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  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 after quickly running out of fries I was  left with just a fork as a vessel to consume the puree, which became rather sickly. 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 really 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.

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 tried it.

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

Porro Restaurant Review Llandaff, Cardiff

Porro has been on my radar for a while now since I heard about the launch of the Wellfield Road addition and no more since my return from Italy last week. I’ve never been one for pasta to be honest but probably because I’ve only ever really had it at home and when your mum has been known to burn it on the hob, yes a good few inches of pasta scorched and crusted on the bottom isn’t something too unfamiliar in my household. Well it sort of scars you for life.

From having nightmares of charcoal like embers of pasta clinging to sauce pans in my nightmares growing up, opting to go for an Italian when I fancy dinning out has never been at the forefront of my picklist to be fair so fresh silky smooth, buttery pasta ribbons haven’t entertained my insatiable dustbin lips all that often.

My 3 day trip to Italy changes all my perceptions of pasta. I don’t know how they could marry 2 or 3 ingredients, sandwiched between parcels of egg and flour to create such a desire to wipe devour all contents of the plate then place said empty plate to my face and lick every last drizzle of butter oil.

The porcinni mushroom, ricotta, sage and butter Ravioli at the Cantina de Spade in Venice just blew my mind. So simple yet it left myself and Mwsh speachless (well her for a whole 3 seconds, which is unheard of).

Anyway, still suffering from the holiday blues and still in Italy mode I wanted to see how one of the most popular Italian’s in Cardiff faired up against the real thing. With the weather being like it has been this week, I’ve lost all motivation to cook so a quick browse on the Wriggle App and Porro in Llandaff were offering any 2 pizza or pasta dishes for £15 a cool 50% discount last night. That will do nicely I thought and got on the buzzer to Mwsh, just to make sure she hadn’t got anything booked on and luckily she hadn’t.

The Venue

Porro Italian Restaurant Llandaff, Cardiff

I won’t bore you too much with the details. We didn’t book and just turned up as it was a Wednesday and not as busy as I assume the weekend would be. We managed to park outside as there is space for disabled cars but as it was 7pm it was quite dead so was naughty and parked up. There’s some parking around the corner by the Cathedral though if you’re visitng on the weekend.

We arrived and were a bit suprised how quite it was, just two dinners in there at the time but that was a bit of a relief as we just fancied a bit of down time and a relaxed meal without shouting at each other to hear over a jam packed restaurant. This also meant we had pick of a table and not some crooked and wonky child table next to the coat hangers you sometimes get in places when they are pushed for tables.

I liked the decor, a more modern approach to that we had become accustomed to in Italy last week with the small traditional Taverna’s who probably hadn’t had a lick of paint since the war. Good lighting, spacious with nice brickwork and large front window view if you fancy having a nose out onto the high street if it’s busy.

The Food

As we had bought a deal on Wriggle our mains were a bit limited but to compare what we had consumed in Venice and Rome we had to do one of each so opted for one pizza, the speck, artchoke, mozzarella, rocket and chilli then one pasta dish with pappardelle with braised ox cheek, tomato and parmesan.

speck,-buffalo-and-chilli-pizza

It would be hard to beat the mixed platter of Pizza from Pizza Zizza opposite St Peter’s Basillica in the Vatican, Rome. Well we did have about 8 different flavours but they were such magnificent pieces of cheesy goodness. The pizza at Porro was good but it was nothing special in all honesty. I think the rocket overpowered everything else as there was so much, wasn’t too spicy but just didn’t fill me with much love as something laden in cheese should do. I can’t knock the ingredients as they were all no doubt of the highest quality I just wasn’t bowled over by the pizza.

ox cheek pappardelle pasta at Porro Llandaff

The braised ox cheek pappardelle on the other hand was simply divine. Silky ribbons of fresh pasta, clinging on for dear life were chunks of tender and rich ox cheek waiting to be slurped up into my eager mouth. I’ll be honest, I was gutted we said we’d do a sharsies and halve half each of both courses because I just wanted to demolish every last morsel myself.

white truffle fries at Porro Llandaff

The unlikely star of the show on the mains though was the bowl of chunky chips, lathered in elegantly perfumed white truffle oil. I’d had posh fries with truffle oil and parmesan a few times, tried it myself once too but these were something else. I’d probably had a cheap black truffle chemical shit storm in the past but this was so light with delicate truffly aroma. The best £3.75 i’ve ever spent.

Being against my religion to just order one course each when dinning out we opted to go for a starter each and pay the difference with them all ranging between £7 and £8 we chose the tortellini with garlic, sage and parmesan as it sounded similar to the raviolli dish in Venice and the braised leeks, talleggio on sourdough.

garlic, sage and parmesan tortellini at Porro Llandaff

Again we decided to do halfsies on both plates so we only really had a little bit of each one but no complaints on either course. The tortellini was quite small for the price, not sure I was still in European prices were we got a whole plate of quality pasta for 11 euros but £7 for 2 tortellini pieces cut in half was a bit mean but the flavour was on par with our Venice raviolli. Sage, pasta and oil/butter is such a good compbo although the porcini and ricotta pairing added extra creaminess and umami kick.

braised leek and taleggio on sourdough toast at Porro Llandaff

The braised leek and tolleggio was decent in portion size, you definetely got your leeks worth with this one although a bit less generous with the talleggio cheese. Luckily for me I had a little nugget of the stuff on my half but Mwsh had to try and stab a goey morsel from my plate before I’d consumed it as she didn’t get much on her bit of bread.

We both had a glass of the Sauv Blanc, which was a perfect match for the starters. we even enquired about the bottle and took a snap to try and find it for the house. At £7.50 for a large, it’s not the lightest on your wallet but then it was a corker. We didn’t go for the house wine though so there were more reasonably priced wines to choose from.

We would of both gone for a dessert had we not gorged on cake from Pettigrew straight after work so can’t comment on them unfortunately.

The Verdict

I’ve not heard a bad word said about Porro from anyone and did enjoy our meal there. It was an off the cuff thing and as we had a deal from Wriggle we were stuck with the pasta and pizza option althought the braised ox cheek papadelle would be on my hit list again.

Next time around I wouldn’t mind sampling the grill or meat menu, once I’ve fell off my pasta and carb fest I’m currently stuck in. I’d have no qualms in recommending the place although I’d opt for a pasta dish as they didnt’ dissapoint or try a meat dish. The pizza was ok but just that. Had I not sampled some of the best pizza in my 31 years of existance in Rome last week it might of been a different story but the bar has been set high from there.

The bill came to £31 for the two starters, two wines and truffle fries plus the £15 Wriggle deal for the mains so £46. The real price would of been £61 had we not used the wriggle deal.

Although they aren’t on every night I have seen Porro discount crop up a couple of times of the past few weeks on Wriggle so keep an eye out on the App / website and rememebr to use the code AUHPSS in refer a friend, redeem code on the app to get a further discount off your first order.

Meat at 156 Burger Bar Review in Cardiff

So we were invited to the launch of Cardiff’s latest arrival on the ever expanding burger scene recently on 156 City Road aptly named Meat at 156.

The burger joint is an independant set up by three friends and look like they are pitching at a hole in the market for good, no frills affordable grub just outside the city centre.

The food

Myself and Mwsh were joined by a whose who on the food blog scene in Cardiff to sample some of the menu items on offer. We saw the menu but they were just going to rustle up a few different items so we could have a nibble on a variety of different options between us rather than picking one item each off the menu.

I was suprised by the entry level prices of the burgers and were a lot more accomodating those looking to grab a bite to eat on a budget and was definitely family friendly compared to some of the well known burger places in town at the moment. Prices started around £6 for the Classic consisting of beer burger topped with american cheese and may to the Volcano at £6.95 consisting of beef patty cored with melted cheese and jalapeno.

Also on offer were a selection of steaks with a rump at £9.95 and a 14oz T-Bone setting you back £17.95 with all coming with a choice of sauces from the spicy one, shrooms, cracked pepper and garlic infusion.

southern cruncher burger

We got to share the Southern Crunch Burger containing beef patty topped with fried jalapenos and onion strings in a crispy southern coating with house fries. As it was a pre launch and didn’t get to choose the burgers were just being brought out to sample so wasn’t asked how we wanted it cooked and was a bit on the well done for my liking. I enjoyed the toppings that gave a nice crunch and texture with a little heat from the jalapenos but was missing a bit of moisture especially as it came with no sauce. A minute or two less on the grill and a dollop of ketchup, bbq sauce or mayo on the bun and it would of been on point. The fries though were lovely. Thin shoestring fries cooked to perfection.

Next up was the Volcano as described above and was the most expensive burger on the menu. This made up for the first burger as it was cooked a little less and retained that much needed beef juices and the molten spicy cheese helped deliver a juicy beefyness to my taste buds. I didn’t find it all that spicy considering the name but you do have the option to spice things up a bit and going mega hot with the chiptole chilli sauce but i’m not sure if ours already had it on as there was some kind of spicy red sauce but not what I would consider hot.

fried jalapeños

Out came a few sides to snack on such as the cajun onion rings and the hot crunch jalapenos we had on top of our first burger along with a small pot of slaw. I’d never tried deep fried jalapenos until now and they went down a treat I have to say and so did the onion rings and slaw which added a well anticipated hit of spicy greasiness I’d hoped for.

This is were most mere mortals would of paid up and been on their way but no, we were being slowly tortured with death by meat! Not that I was complaining as a big plate of ribeye steak and another portion of the freshly fried fries. Can’t beat a fresh batch of oil for fries as most the time in takeaways you don’t know when they’ve changed it from one year to the next and you can definitely taste the difference.

Steak and fries

No way were we expecting the third and final plate of meat but it was greatly received. Nice looking scorch marks on top but not sure if that was just for taking some pics for the social media pages as they didn’t do the moisture levels many flavours when we sampled the meat. The ribeye was an 8oz and although it looked quite big in circumference it wasn’t all that thick so it didn’t need much time on the grill and could of done with just 2 minutes each side but it came well done. Couldn’t complain as they were catering for everyone and we weren’t paying plus if we were paying dinners we would of got a choice of how we wanted it cooked and I have no doubt they would of delivered as requested.

At this point I was considering air ambulance rescue mission to winch me out of my seat just as they came out with a sample of some of the desserts. Luckily they were just bite sized pieces just to try and we cauciously nibbled on a small nugget of brownie topped with a little ice cream. There was a decent moisture content on the brownie and the ice cream was just a frozen ice cream van type ice cream but did the job. There was a bowl of tantalising golden toffee laden sticky toffee pudding doing the rounds but I thought I might of died had I eaten a single more morsel of food.

The Verdict

I think Meat at 156 definitely fills a hole in the market in Cardiff for people looking for a no noncence, unprotencious and affordable burger. They do a meal deal add on so you can top up your burger for £2 and get fries and a soft drink meaning you can get a burger, fries and drink for under £9. For a family of 4 that is much more economical compared to some of the burger making big guns like Got Beef and Time and Beef with a Burger, fries and drink probably costing you £15+ nearly double what Meat at 156 are offering.

Ok the burger concoctions aren’t as boundary pushing as Burger Theory @ Kongs but being alcohol free they appeal more to teenagers and families who don’t want to eat in a pub or bar and can make it much more cost fiendly to dine out in a group or family without having to put up with drunken punters.

I probably wouldn’t drive out of town to go there on an occasion but if I’m hungry and passing or up on City Road i’d consider calling in for a bite to eat rather than fire up the oven when I get in for the price factor.

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The Best Gin Martini Cocktail in Rome – Stravinskij Bar

Having tried the best Pizza in Rome and wandering around St Peter’s Basillica with a blistered and beetroot red scalp for a while with no hope of beating the qeueues into the Vatican before close there was only one thing left to do…rehydrate with a cocktail of course!

A quick scout online for the best places for a gin in Rome brought back some good results with a few hidden bars and speakeasy places coming out on top such as Jerry Thomas Speakeasy, Club Derriere and Spirito but none of them opened till around 10pm and it was just pushing 4pm.

One other place that kept coming up was the Stravinskij Bar at the 5* Rocco Forte Hotel de Russie. Aparently they do the best Martini in town and seeing that that’s my tipple of choice we were sold.

Roads were basically at a standstill at this time around the Vatican and google maps reconed it would only take an extra 2 minutes to walk the 1.3 miles from our location so thought this would be a good time to burn off the 3 million calories I’d consumed in the past 48 hours and seeing there was treasure at the finish line we set out on foot armed with my ever frustrating google maps on my phone.

The Bar

We arrived at the hotel after more than a handful of pit stops to browse at bloody crockery as usual. We walked through reception and headed to the back of the hotel where we guessed the bar might be. There were garden chairs and sofas nestled amongst heaters and unopened parisolls on a patio area in a courtyard between the hotel buildings but thought it looked a bit low key considering the reviews we had heard online.

I wandered over to one of the waiters to ask where the bar is and he said you’re in it to my slight dissapointment as we could see terraces overlooking the courtyard embellished in sunlight. Apparently that was the restaurant but the view looked so much better than the patio courtyard below and come on I’m from Wales who knowns when i’m going to actually see the sun again this year.

I wish i’d just ordered a plate of chips looking back now to sit up there with a dirnk but I was parched and needed to rest my little trotters. We pondered over the drinks menu whilst the waitress tempted us with an array of complimentary snacks from mixed olives, a variety of crisps and honey baked almonds. These got me pining for my first Martini of the trip with the tray loaded full of salty favourites and there were more concoctions on the menu than i’ve ever seen.

The Drinks

After some deliberating I opted for the Gold Bond Martini with both gin and vodka with a glimmering display of gold flakes swirling round in the martini glass. Pointing out the obvious it was a potent mix of alcohol, mixed with alcohol watered down with yet more slightly weaker alcohol pimped up with a healthy portion of gold flakes to jazz it up and lemon twist for extra zing.

There were a few others I was torn between but this was a good choice. It was a good job were were just sampling the one (at 22 euros a pop) we just thought we would see what the bar was like but I wouldn’t be steady on my feet after many that’s for sure.

Mwsh opted for a prosecco based fruity number although not of the martini variety. That was ok, had a slight Pimm’s feel to me and at that price I wanted a that hit of alcohol to headbut me in the face but it was a bit to reserved for my liking.

The Verdict

After being a bit disheartened at first not having a seat up on the sun laced terraces I did enjoy the relaxing ambience of the terrace down below (after about 15 minutes of some devil child bawling uncontrollably till the Russain looking child bride and Oil Oliagarch handed over said child to the stone faced nanny who soon got it to sleep).

It was a far cry from the tidal wave of tourists within the Vatican, noisy car and motobikes weaving in and out of traffic and the relentless assault of sales pitches from street reps trying to sell you JUMP THE QEUEUE tickets for the Sistine Chapel.

Ok so 22 euros a pop for cocktails isn’t cheap but this was a 5* hotel and one of the best in Rome at that plus the snacks we got probably would of cost us around 15 euros in any other bar no doubt. If we weren’t so pushed for time and was celebrating a birthday or something I’d definitely stayed to tick off a few more of the Martini’s on the list and would encourage anyone to swing by if you’re in Rome even if it’s just for one.

Romana Taverna Restaurant Review in Rome

Me being me, we didn’t do any prior planning for Rome on where to go, what to see and where to eat so after a bit of wandering around the streets of Rome after a bit of sightseeing down at the Coloseum we stumbled on a building that looked so out of place amongst the weathered, ornamental and dust clad structures with it’s grass coat and illuminous fairy lights drawing our gaze across the city.

I was hungry but fancied a pint whilst we gathered our thoughts and pinpointed our next culinary target to feast upon during our gargantuan expedition to feed our ever gluttonous bellies.

The place was empty but had a ground floor open window with seats that promised views out onto the Roman streets, whilst sipping a beer and eagerly swipping pottential eatteries within walking distance.

By now I was appetite for the only beer I seemed to find Moretti was waivering and luckily for me they had a few craft beers in the fridge. Mine was a Brooklyn IPA pushing 7%.

As the old saying goes “when in Rome…”, we thought we would stay true to the saynig and question the guys working in the bar / coffee shop to find out where the locals hang out and the best place to go for one of Rome’s most famous exports after their love of murder, pillaging, roads, pillars, bridges, auqauducts, arches, statues of micro penises and my favourite pasta dish “Spagetti Carbonara”.

Luckily for us they pointed out a little traditional Italian restaurant on the same street not even 100 yards away called Taverna Romana. A quick gander on Google to check some reviews and we were sold. We finished off the beers and took a walk down using my ever so annoying google maps app, which if you’ve attempted to use whilst walking you would realise my frustrations but luckily for us it was on the same road so even when the app did tell us we were walking in the wrong direction several times we found it quite easily.

We thought we just arrived after a guided tour had been dropped off outside the restaurant as there was a small gathering outside the door so after a few minutes I politely asked one of two of the bystanders if they were qeueing to get in for food. It seems that even though there were a number of other restaurants within spitting distance this is the place everyone wanted to go and as it was quite a small place they fill up quickly and then work on a table out a table in system.

Luckily for us a group of 4 or 5 decided to walk off and 10 minutes later the waitress came out to usher the ones at the front who had made an earlier reservation to their seats. We then asked could we get a table for 2 and she obliged and said thank you and closed the door to a bewildered look from both of us. How long would we have to wait? Who knows but seeing as this was the only place we’d passed gaining an ever expanding qeueue we wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

It was probably only another 10 minutes and the waitress called us in for a table next to the glass fridge.

We had had a browse on the menu whilst waiting outside and were trying to stare each other out to win the decider on who would get to order the Carbonara and to my good fortune I’d come out on top.

The Food

After the previous 24 hours scouring the streets of Venice looking for a proper Italian experience and a menu that epitomised Italian cooking I think we had come out trumps with this little finding.

The Italians don’t seem to do starters as we would know them in the UK and from what we could see just consisted of a charcuterie board and at nearly 15 euros seemed to be more expensive than the mains but they were probably for sharing.

By looking at a selection of menu’s on our travels we realised they tend to opt for a pasta dish for first coars then a meat or fish dish for 2nd course then a dessert if you’re feeling brave.

First thing was first and we sat down with a good bottle of Italian red wine to ponder some more over the menu.

traditional spaghetti carbonara at Romana Taverna in Rome

I opted for the eagerly awaited Carbonara for first coarst and Mwsh opted for the a tomato based Roman inspired pasta dish the Fettuccine alla Romana consisting of veal meat in a rich mushroom and tomato red sauce.

To be fair the front of house and guys hidden behind the wall in the kitchen worked like a well oiled machine from first impressions turning over tables, taking orders and delivering the fresh perfumed scent of ladened pasta dishes to hungry diners.

We didn’t wait long for my first experience of a pasta dish for starter and my first encounter of the Roman born real Carbonara dish. Who ever was on the Pecorino Romano/ Parmigiano Reggiano duties was feeling generous and the spagetti seemed so creamy it looked like they had strayed from the traditional Absolutely No Cream!

The pasta was cooked how it’s supposed to be with a good bite, plenty of cheese on top and the Romans don’t use Pancetta as I once thought, they use Guanciale. This is from the cheeks of fatty pigs unlike Pancetta that comes from the belly. I could tell the difference as there was very little meat on the nuggets of of pork rinds it was predominantly fat with the tinniest of layers of pink meat running through it. Slightly crisp, this gives the meaty flavour and the emulsion of oil to help bind the egg yolks too.

Unlike my bastardised version of the Carbonara featuring half a kilo of garlic per kilo of bodyweight of the peson I’m cooking for some recipes do without any at all using just the cheese, egg yolk, Guanciale and splashes of cooking liquor.

I’m all about flavour so mine combines shallots, shit loads of garlic, mushrooms and a bit of oil or butter to help gloss the mushrooms too. I’m glad I tried this traditional Carbonara but I think my interpretation of the dish was a bit more tasty and packs a bigger punch. I had a fork full of the veal and red sauce dish from Mwsh and that was also good but think I prefered my plate I was chomping on.

Secondi or second course I chose the Polpette or meatballs in red sauce to non locals. not knowing to me but they came just as described on the menu with meat balls and red sauce…and nothing else. It was a good job we ordered some bread and potatoes on the side as these added to a bit of stodge to the plate not that I needed it after a first course of pasta. Mwsh went for the Involtini dish with tender slices of rolled beef in a tomato based sauce and cheese.

Two giant meatballs swamped in a generous helping of red sauce took centre stage on my plate. I gentley crushed my fork into the meaty balls expecting a bit of give with course chunks coming off but but they were so tender and just crumbled under the pressure of my fork. When i’ve cooked meatballs in the past i’ve fried them in the pan or baked them on 200c in the oven usually turning them into something that resembled the conkers in colour and hardness.

Due to the sheer size of these meatballs they must of been baked low and slow in the sauce so they cooked through gently and melted in the mouth. We had to ask this time for some Parmagianno / Pecorino but it balanced the dish perfectly so it wasn’t overly tomato based anymore.

I wasn’t overly fussed on dessert and didn’t have much space for it.

Things started to wind down and I think they waiter and waitresses seemed to take their foot off the gas from being worn out form the converyor of punters through the door that evening as we did ask for the bill but had to wait about 20 minutes for it after asking twice.

Romana Taverna bill and review

The Verdict

I’m glad we found this little gem of a place because the Taverna Romana really did ooze traditional Italian charm. It was so cosy inside with us parked up next to the large glass fridge there was no pretence and you could tell people were just there for the food and on our 3 day trek across Italy we never saw anywhere quite like this place with qeues waiting outside to be seated with a mixture of locals and those who had been lucky enough to stumble upon such a great eatery too.

I did enjoy the Carbonara and they stay true to the authentic recipe without any of the essential items i’ve got in mine although I couldn’t tell if they had a little drop of cream to the mixture as they couldn’t get it that creamy from just cheese, cooking liquor and egg if i’m honest but it was good to try with the Guanciale instead of my Pancetta flavoured back bacon from Cure and Simple to compare.

One of you needs to order the meatballs if you’re going in a pair but make sure you order some carbs or side to go with it as it comes with just the meatballs and sauce. We ordered bread and the delicious roasted and percectly seasoned potatoes. It was a struggle to get the two plates down and I did sit there and have a breather till I had a second wind but I wasn’t leaving till i’d consumed both including the bread and potatoes.

I couldn’t comment on the desserts as I didn’t sample one but what I would suggest is you visit the restaurant earlier in the afternoon or evening to book a table as it was a normal Monday night and they were one in one out waiting for a table. We asked the waitress too and she confirmed it was like that every night, which also goes to show how much in demand a spot is valued by locals and visitors to the Italian City.

Wing Wednesday review at Small Bar Cardiff

I’ve wanted to try the wings at Wing Wednesday at Small Bar in Cardiff for the past few weeks after seeing a post on facebook but i’ve had things on and haven’t had chance.

As i was left to fend for myself for a few days and the thought of eating the fish i’d pulled out to defrost in the morning when i got home from work compared to the mound of greasy, golden crumbed morsels of spiced chicken and a beer flight of ipa, sour beer and stout left me weeping ever so slightly inside.

I’d done the Crossfit Open 17.3 on Monday then something that never happens these days a 2nd visit to Crossfit in two days so my arms felt like they were falling off and needing some energy. I don’t quite think I had the energy to turn the oven on, throw two fillets of cod on a tray and stuff it in the oven after squat snatches, chest to bar pull ups, toes to bar, burpees and double unders thrown at me the previous two nights so Wing Wendnesday it was for me!

The Food

So what is wing Wednesday? Basically you get 10 wings in a choice of 3 flavours from sticky caramel and chilli, buffalo hot wings or the “Holy Cluck” which were slathered in Gingerbeards Hot Habanero sauce. You then get to choose from a choice of blue cheese dressing, roast garlic mayo or fresh tzatziki on the side.

I was hoping I could do half of one and half of another flavour as I fancied trying the hottest ones on the menu but unfortunately you had to have all the same flavour. I opted for the sticky caramel and chilli with a pot of garlic mayo as I thought I would just use the chicken as a vessel to mop up the sauces. I also realised that they had bottles of chiptole ketchup and the hot habanero sauce near the cutlery anyway so really I got to try them anyhow.

I was under no illusions that this wouldn’t fill me up so it would of been rude not to order a side of mac n cheese for an added bit of carbs to help fend off the hunger pans till bed time.

There were a couple of people who ordered before me so there was a slight wait but nothing too drastic it was probably just the fact I was sat there with my beer flight like billy no mates that time just seemed to slow down.

So the wings arrived accompanied by a spiderman mug filled with the creamy mac n cheese, which was a nice touch. The first thing i noticed about the wings was that the sticky wings were not so sticky wings. I think they forgot to add the caramel and chilli glaze as they were bone dry but I’d poured a liberal helping of the chiptole ketchup and the hot habanero sauce,teamed with the pot of garlic mayo on my tray ready to slap with my crispy chicken wings.

I think the mild flavour choice was a good call as a plate full of the hot habanero would of overpowered everything and with the dip on the side you can apply to your taste it was just a shame my chicken didn’t seem to have the caramel and chilli glaze making them sticky as I think they must of forgoten about it before plating up. Never the less the chicken was morishly addictive with a smudge of garlic mayo then alternating swipes of the chiptole and habanero sauce with each bite.

The mac n cheese was something else too. Creamy and strong cheesey taste with a kick of mustard lingering on in the mouth after each mouthful I didn’t want the mug to end. It would of been 10/10 with a sprinkle of crispy bacon nuggets on top mind but were delicious without.

