Posts

Loving Welsh Food Tour of Cardiff

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.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms

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

The Cottage Pub Cardiff

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.

Welsh beer at The Cottage Pub Cardiff

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.

Welsh Cider - The Cottage Pub Cardiff

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.

Laverbread and cockles at Cardiff Market

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.

Faggots and gravy - Cardiff Market

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.

Clarkes Pie at Cardiff Market

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.

Scotch egg at Holy Holks - Cardiff Market

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.

Welsh Cakes from Fabulous Welshcakes Cardiff

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.

Cava and chocolate truffles - Bar 44 Cardiff

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.

The Verdict

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.

Contact Details

Loving Welsh Food

Web: lovingwelshfood.uk
Tel: 01970 631731

Sosban Restaurant Review Llanelli

Sosban has been on my hit list for a while now but I’ve not got around to organising a trip down to Llanelli’s most highly regarded restaurant located within a listed Victorian Pump House close to the docks due to the fact it’s not within easy reach of uber.

If you’ve been watching this years Great British Menu on BBC you might of noticed head chef Andrew Sheridan representing Wales just last week, so it was exciting to be heading down with such a buzz about the place at the moment.

We booked in for the 7 course taster last Saturday at 6pm, which meant we could nip down on the train have a few drinks with our food and not have to worry about one of us driving or booking into a hotel for the night. The train from Cardiff Central was about 1 hour 20 each way and cost around £16 for a day return if you fancy doing something similar on your trip down to Sosban.

Not having been to Llanelli on the train previously and only stepping foot in the town once before, I wasn’t quite sure where in relation to the restaurant we would vacate the train. It’s a bit of a weird one really as the train station about half a mile away from the town centre and in the middle of streets of terraced housing snaking in all directions.

We had half hour to kill so we set off on foot with my best friend google maps, which ended up taking about 20 minutes. On the way back we opted for a taxi, which only set us back £4.

The Venue

I tried popping in to Sosban on my one and only visit to Llanelli but we got to the venue at 2.15pm on a Sunday and they closed at 2.30pm so we we didn’t bother in the end.

We made sure we had a good few hours ahead of us this time and once we hit the docks and followed the route of the old Carmarthenshire Canal. Meandering next to the muddy banks until we saw the chimney poking it’s head up behind the units of the business park it’s located on.

I love that the impressive, stone clad building has stood the test of time and is testament to the previous industry around the time it was erected in 1900. It will no doubt still be stood there in another 100 years, whilst the carbon copy buildings of this day and age look outdated within 10 years and age get bulldozed over after 20-30 years.

The pump house chimney overshadows anything else within miles and at night the stone fortress facade is illuminated by spotlights, making it all the more impressive. Inside, walls lay bare exposing the bowels of the century old Victorian industrial marvel. The name Sosban coming from both the tin plating industry during the last century and the Sosban Fach song that has become synonymous with Llanelli rugby and The Scarlets.

A harmony of contemporary style with autumnal farm barn feel with timber ceilings and joists, slate floor and leafy chandeliers paired with white walls, exposed stainless steel kitchen, lemon tree and perfectly ingrained walls of glass that filled the rooms with natural light.

Chef Andrew Sheridan

We were lucky to grab 5 minutes with the chef as it was really early and one of the first to arrive. He gave us a brief history of where he worked previously and found out that he worked at the fairy tale like Chateaux Rhianfa in Anglesey, which me and the other half had a leisurely stroll around back in April when we visited the Island last.

Also interesting because he was faced with the head chef of the Chateaux on last weeks Great British Menu along with The Whitebrook, representing Wales. I didn’t realise till he mentioned it but it was filmed nearly a year ago so it must of been torture not being able to tell anyone the results of the show and how he got on. He would neither confirm or deny whether he would be back for round two when it starts filming again in a few weeks.

The Food

There’s a choice of menu’s at Sosban with the option of dinning a la carte or the 7 or 9 course taster menus. Chef told us they had been churning out over 60 taster covers a night recently and I can imagine it’s only going to get busier with the recent stint on The Great British Menu.

bread and marmite butter at Sosban Llanelli

We were dinning from the 7 course taster menu, which started with my favourite…bread! Soft but dense mini loaf, halved to share and served with Netherend farm butter and a marmite butter swabbed on two little rocks. I could eat bread for days especially slathered thick with butter. The marmite butter wasn’t just a dollop of marmite mixed in but must have gone through some dehydration process as it was dry and grated onto the butter. I love marmite and toast and this provided a lovely yeasty, umami hit.

Our poison for the evening consisted of a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which i thought would suit the majority of the courses that lay ahead of us.

Tasting menu starters at Sosban Llanelli

Second and third courses were served together as they were bite sized portions. Well depending how big your bite is and I nibbled away at each one to savour the flavour instead of shoveling it down like I do when i’ve cooked myself.

The delectable mini nacho like nibbles consisted of:

Crispy chicken skin, smooth chicken parfait, elderflower jelly and grape chutney giving an amalgamation of flavour and texture

and

Sweet Potato Cracker, pickled mustard seeds that popped in the mouth, onion marmalade and creamy cheddar custard.

The cod 5 ways course at Sosban Llanelli

Next came the Chefs signature dish and the one served on Great British Menu, which is cod 5 ways. A take on the British seaside favourite, fish and chips. Perfectly poached cod loin, crispy puffed cod skin, lightly battered cod cheek, mini fried potato cubes, burnt aubergine puree, which could not go without tiny nuggets of pickled gherkins to add a mellow vinegar tang to the dish.

hay smoken venison at Sosban Llanelli

Fifth course was the standout dish for me. Soft and tender blushing pink, hay smoked venison with beetroot ketchup, silky black pudding to add an extra earthy note that paired with a pang of tartness from the raspberries.

Sosban trifle dessert

With the savoury dishes over we went into the sweets and first up was the Sosban trifle. This wasn’t your average 70’s trifle from a birds packet. This was made from chunks of sponge, pickled blackberries whisky and lavender jelly and citrusy lemon curd to bring it all together. A decent modern interpretation of your nan’s favourite although I would of liked a bit more of a kick of whiskey in the jelly. Saying that I always go overboard when mixing alcohol with dessert and it never sets but a nip more in the mix wouldn’t go a miss for my taste here. I liked the little shards of cinder toffee to add a slight bitter, sugary crunch.

Coffee pannacotta dessert at Sosban Llanelli

The second dessert up and my fav of the two was a coffee pannacotta, chocolate and coffee textures. An assault of rich coffee aromas from the pannacotta, creamy chocolate ice cream and the gooiest chocolate brownie chunks. The malty nuggets gave a Malteser like crunch to the coffee dessert.

Cheese board at Sosban Llanelli

We thought this was the end to the food but we were surprised with a slate board with a selection of 5 cheeses, each paired with a different base and eating vessel and an assortment of different chutneys for each cheese.

Cheeses included:

– Barkham Blue – a medium strength blue veiny soft cheese

– Kidderton Ash Goats – a creamy ash coated goats cheese

– Black Bomber – a strong no nonsense extra mature cheddar

– Ogle Shield – a soft west country cheese. I’ve used this at home to make amazing cheese toasties. I stole the idea from producer and owner Bill’s Kappacasein’s at Borough Market in London, which are the best in town.

– Eve – a soft goats cheese washed in Somerset Cider Brandy

An excellent journey through cheeses from around the UK with some I’d tried, some I hadn’t but all of which I’d happily have adorning my cheese board in future. We both decided to have a large 10 year old port to help us finish off the cheese

This last course finished us both off and there was no way we were walking back to the train station unless someone rolled me there.

I was planning on sampling a few more drinks in the bar after the food but I was so stuffed, I would of struggled with anything after the wine and port.

The Verdict

You can see why there is such a buzz around this place and why head chef Andrew had is face on BBC’s The Great British Menu recently.

We were invited down to sample the tasting menu but The Sosban has been on my list of places to eat at for over a year now and it was definitely worth the journey down to Llanelli for. The 7 course taster menu costs £55 per person. The 9 course will set you back an extra £10, which will get you the addition of a chargrilled Jumbo Prawn, prawn mayonnaise and puffed potato and a saffron mousse, orange ice cream and cookie date crumble to take you from the mains into the desserts.

The drinks menu features some Welsh favourites from the Whiskey and Gin world such as Penderyn and Da Mhile.

Chef mentioned he is hoping to have a best of night coming up soon with some guest chefs joining him to put on a menu of menus and I for one can’t wait to snap up a ticket when they pencil a date in the diary.

Update: Sosban have just launched a discount voucher on Travelzoo offering two dinners a 6 course tasting menu for just £49 of 4 diners for £95.

 

Gymkhana Restaurant Review – Mayfair, London

Gymkhana is another restaurant I only found out about recently after researching gin and food pairing for a recent Cardiff Gin Club collaboration. The restaurant is a Michelin star Indian restaurant located in Mayfair and it was the Pink Gin menu that first caught my attention. None of this sugar laden, plastic pink gin bullshit but how Pink Gin was first drank by the British Navy over 200 years ago, with gin and bitters to give it a pink hue. 

They actually had a use back in those days too with the bitters used to treat sea sickness and counter the effects of not being able to refrigerate food by settling the stomach and aiding digestion. They were also enjoyed by the British in India during the British Raj an hour or two before Sunday tiffin.

After giving the gin and cocktail menu a once over it, it didn’t take me long to cast my gaze over the food menu, which turned out to be just as enticing. With several menus on offer from a la carte, tasting menus and feasting menus with varying number courses and prices for lunch and evening dinning from £25 to £90.

I was keen to visit the venue sometime in the near future when up in the big smoke and it just so happened I booked tickets to Meatopia, which took place a week ago. Wanting to try some the Martinis at Dukes Bar in Mayfair whilst I was up there it made sense to book Dukes Hotel for the night, which meant we were within walking distance of Gymkhana for lunch the following day.

The Venue

The Gymkhana Restaurant was only around 10 minutes walk from Dukes Hotel so we strolled across after checking out for our 12pm table booking. It would only be about 10 minutes from Piccadilly Circus and Carnaby Street too if you’re around the neck of the woods.

Gymkha Restaurant London

The venue is based on the old Gymkhana sports clubs in India that were frequented by high society to drink, eat, socialise and play sport. The theme ran right through the restaurant with dark wooden panelled decor and ceilings, prized stuffed animal heads from hunting and illustrations adorning the walls depicting cricket players, Indian Military officers and polo players throughout. Attention to detail was unreal, right down to the basement toilets with branded water toilet tank and a seating loo seat that resembled an actual throne. This reminded me exactly like the other half’s, aunties toilet in her cottage up in Anglesey. 

Seating consisted of green leather panelled benches around the outside of half of the upstairs with narrow dark wooden tables to seat tables of two. There were a couple of cubicles for larger groups too. We both thought the restaurant looked a bit smaller than we thought it would be upstairs but it was only toward the end of the meal and after visiting the little boys room that I realised there was also another room downstairs that was also full of dinners.

We were sat by the front window, on the corner so we had a full view of the upstairs but also a slightly larger table compared to tables in the middle. This was handy as we had a bit more table surface and saw one table struggle for room with drinks and a selection of plates each that happened to arrive at the same time.

The Food

The Feasting menu or hunters menu featuring 7 courses, which included prawns and a few different game birds costing up to £90 were only available in the evening. We were dinning for lunch so there was either the choice of a la carte, a set lunch menu with 3 courses starting at £25 or 5 courses for £38.50. No prizes for guessing what option we went for. Luckily for us there was a choice of two dishes for each course so we just asked for one of each to share so we got to taste a bit of everything.

Pink Gin menu at Gymkhana London

cocktail menu at Gymkhana London

After picking one of everything from the lunch menu, it was time to delve head first into the drinks menu. I’d seen a thunderbolt G & T on instagram so I was going to order one of those as they looked very nutritious but they didn’t seem to appear on the menu. I was also keen to try some of the pink gin’s with wonderfully flavoured bitters such as dandelion and burdock with Monkey 47. I’d taken some inspiration from the menu and ordered a bottle of the Jindea Single Estate Darjeeling First Flush to pair with the dessert menu at Purple Popadom, which we sweetened to match the sugary creme brûlée with the aid of a Darjeeling tea syrup.

I decided to go off piste for something totally different with a tequila cocktail from the punch and club classics menu called green leaves. This consisted of Tapatio Tequila, cucumber, green chutney cordial, lime and Himalayan salt, which I thought would be a good all rounder to pair with the different courses.

CARMICHAEL CUP cocktail at Gymkhana London

Green leaves tequila cocktail at Gymkhana London

Llio opted for something a bit lighter with an Indian inspired Pimms Royale. This fruity number featured Ciroc vodka, Early Grey tea, elderflower and vetiver grass, lemon, ginger, seasonal fruits and a touch of champagne for elegance.

Although Sake is usually more at home and Japanese restaurants, I read somewhere that the head chef at Gymkhana is looking to start pairing the food with Sake, which will be an interesting change. Sake is derived from rice though, which is a staple in Indian cuisine.

The first of the courses and usually my favourite part of an Indian and that’s the chips and dips. 

I liked that we had a selection of different dipping devices and not just a plate of standard popadoms, each with their own unique flavour and texture. I’d never seen the white bubbly variety called Sabudana Papads, which looked like little slabs of polystyrene at first but tasted a lot better than I’d imagine it’s lookie likey to taste. There wasn’t much of each dip to go around with the amount of chips we had but they were strong and punchy and a little went a long way especially the shrimp dip, which gave a good savoury contrast against the sweet mango chutney.

Potato chaat at Gymkhana Mayfair

The bowl of potato chat, chana masala and tamarind was plentiful and took us in to the first round of the starters. Soft potato and chickpeas layered in a sweet sauce, yogurt and crispy shreds of sev, a fried crispy potato noodle. This was a flavourbomb of textures and flavours that prepared us for the bountiful feast on the senses to come.

It was interesting to see Gymkanas take on some of the popular street food favourites in India compared to some similar dishes I’d tried at Bwyta Bwyd Bombai (3 B’s) in Cardiff, which does a very good selection themselves including the Potato Chat and the next dish coming up, the dosa.

dosa and kid goat methi keema at Gymkhana -London

The dosa is a cripy rice pancake like parcel with a filling and a selection of dips. The pancake can look overwhelming at first but the filling is usually limited to a few spoonfulls in the centre so it’s not too heavy.

This came served at the same time as the kid goat methi keema, salli, pao, which was probably one of my favourite items on the tasting menu. A medium spiced sauce, flaked with goat meat with crispy potato sticks that is meant to be mixed in and sandwiched between a bread roll. A buttery roll with a rich spiced meat and crispy shards of potato. I could of eaten 10 in a row they were divine!

Paneer Tikka at Gymkhana Mayfair

 

Well this is embarrassing. I thought the Paneer Tikka, Cashew Nut, Corn Chat was a stuffed chicken. Paneer if you’ve not tried it is an Indian soft cheese that looks like a cross between halloumi with the softness of tofu. It’s used in many Indian dishes as it keeps it’s shape unlike more well known European cheeses and is good at absorbing the spices and flavours it is cooked in. It also resembles cooked diced chicken if you’ve had too many Martini’s for supper the night before.

fish tasting dish at Gymkhana Mayfair

The Hariyali Bream, Tomato Kachumber was a here or there dish. It was ok but didn’t stand up to the other rich, flavoursome dishes on the menu but it was a pleasant addition of a seafood dish instead of a full on meat feast as I’d eaten half a farm the day before at Meatopia.

We’re now into the mains with two rice dishes, but only because we ordered one of everything to share. The first was a vegetarian dish consisting of wild mushroom, asparagus, morel & truffle pilau and probably my least favourite of the dishes. It’s the first time i’ve ever seen a dish seasoned with fresh truffle instead of the usual salt or pepper so this looked really impressive but I think it was the asparagus i didn’t like in the dish. I do like asparagus but it just wasn’t for me in this.

wild mushroom and truffle pilau at Gymkha Mayfair

The Samudri Seafood Biryani, Pomegranate & Mint Raita was miles ahead for me though and I don’t even like salmon. Generous nuggets of seafood such as prawns and a portion of salmon entombed in golden, perfumed rice, which I piled on top of the huge pile of scorched bread with dollops of Dum Aloo Benarasi & Lasooni Dal.

After soldiering on as best we could, we submitted in defeat at the two rice dishes and bread overload as nice as they were. All was not lost though as everyone knows there’s a second stomach always on standby to be called up when faced with dessert.

