Friday, 29 December 2017

My 10 best meals in Cardiff of 2017

It’s that time of year when highlight lists are more common than stilton and port-induced hangovers.

So, jumping on the bandwagon, here are the ten best meals I’ve had in Cardiff in 2017.

Of course, I’ve had great meals at Hang Fire, Hare and Hounds and James Sommerin in the last year. But, including them in another of my lists would be a bit boring.

Asador 44

Asador 44 is the stellar steakhouse that Cardiff has been crying out for. They’re not only about beef though. This Spanish charcoal grill restaurant also serve whole fish to share (we had an incredible turbot) and they have an interesting list of Spanish wines and a cheese cave. Yes, a cave of cheese. 



The team behind the acclaimed Potted Pig sold up their stake and struck out on their own with Pontcanna’s Milkwood. Technically accomplished plates include turbot with leeks, crayfish, cucumber and samphire, and chocolate ganache and mousse with cherry. 



Burger Theory serve my favourite burgers in Cardiff. Favourites include the Sheriff with cheese, bacon and onion rings and the hyper-crisp Prairie Girl chicken burger topped with blue cheese and Frank’s hot sauce. Sides of sticky spicy Korean chicken and coca cola pulled ham dirty fries also kick ass. 


The Humble Onion

Okay, I know it’s not in Cardiff but there’s some really interesting cooking going on at the Humble Onion in Dinas Powys. Highlights at this modern bistro include stonkingly good onion soup and a fillet steak served with spiced anchovy butter and the crispest triple-cooked chips. 



Hotel restaurants are normally a bit boring and overpriced. The Admiral St David at the St David’s Hotel isn’t. This bright Australasian restaurant serves interesting food that includes flavour-packed chicken laksa and dark chocolate cremeux with mango, coconut and passionfruit. 


I love the pizzas at da Mara and since their relocation to Penylan they’re now on my doorstep. If you like wood-fired Neapolitan style pizzas made with first rate ingredients then check it out. 



In 2017, Cocorico were finalists in the BBC’s Bake Off Creme de la Creme. This modern French patisserie serve creative flavour combinations like the "Tropic Thunder", a choux bun with praline, coconut, white chocolate and passionfruit. Their afternoon tea is a great shout if you want to sample a range of their wares. 


The Early Bird make the best breakfast in Cardiff. Judging by the weekend brunch queues I’m not the only one who thinks so. Everything they serve is great but I’d recommend their stunningly squidgy brioche doughnuts and their green eggs and ham which combines toasted brioche, poached eggs, baked ham, and spinach and hazelnut pesto. 



I’ve eaten at Pooja more times than anywhere else in 2017. I can’t get enough of the good value vegetarian food from this Indian sweet and chaat house on Albany Road. Paneer tikka with freshly made roti (£3), samosa chaat (£2.50) and pani puri (£2.50) are my go to dishes. 



The half n half plate (falafel and shawarma) with chips and rice from Falafel Kitchen in Cathays is a real bobby dazzler. Served with silky hummus, pillowy pitta and lovely salads it's hard to think of many better ways to spend £8 in Cardiff.


Other great meals I’ve eaten in Cardiff in 2017 include Chez FrancisCaban, Curado Bar, Zi’s Cafe, Happy Lok Diner, Mowlana, Bara Menyn, El Chilango and Casanova.

Happy eating in 2018!

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Sïo, Cardiff Bay cafe review


The arrival of a new independent in chain-dominated Cardiff Bay is always a cause of celebration.

Sïo (the Welsh word for buzzing) is owned by the Chapter Arts Centre team. It’s located upstairs in Craft in the Bay, a bit of an awkward location as it’s isolated on a traffic island. But, it’s a lovely bright space with a mural on the back wall illustrating Chapter’s history over the last 47 years. 


The internationally influenced menu includes brunch options like French toast (£6.95) and Spanish baked eggs (£7.95) and lunch dishes like lamb tagine (£8.95), chicken saltimbocca (£8.95) and Asian style fried chicken (£9.95).

We visited for brunch.


A trio of flat whites (£2.70) were good. 