It did fill a hole although the glutenous me inside had wished i’d ordered the chilli cheese fries just to try too but I was eating alone and that would of just been greedy!

The Verdict

It’s a thumbs up from me for Wing Wednesday from me at Small Bar and can see me popping in again sometime soon on a Wednesday and this time I’ll get to try the chilli cheese fries too. A bit dissapointed my chicken didn’t arrive as I’d pictured based on the description as they were supposed to be sticky wings and were missing the glaze I would of expected but the Gingerbeards sauces available with the condiments made up for it. Mac and cheese was spot on but as mentioned earlier a bit of crispy bacon or something greazy and crunchy on top would of taken it to the next level.

My good friend Dewi working behind the bar is always on hand to offer some well informed recomendations about what’s on tap on the day and also informed me there is 2 for 1 on pizzas on Mondays. Having sampled the spizy pork calzone the last time I was in I’ll definitely be sampling a pizza there some time soon.

The beer flight deal they have on at Small Bar is always worth a punt too as £7.50 gets you 5 x 1/3 pints of anything 7% and under. But fear not you crazy beer guzzling lunatics, you can top up a £1 per drink for anything over 7% so you can still sample something under the Crazy Shit options on the menu. It’s now my go to option whenever I’m there now as I get to sample so many different drinks in one sitting plus it works out miles cheaper too. I love that they always have a sour beer or two on the go at any one time too as it’s my new favourite tipple.

Saying that the 13% 3 bean stout I sampled in my flight was such a good drink. Some of the stouts and porters on the higher end of the abv scale tend to be so intense they’re unpalatable but this one from Lervig had so many levels of flavour with coffee and vanilla notes coming through.It was so satisfying and a great drink to end on especially as I hadn’t ordered dessert.

Nant Restaurant Review – Coleg y Cymoedd Treforest

Having sampled the food on offer at The Classroom back last year after it all kicked off online with Jay Reiner slating the Cardiff food scene I thought I’d compare the offerings from the food college further up the valley and a bit closer to home at Coleg y Cymmoedd’s Nant Restaurant.

I started following the restaurant on Facebook back last year and have often been tempted by the ever changing weekly menu it was just finding a suitable time as they don’t open on the weekend and are usually fully booked unless you ring a couple of weeks beforehand but then you have to take a gamble on the menu.

Anyway we thought we would take a stab at it and hope the weekly menu stood up to our tastes and luckily enough we got in for the St David’s day special menu.

The Nant Restaurant is attached to the Coleg y Cymoedd campus in Treforest, opposite Showcase Cinemas and has it’s own entrance seen from the road heading onto the roundabout for McDonalds, Showcase and Makro.

The restaurant was a bit smaller than I had imagined although there was a big group of about 20 people sat on a long table near the window then id say about 5 tables for two or 4 people dotted around the room.

Being on the ground floor and netting on the window, the views didn’t quite match the top floor panoramic view of Cardiff at the Classroom but you can’t blame the restaurant for that and I was going to leave the food do the talking.

nant restaurant wine and drink menu

The Food

There is a set menu featuring a choice of 3 starters and 3 mains that changes weekly with a meat, fish and veggie option usually featuring on the menu and two desserts with a set price of wait for it…£12.50 for dinner! Yes you heard that right just £12.50 for 3 courses. The drinks prices couldn’t of been far off cost price either as I paid 2.60 for a glass of wine or could of got a whole bottle for under a tenner.

For starters we ordered the salmon fishcakes for Mwsh and the goats cheese and red onion tartlets. Being terrified of the thought of salmon passing my lips I grew some balls and mustered a fork full of the crispy coated fishy nuggets and I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t like salmon in fact in fact I detest the stuff but I gave it a try and the starter was good. Mwsh gave the thumbs up too as it was her choice but we do like to have a try of each others.

Mine was the goats cheese filo tart with a perfectly crisp filo pastry base, filled with a good measure of caramelised onion and golden crusted goats cheese. I am quite partial to a wedge of goats cheese and must of finished off a log to myself this week on toast with fig and chilli honey and this was equally as scrumptious. I think they must of layered a smudging of honey on top of the cheese before baking as it was beautifully golden and slight crisp on top. Expertly presented with doodles of balsamic I believe on the plate both adding decoration and flavour to the creamy, crispy plate of food before me.

