Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Beefy Boys, Hereford, burger restaurant review

To say that the story of Hereford’s Beefy Boys is impressive is an understatement.

Originally a team of amateur cooks from Hereford with a passion for burgers and bbq, they entered Grillstock in 2014 and won the title of best burger. Wow.

They then represented the UK at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas where they competed against 50 other chefs for the title of world’s best burger. They came second overall with their butty bach burger winning in the final. Double wow.

The Beefy Boys used their winnings from Vegas to open their first restaurant in Hereford, an industrial space with corrugated metal, wood-panelling and strip lighting.

Unsurprisingly, the menu is dominated by burgers; there’s sixteen of them (plus specials) including chicken and veggie options.

A salted caramel milkshake was big on flavour and topped with a nice piece of gooey brownie. But for me it was too thin and milky. Mrs G disagreed. 

We ordered a few sides to go with our burgers.

Hella crisp mac and cheese balls (£4) were as filthy-tasty as it gets; crisp crumbs gave way to velvety macaroni cheese. 

They were topped with parmesan, chives and crisp bacon shards and accompanied by a smokey spicy chipotle ketchup. 

Ninja wings (£4) were twice cooked giving them a super crisp exterior that was coated in a sweet, sticky, savoury glaze of soy, garlic and honey. Whilst they were tender, they weren’t the juiciest of wings I’ve eaten, perhaps a result of the double cooking process. 

Millionaire fries (£3.50) were topped with an indulgent combination of funky truffle oil, parmesan and chives. Whilst truffle oil often dominates, in this case it harmonised well with everything else. 

A burger lives and dies by the quality of its patty and this is where the Beefy Boys shine. 21 day aged Hereford beef is ground coarsely daily and is the sole ingredient in their patties (other than seasoning). Served a perfectly pink medium they’re big on flavour with a robust yet juicy texture.

The second most important element, the bun, is killer too. Their squidgy but sturdy and not too sweet semi-brioche buns are made by local baker Peter Cook using a sourdough starter. 

I ordered the Beefy Boy (£8), the signature burger. A messy beast, it was topped with crisp streaky bacon, oozy melted American cheese and Swiss cheese, lettuce, red onion and richness piercing gherkin. The kicker was a liberal dollop of secret special sauce - a creamy and tangy number that reminded me of Big Mac sauce but without the gherkin.

Mrs G’s Bacon Boy (£9) was topped with double bacon, bacon mayo, American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, red onion and gherkin. The only let down was a slice of fridge cold beef tomato that did its accompaniments no justice. 

We had a kick-ass lunch at Beefy Boys. Their quality is absolutely top drawer and they're great value to boot. If you’re ever in the Hereford area, make sure you visit to recalibrate your burger expectations.

The Details:

Address - The Beefy Boys, Old Market, Hereford HR4 9HU
Telephone - 01432 359209

Friday, 8 September 2017

Outlaw's at the Capital, Knightsbridge, London Michelin-starred restaurant review

How do you decide if a meal is good value for money?

A mystery meat burger might set you back a couple of quid. But, if it tastes worse than a sweaty plimsole then you’re clearly not getting much bang for your buck.

Similarly, sous vide fimble fowl served with crumpetty tree puree might get your pulse racing. But, if you still have to reach for the box of cornflakes when you get home then something’s amiss.

This brings me to Outlaw’s at the Capital, one of the best value meals I’ve eaten in 2017. For £33 I had a heroically good Michelin-starred meal that filled me to the brim.

Nathan Outlaw’s eponymous fish restaurant in Cornwall has recently been named the best restaurant in the UK in the Good Food Guide 2018. The London outpost, located in the swish Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, is headed up by Chef Tom Brown, a standout contestant on this year’s Great British Menu.

At lunch they offer a set menu for £33 for 3 courses as well as a summer menu (3 courses for £62) and tasting menu (5 courses for £85).

I went for the cheapest option. 

A crisp linseed cracker was topped with potent smoked cod roe.

Bread is baked daily by Nathan Outlaw’s father Clive; cooking talent clearly runs in the family. A pair of warm, crisp rolls included a malty Doom Bar type and an intense and fragrant cheese and rosemary flavour. I was offered a second round of bread and I of course accepted. 

You can judge a fish restaurant by the quality of its fish soup. Outlaw’s was brilliant. A vivid terracotta colour with a deep fish flavour from its gurnard base was balanced by refreshing slices of orange. A perfectly cooked fillet of cod sat in the middle. 

My main was a dish of massive flavours. A beautifully flaky crisp-skinned hake fillet was joined by soft confit fennel, dinky mushrooms, intense mushroom puree, seriously meaty chicken sauce and fragrant tarragon oil which lifted the whole dish. It was fantastic. 

Dessert also kicked ass. A golden super-thin crusted treacle tart was fragranced with orange. It was joined by vanilla ice cream, fresh raspberries and raspberry puree. 

Accompanying the bill was a tasty mini ginger biscuit and clotted cream sandwich and a piece of chocolate and sea salt fudge. 

My lunch at Outlaw’s was absolutely first rate. The fish cookery was as good as it gets and at £33 it was seriously good value for money too. I highly recommend it.

The Details:

Address - Outlaw's at the Capital, 22-24 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, London SW3 1AT
Telephone -  0207 591 1202

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Caban, Adamsdown, Cardiff vegetarian and vegan restaurant review

I should hang my head in shame.

Caban has been on my doorstep for over two years and before that existed as Canteen on Clifton Street since 2007. Yet, Mrs G and I visited for the first time just last week.

This Adamsdown vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant serves globally inspired food without the baggage of being labelled as a non-meat eatery. Whilst the compact menu of three starters, mains and desserts is almost exclusively veggie or vegan, there’s always a meat option (a beef thali on our visit) to keep carnivores happy.

Caban is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings and with a bring your own wine policy (£2.50 corkage) and three courses of lovely food costing just £19, it’s not surprising they were packed to the rafters. The dining room might not be the most Instagram-friendly but the warm atmosphere more than makes up for it. 

Aldi's finest Riesling
To start I had the Mexican chilaquiles. Crisp tortillas were coated in a velvety and spicy black bean sauce and accompanied by zesty pico de gallo salsa and light guacamole. 

Mrs G’s pasta dish was a corker. A pair of giant al dente ravioli were filled with a smooth, sweet and delicately nutty butternut squash and amaretti puree. A rich and fragrant lemon butter and sage sauce completed the dish.

For main I had the modest sounding Indonesian stir fry with “chicken” skewers. The dish far surpassed its billing. Slippery udon noodles and crisp vegetables were coated in a flavour-packed spicy cashew nut sauce. A pair of slightly chewy soy protein skewers were the only “meh” note of the meal. 

A lovely vegetable thali comprised of a gorgeously smoky aubergine chutney, ginger-spiked lentil dhal, new potato, cauliflower and lentil curry, crisp poppadom shards, tomato salad and fluffy nigella seed fragranced rice. 

Desserts maintained the high standards of the first two courses.

A raspberry frangipane tart was as good an example as I’ve ever eaten. Warm, thin and crisp pastry contained a light berry-studded almond sponge with a golden crust. It was accompanied by a smooth raspberry sorbet. 

Soft and rich sticky toffee pudding was accompanied by vanilla-fragranced vegan ice cream that was a commendable dairy substitute.

We had an excellent meal at Caban and our bill came to just £41.50. I highly recommend a visit to try their great value global cooking.

The Details:

Address - Caban, 40 Clifton Street, Cardiff CF24 1LR
Telephone - 029 20454999

Saturday, 26 August 2017

The Brass Beetle, Cardiff cocktail bar and pizza restaurant review

Whitchurch Road has had a renaissance. When it comes to indie places to eat and drink it can more than hold its own against more fashionable parts of Cardiff like Roath, Canton and Pontcanna.

Here’s the evidence - killer French patisserie Cocorico, craft beer merchants Discount Supermarket and Pop ’n’ Hops, high end currymongers Mint & Mustard, French bistro The Pot, the trendy boozer Society Standard and gourmet burger bar Got Beef.

Case closed. 

Bolstering this luscious line-up is Whitchurch Road’s latest arrival, The Brass Beetle, a wood-fired pizza restaurant and cocktail bar.

Whoever has done the design and branding knows their onions. The art deco logo combined with regal green, dark wood and brass detailing are super swank. And, the pizza oven that sits in the open kitchen is a beautiful beast.

The cocktail menu is concise but well-formed.

Mrs G kicked off with a Straight Up Mojito (£8.50), a refreshingly boozy twist on the classic that balanced well sour citrus, sweetness and mint fragrance. 

She followed it up with a Peach Gin & Tonic (£8.50) with loads of fresh fruit and the delicate aroma of rosemary. 

