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Head of Steam Review in Cardiff

With the almost monthly opening of new cocktail bars on High Street Cardiff, it was a welcome addition to have the Head of Steam bar opening up next door to Beelzebubs on Church street this week.

There’s lots of change going on down that neck of the woods in the city centre, with a lot more planned with the redevelopment of the old pound stretchers and the adjoining vacant buildings on Church street too.

Head of Steam has taken over from the recently vacated Harvester restaurant and will be the companies 16th venue in the UK. I was asked to pop along to the soft launch last night to sample some of the 150+ beers and food on offer.

The Venue

I’ve passed the venue twice a day on the way to work since they’ve been giving the place an overhaul. The bar now covers two floors, instead of just the ground floor that Harvester was limited to.

 

 

The ground floor features a central bar with a mixture of movable tables and chairs and also booths to choose from. Large flat screen TV’s nestled around the wall’s rotate through the endless list of beers available.

Upstairs is reserved for mainly food, with no bar and table service. Theme throughout the venue is meandering towards the locomotive industry, hence the brand name “Head of Steam”. There’s references throughout to local railway trivia, but not too in your face.

The Drinks

Beers

As mentioned there’s over 150 beers available on draught, bottles and cans. You’ve got your standard pub offerings for those who aren’t too fussy about craft. There’s a couple of local beers from Cardiff favourites Pipes Brewery, then there’s Magic Rock and Beavertown, which I had the 6.7% Lupoloid that was very tasty.

 

 

They have a heavy focus on Belgian beers too, which is something i’m not too well versed with, so that should be something new to work through too for me.

Gin

I was quite impressed with their gin collection too. I counted 45+ that were in plain sight. Some of the regulars you would find in most bars like your Whitley Neil and Bathtub, then a fav of mine Scapegrace at the more premium end. There were a few new one’s I hadn’t tried too such as the Manchester Gin.

 

Gin selection at Head of Steam Cardiff

Whisky

Around the other side of the bar were the darker spirits like rum and whisky. A few firm Scottish favourites such a Ardbeg and to my delight a few Japanese ones too from Nikka and Suntory. I’ve tried quite a few of the Nikka range so I’m trying to work my way through the Suntory. They had the new Hibiki blended Harmony, which I haven’t tried since the aged 12 and 17 year expressions have dried up. I opted for the Suntory Yamakazi this time though, as i’ve seen it about, but not tried it before.

 

Yamazaki 12 year old Japanese Whisky at Head of Steam Cardiff

Cider

I think their selection of cider was the weakest link in the chain to be honest. The only true apple cider they had was on tap and that was Symonds but the rest were all fruit varieties, which I find way too sweet. They had Rekordelig on tap, a cola cider, which I did have a taster of but found it just tasted like cola and not much in the way of cider. I’d have struggled with more than a half. They you had some bottled fruit options such as rhubarb, mango and a strawberry one at around 4% so you can take a guess as to how sweet they were.

There’s plenty of good cider makers around in South Wales, so I’d recommend having at least one alternative to Symonds considering they have such a vast selection of beers but the rest of the ciders, I’d class as alcopops due to the lower abv and gut rot sweetness. Beezlebubs next door have around 6 draught ciders including Llantwit Fardre’s Gwynt y Ddraig.

The Food

The food menu is split into two, with around 14 starters or tapas options either priced individually or 3 for £12, with the option to upgrade to a tasting flight with 3 x 1/3 beers for £15, which I thought was a nice touch.

 

Sharing food plates at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

We opted to go for 6 of the tapas options between the 3 of us with a side of fries too. Not knowing what the portion size was going to be like, we had all intentions of having a main after it but we had eyes bigger than our bellies. I think if there had been 4 of us to share the plates as in one set of 3 for each, that sounded more doable.

We opted for:

  • Red pepper hummus with garlic corriander naan
  • King prawn tortilla
  • Sweet paprika chorizos in honey glaze
  • Japanese inspired squid with salt and pepper coating and teriyaki dip
  • Hot and spicy wings with chiptole mayo

We did ask for deep fried whitebait but got a second helping of the squid, sweet potato fries and go these plus standard fries and both flavours of the wings so there was a little mix up with the order. It was the opening night / soft launch and we were invited there for complimentary food so I wasn’t going to kick up a fuss.

I thought the food was of decent quality and there was nothing that arrived that I didn’t enjoy. The small plates are just £4 each so i’m not expecting michelin star quality here but what you do get was lovely. Proper beer food and I liked that they suggested a paired beer with each plate or for those opting for the beer flight with it just as I did.

The problem was, we had about 8 plates and 6 beers, so I didn’t have a clue what I was supposed to be drinking with what. It was only a suggestion though and I just had a taste of everything with everything. I loved the mini chorizo sausages in the honey glaze though, they were lush and the cherry beer that came with the flight.

 

Nachos at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

Having had an extra few dishes by surprise, main courses were off the question. We did decide to have a sharing plate of the pulled salt beef nachos for the table to pick on though. The tortillas were pilled high, with a lovely rich and smokey beef topping with melted cheese. The dips came in a big bowl rather than making the chips soggy, which was a nice change. No complaints for the nachos, and again, perfect beer food.

If we had gone for mains, there were choices of beef and coconut curry, sirloin steak and chips, Moroccan Harrisa salmon, pie and mash, a decent selection of mammoth sounding burgers or hotdogs. Price wise, i thought these were reasonable too, with mains around the £11 mark apart from the steak, which will set you back £16.95.

 

Sharing desserts at Head of Steam Cardiff

 

We went for a sharing board of 3 desserts to finish up, which consisted of chocolate brownie and ice cream, sticky toffee pudding and waffles with berries and ice cream. At £10 for all three, I thought they were a bargain.

The Verdict

They aren’t trying to be something they are not, in terms of food and offer good, hearty food for a very reasonable price. With starters or tapas at 3 for £12, mains around £11 and £3.33 for a dessert if you went for all 3.

There’s a lack of places in town for a reasonably priced, good bit of grub with some decent beers to go with them. I can definitely see myself coming back, especially as they are dog friendly too. This is downstairs only mind and they have a couple of chairs and tables outside, so I’d probably park myself outside with the mutt, with a beer and couple of small plates on our rounds around town on the weekend.

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.