We usually opt for two different mains but as the menu was smaller than your average restaurant we didn’t want to go veggie and neither of us fancied the trout so we both opted for braised shoulder of Brecon lamb on braised red cabbage with rosemary jus.

Again both presented to a high standard Mwsh’s was cooked perfectly pink with mine a bit on the well done side. By no means was it burnt and was tender and tasted delicious but it wasn’t as good as Mwsh’s as there was no pink juicy flesh in sight. The jus was scarce in it’s presentation on the plate and could of done with a little pot to add over the veggie bowl accompanied with the meal but what was there tasted excellent.

We couldn’t quite work out what the other round thin disk was on the plate it resembled a sort of nut stuffing and added to the flavour of the healthy chunks of lamb. The veggie bowl comprised of carrots, roasted potato cubes in what I think was paprika, a few green beans (3 to be precise) and neither of us could tell what the other ingredient was as it was very soft, had the texture and colour of potato but think it could of been swede. All cooked to perfection but would of been nice with a bit of extra jus to drown them in.

Thumbs up from both of us for the lamb main and at this point had us planning out next trip and even contemplating a monthly visit for the crazy price. I’ve spent more on a curry and pint in spoons in curry club on a Thursday after I’ve added a few sides to go with it.

Being only two desserts on the menu, the only right thing to do was have one of each to share. Mwsh went for the apple and cinnamon tart with barabrith ice cream and Penderyn Whisky and I opted for the Whisky chocolate fondant with honey cream.

the apple tart had a lovely crisp finish complimented by a spoonful of pure Welshness in my mouth from the barabrith ice cream and Penderyn Whisky and all came together really well. Couldn’t quite taste the Penderyn Whisky myself and wasn’t sure in what form it was on the plate but I only had a sample so could of missed it on my spoon but tasted great non the less.

I’ve been neglecting my old friend recently so it was time to be reacquainted for dessert. My good friend chocolate came in the form of a moist sponge with it’s inner liquid belly oozing out when eagerly stabbing it’s core with my fork waiting to see how well cooked it had been. Top marks on the chocolate fondant with firm exterior and perfect balance of gooey chocolate centre. A milk and white chocolate shard paired with the honey cream to tame the dark chocolatey fondant. Again I couldn’t quite pick up the whisky flavour in the dish but might just be compared to my overly generous portions of liquid fire i’ve added to my Penderyn Whisky cream when i’ve attempted it at home. Not for the faint hearted that’s for sure! I’d take a mark off for the lack of whisky flavour in both desserts but they still came out scoring very high so I wasn’t too dishearten.

nant restaurant final bill

The verdict

The desserts rounded off an excellent first dinning experience at the Nant Restaurant. All 3 courses were presented well, tasted better than good and the students were so attentive I didn’t wait longer than 30 seconds between finishing a drink or course and they were gone from the table.

This is an excellent idea to get the students real world experience of the hospitality industry and even though I don’t think the final finish of the food wasn’t quite up to that of The Classroom I’d pick this over again next time as it wasn’t much in it and the little fact of it costing just over a third of the price of the Classroom. The bill there was just around £110 for 3 courses a bottle of wine and two cocktails.

The classroom did have more of a restaurant feel and vibe to it and featured a much better stocked bar and cocktail list and the view (if you sat on the right side of the room) is second to none in Cardiff but you don’t half pay for those additions. It was probably average for a good quality restaurant but at the end of the day the students are providing the service so you would expect a slight discount on the the overall price. At the Nant Restaurant it is all about the experience for the students with prices not much more than cost price that’s what the end goal is but The Classroom would in my eyes seem to be turning over a healthy profit in comparison.

Some feedback I would give the Nant is a nice wedge of bread and some butter or freshly baked roll wouldn’t of gone a miss and could of showcased some of the student bakers end products before we ate as everyone loves a bit of bread to start no matter who you are. One other thing was out table had a beyond rediculous wobble and drove both of us nuts we couldn’t cut into the food even gently without fear of spilling the wine so I had to sit with my elbow holding the table in place whilst we ate. We were sat just right of the bar and a bit of wood to wedge the table in place wouldn’t be too hard to remedy this for the future but all in all a very good first visit. I would highly recommend not only for the price but the quality of the food and the opportunity to give students some highly valuable experience in the hospitality industry and their future working lives.

We are looking to make it a regular visit maybe once a month if we can get in as the menu changes every week so we won’t get bored for a while eating the same thing like most restaurants.