The Brass Beetle’s pizza menu features a range of interesting flavour combinations including sweet chorizo with hot honey and charred red peppers with cured egg yolk. There are also a handful of specials and sides on a blackboard. Desserts are a work in progress and should hopefully be added to the next version of the menu.

Both the pizzas we ordered were lovely; the crisp crust had a good chew, the base was thin and the toppings were generous in quantity.

Mine was topped with shreds of tender ham hock (£9.95), meaty wild mushrooms, a seriously savoury ooze of Perl Las, light tomato sauce and a scattering of parsley.

Mrs G’s was topped with soft roast cauliflower (£8.95), sweet caramelised leeks, parsley and nutty melted emmental. 

A stack of halloumi fries (£3.95) were crisp and golden with a soft and slightly chewy interior. They were accompanied by an enjoyably punchy jalapeno dip. 

A whopping side salad (£2.50) was a bit heavy on the rocket and light on dressing but was pepped up nicely by pieces of earthy beetroot, salty fronds of samphire and pink pickled onions.

I really liked The Brass Beetle; the serving team were charming, the pizzas were delicious and the cocktails kicked ass. They’re another very good addition to Whitchurch Road.

The Details:

Address - The Brass Beetle, 11-13 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JN
Telephone - 02920 623956

Saturday, 19 August 2017

A guide to Wales's Michelin-starred restaurants

Pogs. Panini Stickers. Trolls. Stamps. Pokemon.

Gotta catch 'em all.

Humans have a natural tendency to collect things and I’m no different.

Earlier this year I finally visited all seven of Wales’s Michelin starred restaurants. Whilst this "achievement" has hammered my bank balance over the last few years, I’ve eaten some really memorable meals from Wales’s very top chefs.

So, here’s my guide to Wales’s Michelin stars. Follow the links for my full reviews:

Sosban and The Old Butchers, Menai Bridge, Anglesey

Wales’s smallest Michelin-starred restaurant has just sixteen covers and gets booked up months in advance. The menu incorporates foraged ingredients and modern interpretations of classic flavour combinations in dishes like sour cream porridge with mushroom and bacon. 

Pork cheek tart with yoghurt, liquorice and sweet cicely
The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

The Walnut Tree is the least Michelin-starry of Wales’s Michelin-starred restaurants. Shaun Hill, one of the elder statesmen of British cooking, cooks dishes with bold flavours, unglamorous ingredients and straightforward presentation in an informal setting.

Pheasant pudding with sage and bacon
Tyddyn Llan, Llandrillo, Denbighsire

From the floral curtains to the food, Tyddyn Llan is Wales’s most traditional Michelin-starred restaurant. Bryan Webb’s generous cooking sees classic flavour combinations cooked with French technique.

Hake with laverbread beurre blanc and samphire
Ynyshir, Machynlleth, Powys

Gareth Ward’s cooking pushes the most boundaries out of Wales’s Michelin stars with his Japanese influenced food that utilises plenty of pickles. I wasn’t fully sold on challenging flavour combinations like dark chocolate with shiitake mushroom but Ynyshir is the highest ranked restaurant in Wales in the Good Food Guide 2018.

Pork belly with black bean sauce
Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan

With its pretty seafront location just outside Cardiff, Restaurant James Sommerin is the Michelin-starred restaurant I’ve visited more than any other. Sommerin’s cooking combines bold flavours with striking presentation. Highlights from a recent meal included venison tartare with cep and confit duck with artichoke. 

Venison tartare with cep and carrot
The Whitebrook, Monmouthshire

Located in rural Monmouthshire, this pretty restaurant with rooms is run by Chris Harrod, a chef that learnt his craft under the legendary Raymond Blanc. Harrod’s comforting food utilises locally foraged ingredients like mugwort, scurvy grass and lesser celandine.

Golden Cenarth dumplings with duck gizzard, salt baked turnip and sorrel puree
The Checkers, Montgomery, Montgomeryshire

Mid Wales’s Checkers is a family affair - head Chef Stéphane Borie is married to head pastry chef Sarah whilst her sister Kathryn runs front of house. This translates into a passion that radiates from every wooden beam of this renovated coaching inn. Borie’s gutsy French cooking delivers huge flavour and technique.

Pork belly with boudin noir

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Raby Hunt, Darlington - two Michelin starred restaurant review

Winning a Michelin star is a seriously impressive achievement. There are only 172 restaurants in Great Britain and Ireland deemed worthy of the accolade.

