Maria’s Greek Taverna Restaurant Review Cardiff

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

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

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

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

The Food

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

Marias Taverna Menu Cardiff

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

 

Bara Menyn Restaurant Review – Porth Teiger Cardiff Bay

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

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

The Food

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

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

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

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

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

The breakfast features in no specific order:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Afternoon Tea / High Tea

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

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

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

Sandwiches from the afternoon tea at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

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

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

savouries for the high tea at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

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

East India Company Green Tea cooler at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earl Grey Tea with eton mess at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

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

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

Scones with jam and clotted cream at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

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

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

East India Company Gin Cocktail at The Angel Hotel Abergavenny

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

Abergavenny Food Festival

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

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

The Angel Hotel and The East India Company Team

Contact Details

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

Phone: 01873 857121

Grub Kitchen Pop-Up Restaurant at The Celtic Manor Resort

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

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

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

 

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

Cricket belini with salmon at The Newbridge on Usk

bug farm insect flours and food

 

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

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

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

 

bug farm vau le vauns

Vexo insect sausage roll

 

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

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

 

Insect tasting board at The Celtic Manor

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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The Granary Restaurant Review – Newtown, Powys

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

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

 

The Restaurant

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

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

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

The outside building of the Granary Restaurant Newtown

The restaurant seating and tables at The Granary

The bar at The Granary Restaurant - Newtown

 

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

Outside seating and garden at The Granary Newtown

Garden at The Granary Restaurant in Newtown

Garden snug at the granary restaurant - Newtown

 

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

The Food

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

tasting menu and gin at the granary restaurant

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

Hispi taco with ants at The Granary Restaurant

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

Leek and wild garlic plate at The Granary in Newtown

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

Sourdough bread and cultured butter - The Granary in Newtown

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

Pigs head with caviar - The Granary Newtown

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

Duck with blueberry and beetroot main course The Granary Restaurant Powys

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

Pineapple - coal ricotta and rocket granita at The Granary Restaurant

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

Rice pudding with rhubarb dessert at The Granary - Newtown

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

Strawberry and elderflower dessert at The Granary in Newtown

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

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

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

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

9 course tasting menu at The Granary - Newtown

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

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

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

Contact Details

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

Phone: 01686 621120

Beefy Boys Burger Restaurant Review Hereford

So i’ve been teased with the chance to try out the legendary Beef Boys up in Hereford for over a year now. I almost divorced the other half when she owned up to taking a detour past that neck of the woods on the way back home from North not too long ago so she promised we would stop there on the way up next time we headed up to Anglesey.

I’d heard from many that they knocked out the best burgers they’ve ever tasted and some were massive foodies so the bar was set.

Luckily for me we were heading up north between Christmas and new year just gone so we took the scenic route via Hereford for me to make my own mind up. I didn’t realise how popular they were or the size of the venue so didn’t make a prior booking and tried to do a walk in. Don’t be a fool like me especially in December in near freezing temperatures.

We bit the bullet and said we would take a table alfresco just so we didn’t have to make the journey a second time after it took us forever to park in Waitrose with the atrocious road management put in place that doesn’t let any cars turn right when the light goes green. You will find out the hard way soon if you’ve not already had the pleasure.

We were shown a table furthest from the building to start but we were fortunate to be moved under the heat lamp after about 10 minutes, which might have just saved us from frost bite.

The Food

Seeing that i’d started to lose feeling in my fingers I drawn to the spicy options on the menu to start the blood flowing again.

Starters we opted for Mac n Cheese balls sprinkled with bacon dust, parmesan and chives with a pot of chipotle mayo. Mac n cheese with bacon and a kick of chilli what more do i need to say. Crispy shell, cheesilicious centre with bacon loveliness for good measure.

Hot wings and mac n cheese bites at Beefy Boys

Next up was the chicken wings. Llio ordered the wrong ones so we ended up ordering two portions one of the Ninja wings with Soy, Garlic, Honey, Sesame Seeds, Sirachi Dip and the other special of the time with a bit more of a Korean twist.

Both equally as delicious. I loved the crispness from a double dip in the fryer and the sauces / toppings from both versions worked very well together.

I went for the Rude Boy burger as it had 3 chilli rating to get the central heating back on track. The burger included Fire Roasted Green Chilli Salsa, Jack Cheese, Bacon, Lettuce, Onion and Tomato, served with a Jalapino popper on top.

Burger at Beefy Boys Hereford

The burger was pretty decent although I think I set my expectations a bit too high. I couldn’t really fault it as it was juicy with a nice pink centre but I was expecting something a bit spicier based on the spice rating. I was also hoping for the heat to warm me up slightly too.

Normally we try two flavours and do a share but the other half wasn’t feeling a burger on the day and opted for the chilli cheese fries with crisp french fries topped with a generous helping of chilli con carne and cheese. She enjoyed hers although it was a bit more than she bargained for and was easily a main meal rather than a side dish. I’d recommend sharing one between two rather than one each.

I had a taste just to try and was a good chilli but I’m just not a big chilli con carne one fries fan. If you are then you’re going to love them. I opted for the millionaire fries instead with parmesan, truffle oil. You can’t go wrong here really and the chips were cooked just right with a ample dusting of cheese and not too much truffle oil, which can be a bit overpowering sometimes.

The Verdict

I enjoyed what we had. On this visit I enjoyed the sides and starters more than my burger but then I’d probably opt for flavour over spice the next time as I went for spicy but it wasn’t very spicy so that was the only reason I wasn’t bowled over. Some of the other burger options did some delicious though but i’ll learn from my mistake and book a table prior to arriving next time as it was bitterly cold eating outside in the middle of winter. Not their fault, they were fully booked inside and I opted to eat outside but it did affect the visit a little.

Would I go again? Yes i’d go again and I loved the wings. They also have menu specials so there is usually something different on the menu and not just the usual suspects on the menu. It’s also very rare I’d eat out and not sample a desert on the menu so I might have to go back just to for for 3 out of 3 too but it was just too cold to hang around any longer outside on this visit.

Just make sure you book a table if you’re going in winter or dress for the cold that’s all I can recommend.

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.