Saturday, 17 June 2017

The Flora, Cathays, Cardiff Sunday roast review


I go out for a Sunday roast less often than I wash my knees.

The reason being, it normally ends with me wanting to curl up into a ball and doze for the rest of the day.

Also, a roast is one of the few things I can do a semi-decent job at in the kitchen.

However, I’d repeatedly heard good things about the roasts at The Flora in Cathays. So, I thought it was time I’d better check them out.

 
The Flora is a collaborative venture between Ten Mill Lane and Brains. Whilst the beer selection is a little dull (Barry Island IPA is the most interesting offer), there’s a great selection of curiously named cocktails including Swipe Right, Jeff and Trevor. Also, double premium gins with Fever Tree tonic are a bargainous fiver a pop. 


On the day we visited, there were four roasts available including pork loin (£7.95) and nut roast (£7.95).

I ordered the topside of beef (£9.95). A generous amount of medium-cooked, well-flavoured and tender meat was served with soft and sweet roasted carrots, a rich buttery celeriac puree, good cauliflower cheese, a big slightly burnt Yorkshire pudding and a glossy red wine gravy. 


Along with the meat, the roast potatoes were the stand-out element; they were properly crisp and fluffy in equal measure.


Mrs G’s leg of Welsh lamb (£9.95) came with the same trimmings. Again, the generous portion of meat was well flavoured but it could have been a bit more tender. 


Service unfortunately flatlined after we ordered dessert. After prompting, my pud finally put in an appearance. It was taken off the bill without asking and order was restored.

A big sticky, datey slice of bourbon whisky pudding (£3.50) was drenched in chocolate sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It wasn’t exactly refined but it was a tasty end to the meal. 

 
Overall we both really enjoyed our roasts at The Flora. They're good value and definitely worth a try.

The Details:

Address - The Flora, 136 Cathays Terrace, Cardiff CF24 4HY
Telephone - 029 2115 1016

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Sosban and The Old Butchers, Menai Bridge, Anglesey restaurant review


With just sixteen covers, the Michelin-starred Sosban and The Old Butchers on Anglesey is a restaurant in demand.

Mrs G and I arranged a trip to Menai Bridge on the basis of when we could bag a table. When we booked last September, the earliest available was in the middle of May 2017.


Husband and wife team Stephen and Bethan Stevens run the kitchen and front of house respectively. Stephen’s CV includes stints at Petrus and Roux at the Landau whilst Bethan single handedly runs the dining room with boundless enthusiasm.

The restaurant has no menu, just a surprise tasting menu at £65 a head. And, in order to make the service work efficiently there are two sittings at 7pm and 8.15pm. Staggeringly, there was a no show on the evening we visited. Thankfully, Sosban and the Old Butchers charge a deposit.

Crisp caribou moss, foraged on the north of the island, was topped with the smoke and savouriness of kipper. 


Crunchy cod skin was dotted with peanut, banana and rock samphire. It reminded me of the Himalayan style curries my mum used to have in Indian restaurants when I was a kid. The sweetness of banana and mild curry hit was a beguiling combination.


A super fine filo pastry case was filled with the tenderest of slow cooked pork cheeks. It was complimented perfectly by the tang of yoghurt and intensity of liquorice and sweet cicely leaves. 


Warm soda bread was served with whipped butter that melted beautifully.


A rich sour cream porridge with a good bite was topped with a savoury mushroom mousse flecked with bits of fungi. Bacon crumbs capped off an excellent dish.


Another fine piece of comfort food came next. Al dente cauliflower, rich cheese sauce, cubes of parmesan custard, crisp crumbs and rich cocoa saw an everyday classic elevated to the highest level.


Blushing pink lamb rump came with a potent wild garlic puree and shoots that were balanced by subtle homemade ricotta. Crisp rye crumbs and tender asparagus completed another excellent plate. 


Flaky and meaty sous vide cod with a good lick of smoke sat on top of a mild yeast puree that gave a savoury hum to the dish. Slightly sharp, battered pickled onion rings, crisp potato puffs and a liberal grating of meaty ox heart finished it off.


Dessert tasted every bit as beautiful as it looked. A golden sugar sphere was filled with smooth vanilla custard. It was counterbalanced nicely by sharp rhubarb, crisp wild rice and almond powder. 


Finally, a creamy yet lip-puckering lemon ice cream was coated in rich dark chocolate salted with kalamata olive. 


Mrs G and I were blown away by dinner at Sosban and the Old Butchers. The cooking incorporates classic flavour combinations with innovate twists and the service is as friendly is it gets. There are also good value wines to be had by the glass and the soundtrack on the night we visited was a Rufus Wainwright mega mix. What's not to love?

I seriously recommend a pilgrimage to north Wales as soon as you can get a table... 

The Details:

Address - Sosban and The Old Butchers, Trinity House, 1 High Street, Menai Bridge, Anglesey LL59 5EE
Web - http://www.sosbanandtheoldbutchers.com/
Telephone - 01248 208 131

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Meal Squared2 Menywod, Cardiff pop-up restaurant review


Meal Squared2 is a collaborative supper club series that has previously featured notable names such as Penylan Pantry, James Sommerin, Dead Canary and Waterloo Tea.

Their latest event, Meal Squared2 Menywod (Women) - Cooking from our heartland saw the epic all-female line-up of Hang Fire, Penylan Pantry, Brød, Lia’s Kitchen, SamosaCo, Ericka Duffy and Spillers Records collaborating for an evening of food, drink and music inspired by the cultures that are close to each of their hearts.


The evening took place at the Wyndham Arcade branch of Waterloo Tea and was inspired by a similar Bristol collaborative dinner, Severn Sisters (the BBC Food Programme episode is well worth a listen).

If all this wasn’t impressive enough, the proceeds of the evening (tickets cost £48) were donated to Action Against Hunger and a fundraising raffle saw impressive prizes from Bang & Olufsen, Alex Gooch bread and I Loves the 'Diff.

A welcome drink of Caerdrydd clarified gin milk punch from mixologist and perfumer Ericka Duffy was a refreshing custardy treat made using Sipsmith gin washed in Brød custard.


A mezze sharing board brought together components from a trio of different chefs - Lia’s Kitchen, Brød and Penylan Pantry. Cycladic aubergoni was the standout. These soft aubergine cannelloni were stuffed with a moreish feta filling and coated in a cinnamon and mint fragranced tomato sauce. Dexter beef Greek meatballs were elevated by a dill-twanged tzatziki. 


Punchy Penylan Pantry pickles, a fresh Greek slaw and a lovely plaited wild garlic and almond pesto bread completed the starter. 



A bowl of vegetable curry from SamosaCo was a homely filler. 


For main, Hang Fire served up a plate of their killer barbecue. Uber-tender smoked chicken was accompanied by tangy Alabama white barbecue sauce. Stonkingly good Hang Fire ribs were joined by sweet Kansas City barbecue sauce, bright onion pickles and a light and fresh cabbage slaw flecked with green pepper. 


A Ewe’s milk cheese selection from Penylan Pantry was served with clever accompaniments - creamy Wigmore with a sweet chilli jam, a nutty Lord Of Hundreds with floral Welsh honey and the crunch of walnut, and a mild Miss Belles blue with a sweet marmalade (the tastiest and most unique flavour combination).

A pair of accompanying drinks were certainly original. Made by steeping the booze in their matched cheeses, I was a fan of the Lord of Hundred’s Liqueur made with whisky, peanuts and honey. But, Mrs Bells blue cheese liqueur was a step too far for me. 


A board of sweet treats from Brød and Lia’s Kitchen included mini custard spandauer pastries, crisp tarts with vanilla custard and glazed strawberries, and plump almond-stuffed dates coated in allspice and orange twanged raw dark chocolate. The puds were matched with a lovely chocolate and coffee cocktail.


We had a great evening at Meal Squared2. Most importantly, the event raised £2,000 for Action Against Hunger. This is hopefully the first Meal Squared2 Menywod event of many, so keep a lookout for future collaborations.

The Details:

Facebook - 
https://www.facebook.com/mealsquared2/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/MealSquared2

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Hare and Hounds, Vale of Glamorgan restaurant review 2017


I had no intention of blogging about my most recent visit to the Hare & Hounds.

I’ve already been as gushing I can be about this Vale of Glamorgan country pub here and here.

But, I can’t resist sharing some more love for their ingredient led, seasonal cooking.

There are no foams, smears, spherifications or other gimmicks; just flavour packed, technically accomplished, simply presented food that’s served by a knowledgeable and friendly front of house team.

This time we visited for the Spring tasting menu evening where seven courses, a glass of fizz and extras cost £55 a head. But, you can have the tasting menu anytime if you pre-order.


A glass of prosecco was fragranced with a light strawberry syrup.



Snacks comprised of a light and fresh asparagus soup with ricotta, airy Hafod cheddar gougeres and super short and rich cheese biscuits. 


Oysters are a mainstay at the Hare and Hounds but this is the first time I’ve ever eaten them cooked. The pairing of briney beer-battered molluscs and smoky romesco sauce was a big success.


Bread was as good as ever - a burnished complex wholemeal sourdough and cheese-twanged focaccia were served with creamy home-cultured butter. 


Next up came one of the standouts of the night. The shortest of pasty cases cradled silky bechamel sauce studded with Wye Valley asparagus and turbo-charged with savoury Hafod cheddar. 


A runny confit egg yolk dialled up the indulgence of the plate even further. 


A copper-coloured lobster and crab bisque, heady with the earthy intensity of brown meat and liquorice twang of tarragon, nestled a dainty raviolo filled with sweet lobster and crab meat and chive. 


I’m not the biggest bresaola fan as it lacks the fatty richness of other cured meats. But, this was the best example I’ve had. Cured in the pub’s cellar for four months, the tender beef was spiced with juniper and pepper. It was elevated by slow-cooked sweet tomatoes, a smoked tomato puree and peppery rocket leaves. 


My favourite dish of the evening comprised of a flaky hake fillet and soft leeks blanketed in a buttery and delicately lemony hollandaise laced with pieces of meaty mussel and fragrant laverbread.


A rack of sweet and tender milk fed Torgelly lamb was joined by a disk of lamb shoulder, a chargrilled asparagus spear, intense wild garlic puree, roasting juices and a richness-balancing sharp mint sauce. 


A fragrant rhubarb granita cleansed the palette before dessert. 


Souffle is another fixture on the menu at Hare and Hounds and with reason; they’re always frigging amazing. The perfectly risen cloud-light pud was fragranced with fresh strawberries. A scoop of uber-creamy vanilla ice cream was plonked into the middle. Oofh.


Petit fours maintained the stonking standard to the last mouthful. A homemade jammy dodger combined the shortest and butteriest of biscuits with tangy jam. A rich chocolate mousse was balanced by a boozy as heck cherry and a crisp biscuit base. 


As you can tell, I love the Hare and Hounds. If you haven't visited yet then I highly recommend pre-ordering the tasting menu.

The details:

Address - Hare & Hounds, Aberthin, Cowbridge CF71 7LG
Web - http://hareandhoundsaberthin.com/

Telephone - 01446 774892

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Cocorico Patisserie, Cardiff afternoon tea review


At the time of writing, Laurian's team from Cocorico Patisserie are tearing it up on Bake Off Creme de La Creme. Their semi-final will be broadcast this coming Wednesday 24 May.


I’m already a big fan of Cocorico’s macarons and pastries but seeing their impressive creations on the TV reminded me that I was yet to try their afternoon tea.

Available for pre-order at £15 a head, it’s the ideal showcase for their precise technique and penchant for interesting flavours.


My drink of choice was a lovely pot of loose leaf English breakfast tea. Mrs G and her mum both had very good flat whites. 


We kicked off with a savoury layer that was far more exciting than the usual finger sandwiches.

A beautifully warm, flaky and buttery mini croissant was stuffed with an enjoyably savoury combination of goat’s cheese and olive. A textbook crisp and soft white roll was filled with smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese whilst a dinky pie contained a comforting combo of chicken, leek and potato. 


Onto the sweet stuff and a mini Mont Blanc saw a short-crusted blueberry tart topped with airy whipped cream and sweet chestnut puree vermicelli.

A light choux bun was filled with praline cream, a caramelised hazelnut and whipped cream. The glossiest of glazes coated an intense blackcurrant mousse that sat atop another mini blueberry tart. 


You get to choose a macaron as part of the tea. All were crisp, soft, a tiny bit chewy and packed with flavour. I tried the raspberry and chocolate and delicately boozy Bailey's varieties. Mrs G’s raspberry and violet flavour was as pretty as a Jackson Pollock painting. 


Finally, on the top layer was a finger of waffle topped with jam, whipped cream and slices of strawberries. It was a lovely flavour combination but the crisp and slightly chewy waffle was my least favourite part of the tea. 


Afternoon tea at Cocorico was a real treat.

This isn’t the place to come if you want to stuff your face with bought in cupcakes and brownies. But, if you want to try the most technically accomplished patisserie in Cardiff then this is the right place.

The Details:

Address - Cocorico Patisserie, 35 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JP
Web - http://www.cocoricopatisserie.co.uk/
Telephone - 02921 328 177