Sunday, 27 December 2015

My ten favourite dishes in Wales of 2015

2015 has been great year for eating in Wales.

There’s been bobbydazzling burgers, stonking street food, top drawer tapas and perfect pastries.

In fact, the food scene in South Wales continues to go from strength to strength.

So here it is, in no particular order, ten of the best things I’ve eaten in Wales during the last year.

1. Partridge sandwich, Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth: A sandwich cooked by one of Wales’ best chefs, you know it’s going to be amazing. Butter fried brioche is topped with tender confit partridge leg, salsify puree and crispy onion rings. 

2. Pata Chaat, Mint & Mustard Penarth: One of the signature dishes at this sophisticated South Indian restaurant. Crisp, battered baby spinach leaves are draped with creamy yoghurt, tangy tamarind chutney and cleansing jewels of pomegranate. 

3.Tagliatelle Salsiccia e Broccoli, Il Pastificio, Cardiff:  Freshly made tagliatelle, a potently savoury dolcelatte sauce, chunks of anise twanged homemade sausage and pieces of braised broccoli. Can I eat this now please?

4.Paris Brest, Cocorico Patisserie, Cardiff: Cocorico serve the best Paris-Brest. Golden choux pastry is filled with crunchy praline and sweet caramelised hazelnut cream. 

5.John Dory, Hare & Hounds, Aberthin: The highlight of my favourite meal of 2015. A John Dory fillet is bathed in a lobster sauce of extraordinary intensity and joined by plump mussels, cockles, samphire and buttery courgette mash. 

6. Cubano, Wright’s Food Emporium, Llanarthne: A legendary sandwich at a legendary food destination. Home-baked ciabatta, golden pork belly, thick cut ham, grated cheese, warming sriracha mayo and richness busting jalapenos and gherkins. Oofh. 

7. Burger, Burger and Lobster, Cardiff: Despite the recent arrival of Shake Shack, Burger & Lobster still serve my favourite burger in Cardiff. All the elements are bang on the nail. Except for the £20 asking price. Thankfully, they now offer a £12 burger during weekday lunchtimes. 

8. Santiago tart, Bar 44, Cardiff: I could have picked any one of a handful of dishes from the menu of Bar 44. But, the freshness and intensity of the orange sorbet which accompanies their Santiago tart still sticks in the memory. 

9. Pork, The Great House, Laleston: Pork belly, shredded pork shoulder, a pork shoulder croquette and some stellar accompaniments. I heart pork. 

10. Steak and kidney pudding, King’s Arms Pentyrch: It’s one of those dishes which is so difficult to get right but The King’s Arms get it very, very right. A crisp suet crust contains flavour-packed meat and they also throw in a few pieces of rare steak on the side for good measure.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Shake Shack, Cardiff burger restaurant review

The opening of the first Shake Shack branch in the UK outside of London is a massive coup for Cardiff.

With its origins as a hot dog cart in New York City’s Madison Square Park, the St David’s Centre branch of Shake Shack is the 71st for the gourmet fast food chain which was founded by legendary restaurateur Danny Meyer.

It’s easy to dismiss a chain opening as invariably a bad thing. However, as long as a restaurant offers quality and raises the bar for its category then I'll welcome it with open arms.

Shake Shack has quality in spades. 

Place your order at the counter from a menu which includes 100% Aberdeen Angus burgers, Chicago style hot dogs, frozen custard, and a cracking array of drinks including the eponymous shakes, Abita Brewing Company root beer, ShackMeister Ale brewed by the well regarded Thornbridge, and beers from Welsh breweries Celt and Tiny Rebel.

Then, take a buzzer and wait five minutes for your nosh to be cooked to order. 

Commendably, burgers are cooked medium unless otherwise requested. 

Furthermore, a potato bread roll is a top drawer element of each burger, offering robustness and good squidge. 

A double ShackMeister (£9.75) saw two juicy, well flavoured, course ground patties topped with oozing American cheese, hyper crisp battered shallot rings and signature ShackSauce made from a base of mayo, ketchup and mustard. 

A double SmokeShack (£10.75) again saw two cheese oozed patties but this time topped with thick rashers of crisp smoked bacon and sweet and spicy chopped cherry peppers. 