Most of these restaurants' head chefs will have trained in other Michelin-starred kitchens where they learnt the techniques and discipline to cook at the very highest level.

So, to achieve such greatness by teaching yourself is even more flabbergasting.

However, that’s what some of the very best have done including Heston Blumenthal, Raymond Blanc, Tommy Banks and James Close.

James Close is the chef-patron at the Raby Hunt, the only two Michelin-starred restaurant in the North East of England. A former pro golfer, Close’s only professional kitchen experience before opening the Raby Hunt in 2009 was doing a bit of washing up and chopping carrots. Within three years of opening the Raby Hunt, Close had picked up a Michelin star. Pretty. Frigging. Impressive.

Our meal at the Raby Hunt was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten.

The fifteen course tasting menu (£90 Wed & Thu, £95 Fri & Sat - the only option available at dinner) utilised seasonal ingredients cooked with masterful technique. None of the dishes were overcrowded but instead they showcased a few elements that harmonised perfectly. There was also a superb flow to the meal with each dish feeling like a natural progression.

It’s worth noting the Raby Hunt are uncompromising when it comes to catering for vegetarians and fussy eaters. There is no vegetarian tasting menu and no ingredient substitutions.

Our first snack was a crisp cod skin cracker topped with pearls of salty caviar and fragrant Amalfi lemon rind shavings.

A pair of Mexican inspired snacks followed.

Meaty raw scallop was joined by the fresh flavours of lime, coriander, jalapeno and radish.

The dinkiest of crisp corn tacos was stuffed with sweet crab meat and well fragranced guacamole.

A duo of oyster dishes were up next.

A crisp potato puff contained a creamy ozonal oyster emulsion and was topped with a fine dice of potato with a punchy herbal hit of lovage and the warmth of tobasco.

A plump, tender, briny cooked oyster was elevated by fragrant dill oil, cleansing cucumber granita, diced cucumber and warming British wasabi.

A crunchy Jerusalem artichoke skin was filled with two temperatures of duck offal; shavings of frozen creamy parfait and a hot, deeply meaty ragout. A berry puree on the bottom of the artichoke cut through the richness of dish.

Slices of the tenderest razor clam were served in the shell with buttery Morecambe Bay shrimp, crunchy almonds, a velvety celeriac puree, earthy girolles and salty samphire.

Almost spreadably tender Wagyu beef tartare was accompanied by pearls of caviar, a punchy basil emulsion, crisp cracker pieces and capers. This was a stunning dish but we felt it was a touch over-seasoned due to the saltiness of the caviar and capers.

A gorgeously fresh spring salad included leaves, beets, radishes, edible flowers, crispy kale, courgette and asparagus. Some of the vegetables were charred bringing a smoky dimension to the dish whilst shiso dressing, beetroot puree and a super savoury scallop crumb completed the light plate of food.

Pan-fried squab pigeon breast and confit leg were joined by smoky barbecued radicchio, savoury anchovy emulsion, a squab pigeon reduction and an olive reduction. This was meat cookery of the highest quality.

Uber lovely warm chocolate mousse was balanced by a creamy sheep’s milk ice cream, a salty olive crumb and a crisp tuille.

A trio of lemon dishes followed.

Almond crumble, lightly fragranced fennel ice cream, potent lemon gel and an intense liquorice tuille all harmonised beautifully.

A weeny lemon doughnut was filled with lemon thyme jam and topped with a warming ginger sugar disk.

An ice cold cocoa cream shell contained a fragrant and intense lemon presse and was topped with yuzu gel.

The Raby Hunt’s chocolates have gained a bit of a reputation. I can understand why.

A white chocolate Buddah was filled with a solero-like mango and passion fruit ganache.

A skull contained a smooth chocolate ganache fragranced with raspberry and yuzu.

Our meal at The Raby Hunt was phenomenal. It’s the best food I’ve had in a two Michelin starred restaurant. The service was also super-friendly and we had excellent wines by the glass including an Alsace riesling and a Swiss pinot noir.

I can’t recommend a visit highly enough. It also means you get a trip to the North East of England aka the birth place of such brilliant things as Gregg’s sausage rolls, Byker Grove, Newcastle United, Geordie Racer and me.

The Details:

Address - The Raby Hunt Restaurant, Summerhouse, Darlington, County Durham DL2 3UD
Web -
Telephone - 01325 374 237