Saturday, 21 April 2018

Maria's Greek Meze Bar Taverna, Cardiff restaurant review


For a city the size of Cardiff, it’s perhaps surprising that we don’t have a Chinatown or Little Italy.

When I was growing up in Newcastle, every major family celebration was marked by a Chinese banquet on Stowell Street.

And, when I lived in Vauxhall in South London, I spent many a night drinking Sagres and eating bitoque in Little Portugal.

So, perhaps there’s an argument for renaming the half mile stretch between the bottom of Whitchurch Road and middle of Crwys Road as Little Greece? I’m kidding of course, but it’s on this small stretch of street that all 3 of Cardiff’s Greek restaurants can be found.

Maria’s Meze Greek Bar and Taverna is the most recent addition, having only opened a couple of weeks ago.

It’s very much a family affair with the restaurant named after mum Maria and one son running front of house and the other heading up the kitchen.

The restaurant has a charming holiday vibe with its white and pastel blue walls, black and white photographs and nautical trinkets.

 
The menu is broadly divided into three sections - meze, grills and traditional dishes. At lunchtime, offers include 3 meze for £12 or 2 traditional dishes for £15. 


Bottles of Fix (£3) and Mythos (£2.80) were both seriously refreshing and easy drinking. One sip and I was transported to happy times in Crete. 

 
We kicked off with a hoard of meze.

Highlights included tiropitakia (£4.90), crispy little filo pastry parcels filled with a creamy and salty ooze of feta. 

 
Spanakokroketes (£5.50) reminded me of jalapeno poppers in a very good way. The trio of golden crumbed croquettes were filled with melty feta cheese and leaves of wilted spinach and served with a fragrant lemon and dill yoghurt dip. 


A small Greek Salad (£3.90) was a lovely example - perky tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and peppers were joined by big cubes of creamy feta, briny kalamata olives and a drizzle of olive oil and scatter of oregano. 

 
A big block of grilled halloumi (£3.80) had an enjoyable golden crust but it was a little firm in texture instead of soft and melty. 

 
Freshly baked bread rolls were pleasingly crisp with a warm and soft interior. 

 
A soft-textured mix of potato and courgettes (£4.90) was formed into golden fritters and served with a butternut squash puree whose sweetness was tempered by creamy tahini. 

 
Mains were both lovely.

Mrs G waxed lyrical about a big slab of moussaka (£10.50) that combined meaty beef and lamb ragu, uber-tender pieces of potato and aubergine and a good layer of golden-capped bechamel. The whole dish had a lovely background warmth of cinnamon. 

 
Pork souvlaki (£11.50) saw a duo of herby and tender meat skewers joined by crisp and fluffy thick cut chips. The only issue was that it was crying out for a bit of lubrication - a big dollop of tzatziki wouldn’t have gone a miss. 

 
So, I ordered a plate of the stuff - the tangy cucumber and yoghurt dip (£3.95) combined a big wallop of garlic and the freshness of mint. 

 
Onto dessert, and a cheesecake (£4.90) was a big success. A crunchy walnut and biscuit base was topped with light, creamy, lemony and honey twanged Greek yoghurt.


A galaktobouriko (£4.90) saw a rich set custard wrapped in filo pastry and drizzled with sweet syrup. Whilst I was reassured that it’s authentic for the pastry in this dish to not be crisp, I think the pud would have benefited from a bit more textural contrast. 


We had a really tasty meal at Maria’s. This family run independent has bags of character and serves lovely moussaka to boot.

Disclosure - I was invited to Maria's, all food and drink was complimentary.

The Details:

Address - Maria's Greek Meze Bar Taverna, 68 Crwys Road, Cardiff CF24 4NP
Web - https://www.facebook.com/mariasmezebar/
Telephone - 029 2115 1268

Saturday, 14 April 2018

The Fox and Hounds Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan pub review 2018

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan

It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to the Fox and Hounds in Llancarfan.

In the interim, this pretty little village pub in the Vale of Glamorgan has been taken over by husband and wife team, Jim Dobson (head chef) and Rhiannon Dobson (front of house) and given a bit of a facelift. Impressively, they also picked up a Cardiff Life Award a couple of weeks ago for best gastropub.

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
Their menu is a real doozy - packed with the kind of things that I like to eat, including confit rabbit and ham hock terrine and specials like pork, black pudding and sage scotch egg. 

 
Thankfully, the mother-in-law was dining with us so were able to give more of the menu a run for its money.

Great hunks of soft white bread were served with creamy Netherend Farm butter (£2.50).

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan

A generous pile of sweet white Brixham crab meat (£7) was enrobed in light and creamy herb creme fraiche and heaped on toasted sourdough. A couple of swirls brown crab mayonnaise provided a welcome shellfish whallop. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
A golden crumbed fishcake (£7) wasn’t too dense and its headline ingredients of salt cod and spring onion balanced well. A shaved radish and asparagus salad with a punchy lemon and caper dressing was so much more than the usual half arsed scattering of undressed rocket leaves. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
Finally, a salad of sweet and earthy baked heritage carrots (£6) were joined by creamy homemade ricotta, quinoa and a herby hazelnut pesto. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan

For mains, Mrs G and I both went for pub classics that were elevated with aplomb. 

Proper ham (£12) - I do like my slices a bit thicker - was served with a golden oozy fried duck egg and stonkingly good triple cooked chips with oodles of crunch and fluff. A sweet and mustardy pineapple pickle was a clever riff on the much maligned accompaniment to ham #TeamHamAndPineapple. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
Beer battered haddock (£14) was a fine example - the golden battered flaky fish was served with more of those lovely chips. Mrs G and I both thought the pea puree was meaty tasting (a bonus in our books) whilst tartare sauce was packed with herbs and capers. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
The mother-in-law loved her main. Rosy pink rump of lamb (£18) was served with smooth broccoli and potato purees, broccoli pieces and a vivid salsa verde. A finger of crispy shredded lamb breast was packed with flavour but sadly a little on the dry side. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
Desserts were both crackers.

A crisp-crusted slice of tart (£6) was filled with a tangy and aromatic passion fruit custard with a bruleed sugar top. A scoop of chocolate ice cream and caramelised hazelnut crumb completed the plate. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
Warm and moist pistachio sponge (£6) was accompanied by soft and sweet poached rhubarb, fragrant and not too sweet rhubarb sorbet and a pool of super-smooth vanilla-flecked custard. 

Fox and Hounds Llancarfan
 
We had a delicious meal at The Fox and Hounds in Llancarfan. It’s great to see that this lovely pub with its accomplished cooking is in very safe new hands.

The Details:

Address - The Fox & Hounds, Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan CF62 3AD
Web - http://www.fandhllancarfan.co.uk/
Telephone - 01446 781287