Finally, a Shack Stack (£8.75) combined a single cheese topped patty, lettuce, tomato and a crisp panko crumb coated mushroom filled with an additional layer of melted cheese. This is a burger with the ooze factor and, on its own, the ’Shroom burger (£5.50) is a veggie option which puts most other burger joints to shame. 

Fries (£3) are crinkle cut as standard but it’s definitely worth an extra quid for the cheese topped variety (£4) - the velvety cheese sauce seemingly made from an indulgent combination of cheese and liberal amounts of butter. 

Shakes (£5.25) were good but I’m not sure it's worth naming the restaurant after them - they’re certainly not the standout. We ordered a malted peanut butter flavour and a malted black and white made from a mix of vanilla and chocolate. 

Finally, Shake Shack’s concretes (£5) are worthy of mention - essentially a gourmet McFlurry. I’ve previously had the Union Shack combining chocolate frozen custard, gooey pieces of St John Bakery brownie, fudge sauce, Paul A.Young chocolate chunks and sea salt. However, Shake Shack Cardiff also offer a Welsh cake flavour with a portion of profits going to local homeless charity, The Wallich.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m a huge fan of Shake Shack.

However, the prices won’t be to everyone’s taste - an entry level cheeseburger, fries and drink will set you back £11.25 whilst you’re looking around the £20 mark for a double speciality burger, cheese fries and a beer.

The Details:

Address - Shake Shack, St. David’s 2, Upper Grand Arcade, Cardiff CF10 2EF
Telephone -  01923 555173

Shake Shack Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Restaurant James Sommerin - Chef's Table, Penarth restaurant review

I’ve previously visited Penarth’s Restaurant James Sommerin twice and both times it’s been superb.

Yesterday, we experienced the 14-course chef’s table and the food was even more impressive.

As well as the incredible meal, it was great to spend time in the kitchen chatting to the chefs about the inspiration behind different dishes and to witness the calm multi-tasking of a busy lunch service. A table of 17 was served with ease and the most swearing all afternoon came from Mrs G.

Champagne and a quintet of snacks were served in the restaurant before we moved through to the kitchen: 

sweetcorn panna cotta with smoked haddock and bacon, a cep and truffle croqueta with iberico ham,

pumpkin espuma with mixed seeds, a parmesan gougere,

and a tapioca crisp with taramasalata.

Taking our seats in front of the action in the kitchen, James introduced us to the members of his team - Matt, Dave, Benoit and Ollie.

The snacks continued with a warm doughnut filled with chicken liver mousse.

From the bread selection I chose laverbread bread to go with laverbread butter. Because, you can never get enough laverbread. 

Cauliflower risotto was served with deep fried sage leaves and crispy onion. Cleverly, cauliflower shavings were used instead of rice to give the dish a lighter texture whilst still retaining the creaminess of a risotto. 

Pea raviolo, crispy ham and deep fried sage is one of James’s signature dishes. The creamy pea soup filled pasta spilled its contents to bring the whole dish together. 

Sous vide salmon was garnished with celeriac puree and shiso vinegar dressed lentils. I often find sous vide fish too soft in texture. However, the bite of the Asian spiced lentils provided a great textural contrast. 

One of the standout dishes of the meal was next - peanut glazed pork belly was served with super tender octopus, baked sweet carrots, pickled carrots and peanut sauce. 

Baked and pickled beetroot was dressed beautifully with crispy beetroot tops and goats cheese mousse and shavings. 

The next highlight of the meal was celeriac linguine, the ribbons of vegetable doing more than a convincing job as a pasta alternative. A rich onion butter sauce, onion crumb and crisp Japanese artichoke shavings completed the dish. 

Probably the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten followed next - butter fried brioche was topped with tender as can be confit partridge leg, salsify puree and crispy onion rings. 

Sea bass was joined by smoked butter sauce, butternut squash puree, samphire and mushroom shavings. 

Well flavoured and textured wagyu tartare, sage, egg yolk and crispy onion was a moment of lightness following the indulgent dishes we’d eaten so far. 

The first part of the main course was a superb guilty pleasure. Roast lamb rib infused whipped butter was paired with rosemary focaccia fried in some more of the lamb butter. 

If you like mopping up the crusty bits left in the roasting tin after you’ve cooked a lamb dinner (me) then this is the dish for you. 

The second half of the main comprised of a stonking piece of perfectly pink aged lamb served with suede fondant, date and lamb gravy, salt baked celeriac puree and spinach. 

A killer selection of Welsh and English cheeses with homemade biscuits followed. 

The first dessert utilised a citrus fruit I’d never heard of before - the calamansi, a cross between a mandarin orange and a kumquat. The fragrant, sweet, acidic fruit was served as a sorbet and jelly wrapped parfait and accompanied by dainty meringues and warm black sesame seed cake. 

A flawless cherry souffle was joined by a scoop of marzipan ice cream. This was the ultimate cherry bakewell. 

Finally, a new dish to round off the four and a half hour meal - a boozy as heck plum sake granita, which was a bit too strong for Mrs G, was served with aerated chocolate, plum puree... 

and a glass of plum sake. 

We were given a box of mince pies to take home… but they only made it 20 metres down the street before we guzzled them. 

The chef’s table at James Sommerin was an experience I’ll remember for years to come. 

The Details:

The chef’s table is normally £150 a head but we bought it on a voucher deal which is currently available for £100 a head.

Address - Restaurant James Sommerin, The Esplanade, Penarth CF64 3AU
Telephone - 029 20706559
Web -

Restaurant James Sommerin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Bellita, Bristol restaurant review

It’s pretty early to have decided on my New Year’s resolution for 2016. But, my mind is made up.

I’m not going to lose half a stone or run a 10k - I’m going to eat more food at restaurants in Bristol.

The number of places I want to visit in Brizzle is now so out of control that it’s time to take action.

A couple of weeks ago, I managed to tick Bellita of the list.

The recently opened younger sibling of the legendary Bell’s Diner serves a menu of small plates inspired by Spain and North Africa amongst other influences.

Huge meaty gordal olives (£3) and a pair of cockle warming aperitifs kicked us off. 

In each drink, the punch of booze was tempered by the presence of a homemade fruit syrup - The Bellita (£6) with Chase Seville orange gin and raspberry, thyme and black pepper cordial and The Greengage and Irish (£5) with whiskey and greengage and ginger syrup. 

Golden potato and parmesan fritters (£3) were filled with a supremely light and smooth potato filling and topped with shavings of savoury cheese. 

Artichoke, chicory, pear and manchego salad (£6.50) was flecked with crisp almonds. The top drawer ingredients were however muted by the overpowering flavour of truffle oil. 

Golden mackerel fillets (£6.50) were topped with shavings of warming horseradish. They were accompanied by a dill fragranced slaw which balanced the richness of the oily fish. 

A delightfully smokey flame-licked chicken pincho (£6) was accompanied by an awesome duo - spicy harissa and soothing yoghurt. 

Rolled lamb breast (£10) was the standout of the evening - crisp, fatty, deep-flavoured lamb was paired with cavalo nero coated in immensely savoury anchovy butter. I licked the plate clean. 

Next up was a pretty dish of pork cheeks (£12) served with the aromatic funk of wild fungi, fragrant deep-fried sage leaves, silky cauliflower puree and a sticky, meaty pedro ximinez sauce. The only minor drawback was the meat itself which lacked a little in tenderness. 

Cubes of fried potato (£2.50) were hyper crisp, hyper fluffy and hyper delicious. They were joined by potent aioli and herby mojo verde sauce.

For dessert, a scoop of creamy homemade ice cream (£2.50) skilfully balanced the intense flavours of rosewater and cardamom. 

A slice of rich and gooey chocolate torte (£6.50) was paired with salted caramel sauce and a dollop of mascarpone. 

Dinner at Bellita was lovely - it’s exactly the kind of place where I could while away an evening boozing and snacking. Here's to a lot more Bristol eating in 2016. 

The Details:

Address - Bellita, 34 Cotham Hill, Bristol BS6 6LA
Web -
Telephone - (0117) 923 8755

Bellita Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato