Saturday, 24 June 2017

The Marram Grass, Anglesey restaurant review


Located in a former rabbit breeding shed on a rural caravan park in Anglesey, the Marram Grass isn't exactly where you’d expect to find one of Wales’s most acclaimed restaurants.

Chef Owner Ellis Barrie is currently representing the North West in the Great British Menu where he’s been one of this year’s standout contestants due to both his cooking ability and jokey personality.

By coincidence (we booked last September), we visited on the night of Ellis’s end of week judging episode. Apparently the TV was on in the kitchen so I’m sure the team would have been in a celebratory mood as Ellis successfully progressed to finals week.

The funky homespun vibe of the dining room is complimented nicely by a young and friendly serving team and a menu of well-priced dishes with interesting twists.


An amuse bouche of light and airy roasted red pepper espuma was both sweet and savoury. Cubes of rice wine vinegar jelly counterbalanced the sweetness.


A pair of oysters rockefeller (£3 each) saw plump molluscs topped with sourdough breadcrumbs and butter with a massive hit of garlic, parsley and lemon.


Rounds of tangy and creamy goats cheese mousse (£7.50) were coated in a herb crumb and joined by wild garlic puree, a super addictive pistachio puree, pine nuts, mixed seeds, sweet honey and tender asparagus. There was a lot going on in the dish but everything balanced very well. The only minor quibble was that the mousse was a touch on the heavy side.


A whopping bowl of potted crab was of an excellent dollopable consistency. It was packed with brown crab meat and seasoned well with shallot and herbs. A sweet crab claw was a delightful extra treat. Soft bread and a tasty yet somewhat unnecessary block of olive butter completed the dish.


Crisp-skinned and flaky salt cod (£17.50) was served with golden shallots, fresh kale, lightly pickled mussels and a gorgeously buttery sauce fragranced with dill. A clutch of fresh mussels on the side were nice and plump but a bit gritty.


My main was a cornucopia of porky delights (£17.50). Some of the best flavoured, tenderest, crisp-skinned pork I’ve ever had was served with an ace meat sauce, quaver-like crackling, wilted greens and a heroically good walnut puree. An additional bonus of pressed pork shoulder was flavoursome but a touch dry. It was topped with lovely shavings of tart rhubarb and soft butter beans.


A first-rate lemon tart (£7.50) that was crisp of pastry, golden of top and sharp of filling was joined by light Italian meringue, a perfectly smooth lemon sorbet and potent lemon gel.


My dessert was an absolute knockout (£7.50). Sweet and slightly tart confit rhubarb was accompanied by creamy yet tangy yoghurt panna cotta, sweet rhubarb puree and pate de fruit and crunchy honeycomb ice cream and pieces.


The Marram Grass is a restaurant of interesting flavour combinations, skilful technique, generous portions and a relaxed atmosphere. I very highly recommend it.

The Details:

Address - The Marram Grass,White Lodge, Newborough, Anglesey LL61 6RS
Web - https://www.themarramgrass.com/
Telephone - 01248 440 077

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