With a choice of three desserts we opted for a Mango Shrikhand, Yoghurt & Lime Sorbet and a
Black Carrot Halwa, White Chocolate & Rose Ice Cream to finish off the Indian lunchtime banquet.

Desserts at Gymkhana Mayfair

The Mango shrikhand is a sweet yogurt based dessert mixed with fresh mango that was stuffed in a sweet crunchy tuile like cigar coated in sesame seeds with nuggets of fresh mango and cooling sorbet.

The quenelle of carrot halwa was interesting, which is a sweetened dish made of grated carrots slowly cooked in ghee and milk. It was dense but not sweet enough for my liking but I really liked the white chocolate and rose ice cream it was paired with.

The Verdict

We had an absolute mountain of food between us and got to try all but one dish on the whole tasting menu by ordering one of each of the two options between us. This was Indian food like I’ve never tried and blew every other Indian meal I had out of the water and this was just the introduction to what Gymkhana is capable of. They’ve got a well deserved Michelin Star, based in the heart of Mayfair meaning they’ve got some very affluent customers who will be used to eating very good quality food, so they have to be at the top of their game to survive where they are based.

I didn’t like every dish but I did taste 10 and it’s all down to personal taste. It wasn’t that the food wasn’t good I just didn’t particularly like it myself. We dinned at the lunch time tasting menu and it was excellent value for money for what we had but I would love to go back in the evening to try the feasting or hunters menu featuring more luxurious ingredients. For twice the price I’d be expecting nothing less than a masterpiece but I think they could very well pull it off from what I had at lunch.

I’d also make a bigger dent in the cocktail menu as we dinned at 12 midday and had a day of shopping ahead of us, I didn’t want to go overboard so we only had the one cocktail each.

I would have no hesitation about recommending this restaurant to anyone and would love to dine there again, although I’ve got my eyes set on Dishoom in Shoreditch first before I head back.

We spent £116 for the 5 course taster menu for two and a cocktail each with service charge. The hunters and feasting menu is around £90 each, so I think i’ll have to wait till my birthday for that one.

Final bill at Gymkhana Mayfair

Twenty Nine Park Place Restaurant Review Cardiff

The latest venue to open by the Knife and Fork Fork group, the team behind Cardiff and Penarth favourites The Conway, The Pilot, The Discovery and The Old Swan is Twenty Nine Park Place. Located at, you’ve guessed it 29 Park Place just across from the National Museum of Wales it is their most central Cardiff venue to date.

I’ve had a pint or two and lunch at both The Conway and The Pilot in the past and become acquainted with their no nonsense, good hearty pub food so it was interesting to see how the menu would differ being in such close proximity to the likes of Park House and The Laguna Restaurant at Park Plaza.
I’d followed the venue early on before they opened the doors and was impressed with the promise of a pretty decent selection of craft beers. They had one or two local beers at the two other venues under the Knife and Fork Food umbrella but they seemed to be ramping up their offering here, which had the thumbs up from me.

The Venue

I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit the venue under the previous management that sadly went under less than 12 months ago so I wasn’t sure how it compared to the previous incarnation. The venue seems to be suited to a casual pint near the entrance and around the bar and the restaurant with seating split between round tables of around 7 seats to each in the middle and rows sitting 4-8 along the sides within a conservatory like extension to the main building.

 

Craft beer board - Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The illuminated craft beer board stops you in your tracks as soon as you walk into the venue, enticing you in to sample the ample selection of fermented hoppy nectar. On closer inspection they have a growing selection of craft gins for those who fancy something lighter on the waistline too.

The Food

We scouted out some of the starters we’d seen on socials from the recent launch night with them averaging £7 mark.

I was intrigued by the sound of the giant scallop, cauliflower puree, pancetta sand and sorrel for £7.50 as I honestly didn’t know if this was an actual living shellfish or some kind of mutant creation from the kitchen as it’s hard to realise scale on an Instagram photo.

 

fried muscles and cockles Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The other half and her mum opted for the ox cheek scotch egg, rarebit dip at £7. We also opted for some nibbles whilst we waited, which consisted of crispy cockles and muscles at £3 and some homemade bread for £2.50. I’d had deep fried cockles before but it was nice to try the muscles too. And the bread…well who doesn’t love homemade bread.

 

Giant scallop starter at Twenty Nine Park Place CArdiff

 

The giant scallop was served in a standard sized shell, which led me to poking and prodding the white squidgy mass in the middle to see if it was real or not. Not needing David Attenborough to explain to me in the end that this was a creation from the kitchen and not dredged from the waters of the English Channel.

The soufflé type concoction of what must have been scallop meat with egg quite remarkably resembled a scallop with a lighter, airier texture and more mellow flavour of scallop. Generous in size, it was enjoyable at first but became a little sickly towards the last bite or two. The pancetta sand added a nice crunchy texture and hit of bacony, fatty, lovliness too.

 

Ox Cheek Scotch Egg adn rarebit dip Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The scotch egg was decent in size although it could of done with a minute or two less as the yolk was almost hard boiled and meat a tad dry. The rarebit dip added a much needed dose of moisture though.

Opting to verge off main menu and try one of the sharing board specials. On the night, the options consisted of tomahawk steak, lobster or a picanha steak. Seeing as I was a tad hungry I know from past experience you don’t get much bang for your buck when it comes to lobster and even though the tomahawk looks pretty epic on a plate, you’re essentially paying for a steak plus what would normally be heading for the waste bin with the wing tip. If I was eating with dog Marley, I’d probably shared the tomahawk with him as it would have kept him quite for a few hours, gnawing at the bone.

 

picanha steak at Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

Opting for medium / rare, the steak came out pre-sliced more on the medium to well done, which was a shame as the thinner ends of the rump were a bit more chewy than I would have liked. I know the Picanha, a favourite in Brazil isn’t the best cut out there but when you’ve sampled it as part of the £10 lunch menu at Asador 44, you know how good it can be.

The fries were good though and we opted for garlic butter to dunk both the steak and chips in. There were a couple of cuts to choose from with varying weight and relative price around the £30 mark and ours came in at £31.50.

 

Lamb rump goats cheese risotto

 

The (future) mother in law went for the Roasted lamb rump, pearl barley risotto, radish, goats cheese with blackberries, which was a nice touch and priced at £16. Having had a taste of the dish I’d say it was the star dish of the night. Cooked a little less than our steak, the lamb was tender. The risotto still had a bit of bite, seasoned well and the goats cheese lent a rich, creaminess to the dish.

 

Argentinian Malbec red wine - Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

The Argentinian Malbec we opted for to wash both dishes down was a hit too at £23.

Onto desserts and after seeing it on Instagram whilst sitting down and reading the menu I opted for Thibault’s citrus tart, meringue, lemon and mint sorbet. Knowing the master creator behind said dish worked under Laurian at Cocorico Patisserie and made it onto BBC’s Crème de la Crème I was hoping for nothing short of a masterpiece.

 

Citrus tart with lemon and mint sorbet

 

Sadly it didn’t all work together for me. I think the citrus tart and meringue would have been fine as it was but the lemon and mint sorbet was rock hard and way to bitter for me. I struggled with the sorbet both chopping bits off to eat and because it was too bitter on the palate.

The Llio had ordered a coffee whilst we decided on dessert but decided to upgrade it to the Café Gourmand to include some small pastries. She said it was ok but nothing to write home about.

 

Pina Colada creme brulee at Twenty Nine Park Place Cardiff

 

Her mum chose the Pina Colada Crème Brulee, coconut and almond tuile. There was lovely crisp, sugary top encasing the core of the dessert but for both of us who tried it, it was too fruity and overpowered the custard base layer.

The Verdict

To be fair to the restaurant it had been open for less than two weeks so it was a new venue, new team and new menu so it takes some time for that all to gel. The food was ok but could do with a few tweaks to get it just right and just a bit less in the oven on a few dishes.

The ideas are good but it’s just the execution that will come when they’ve found their feet. The desserts in my eyes need a bit of looking at as the lemon sorbet spoilt the dessert for me and the fruit in the crème brulee was just too much.

I will probably be back to the venue in a few months to see how they’ve developed or even to sample a couple of the beers they have on tap.

