We were recently invited along to the Loving Welsh Food tour in Cardiff. If you haven’t heard of them, they run tours every Friday and Saturday, tasting your way through some of Cardiff’s best love independent’s and favourite delicacies (Yes we do have some!)
Just so that everyone knew were X marked the spot at the starting line, we were told to meet at Cardiff Castle for a 10.30am start.There were only two other Cardiff dwellers, apart from us and we still managed to rock up late, surprise, surprise.
Our tour guide for the day was Sian, who was Cardiff born and bred, but capable of delivering tours in a variety of other languages too. After giving our (Llio’s) apologies for our poor time management, we got right into a brief history lesson about Cardiff, the castle and how the Bute family shaped the small farming town into the great city it is today. I also found out that the Castle buildings were home to a music college, not long before I made it into the world and Sian learned to play piano there, which is pretty bloody cool if you ask me.
Luckily for us there, were no 5 metre high flags to follow, megaphones to deafen us or cattle prods to keep us in check for our meandering trail through streets and arcades, it was a nice casual affair in a group of around 10 of us.
First pit stop – Pettigrew Tea Rooms
We didn’t have far to walk from our meeting point, which happened to be just along the boundary wall of Cardiff Castle and one of my favourite breakfast spots in the Diff, Pettigrew Tea House.
This is how I want every Saturday to start from now on, with thick wedges of Bara Brith and butter, savoury laverbread scones with cream cheese and chilli relish all washed down with some posh loose leaf tea form Caton Teas. Well there was going to be walking on this tour, so we had better make sure we had enough calories to keep us going till the next stop.
After polishing off the sweet and savouries from the first stop, we made our way through Bute Park on what must have been the clearest morning i’ve seen in Cardiff for a while. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Heading to the Civic Centre, the tour was mixed with little nuggets of historical information, which I love just as much as sampling my way through some classic Welshy food.
Stop 2 – Wally’s Deli
We made our way across town, whilst being pinpointed to spots of interest such as historically significant buildings that I probably pass several times a day without looking up and noticing them. The next time you walk through Queen Street or St Mary’s street, cast your eyes above the horizon, and you’ll be surprised by what might catch your eye.
Our next stop was at Cardiff’s favourite deli and ever expanding Wally’s, situated in one of the city’s famous Victorian arcades. I love popping in for for some charcuterie, biltong and to have a browse at their latest gin delivery.
We were treated to a selection of cheese including some welsh varities, along with tasters of cured meats. I loved the Welsh Black Bomber cheese. It does what it says on the tin, with an explosion of strong mature cheesilicous flavours going off in your mouth with each tasty bite.
Stop 3 – The Cottage Pub
What goes hand in hand with cheese and meaty nuggets on a cocktail stick? Yes, Alcohol, you’re correct!
Next up, and one of Cardiff’s oldest watering holes, was the Brain’s owned The Cottage Pub. You can’t get more Old School. We popped in for a pie and a pint a few months back, and it was like home from home for me with my grandparents pub.
Although Brain’s Brewery haven’t been brewing for quite as many 100’s of years as Guiness or have the mammoth marketing budget of the Black Irish medicine. What they do have, is rugby favourite Brains Dark. Also coloqually known as a “pint of Daaahke”, which were tasting today. From living with my grandparents in a rugby club till the age of 1, fuelled by barrels of Brains, I was well acquinted with the nectar.
For those with a less malty thirst, we also got to try a tipple of fermented apples by my longstanding favourite Welsh cider producer Gwynt y Ddraig.
I never used to miss a bank holiday shindig in their straw bale dotted farm yard in Llantwit Fardre, when they first came onto the scene over 10 years ago. Sadly not everyone could keep up with the potent offerings, especially with the half a mile walk back down the mountain from the farm after supping on 7.5% rocket fuelled black dragon.
One guy I worked with broke his leg and had two months off work, falling arse over tit back down the mountain at one open day. In the end there were more St John’s Ambulance volunteers than patrons so they knocked it on the head.
On this occasion, we were gently ushered into Gwynt y Ddraigs back catalogue of ciders with a respectable 4.5% award winning Orchard Gold.
Stop 4 – Cardiff Market
After sipping our way through the two drinks and finishing off the last morsels of our Wally’s platter, which we took for the road, we headed to my favourite lunch time stop, Cardiff Market.
If you’re hungry and want something to eat for under £5 then this is the place to be. There’s not much you can’t find here and what you can’t they are probably in the pipeline to open with the likes of Ffrness, Holly Yolks and Milgi opening up within the past 12 months.
You’ve also got Thai, cheese stalls, old school baps, sandwiches and corned beef pies to choose from along with my weekly fruit and veg run and butchers. Oh and don’t forget the cat or gold fish upstairs.
Today we were starting with some Welsh (Wo)Man’s Caviar. Also known as laverbread, of which we had a taster in our savoury scones at Pettigrew. This time though we were going head first, with unadulterated slathering of cooked seaweed on biscuits topped with cockles and a few shakes of the vinegar bottle. This was my first time trying laverbread and cockles, as it is without being blitzed, mixed, deep fried or baked in some concoction. I’m glad I tried it, but I can’t see it making it’s way onto the weekly shop.
I’ve enjoyed cockle popcorn, the Bara Menyn cockle bomb for breakfast and the savoury scones at Pettigrew but on their own, not quite for me. Some people had 2nd’s so each to their own.
Not content with sampling one dish from the market, we had another two stops to go here. Next up was the deli in the middle, and first up was the hearty classic , Faggots with gravy. My grandmother always used to do a banquet of faggots, peas, chips, gravy with bread and butter for the Welsh international games and this took me right back. Obviously, being a tasting tour, we got more manageable portions as we had a few more stops to go.
Also on the menu at the deli, and something that would of went hand in hand with our pint of daaaaahk earlier was the humble Claaaahks pie (Clarkes Pie to non Cardiffians). Luckily for me, I still had a pool of gravy left in my container from my faggots, so I went fully valleys and moped it up with my meaty portion of steak pie.
With our last stop of the market, we headed over to a relatively new stall. Holy Yolks started life around the local food markets and we’ve picked a few freshly fried, golden, crispy globes at Riverside on a Sunday. There’s a couple to choose from and these not a hard boiled grey yolk in sight. Be prepared for a gooey amber dribbling mess around your face. But it’s definitely worth it. The honey i shrunk the pig is delish but they’ve got a bacon riddled version and a veggie (maybe vegan) too.
Stop 5 – Fabulous Welshcakes
After an onslaught of savoury goodies to dive into, we were not on full sail into something sweet. Nothing says Welsh and sweet more than a bag full Welsh Cakes. Even though there’s a few stalls churning out mountains of the stodgy Welsh favourite, we were heading out of the Market to try somewhere else.
Fabulous Welshcakes happens to be less than 5 minutes from work, and I often pinch a taste when they are holding samples outside the shop on Castle street on my lunch break. Going full circle, we’re now stood opposite the starting line waiting for the freshly griddled sugary mouthfulls to be bundled into a bag for us to devour.
We had the classic Welsh cake batter mix, but they do different varieties such as orange and cinnamon, chocolate chip. Although to purists these might be frowned upon, but hey if it’s good enough to eat, I don’t care what you call them.
Stop 6 – Bar 44
With the finish line in sight, we took a leisurely stroll up Womamby Street, nibbling our Welsh Cakes on foot. Well I finished mine before we left the shop but others were savouring each bite.
Last but not least, we headed into the red brick slightly underground tapas haven that is Bar 44 for a good chin wag with fellow food tourer walkers and something sweet and wet. We were presented with a couple of plates adhorned with rich, dark, meltingly delicious chocolate truffles flecked with sea salt.
We then had a choice of poison or coffee. The stronger options were beer or Cava. We had a bottle of the Vilarnau Brut Reserva to take up north, to celebrate Fiesta Calcottada and knew how banging it was, so there was no competition in my eyes.
Apart from the early start (yes 10.30am is early for me on a Saturday!) I loved every bit of the tour. I managed to try some of my old favourites, things that brought back memories from my past, growing up and some were totally new to me.
We also learned a lot about some of the history of Cardiff, which I always find fascinating along with taking in some of the amazing locations right on our doorstep that we all take for granted most of the time.
Yes i work in town and have tried a couple of the things we tried, but they are bloody lovely so I will keep eating them but even if you are local to Cardiff I’d still recommend going. We had a really lovely group that we were with and it was great to have a chat to some of the people to see what they thought of some of the food we eat or places to eat. We had people from Cardiff, further afield in Wales and as far as Canada.
If you aren’t from Wales or are visiting the city then this food tour would be at the top of my list of things to do. You get a guided tour around some of my favourite places to eat that you just wouldn’t stumble on if you walked across the city by yourself or know what to order if you did happen upon just one of them.
The cost is around £40 and as you can see, we had plenty to taste and places to visit in the 3.5 hour tour around the capital of Wales. We were invited along on the tour so our space was voluntary, but seeing as they picked my favourite spots to eat and drink, I’d have no hesitation recommending joining the tour one weekend.
Loving Welsh Food
Tel: 01970 631731