winced in horrified fashion to the strength of the drink. I think they just need more practice.

The Food

As we’ve dined her twice i’ll mention the plates ordered on both occasions.

Starters and nibbles

First choice whenever we eat out is calamari or squid in whatever form they specialise in if it’s on the menu. Here they offered crispy chilli squid, which was right up both our street as we both love a bit of heat with the squid.

crispy chilli squid at Turtle Bay Cardiff

Served as described, spicy and crispy in it’s panko breadcrumb crust with a cooling citrus blast from the mango, lime and corriander mayo.

Second visit we fancied a few different bits from the starter menu so opted for the Just Jerked sharing platter . This included pit jerked chicken wings, glazed pork ribs, jerked beef riblets, sweetcorn fritters, spiced popcorn, salad and something i’d been craving since passing a random Carribean hut on the way back from Cardiff Bay Wetlands reserve the weekend before a Jamaican beef patty.

Jerk sharing platter at Turtle Bay Cardiff

This is basically like a Jamaican version of Wahaca in my eyes with each course oozing with flavour with a good punch of heat and spice from every bite, just how I like. I couldn’t fault any of the platter, you can’t go wrong with spicy sticky wings, the meat just fell off the pork ribs with a rich, spicy glaze on the beef ribs. The popcorn didn’t really do much for me mind and was just there to fill the try a bit I think.

Mains

First visit we ordered the pork ribs with sweet potato fries. Decent sized tender ribs with a slight spice, topped with chutney paired with something i’ve failed to ever create at home a really nice crispy sweet potato fry topped with cheese and spicy jerk sauce.

Jerk ribs with sweet potato fries at Turtle Bay Cardiff

We both loved the goat curry so much we opted to have another plate on the second visit. Slowly braised and very tender morsels of goat in a thick, spicy curry served with coconut rice and peas, chutney and a portion of dumplings. The rice made a lovely change with it’s subtle fragrance compared to somewhat bland offering of plain white rice at some restaurants.

 

Fancying a one pot wonder too my eyes hovered over the Bajan beef cheeks. The menu read “Six hour slowly simmered beef cheeks marinated in Caribbean spice, okra, potato, garlic, ginger, star anise, cinnamon, coriander & toasted coconut.” I mean come on, how could you turn your nose up to that?

Again I’ve not had a piece of meat that wasn’t tender and disintegrating on contact with my tongue at Turtle Bay yet and this was still the case here. A good bit of heat yet nothing too crazy warmed my sinuses with a little trickle of a runny nose is always a good sign in my eyes. The plate also came with steamed rice and roti flatbread to aid my favourite past time…making a sandwich out of absolutely anything on my plate.

 

Verdict

I would definitely recommend Turtle Bay for food and a cocktail if you’re going for the Gin Martini on the secret cocktail menu although it’s a shame they don’t have any olives or lemon to garnish it.

All the food i’ve tried so far was packed full of flavour and just the right amount of spice for me anyway. The vibe is very relaxed and always see big groups of people for what must be birthday’s and work outings in town. The bartenders are all very friendly and happy to help you pick a drink or food item. I don’t actually think i’ve ever seen bartenders so happy behind the bar anywhere like there saying that.

Starters are around £5 and mains from about £10 coupled with some 2 for 1 cocktails it’s a recipe for a good night with friends, family or work colleagues for an informal shindig.

I’m ashamed to say i’ve been there for food twice and still not tried the dessert so sadly I can’t comment but I might just have a side of dessert with my next cocktail visit to see if i’ve been missing out.

Curado Bar Tapas and Pintxos Restaurant Review in Cardiff

Popular Narberth and Aberystwyth Deli Ultracomedia’s Cardiff venue launched late last year after taking over the old Burger King building on the corner of Westgate Street and breaking from tradition they’ve rebranded the restaurant and deli Curado. Don’t worry they’ve had a refurb with exposed brick in white, new bar with seating around it and a deli set up in the corner to buy all the ingredients on the menu at the tapas and pintxos style restaurant.

I’d popped in to sample some of the plates during the Christmas holiday’s and then a few days later after being suitably impressed for a low key NYE nibble and beer sampling before midnight.

I’ve called in for the glass of vino and beer since then but not taken another stab at finishing off where I had left off on the food menu until yesterday so I thought I’d grace the visit with a blog post and review seeing that it’s my 3rd visit. I was also spurned on by the offer of two De La Cocina plates for £6.95 with Wriggle and seeing that it was two of us we got 4 for £13.90 up to the value of £26.

The Drinks

There are 3 beers on tap at Curado. They have their own brew, sea water based El Baroque and sherry barrel aged Torro that come in a choice of 3 glass sizes along with a selection of Spanish beers in bottle too. I’ve tried all three in previous visits and taken a bottle of Torro home to enjoy at my own leisure. All three were more than palatable but I’d not sampled any of the bottled options on the menu.

Curado have an extensive list of wines by the region although I found the menu somewhat confusing as they are categorised by region and not by wine type so you get white, red and rose all mixed up within each wine region. The person serving behind the bar has always been more than helpful choosing a good wine though and offering samples of each to find the perfect match to your preference.

Spanish Gin at Curado Cardiff

On to the Gin’s. Last but not least and seeing that a lot of the produce is imported from the Galician region of Spain I was delighted to see they stock mine and Mwsh’s favourite gin, the white grape based Nordes, which takes centre stage on the wine shelf at home.

There’s no Gordon’s here thank God and there are a few other Spanish Gin’s I’d not laid eyes on previously. The manager kindly gave us a small sample of some of the other Gin’s in the collection after frequenting the venue regularly since opening.

The Food

The food menu at Curado is split out into different sections. You have the bit’s to pick at, tinned stuff, from the deli, from the kitchen then pintxos with either meat, fish or veggies. Oh and a nice little selection of desserts.

Para Picar / bits to pick at

What i’d call beer snacks on the Para Picar section translated at bits to pick at. This featured olives, bread and oils, salami sticks and Iberian pork scratchings.

 

From this I tried a generous portion pork scratchings priced at £4 on a previous visit and as the menu suggests they pair very well with a Torro beer.

We’ve had the Spanish bread with oil and garlic mayonnaise 3 times now because who doesn’t love bread, olive oil and vinegar with an added bonus of the mother of all garlic mayonnaise to dunk in. I’m sure the two previous occasions it came warm and freshly baked in a small loaf but Sunday it came cold and was disected from a large circular loaf I noticed behind the counter when I came into the restaurant. Still good but nothing beats a freshly baked bread.

From the deli

From this section I’ve tried the octopus in onion, peppers and vinegar. A bit like a seafood salsa, this was enjoyable but with strong pungeunt flavours from the onion and tartness of the vinegar against the somewhat mild flavoured octopus, it was hard to make the favour of the octopus from the rest of the dish. Also from the deli I’ve tried the White Pig. Shavings of Iberico pork arranged in army formation on my plate. Teamed with the pork scratchings they give a double hit of porky fatty lusciousness.

From the kitchen

My favourite part of the menu and where I’ve been working my way through on my 3 visits to the Cardiff tapas bar.

Most of the rest of the menu is pre-prepared, sliced or emptied from a tin cold but the kitchen is where it’s at with it being freshly cooked to order.

Tatas bravas always sound more appealing that what you are presented with whenever I order them. Perhapds it’s just my expectations of little crispy potato nuggets like nanny Carole’s charred and crunchy roast potatos she piles high on my Sunday Roast but what I always get is small unseasoned, anaemic chunks of potato.

These were cooked a little better but I’ve never had a really good, crispy, fatty potato in my tatas bravas. Maybe the potato should be boiled a bit and fluffed up before frying but I’m still on the quest for the perfect tatas bravas. The alioli does try to make amends with strong garlic punch in the face.

Onto mine and Mwsh’s favourite dish the Champinones al ajillo or the garlic mushrooms in cream and sherry on toast for those not conversant in Spanish (like myself). These are unlike any garlic mushrooms you’ve ever tried, trust me i’ve had a few. The addition of sherry to the mix turns your average garlic muckroom on steroids. You might want to order an extra loaf of bread just clean the plate of any remnants of the creamy sauce.

Next up are the Gambas al ajillo / 4 Atlantic red prawns cooked in garlic butter. Priced at £6 in my eyes these were no less juicy or smaller that the £16 one I’d ordered in Asador a month earlier and you get 4 of the buggers for £10 less.

octopus potato and paprika at Curado Cardiff

The sliced octopus on warm potatoes with oil and paprika was probably both our least favourite dish we’ve ordered there. It was all just a little too bland for our liking, apart from a sprinkle of paprika on the potatoes there was no seasoning whatsoever so we had to douse them in salt and pepper but even then there wasn’t much to write home about with the octopus, which again seemed very bland in comparison to some of the other dishes we’ve sampled there.

If there’s ever squid or calamari on a menu we can’t not order a portion to nibble on wherever we are and we did try the chipirones NYE, which I found to be fine but Mwsh thought they were overly salty and a bit chewy so we skipped them this time on Sunday.

We’d tried the adobo marinated school shark deep fried with lemon previously and opted for them again Sunday as I enjoyed them back in December. They delivered again on Sunday, slightly spiced and fried yet tender and flakey meat doused in lemon juice they married well with the vino blanco we were sipping. It didn’t come with it but we had some garlic mayo left from the bread and this went perfectly with the white fish so you might want to try asking for a portion with yours or they should consider adding a pot with the dish as it was a lovely addition.

We didn’t opt for it Sunday but I did try the garlic and thyme marinated iberico pork, pan fried with lemon and allioli and basque peppers previously. A nice meaty dish after trying mostly fish dishes and very generous on the portions compared to the portion sizes of some other local tapas bars.

Although we never ordered it and it’s something for the next visit but someone sitting behind us had the strong goey ewe’s cheese baked in a pot fondue style and served like camembert with crusty bread and jamon butter and it looked devine. At £17 I thought it was a little steep compared to the reasonable pricing on the other dishes although it did look twice the size of a serving of camembert but the amount of bread it came with could of been a bit more generous. Brings me back to my constant frustration of having a council brick slab of pate and one triangle of bread to spread onto. This was confirmed when the dinners had to order an additional portion of bread to mop up the cheesy bowl of heaven.

I didn’t realise they also did Chuleton or dray aged 4 year old Galician beef a la Asador although Asador’s is 8 year old and dry aged for at least 40 days as oposed to 21 days here at Curado. The price did reflect this though coming in at £55 per kilo compared to Asador priced at £85 but I’m not sure how the breed compares as Asador use Galician Blond.

Pintxos

Most people have probably heard of tapas but I’d only heard of Pintxos as I build a website a few years back for a spanish chef who caters for paella and pintxos at food festivals. Pintxos is basically little bit sized pieces of food speared through a piece of bread. This could be peppers, olives, cheese, fish or cured meat.

pintxos at Curado Cardiff

Priced between £2 or £3 per piece, hese are handy if you just fancy a light snack and not a full on assault on the belly with a spanish feast. We tried the air dried beef and the anchiovy, boqueron and piquillo pepper with salsa verde pinxtos on a previous visit, which we both enjoyed but we had ordered enough bread and stodge this time already so we skipped this section.

Desserts

If you asked me to name a traditional Spanish dessert I’d probably be there for a few days thinking to be honest but what I’ve sampled at Curado so far have all been on point.

ice cream and sherry dessert at Curado Cardiff

 

A Spanish take on the Afogato with vanilla ice cream drowned in alcohol namely sherry in this instance but without the hit of coffee. Sweet sherry paired with creamy vanilla ice cream, so simple yet it does the job perfectly.

We had the good fortune of tasting the Gacilian baked cheesecake last time we were there and we were hooked. Never tried crack myself but i’m guessing it’s similar to my constant urge to drag myself into Curado every day i pass from work for my next fix of the mystifyingly addictive curdled like cream laden stodge. The first bite is very odd i’ll admit but stick with it kid because it will soon have you stabbing your fork in for another mouthfull.

Just because I always love the thought of churros until I see the plastic like chocolate gunk some food festival stalls attempt to pass off as chocolate sauce to dunk the cinnamon and sugar crusted dough sticks in I thought I’d take a punt this time seeing that they know a thing or two about them in Spain.

The churros came bundled into a mug, 3 ribbons of crispy doughnut caked in sugar. I like my sweet stuff but I had to give them a few bashes against the plate to get a lot of the sugar off as I would of turned diabetic after finishing them.

They were served with a little glass filled with faintly sweetened real chocolate sauce. This was a welcome decision seeing that the churros covered in so much sugar and didn’t really need anymore sweetness.

As I’d shared half the baked cheesecake with Mwsh, sadly I had to share my plate of churros and chocolate as I would of easily wolfed the lot down myself.

The Verdict

I’d highly recommend Curado as it’s my interpretation of the most authentic tapas bar in Cardiff and surrounding South Wales. Unpretentious, the menu serves exactly what I’d expect in a rural tapas / pintxos cafe in Spain. The prices are very reasonable for food there and you won’t go home feeling hungry even with even a small few plates between you.

If it’s your first visit I’d try and pick one or two dishes for each section just to have a true tapas experience but remember, you just must order the garlic mushrooms it’s the rules!

Prices are reasonable anyway but they do have some regular deals on Wriggle at lunchtime midweek for Cardiff workers like the one advertised on Tuesday 16th May with any 3 basque Pintxos for £4.95 instead of £9 or the one we took advantage of yesterday any two De La Cocina dishes up to £13 for just £6.95.

Find out more about Wriggle Cardiff discounts and also get money off your first order with the discount code AUHPSS when you add it to your account under refer a friend > Redeem Code.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms Review – Cardiff Castle

Pettigrew Bakery at Riverside Market

I’m a big fan of Pettigrew from first discovering them at Riverside Market on a Sunday with their arsenal of savoury and sugary goodies, tempting passing market visitors with generous helpings of tasters to hand. I think it’s fair to say i’ve gone through the whole menu at least once with the gargantuan Welsh Rarebit pasties, bombay bombs, goey brownies and the crisp and fluffy bread on offer, who could walk past empty handed.

After following on Instaweb I quickly learned they’ve not only got a fully fledged bakery up near Victoria park but they’ve also comandeered gatehouse lodge within the castle grounds offering afternoon teas, cake and an array of speciality teas at the Pettigrew Tea Rooms.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms Tea and Cake

Well it’s been nearly a year now and I still hadn’t popped into the Pettigrew Tea Rooms to see what’s on offer even though i’ve jumped ship from Newport and now working not even 100 yards up the road. I wasn’t quite sure whether they did take aways like pasties or breakfasts and did poke my head in once on a Friday morning requiring some much needed stodge or grease on the way to work after a few beers the night before but still was none the wiser.