Maria’s Greek Taverna Restaurant Review Cardiff

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

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

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

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

The Food

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

Marias Taverna Menu Cardiff

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

 

Burger Theory Review at Kongs Cardiff

I was recently asked back to try out the burgers at Burger Theory at Kongs in Cardiff. I’d been a few times in the past and did a blog post after my second visit to the pop up kitchen on St Mary’s Street. I’m glad to say that things have improved quite a bit since then as it was still new on the scene and I did have a couple of issues on both my first two visits.

I decided to take my younger sister and her boyfriend to see how it faired against some of the other burger places a 16 year olds frequent in Cardiff these days and to get a younger persons perspective. I was offered a £35 voucher towards food so I paid extra for the rest of the food and drinks on the visit. Seeing as I wanted to compare against how they had progressed since the 18 months after they opened I thought I’d opt for the same burger I ordered on my first visit the Kimcheese featuring Beef patty, melted cheddar cheddar, kimchi, pulled beef rib with black pepper glaze, chipotle mayo (£11.95).

I was going to order the cola ham hock dirty fries I’d seen on the menu previously but they were a special and been replaed by the “You have goat to try these fries”, which were a Caribbean take on dirty fries, which consisted of Fries loaded with goat curry, melted cheese, lime and coriander aioli, pineapple and scotch bonnet sauce, coconut flakes.

My sister opted for the Cheese theory with Beef patty with crispy bacon, melted cheddar, house pickles, Dijonnaise, house ketchup (£8.75) and her boyfriend went for The Sherriff with Beef patty with crispy bacon, melted cheddar, onion rings, BBQ sauce (£9.25).

We fancied a chip fest so went for two standard fries (£2.95 each) and a side of halloumi chips (£6.50).

Soft drinks all round for the teens whilst I sipped on a pint of Tiny Rebel Cali till the food appeared out of the kitchen.

Kimcheese Burger at Burger Theory Cardiff

The Kimcheese burger had grown since my first visit and was an absolute whopper of a burger to be fair. I was close to doing a few tricep dips off the edge of the bun to allow my jaw to take it in for a bite. There was a lot of juice and I was glad I had my side of the table to myself so I didn’t drown the person next to me whilst I chomped away.

There was a decent amount of meat content with the patty, beef rib and combined with the other fillings it did taste really good. Again though there wasn’t much kimchi going on. I don’t think I had any of the advertised fermented Korean staple in my burger the first time I visited and I struggled to find much in it this time unless they had done a batch of their own quick pickled kimchi but there was none of the expected pungent condiment in my burger this time either. Apart from that I was pretty happy with the burger.

There was a bit of a mix up with the fries but probably due to me using the voucher to pay at the start for  part of the meal as the server wasn’t sure what to do with it. I ordered one portion of the goat curry dirty fries and two portions of the standard ones but two goat ones came out. They immediately gave us a serving of the standard and let us keep the other goat curry but wasn’t sure if I’d been charged for the two goat curries. I’d had £35 towards the food, which came to around £55 in the end so I wasn’t bothered too much about going back and checking with them or causing a fuss.

goat curry dirty fries at Burger Theory

The goat fries were amazing though and a great addition to the menu instead of the usual pulled pork or chilli beef you tend to find at most burger houses when opting for some dirty fries. They were a slow burner mind as the first couple of bites I thought oh, they aren’t too bad but a minute or two later I could of done with someone fanning me with a palm leaf whilst squirting my mouth with a super soaker 2000 filled with milk.

Not that I was complaining, I was expecting it to be hot spice wise but for me the meat could have been a tad warmer. They were pretty epic though.

halloumi fries at Burger Theory Cardiff

My sister has an obsession for halloumi fries and was very impressed with Burger Theory’s take on the deep fried slabs of cheese and so was I. Portion size was generous and they looked exactly like chips, I thought they had brought out two different thickness of potato kind at first until I bit into one.

She also smashed the Cheese Theory burger and gave it a massive thumbs up along with her partner who said it was the best burger he’s ever had. He attempted a stab at the goat dirty fries and like me thought they were fine at first but when the heat kicked in he bailed. They both enjoyed the standard fries, although they didn’t quite manage to finish them off. Not from lack of trying I might add, they were just stuffed from the burger and other bits and bobs.

The Verdict

I was a lot happier with my food compared to my first and second visit. The Kimcheese burger was still lacking on the Kimchi front though as I’ve always got a tub to hand in the fridge at home I was looking forward to a healthy portion in my burger.

The goat curry fries were a really nice change and if you like your spicy food, keep with them as they seem quite tame at first but they don’t take long to catch up with you when you’re least expecting.

I’ve heard rumours that Burger Theory will be opening up as a standalone restaurant in Cardiff in the near future so keep your eyes peeled on socials. I’m hoping they carry the bottomless burger brunch they do at the standalone Bristol venue to Cardiff too as that will be unreal.

If you’ve not been to Burger Theory before, it’s located at Kong’s Bar on St Mary Street, which is a basement bar next to Turtle Bay.

Beefy Boys Burger Restaurant Review Hereford

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

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

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

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

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

The Food

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

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

Hot wings and mac n cheese bites at Beefy Boys

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

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

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

Burger at Beefy Boys Hereford

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

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

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

Bottomless Brunch Review at Revolucion de Cuba Cardiff

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

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

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

bottomless brunch menu revs de cuba cardiff

Brunch food menu options:

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

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

heuvos rancheros at revs de cuba cardiff

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

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

brekkie burrito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch Cardiff

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

Drinks

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

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

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

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

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

mojito at revs de cuba bottomless brunch cardiff

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

The Verdict

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

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

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

Fiesta de la Calcotada at Asador 44 on Friday 13th April 2018

One of my fav Cardiff restaurants, Asador 44 are throwing the most Spanish cultural festival i’ve ever seen this April. The Catalans go nut’s for their Calcots during the seasonal window and chow down on bucketloads per capita during the months of January to April.

I was invited over to have a sneak preview of what’s to come for the event at Asador 44 last week.

Calcots if you’re not already acquainted are a cross between Wales most symbolic vegetable, the Leek and a spring onion. The calcots are piled on a grill or bbq, skin, mud an all and till charred and blistered. When the fire has done it’s magic it releases a sweetness like none that i’ve ever tasted in an onion.

Calcots being cooked on asado grill at Asador 44 Cardiff

The blackened Calcots are then wrapped in newspaper and plonked on a table of waiting and hungry guests for an onion fest like no other.

So how do you attack these charred, oniony mounds?

Take the Calcot by the green leaves in one hand and peel down the outer burnt skin until you get to the clean, steamed and juicy core. Pull off the roots at the bottom then continue to dunk the exposed flesh into fresh and nutty Romesco sauce. Be warned, this is a messy occasion but I love getting my fingers dirty and there’s the bib and plenty of napkins to wipe yourself clean.

cooked calcots with romesco sauce at Asador 44 Cardiff

Theres usually plenty of Cava at hand to cleans your mouth between calcots and tradition has it that back in Catalonia they make their way through more than two dozen per person during a sitting.

So on the event Asador are organising you get:

  • Cava on arrival before tackling a plate of Calcots with romesco sauce
  • main course of cider house sirloin and sausage
  • Assortment of Catalan Cheeses
  • A chance to perfect the art of Porron wine pouring (I failed miserably with most of it going up my nose!)

Fiesta de la Calcotada poster at Asador 44

fiesta de la colcotada menu at Asador 44

Price of the Fiesta de la Calcotada is £40 per person for a 12.30pm start making it the perfect afternoon team outing or networking with a twist (pull and dunk). We had a right laugh getting down and dirty with the calcots and poring the Porron but can’t promise there weren’t any innuendos flying around during the wine.

To book contact enquiries@asador44.co.uk or call 02920 020039

Park Plaza Cardiff and Laguna Restaurant Review

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

Gin, cocktails and wine

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

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

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

Afternoon Tea and Restaurant

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

Gentleman's afternoon tea at Park Plaza Cardiff

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

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

Sunday Lunch

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

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

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

Sunday lunch at Laguna Restaurant Park Plaza in Cardiff

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

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

Wine and nibbles

mixed starter platter at Park Plaza Cardiff

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

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

Lunch

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

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

Goats cheese and mushroom bruschetta at Park Plaza Cardiff

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

Pork and mustard mash mains at Park Plaza Cardiff

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

cheese board at Park Plaza Cardiff by the fire

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

The Verdict

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

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