Crisp doorstops of top drawer Alex Gooch sourdough (£7.95) were topped with a generous pile of well-seasoned buttery scrambled egg and a couple of rashers of crispy bacon.


A Welsh Croque Madame (£6.95) was an enjoyable take on the French classic. Toasted sourdough was filled with an enjoyably rich and tangy ooze of three types of melted cheese, soft sweet leeks and salty ham.

If that wasn’t enough fromage, it was topped with Welsh rarebit that hummed with beer and mustardy goodness. A runny fried egg completed the croque and a well-dressed side salad with plump olives and tangy sunblush tomatoes balanced the richness of the dish. 


Chorizo hash (£6.95) was a simple yet comforting combination of crisp tender potatoes and spicy pieces of sausage topped with two perfectly runny poached eggs. 


We had a lovely brunch at Sïo. Next time you want breakfast in the Bay, give the chains a swerve and head to Sïo instead. I’m looking forward to trying their lunch menu.

The Details:

Address - Caffi Sïo, The flourish, Lloyd George Avenue, Cardiff CF10 4QH
Telephone - 029 2132 1090

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Six great places to eat and drink in Cardiff Market


It’s great to see the renaissance of Cardiff Market.

This beautiful Victorian building located in the heart of the city has great produce stalls like E.Ashton fishmongers and JT Morgan butchers. But, it’s increasingly gaining the food stalls that make the central markets in cities like Lisbon and Barcelona such magnets for visitors. It would be great to see communal seating and an on-license booze trader in the market push things on even further.

Here are my picks of the places to visit in Cardiff Market for a tasty bite to eat and a drink.

Milgi Market



The outpost of this highly regarded Roath plant-based restaurant and bar serves vegetarian and vegan salad boxes, hot pots, sandwiches and cakes with globally-inspired flavour combinations.


A Nourish wholefood bowl (£5) comprised of nutty well-herbed pearl barley, a selection of fresh vegetables including steamed kale, garlicky mushrooms, spiced butternut squash and light sauerkraut. Everything was brought together by a savoury, creamy and fragrant miso and ginger dressing and topped with crisp seeds and jewels of refreshing pomegranate.


Hard Lines Coffee



Formerly known as Outpost, Hard Lines serve one of the best cups of coffee in the whole of Cardiff. Expect single origin beans from the best suppliers, flawless latte art and tasty snacks from Alex Gooch and Flapjack Nation.


Thai Asian Delish


For seriously tasty and good value Thai food you can’t go wrong with Thai Asian Delish. Dishes like nutty Massaman curry and chicken pad thai are packed full of flavour.


The Cheese Pantry



The Cheese Pantry, a sister establishment to the excellent Penylan Pantry, have a killer selection of British cheeses that includes Perl Las, Gorwydd Caerphilly, Rollright and Quickes cheddar as well as delicious local chutneys from Penylan Preserves.


B.R.Donnelly Cafe



I love faggots and B.R.Donnelly, an old skool greasy spoon cafe, serves some fine examples. Faggots, peas, chips and bread and butter will set you back a mere £3.80. A rich and offaly faggot comes perched a top a pile of crisp chips and proper marrowfat peas. Thick gravy (I think it may be Bisto but Mrs G thinks it’s a cut above) and a slice of soft pappy white bread complete the dish.


Cardiff Bakestones


The Welshcakes from Cardiff Bakestones are frigging lovely and an absolute bargain too. Ask for what’s fresh off the bakestone as they’re at their very best when they’re still warm.


The Details:

Address - Cardiff Market, St Mary Street, Cardiff CF1 2AU 
Web - https://www.cardiff.gov.uk/ENG/Visiting/Culture-art-and-museums/Pages/Cardiff-Central-Market.aspx
Telephone - 029 2087 1214

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny afternoon tea review


I’m all in favour of annual Christmas traditions.

Like putting up the Christmas tree whilst listening to my favourite festive album.

Or watching It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve whilst chomping on a brick of stilton.

Yesterday, I think I may found a new ritual, Festive High Tea at the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny.

This gorgeous hotel with pretty nooks and roaring fireplaces has won heaps of plaudits for their afternoon teas including the The Tea Guild's most prestigious award, the Top City and Country Hotel Tea Award.

I can understand why.

The Wedgewood Room, where afternoon tea is taken, is a classy affair that balances classic and contemporary design. We had the best seats in the house sat next to the fire.


For £30 a head, the high tea includes three tiers of savouries, sandwiches, scones and patisserie. You also get as many pots of tea or coffee from their extensive selection as you can drink.

Mrs G and her mum both kicked off with a glass of Bollinger (£12) before moving on to excellent loose leaf fruit infusions.


I glugged down a couple of pots of lovely Assam tea.


The cake stands arrived in procession and took over what little space remained on our table. 


Sandwiches were very good but a bit less exciting that what was to follow. First rate egg and cress and poached salmon with dill were the standouts whilst wafer-thin turkey and cranberry and cucumber and cream cheese were a bit more run-of-the-mill. 


Savouries were a bunch of bobbydazzlers - a puff pastry tart filled with apricot flecked coronation chicken; an unctuous ham hock terrine and onion chutney crostini; a filo basket filled with shreds of duck and hoisin sauce; a sweet and savoury devil on horseback; a mustard glazed chipolata; and an enjoyably meaty quiche. 


Pastries were just as good. Highlights included a delicate custard filled choux bun topped with an intense coffee glaze; warm mince pies capped with brandy cream; a crisp strawberry meringue with a floaty light interior. A wobbly custard slice and slice of Christmas cake were tasty but less remarkable. 


A lush pot of trifle contained just the right balance of vanilla-infused custard, toasted almonds, whipped cream, proper sponge and strawberry jelly.


Last but by no means least were warm scones served with thick jam and a choice of clotted cream or whipped cream. I tried both and the clotted cream won hands down.


Whilst I managed to demolish everything put in front of me, Mrs G and her mum boxed up their leftovers for later.


High tea at the Angel is brilliant. If you’re looking for a special treat (or an early Christmas present from your mother-in-law in my case) with great food, service and atmosphere then get involved.

The details:

Address - The Angel Hotel, 15 Cross Street, Abergavenny NP7 5EN
Web - https://www.angelabergavenny.com
Telephone - 01873 857121

Angel Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 2 December 2017

da Mara, Penylan Italian restaurant and pizzeria review


da Mara has relocated from Lakeside to Penylan.

Occupying the former site of Il Pastificio, this is great news (for me) as this lovely pizzeria is now just a stone's throw from my doorstep.


I've reviewed da Mara twice before (review 1 & review 2) and both times I've been a big fan of their beautifully speckled wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas.

Thankfully, they've brought their Rolls-Royce of a Steffano Ferrara pizza oven with them to their new location. And they’ve got a Neapolitan pizza chef who knows what he’s doing.


Their menu is the same as before with a range of classic Italian starters, pasta, fish and meat dishes in addition to pizzas.

Easy-drinking Peroni red (£3.90) and Sardinian Ichnusa (£3.90) beers kicked us off. 


A pair of decent starters provided the warm-up for the main event.

Whitebait (£4.95) coated in a super-crisp golden crumb were served with a piquant tartare sauce.


Beef polpette (£6.95) and mushrooms were bathed in a tomato sauce with a good wallop of parmesan, garlic and chilli. 


Our pizzas were both stunning. All the elements were on the nail from the beautifully soft, airy and mottled crust to the thin base, light san marzano tomato sauce and seriously creamy mozzarella.

I ordered a margherita (£8.95) with a scattering of fragrant basil.


Mrs G ordered the ‘nduja (£9.95) with little pockets of fiery and unctuous chilli sausage. 


Smooth and creamy pistachio and stracciatella ice cream (£3) completed the meal.


I love the pizzas at da Mara and can’t recommend checking them out highly enough.

It’s also worth noting they do takeaway pizzas with 20% off the main menu prices. And on Mondays you can get a margherita with two toppings and a glass of wine or beer for £10.95.

I suspect I’m going to be eating a lot more of their pizza.

The Details:

Address - da Mara, 2 Penylan Road, Penylan, Cardiff CF24 3PF
Telephone - 02920 482222 / 07956 188595

da Mara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato