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Halen Mon Salt launch of book, gin and Tide restaurant

We recently got an invite to Wales most famous salt brand Halen Mon for the launch of not one but three new ventures at the Coastal HQ along Anglesey’s treasured Menai Straights.

Normally I would have questioned a 10 hour round trip for a launch event but this was no normal launch party. Having used up my latest pot of black garlic ketchup on everything apart from my cup of tea, I knew Halen Mon had something special planned last Saturday.

Their famous salt is used by Michelin Star chefs around the world and even has a former president as an avid fan, with Barack Obama favouring the Welsh sea salt in his chocolate.

The Halen Mon range has exploded over the past few years featuring a hint of their white gold in the majority of products along with seaweed, spices and good old fashioned smoke.

Do Sea Salt book

The latest launch though is covering a few different areas and not just condiments. There is a book “Do Sea Salt” written by Jess and her parent’s, the founders of Halen Mon Alison and David. It’s lovely little book, featuring salt in all it’s greatness from history, why we use it, how to use it and some great suggestions on elevating humble recipes by utilising this great natural product.

I haven’t had a chance to sit down yet and get stuck into it properly but from a quick scan of the book, I’ll definitely be trying some of the ideas and I love learning about the history of anything food and drink related. There’s also a mention about creating your own sea salt, something I’d only mentioned on our last trip up to Anglesey back in April .

I said I wanted to get gas cooker and heat some water from the Menai Straights, to try and make our own Anglesey Sea salt before we got the invite to Halen Mon HQ, so this book will make sure I don’t waste hours of my life watching the water bubble away over a camping stove.

Jin Mor Gin

Well this was a surprise for me, as I only found out a couple of day’s before the event that they were also launching a gin on the night. Well I found out when they presented the first bottle off the still to Prince William and Kate on instagram, two days before.

 

The gin is a collaboration with the increasingly popular North Wales Distillery Aber Falls. Aber Falls, was setup initially as a the first Whisky Distillery in North Wales for over 100 years but as whisky takes 3 years and 1 day legally be called whisky, they sought out other forms of revenue in the mean time. They initially launched three gin’s to much success and have expanded their range more recently with an entry level vodka and gin along with a more premium offering.

Jin Mor Gin - Halen Mon Gin

Jin Mor launch night

The Halen Mon gin, will go by the name of Jin Mor and has the addition of their Halen Mon to the mix of botanicals. I was told that this was not just to add a salinity to the drink but because of the process that happens when you add salt to anything. It draws out moisture and oils from most things thuse drawing more of the flavour from the botanicals.

On taste, I was expecting it to have a saline kick to it but far from it. The gin was smooth, pleasant and delicious. I didn’t get to try it neat on the evening but did have more than my fair share mixed with a bit of tonic and it was exceedingly morish.

We had a goody bag to take home with a little bottle of the juniper spirit, so I will be taste testing it neat on the weekend for research purposes.

Apart from the salt there was nothing too out of the ordinary on the botanical list with the obvious juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and licorice although I didn’t see the full list.

I was half expecting a bit of the seaweed that they forage a just a stones throw away from the salt harvesting site that is used in some of their other products to make an appearance but that might be reserved for further down the line.

I’m sure the Halen Mon gin would make a very good martini or red snapper at the new cafe would be a good choice, using some of the other range of products such as the bloody mary ketchup for flavour, seaweed for umami kick, chilli for heat and a smoked salt and cracked black pepper rim. I might suggest this one to them and more than happy to work on testing to get the perfect mix 🙂

Tide Cafe

Last but not least is the new fresh food offering from Halen Mon called Tide. Not content with supplying kitchens and restaurants across the land with their excellent pantry staples, they are going one step further and opening a food outlet next to the Halen Mon visitor Centre.

Tide Cafe - Halen Mon, Ynys Mon

The food will be cooked in a fully kitted trailer next to the centre, offering alfresco dining and refreshments to visitors of the centre or just people wanting good coffee and fresh, local and delicious food.

We were treated to a number of tasters and appetisers whilst our fellow guests arrived to the sea front location. Halen Mon couldn’t have picked a better day, the sun was shining with hardly a cloud in the sky.

The Canapes consisted of freshly picked oysters from just in front of where we were stood with both pickled apple and some that had been shown the fire over a log burner, some 5 metres away with lashings of garlic and butter.

Crisp breads beautifully decorated with flowers with peppers and an amalgamation of pureed stuff, that both looked enticing and tasted scrumptious.

Then there were mini tacos with healthy slabs of golden pork, fresh apple and micro herbs for a kiss of savouriness. These just how i like tacos, stuffed, overloaded and more than my mouth can handle. There was no portion control either, to my delight, so I had a couple of each to pair with the gin.

The Meal

I could have easily have sat and filled up on the tasters, but we were there to sample something more substantial inside. I liked that everyone’s name card was somewhere random (or was it) so they made more of an effort to speak to others. I was sat 3 away from Llio but with everyone’s love of food and just enjoying life, we all had loads to talk about. There was someone who made his own chutneys that will be featuring on the menu to my right and a tea master that now works trading in spices on my left.

Hugh Fearnley at Tide launch - Halen Mon, Anglesey

Before the meal commenced we had a brief introduction by none other than Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, whom the new Tide chef Sam worked for, at his time at Riverside Cottage.

We were given a choice of wine as we sat down, with me opting for red, as I can’t take to all white especially if it’s too dry. There was never going to be a Blossom Hill being brought out that’s for sure and I wasn’t disappointed with the offering that did come out, a Valenciso Reserva 2009 Rioja. Not sure if this is true, but someone on the table mentioned it was the house wine at the fabled El Bulli in Spain. Well you can’t get much better than that for recognition.

Salad starter at Tide, Halen Mon

The first dish was very informal and more of a sharing experience, which was a nice change. We had some amazing sourdough, which is always a fav of mine baked by a friend of the family who was also sat amongst us, dining for the evening too.

This was alongside some asparagus cooked in loads of butter and garlic, new season kale that was so delicate compared to kale I’m used to without the large oversized stems and tossed in orange and raisins alongside a help yourself bowl of olive tapenade. I was a good boy and only ate two pieces of bread, even with the remaining slices plonked next to me. I’m getting better!

Welsh Lamb main at Tide Restaurant launch, Halen Mon

Onto the main course of Welsh lamb, served a luscious pink with a croqueta of slow cooked lamb inside too. Some fresh salad leaves, locally picked new potatoes with loads of butter and some extra greens. It tasted fresh, looked rustic and just as I would expect out of the River Cottage cookbook.

I enjoy vegetables, they just taste bland and dull when I cook them. Everything had it’s own bit of tender loving, yet not overpowering or overshadowing anything else on the plate. Seasoned to perfection, even though I thought there would be white ceramic tubs of Halen Mon within reach for everyone, we really didn’t need it.

We were sat / stood outside in the sunshine for the tasting of the gin and the canapes and it would have been lush to dine outside but it’s not quite summer in the evenings and the temperature tends to drop considerably, especially being right next to the water’s edge.

Roasted rhubarb crumble and custard at Tide, Halen Mon

With the logs being put on the burners outside, which was now churning out a decent heat, we were able to grab a chair, a glass of dessert wine and have a shmooze, whilst the dessert of stewed rhubarb, custard and crumble was handed out to very happy campers.

 

Thinking we were all done, after quite the feasting, a couple of wooden boards were handed out with gargantuan wedges of Welsh cheeses and a knife to do your worst. It was dark out there, but I think I would definitely have been caught shimmering out of the circle, cheese in tow to the nearest bush or rock, to polish it all off myself.

The Verdict

What an amazing evening we had, from start to finish. Everyone was so lovely not just the Halen Mon team but everyone we sat next to and had a chat with.

The food was outstanding. Everything was sources as local as possible, seasoned perfectly and you could taste the love shown to it. I will definitely be calling in to have tour around the salt production site and finishing with a bite to eat at Tide, the next time I’m up and on the island.

Halen Mon launch night

We bought our first Halen Mon ceramic salt cellar about 2 years ago at Waitrose in Menai Bridge and it takes pride of place in the kitchen and always in arms reach when we sit down for food.

We’ve also topped it up and bought a few other nicies from the range on Discover Delicious too including seaweed and salt mini pot, Bloody Mary Ketchup and my fav their Black Garlic Ketchup.

The gin was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Not that I thought it would be bad but I couldn’t fault the end product. You can buy it from their website at around £33 or the other half was back up in Anglesey last week with work and popped in and bought one in the shop next to Tide for the same price. We will definitely be showcasing it at a future Cardiff Gin Club event.

The book “Do Sea Salt” can also be bought from their website and in the visitor centre shop.

Contact Details

Address: The Anglesey Sea Salt Company Ltd
Brynsiencyn,
Isle of Anglesey
LL61 6TQ

Website: https://www.halenmon.com

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Gerald of Wales Gin Train from Cardiff to Anglesey with Arriva Trains Business Class

We were asked by Arriva Trains who still run the service from Cardiff to Holyhead on Anglesey to join them on the Gerald of Wales, their premium carriage service to celebrate the launch of the Welsh gin being served on the service from Eccentric Gin.

The Gerald of Wales offers the only first class train service from Cardiff to North Wales offering guests a cooked breakfast or 3 course evening meal, depending on the route and time they travel. With one trip leaving Holyhead at around 6am and the return journey leaving Cardiff Central at 5.15pm Monday to Friday.

Being a regular traveller to Ynys Mon with the other halfs family living there, we either drive or catch a flight, so the thought of sitting in a luxury carriage with a 3 course meal and unwinding with some of the best Welsh Gin sounded very tempting.

As there train wasn’t returning on the Friday evening or running on the weekend, we did half a trip to Shrewsbury with enough time to sample the food menu and taste our way through the growing selection of Eccentric’s catalogue of gins.

The Food

The morning journey from Holyhead serves a hot Welsh breakfast with the usual cooked breakfast items but we had a choice of three courses for the return journey from Cardiff.

 

Starter on Business Class Arriva Trains Wales

 

I opted for the pate to start. A healthy wedge of seasoned offaly loveliness wa offered, a few bits of foliage for display and a nice portion of chutney to cut through the richness of the pate.

 

Main Course Business Class Arriva Trains

 

For mains I went for fish in breadcrumb crust, potatoes, vegetables and herby sauce. The fish was alright actually, tender and flakey. New potatoes…well they do what they say on the tin. The veggies reminded me of the frozen bags you chuck in to boil for a few minutes, which I’m generally not overly fussed on but I will eat them if I’m hungry. The sauce was ok, but felt a bit plastic and not made from scratch. It was needed in the dish though for a bit of moisture for the potatoes and veggies.

 

Welsh gin and cheese - Garald of Wales - Arriva Trains

 

Cheese and gin, now that’s a winning combo if there ever was one. A selection of Welsh cheese with variety of crisp eating vessels to choose from.

We were heading close to our final destination on the journey so we had to rush through the cheese board but what I did have certainly hit the spot.

The Gin

I was no stranger to Eccentric Gin, having attended a tasting event in Cardiff around the same time as setting up Cardiff Gin Club for research purposes and have been a fan ever since.

We also included some of their gin during our live tasting with BBC radio, showcasing the best of Welsh Gins.

 

Welsh gin on Arriva Trains business class - Cardiff to Anglesey

 

The gin menu on board the Arriva Gerarld of Wales has a couple of the Eccentric gins on it such as Cardiff gin, their most popular dry gin on the market.The ever enthusiastic Rob from Eccentric, was more than happy to let us taste our way through their classic range such as Madame Genever, Young Tom, made from redistilled 8% IPA beer and Limbek, made from gin rested in Burgundy barrels giving it a lovely amber hue.

We also got to try some new trial gin’s Rob was working on such as Rhubarb and Violet gin. The bottles came with new branding and stood out with their bright natural colouring compared to their other classic range. I did like the two new ones but I preferred some of their older ones like the Limbek.

The Verdict

This wasn’t fine dinning by any means, but everything we ate was cooked and prepared on a moving train, in what must have been a dinky little kitchen. I struggle to eat a sandwich without tipping it all over me on a train, so hats off to the guys in the kitchen for knocking out what we had to eat, in such a short space of time.

I enjoyed the food and ate all of it, although I had to rush to finish off the cheese board because we got off in Shrewsbury and didn’t do the whole route to Holyhead.

I loved the gins and it was great to catch up with Rob from Eccentric who we’ve spoken to and helped support at our Cardiff Gin Club events from the start and he’s been great in giving us some samples to offer out to people at our talks at Tafwyl in Cardiff Castle, St Fagans Food Festival and The National Eisteddfod in Cardiff Bay last year.

If you are travelling to Anglesey and don’t want the stress of driving through the heart of Wales countryside for nearly 5 hours after work, i’d highly recommend booking a trip on the Gerald of Wales. You can sit back, enjoy some decent food and sip on some fantastic gin with an epic scenic display through Wales.

One thing I would point out though if you’ve never been to Anglesey and plan on visiting a few places whilst your there, organise a hire car for the island in advance.

Everything seems to be very far from each other and I’ve spent most of my weekends there in the car, driving from place to place. There are trains on the island obviously as you will be riding on one but they don’t connect up on the island very well. I’ve not used the local bus service to comment on the service or reliability.

The best places in Cardiff for a Gin and Tonic

Being the gin whore I am, I’ve pretty much tried most places in Cardiff over the past two years for a juniper based beverage. With so many craft gins on the market and new ones being released each week it’s hard to keep up but the list below will stand you in good stead to sample a whole range of gins from around the world.

There’s quite a few selling local Welsh Gin’s such as Eccentric, Dyfi, Da Mhile and Gower, with is very nice to see. Also something I’m a bit obsessed with these days is all things Japanese and and the Japanese gin’s if you haven’t tried them yet are bloody lovely!

Take a look at my top picks of where to go for a decent Gin and tonic in Cardiff below.

Pennyroyal

High Street, Cardiff

genever at Pennyroyal

 

A very good selection of craft gins including my fav Nikka Coffey, Welsh Gins such as award winning Dyfi Gin and one of the only places I’ve seen Gin’s older brother, Genever served in Cardiff. They also do shit hot cocktails and the Classic Club between 5-7pm Wednesday to Friday is a game changer.

Want something off menu? Tell Alex, Jay or Sam what you like and they will rustle something glorious up for you.

Lab22

Caroline Street, Cardiff

gin martinin at lab22 cardiff

 

This is probably where I fell in love with cocktails and all things gin in Cardiff way back when. I’ve tried many a new gin on the market here and learned a thing or two from mixologist extraordinaire Alex whilst sat at the bar interrogating him.

Their molecular mixology inspired menu looks something out of a nutty professor handbook with acids and potions I’ve never even heard of before featuring in the majority of drinks.

 

Cardiff Gin Club

Anywhere and everywhere

Cardiff Gin Club pop up gin tasting at Hawkes Bespoke Cardiff

 

Cardiff’s very own travelling Craft Gin Bar and quirky gin event pop up with over 60 gins in their arsenal. Tired of the same old boring gin tasting from gin’s that have been on the market for 20+ years?

Sign up at Cardiff Gin Club or give them a follow on socials to find out when and where their next event is taking place. Whether it’s sipping botanically infused water whilst doing yoga or zipping over the Bristol channel in a speedboat for a tipple on a former pirate and smugglers loving island they’ve got it covered.

 

Dead Canary

Barack Lane, Cardiff

East India Company Gin at The Dead Canary Cardiff

 

Cardiff’s original speakeasy, nestled inconspicuously off Barack Lane just behind St Davids 2. Bookings are usually a must but give the doorbell with a ring next to the gold feather on the wall and you might be lucky.

I’ve mainly gone here for cocktails with the new menu themed on Welsh Folklore but they’ve got a pretty impressive back bar of gin and whisky if you want to venture of piste later on in the evening.

 

Park Plaza

Greyfriars Road, Cardiff

park plaza gin tasting main

 

The only hotel on the list but this place has something for everyone. Not the biggest selection of gin to be found in the city but it was here I first tried a couple of gins they have on the menu at the new gin menu launch I was invited too back last year. The Caorun with apple was my fav for a little while too.

Did I mention they do a gin afternoon tea too? Well they do, and you should try it if you haven’t. This might not be the biggest seller coming up to summer but the lobby room in the hotel, slouched in a leather chair with a roaring fire, glass in hand and nibbling on a cheese board whilst it’s snowing outside was my favourite thing to do this winter.

 

Bar 44

Westgate Street, Cardiff

Cardiff’s most popular tapas bar don’t just know their food. Us Brit’s have borrowed the now staple Copa da Ballon glass from our Spanish friends and Bar 44 definitely know how to present them with full to the brim with ice, my favourite Spanish Gin Nordes a Gallician white grape gin then expertly paired with garnish and tonic.

Excellent food meat’s excellent gin. Oh and they don’t half know a bit about Sherry if you fancy one in between. Owner Owen, being a subject expert and recently crowned IMBIBE personality of the year at the prestigious London event they take their drinks just as serious as their food.

 

Small Bar

Church Street, Cardiff

zymurgorium gin at Small Bar Cardiff

 

My favourite pub in Cardiff hands down and mostly known for their delightful array of craft beers, sours, ciders and porters and more recently the Kerala Karavan takeover in the kitchen. If you cast your eyes behind the pumps behind the bar you will see some mighty fine examples of gin, found nowhere else in Cardiff.

Heavily beer influenced with some examples such as the Wild Beer Snoodlepip and Northern Monk Brewing Zymurgorium Gin and their own collaboration with Bristol gin ninjas Psychopomp.

 

Pitch

Mill Lane, Cardiff

With outdoor seating and set over two floors on Mill Lane, Pitch is bigger than it first looks outside. Recently refurbished with quirky, mind bending painting frames on the ceiling this tardis esque venue has an envious cocktail menu and tempting gin collection.

Fancy an afternoon gin teapot sat in the Sun? Look no further.

 

Curado

Guildhall Place, Cardiff

Gin and yuzu tonic at Curado Bar Cardiff

 

My other favourite tapas venue in town and somewhere you can just nip in for a drink without worrying about having to have food (not that I’ve ever been strong enough to fight off the urge) is Curado.

A great wine selection but they only sell Spanish Gin and most other than my fav Nordes I’ve never seen anywhere else in Cardiff. Santamania is their go to Gin with one being a collaboration with my Ozzie fav Four Pillars Gin. Oh and you just have to have yours with QYuzu tonic because Yuzu in anything is the bomb!

 

Potted Pig

High Street, Cardiff

Not only do the guys at Potted Pig do shit hot food, for a long time they had the biggest selection of Gin in Cardiff too.

Not exactly somewhere you can just go for a drink but something to bear in mind if you want to end a good meal with something wet and tasty.

 

Ten Mill Lane

Mill Lane, Cardiff

scapegrace gin cocktail at ten mill lane Cardiff

 

More of a late night venue, this basement bar comes to live after midnight. Most customers have probably been well oiled by the time they get here but they recently won the Scapegrace Gin Trail in Cardiff I recently tagged along in with their crazy out of the box gin concoction that blew us judges away.

A good gin selection and a very reasonably priced cocktail menu will see you through till lights on at 6am.

 

Peppermint

Mill Lane, Cardiff

Peppermint is a place you can go for an afternoon drink sat in the sun on Mill lane or for a knees up and boogie till late. Set over two floors with an outside seating area and food menu, you can be entertained for hours.

With a good selection of gin favourites on display and a tempting cocktail list this should definitely be on your list of venues to stop by on your gin tour of Cardiff.

 

Bootlegger

Womamby Street, Cardiff

ki no bi Japanese Gin at Bootlegger Cardiff

 

This prohibition themed bar might be easy to miss walking through Womamby Street but make sure you pop in to the 1st floor venue the next time you’re in the area. With an ever increasing selection of juniper based spirits, twisted classic cocktail menu and live jazz performances on the weekend it’s a nice addition to the music loving street. #VIVALAWOMAMBY

 

Gin and Juice

High Street, Cardiff

This spin off ginspired venue is from the coffee and tea house jugernaught that is Barkers. Formerly known for kitting out South Wales in denim and check shirts for 30 years, they’ve now basically taken over half of Castle Arcade with the addition of Gin and Juice next door to Coffee Barker.

With close to 200 gins from your household names to more niche and rare bottles there’s something for everyone. Those cut glass drinking vessels look the part too. I’ve heard they do a pretty healthy breakfast too if you fancy pairing it with your citrus spiked gin of choice.

 

Cathedral 73

Cathedral Road, Cardiff

Off the beaten track and one to think about if looking for somewhere to hydrate on a trek from Pontcanna to town. I attended the launch of the new food menu and management of the venue back towards the end of 2017 and was rather impressed with the collection of gin behind the bar.

With 30+ at the time including local Eccentric Gin they told me they were hoping to increase this to 73 in homage to the street number at which they reside. If you’re looking to make the most of the evening, I was bowled over by the quality of the rooms and accommodation there too especially the two story fully kitted out kitchen apartment.