Then last week Mwsh was finished for the day in work early so decided to walk half way to meet me but accidently fell into Pettigrew Tea Rooms on the way. Feeling left out, I clocked off to head over before they shut shop to see what was on offer.

Seeing as they were closing soon I didn’t want to be like that guy who orders 3 pints for themselves at stop tap and sitting there for 2 hours whilst everyone cleaned around him, clock watching as their waiting for their train home so just bought a cake from the treasure chest of delights next to the till. After some deliberating I opted for the coconut and passionfruit. A nice healthy slab of crumbly, tropical stodge. I begrunginly offered a meagre corner for Mwsh to try and we were both suitably impressed. She’d devoured one before I arrived so sadly didn’t get to try that one but I was more than happy with my choice. Would of gone nice with a cuppa but my own fault for arriving so close to closing although I’m sure they would of accomodated had I asked.

The Pettigrew Tea House Breakfast

After sussing the place out and having a sneaky peak of the menu I fancied trying some food there to see how they compare against the awesome selection of baked goodies from the bakery. I’d seen Wriggle starting to advertise breakfasts at Pettigrew a few weeks back but they were starting at 9am to 11.30am but I was usually in work by 9 so that didn’t work until I saw one on a Saturday that Mwsh happened to have off work too so I snapped the deal up for £5.50 each for a full Welsh breakfast instead of £8.50.

Unbeknown to me it was the Flower Show in the castle grounds that morning after getting into a conversation with Pettigrew on social media and they said to try and get there early but being a Saturday that was never going to happen. Anyway we got an Uber as we were running fashionably late to reach Pettigrew within the Wriggle time slot and it was like a sale in Marks and Spencer on a Sunday, oldies everywhere heading to the flower show and we had to weave in an out of the almost stationary human traffic. We managed to bring the sun with us from Italy as it had been sunny for a good week since coming home and they had laid out all the tables and chairs they could muster outside. Breakfast in the sun sounded awesome but to our dissapointment breakfast was only served inside it was just teas, ice creams and the baked goods from the bakery table parked up outside.

Luckily we got a table straight away inside after panicking we would be qeueuing down the street till gone midday and missing the breakfast as I was absolutely starving. I didn’t even need to see the menu a full welsh it was with a pot of English breakfast to help that breakfast vacate my eager fork.

Food wasn’t long at all and it’s not very often I get excited by a sausage but it was hell of a banger! Accompanying the meaty sausaaage was two eggs of your choice, I went poached as I masacre them whenever I try them at home and getting a bit sick of my egg griddle in the morning. Homemade beans, lavabread savoury scone or you could of gone with thick cut toast, 2 quality rashers of bacon, a generous helping of mushrooms and grilled cherry tomatoes. Buried underneath the mound of fried heaven on a plate was two rounds of black pudding.

The sausage tasted delicious, it was a proper farmhouse number, good proportion of meat to herbs and it probably would of been a struggle with two i’ll be honest. I liked the savoury scone although I wouldn’t of minded having a couple of pieces of toast just to make a sandwich with my bacon and egg. They had toast on the menu but came with jams and presserves and I wasn’t forking out £2.40 for them considering the whole thing cost £5.50.

Homemade beans were ok, eggs cooked perfectly with yellow york oozing all over my plate on contact with my fork. Being a bacon snob I always inspect any bacon from somewhere new with hawklike precision and this was of excellent quality. None of that shrivelled, laser cut tracing paper garbage here. This is only being picky and was the only thing we could both pick up on from the breakfast as it was an absolute treat of a plate and that was the casing was still left on both our black pudding. I was ok because Mwsh told me but it was a good job she noticed it in her mouth before swallowing.

I’d never cooked black pudding myself as I’m a recent convert but to the bloodied breakfast staple but I did make the same mistake cooking up some white pudding I’d picked up from Riverside a few weeks back and was wondering how the little disks were imploding on themselves.

All in all it was a very good breakfast and a good brew of loose leaf. I’d recommend and will no doubt be back for a 2nd visit in the near future.

They don’t always have the bakery table outside with pasties and other goodies from the Pettigrew Bakery I think it was just there to monetise from the increase passing traffic from the flower show but on speaking to them on Twitter on Friday evening they were more than happy to bring whatever I wanted down to the Tea Rooms for me to pick up during the day with the fresh delivery of bread so give them a bell on social media if you can’t wait till Riverside on a Sunday and don’t fancy a trek to Victoria Park.

The Savoy Grill Restaurant Review – London

Most people have probably heard of the Savoy Hotel on the Strand in London and equally most are probably aware of the Savoy Grill Restaurant at the hotel. It wasn’t exactly on my radar of places to try when in London as I thought it would be a bit over my budget but I was lucky enough to get a Red Letter Day gift for lunch for 2 with a glass of bubbly for Christmas just gone.

What I wasn’t aware about the Savoy became the first luxury hotel in the whole of Britain when it opened in 1889. Built by Richard D’Oyly Carte next to the Savoy Theatre, which opened in 1881 it was the first hotel to be run completely on electricity. Frequented by many a famous patron over the years since then including serving Prime Ministers such as Winston Churchill who often held lunch meetings at the restaurant, Royal Families and musical royalty with the likes of Jimmi Hendrix, The Beatles and Frank Sinatra.

Savoy Grill Restaurant decor

The hotels first manager also happened to be CÈsar Ritz. Don’t know who he is? Neither did I but he went on to open his own hotel some years later, The Ritz.

With the hotel staying in the family until the passing of the final link in the bloodline who failed to bear any children in 1985 nearly 100 years after opening. The Savoy Hotel has changed hands a couple of times since then but has been under the direction of Fairmont Hotels since 2004. Closing in 2007 for a massive refurbishment originally estimated at around £100m, it finally opened back up in 2010 having passed the £200m mark.

This goes some way in evidencing the elegance and grandiuer art Deco styling of the Grade II listed Savoy Hotel and it’s adjoining restaurants and theatre.

The Food

The Savoy Grill serves mainly French affair with several different menus whether dinning for lunch, a la carte, pre theatre, tasting menu and they’ve even recently launched the Escoffier Signature Dishes menu in homage to the original chef in 1889 Auguste Escoffier.

As I was in receipt of a lunch offer our options were limited to the lunch set menu, which included a choice of starter, main, dessert and glass of champagne priced at £100 with Virgin Experience. What they do is take off the price of the lunch fixed menu and the champagne (at a cost of £90 if you just go direct with the restaurant) then you pay for any extras including service charge of 12.5% of the whole bill, this also happens to include the £90 they’ve already wiped out with the voucher.

Champagne and menu at Savoy Grill Restaurant

We were given the most amazing basked of bread to nibble whilst we pondered over the menu and found it very endearing that a waiter pushed a cart showing off the special of the day like a prized possession to each table. The special on the day, which was a Friday was a sort of seafood wellington containing Salmon instead of the usual beef, scallops and all mater of herbs and seasoning that I would of snapped up had it not had Salmon as I’m really not a fan sadly but the rest of the dish sounded amazing.

The lunch menu did seem pretty limited compared to the other menu’s and not exactly something I would of pictured on a Michelin Star restaurant but then it was probably half the price of the other menu’s and it’s more for the experience I told myself.

 

Starters

As always myself and Mwsh deliberated over who would have what so we could do a sharsies so she went for the smoked ham hock. Not one for soup and because I’ve got a slight obsession with goats cheese of late I opted for the goats curd with beetroot, hazelnut, lemon and dill.

Goats curd and beetroot starter at Savoy Grill Restaurant

As expected my starter didn’t have me clutching at my trouser waist band with the portion size with 4 little goblets of goats curd speared with micro dill stalks, dainty beets and little droplets of beetroot puree.

It tasted ok but I wasn’t bowled over really and didn’t leave me overly impressed. The goats curd wasn’t all that flavoursome and could of done with a bit of seasoning. The beets were just beets, you can’t really go too far wrong cooking them but overall I was hoping for something a bit more tantalising on the taste buds.

Mwsh’s ham hock terrine starter was a bit more generous with a healthy slab of meaty goodness to chomp with crispy bread, pickled carrot and extra hit of protein with the quails egg. A lot better seasoning with the terrine and tanginess of the pickles. This was definitely the better dish of the two.

Mains

With the limited options for mains and not taking a fancy to the special of the day I opted for the pan fried cod, purple sprouting broccoli, coco bean puree and smoked bacon veloute. Pre-empting the micro portions I thought ahead and decided to pad my dish out with dauphinoise potatoes at £6 and cauliflower cheese gratin for £5.50.

Fish main dauphinois potato and cauliflower cheese gratin at Savoy Grill Restaurant-2

This course definitely made up for the average starter. As expected the portion size of fish was fit for a child although cooked perfectly and flaked under the most gentle of pressure from my fork. The veloute added a nice saltiness to the fish from the bacon too. The coco bean puree just added a bit of substance to the small dish but the saving grace was the dauphinoise and gratin.

The dish had a thumbs up anyway but do not make the mistake of not ordering side dishes because you will be heading for the first burger joint on the way home as you’d be famished soon after. Dauphinoise being my favourite potato dish this did not disappoint. Ample portion between two with it being so rich although I think I might of just held it together to fight through and polish it off on my lonesome. The Cauliflower cheese gratin was made with a good powerful cheese and had me licking the spoon after dolloping each portion on our plates. Both came in their roasting dishes, which I thought was a nice touch too.

With only a veggie pasta dish or having to opt for paying a £12 supplement for a steak the only other option left on the lunch menu was the cottage pie for Mwsh with cheddar mash and horseradish. Also being wise the inevitable portions of the main she also topped it up with roast field mushrooms in garlic butter for an additional £4.50.

I was a bit surprised at the portion size of the cottage pie to be fair. Ok it wasn’t massive and wouldn’t of filled me on it’s own but it was bigger than I though. Then again you are paying £30 for it with a starter and dessert.

Taste wise I knew this wouldn’t be your average Whetherspoon popty ping cottage pie being the Savoy and it was deeply rich with the gravy and meat filling with an equally as moreish potato topping. Mwsh isn’t the biggest fan of horseradish but she was left with little option to go for this on the menu with the small selection of mains but it was faint if not at all made out on it’s own against the other flavours of the dish. Lovely garlicky mushrooms, now who doesn’t like those?

Desserts

As had been the feeling for the whole menu, the starter really didn’t get me all that excited considering the venue, history and grandeur of the surroundings. They sounded more like pub grub that Michelin Star lunch menu but I had a dessert in with the fixed menu and I was going to eat one.

Having already opted for one course I didn’t fancy another and the buttermilk yogurt, blueberry jam with oat and seed granola sounded a bit like my breakfast overnight oats so those were out. That left just two options so we both took a stab and one each to compare. I went for the old favourite sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream.

Sticky toffee pudding dessert at Savoy Grill Restaurant-2

Moist, sticky, spongy and moreish sponge topped with healthy slathers of toffee you can’t deny it wasn’t a decadent dish and I wolfed every morsel down but you can have sticky toffee pudding anywhere and I wanted something that would wow me on this occasion.

Being the only option left Mwsh went for the chocolate mouse with polenta shortbread. Rich and chocolaty with nice crisp shortbread. Again it tasted fine just nothing to write home about or put a big massive smile on my face after discovering something new.

We also got the softest most intense chocolate truffle and a meringue after we had finished our 3 courses on the house too.

Chocolate Truffle and meringe at Savoy Grill Restaurant

The Verdict

Apart from my beet and goats curd starter everything oozed flavour and richness but there was nothing in the dish I couldn’t have knocked up at home. You’re paying for the experience of dinning in such an historic hotel in a stones throw from Trafalgar Square.

Ok it is a lunch menu and it is cheaper than the a la carte but don’t be fooled by the original price of the set menu if you’ve had it as a gift. We had the 3 courses and glass of champagne at a cost of £100 but going direct with the restaurant you would have saved £10 costing £90 instead.

That champagne isn’t going to last you 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours so you’re going to order a bottle of something else too. We opted for a Marlborough Sauv Blanc around £43 and the enthusiasm of the waiters that won’t sit long in the ice bucket before they keep topping up the glass. We opted for 3 sides, which I’d thoroughly recommend because what comes with the menu will not fill you up unless you stock up on bread at the start and the waiter was happy enough to ask us if we required more after the first basket. We had a 2nd and they would of given us a third but we kindly declined. It was a bloody good selection of bread mind.

Savoy Grill lunch menu bill

So the sides added another £16 to the bill making it about £60 on top so far and then when you get the bill don’t be surprised to have 12.5% of the whole bill added to the cost of the gift voucher. So what started as a gift voucher for a free 3 courses and glass of champagne came to a total of £167, subtract the voucher value of £90 and we had to stump up nearly £80 extra. I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty expensive lunch.

So would I recommend the Savoy Grill? Just to say you’ve tried the first luxury hotel in Britain’s restaurant and the chance to sample a restaurant under the guidance of love or hate him Gordon Ramsey then yes I would. I can’t see me rushing back for lunch there but I’m glad I tried it and would say the same to anyone else thinking about it but just bear in mind of the extra or other hidden costs you might encounter if you see a 3 course lunch for £30 that’s all.

The lunch will set you back £30 direct and the glass of bubbly was about £15 making it £45 each but we had it for £100 for two with Virgin Experience. Even though it’s £10 more than direct it does make a good present for a foodie lover as it lasts between 6-12 months and can be booked as and when they wish to dine there. I had mine for Christmas but waited till just after my birthday in May so they can keep it for a more suitable time rather than just booking the restaurant and offering to pay.

The dishes although most of them full of flavour I think they could come up with a few new and more exciting dishes if I’m being honest.

Asador 44 Restaurant Review Cardiff

We’ve been busting to try Owen from Bar 44’s new venture Asador 44 since following their instagram account since November 2016 although they only opened it’s doors about a month ago. It’s been a busy month of late so we set the date of sampling some old cow for my birthday last Friday.

Asador the name comes from the method of cooking the meat BBQ style over charcoal. This can been over a mound of charcoal on the floor with half a carcas speared and scortched over the white embers as they do in Argentina or with modern methods of a metal Parilla Asador BBQ grill championed first in Wales by the girls down at Hangfire Southern Kitchen in Barry.

Parilla grill at Asador 44 Cardiff

With my inner caveman constantly wanting to break out inside eating mammoth slabs of meat cooked on open fires this was right up my street as Asador promised to lead the way in ethical meat production by using retired dairy cows that had time to enjoy life to the max, grazing on pastures and doig lots of chills to a grand old age of 9 years instead of the average age of 3 years that British beef is usually slaughtered after the BSE scare.

They also promised to bring us the Holy Grail of Beef, 10 year old “Galician Blond” or Rubia Gallega Chuleton from Northern Spain. This beef can be reared up to 17 years and some restaurants age it for up to 300 days making it much like an aged cheese but here at Asador they age theirs 45 days for a more mellow flavour.

Cheese cave at Asador 44 Cardiff

The place not only dry ages the steak in house they even have their own cheese cave.

 

The Food

I’d studied the menu for some time having seen other diners upload images of gigantic ribs of beef on Instagram over the past few weeks and was torn between the the Lomo Bajo, the 9 year old ex dairy cow or the Prized Rubia Gallega. The reason for not just going for the best steak on the menu was ultimately the price difference with the ex dairy costing £49 and the Rubia Gallega £8.50 per 100g of weight and seeing that the minumum weights were around 900g that was £76 for a single steak! Ok they were sharing plates but still that was pretty steep for a steak.

Bread and jamon butter at Asador 44 Cardiff

We or I decided we were just going to opt for some bread with jamon butter at £3 to nibble on whilst we decided the rest. The plate had two thick cut doorstop bread slices that had been lightly scortched giving a slight char to the dough and swirls of jamon butter to dollop in. I loved the smokey chared addition and the jamon butter was silky smooth unlike your standard continental breakfast where the butter has usually been put in the freezer just so the waitresses can laugh at your sorry attempt to butter your bread for breakfast and leaving decimated clumps of bread in your hands.

Cured belly pork and crispy pigs head starter at Asador 44 Cardiff

As I was hoping to go big on the steak for main it was just the one starter to share and that was the cured duroc belly pork, crispy pigs head and apple at £8. I was a bit dissapointed with this as I love a bit of belly pork and was hoping for something a bit more meaty. The cured belly pork was cut wafer thin and for me didn’t actually bring much to the table as it was a bit bland for me. The breadcrumbed crispy pigs head however did add a punch of much needed flavour to the dish and accompanying apple sauce gave a nice sweetness to the dish.

Seeing as prawns on offer are revered as the finest red prawn in the world according to the menu and it was my birthday I thought I’d splash out and see what the fuss was about. At £16 a pop for a single prawn I was expecting a whopper on my plate. After being bullied into downing a shot of Wray & Nephew at Mythos Greek restaurant in Chepstow by the guy behind the bar as a birthday “Gift” and the lions share of a bottle of pinot I was in high spirits and bit the bullet on the mains, opting for the Rubia Gallega and 940g of the stuff at £80.

Rubia Gallega and Carabinero prawn at Asador 44 Cardiff

The mains arrived and I was pretty impressed with the plate of severed ruby red, meaty portions cut from the bone and presented on a platter and the waitress kindly advised on the optimal method of eating the prawn. For £16 I wasn’t all that blown away by the size of the prawn and after removing the head, carefully decanting the juices into a bowl and unfolding the shell away from the body there really wasn’t that much meat left. The wholesale price for these prawns though are eyewatering, which reflects in the the higher price here.

I dipped the flesh into the rescued juices, had one bite and it was half gone. I couldn’t go it alone and I certainly wasn’t going to stump up that much for a prawn again so gave the other half to Mwsh so two bites and that was it. It tasted good and never used the juices to baste the flesh before eating before so that was a new one on me but considering you can get half a lobster for the same price in some restaurants I wasn’t overfly impressed and would pick lobster over it drenched in thermidor sauce any day.

The centre piece was next to delve into, the creme de la creme of steak lay before me ready to be gorged with my bare hands. It was unlike any steak I’d laid eyes on in terms of sheer size and colour. The living age and the post slaughter aging process had built a deep ruby like colour. Ready cut into manageble pieces of meat I was expecting to have to gnaw at it to chew and swallow but it just disolved on contact with my tongue. The same for the fat too I’d never experienced beef fat that just melted away in the warmth of my mouth it was quite sureal as the fat on steak is usually tough and chewy.

Rubia Gallega Steak, bean and saffron puree, fries with rioja and bone marrow sauce at Asador 44 Cardiff
With the giant steak option you got 2 sides of your choice, which we opted for the Asador fries because you simply can’t have steak without chips and we also went for the white bean, safron and roast garlic puree.

Portion wise I was a little dissapointed with the fries. When you’re paying £80 for a steak and it’s to share with someone else I’m expecting a generous bowl of fries to go with it. After grabing half a handfull and scattering on my plate there wasn’t even half a bowl left for Mwsh. I’d also bought a wheelbarrow full of real chip shop chips in Chepstow earlier in the day for £1.80 that could of fed a family of 4 in comparison. Having said that the small bowl of real fries were very good. None of that plastic fantastic pre cut and pre cooked rubbish here, I just could of done with a double portion size to what we got.

On to the white bean, safron and roast garlic puree. It didn’t really know how to take this i’ll be honest. The first dip of my chip was quite pleasant but with the dissapointing portion of fries I was quickly left with just a fork as a vessel to consume the puree, which became rather sickly and unpalatable. The bean puree I think would be great as a snack with some of the bread or flatbread to dip but as a side dish it just felt out of place and awkward to eat without some form of carb to give it substance.

One other thing I was a bit annoyed at with the steak was you didn’t even get one sauce to go with it included in the price. Ok I know they are only £3 each and if you were paying £10 for a steak at Harvester you would probably expect to pay a little bit extra for a sauce as it isn’t exactly bank shattering to start with but when you are paying £80 I would expect one sauce at least.

I wanted the Rioja and bone marrow sauce but Mwsh wasn’t sure on the bone marrow so went for the safe option of Torres brandy peppercorn so on top of £80 for the steak we had to pay £6 for a sauce to go with it. Ok I know it was my option to go for that steak and there were a lot cheaper options but when I’m paying tripple what I would normally spend on a steak a sauce to go with it in the price isn’t asking a lot in my eyes.

Both sauces were good although I did prefer the Rioja and bone marrow as it had a richer flavour and probably because I’d peppercorn sauced my steaks to death over the years but it was a good peppercorn none the less if you are thinking of going for that.

rice pudding and fig dessert at Asador 44 Cardiff

For dessert I went for the Arroz con leche, which is Spanish rice pudding croquetas, poached fig and green apple. I misread the menu and was expecting a bowl of rich creamy rice pudding and with my favourite fruit at the moment figs but as the menu clearly states they were croquetas. Breadcrumbed and fried balls of rice pudding with the soft poached figs and similar apple sauce to the starter. They were enjoyable but not what I was expecting although that was my fault for not reading the menu properly.

chocolate with cherry sorbet at Asador 44 Cardiff

Mwsh opted for the chocolate, hazlenut, olive oil, vanilla salt and cherry sorbet. This was delicious and my favourite of the two desserts and brought a refreshing end to a meaty meal. Both Desserts cost £7 or you could of gone with a cheese board with 3 for £7, 5 for £12 or 7 cheeses for £17.

cheese menu Asador 44 Cardiff

Drinks prices are quite reasonable with Mwsh option for a carafe of house white for under £10 and mine was a carafe of Garnacha Tinorera red was £16.50. They have over 100 wines to choose from with a good selection by glass or carafe if you don’t fancy the whole bottle. There was a nice selection of Gin’s I’d not heard of but didn’t get the chance to sample but I’m guessing they were all sourced from Spain.

The Verdict

Bread was good, an ok starter and wasn’t blow away by the best prawn in the world. It’s a prawn and cooked in the shell so there’s not much you can do there and not knocking the quality I was just expecting something a bit bigger although the price does reflect wholesale price that go for at least £70 per kilo, which I wasn’t aware at the time.

This was a fine steak and was the crowning plate of the meal. It was an epic, the best I’ve had in Cardiff to be fair and perfect for a celebration as it really does wow on delivery to the table.

Having said that it is more for the purist steak lover as it’s all about the meat here and for me it’s a tick the box kind of dish. You have to try it to say you’ve tried it and it was unlike any steak I’ve eaten before with it melting in the mouth on contact with my tongue, fat and all but it wouldn’t be something i’d probably order again becuase I’m not much of a steak person when eating out. I’m more of a game person or something with big bold flavours but with Rubia Gallega you can’t throw anything too complex into the dish as it takes away from the centre stage, which is the meat.

I’ll without doubt be back to Asador but I’ll probably go for something a bit normal next time like the suckling pigs leg or the lamb sounded luscious. I wouldn’t recommend the £16 prawn as for me it didn’t warrant the hefty price and now i’ve tried it I won’t be going Rubia Gallera again but I would give it a go if you haven’t tried it before and was glad I’d given it a go.

Portion size of the chips need to be increased if you ask me or one each of the current ones seeing as it’s a sharing plate. Maybe I would of been able to finish the bean puree if i’d had some chips to mop it up with but as it stands with a handful of chips I struggled eating my share of the dish with just my fork.

I think they should include one sauce into the price of the rare breed old cow fair enough charging for it with the smaller Picanha but for £80 I would expect at least one sauce thrown in out of principle. I think flavourwise though the sauces were spot on.

Desserts were good too and had no issues there on both options I tried.

Service was excellent as always and what I’ve come to expect from the team behind bar 44. They must have some of the best training in town in regards to product knowledge and you can’t beat someone actually having tasted everything on the menu and being able to pronounce it and background knowledge behind everything unlike someone on their first shift who has absolutely no idea about anything on the menu or what drink they have on draught.

I’m probably going to try the lunchtime deal some time soon for £10, which includes:

  • 40 day dry aged rump cap with fries and salad
  • Charcoal market fish of the day
  • Charcoal squash, chard, beetroot, goats curd, hazlenut
  • Mackerel, endive, charcoal mayonnaise, capers and asador fries.

The lunch deal is available Wednesday – Friday, 12 – 3pm

They also have a children’s menu available for lunch too, which includes:

Welsh beef picanha steak, asador fries
or
Market fish goujons and asador fries

Both priced at £6