Sunday, 18 March 2018

Mirchi, Roath, Cardiff Indo-Pakistani restaurant review

Mirchi, an Indo-Pakistani restaurant on City Road, polarises opinion.

On Tripadvisor, reviews swing between love letters to their mixed grills and karahi chicken and criticism of their poor service and flavourless food.

My review of a takeaway a few years ago was a mixed bag.

But, Mrs G’s work colleagues have recommended the place on countless occasions and Cardiff blogger Tummy Says Yum and Waterloo Tea’s Kasim Ali are fans.

Mrs G and I decided it was time to give Mirchi’s dining-in experience a go.

Mirchi’s interior is simple, with an almost work canteen-like vibe. A tandoor oven and charcoal grill at the restaurant’s entrance tells you that Mirchi are serious about grilling meat.

As they don’t serve alcohol it was great to see that a jug of tap water was brought to the table without prompting. Mrs G ordered a mango lassi (£2) that was full of flavour but could have been cooler. 

Mirchi’s menu comprises familiar curries as well as more interesting vegetarian dishes and specials such as karela (bitter gourd) and nehari (leg of lamb). However, most people seem to come to Mirchi for their barbecue, with a multitude of mixed grills processing out of the kitchen on our visit.

We had a hefty wait for our starters and mains but complimentary poppadoms and chutneys put us in a happy place. The standout was a tangy tamarind number with a good whack of chilli. 

Lamb seekh kebabs were excellent - loaded with coriander and a good hum of chilli, they were licked with char and sat on top of crisp and tender onions. And at £4.90 for four, this was a great value dish - a theme that continued throughout the meal. 

A chicken tikka biryani (£8) would have fed a family of four (we took half of it home). The huge mound of seriously buttery and delicately spiced rice was flecked with pieces of tender meat. We chose a creamy mint raitha as the complimentary accompaniment but there’s also a curry option. 

Karahi chicken (£7.50) was packed with yielding flesh and a well spiced gravy but it was a little heavy on the ghee.

Finally, a roghni nan (£2.50) was exemplary. Crisp, pillowy soft, scattered with toasty sesame seeds and a brush of butter, it was the perfect mop for the curry sauce. 

We had a very tasty meal at Mirchi and I can now see why people rate it highly as we had a feast for £25 with leftovers to take home. However, please be aware of the slow service and basic decor.

The Details:

Address - Mirchi, 90-94 City Road, Cardiff CF24 3BN
Web -
Telephone - 02920 492344

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Maya, Roath, Cardiff BYOB Indian restaurant review

Snowmageddon 2018 - I’d finally gone stir crazy from three days indoors and was in need of a change of diet from eight meals straight of bread and milk.

Ok, not quite.

Mrs G and I wanted to get out the house and a Twitter recommendation of Maya, Albany Road’s newest curry house, sealed the deal.

Maya is BYOB with no corkage; a huge plus for any restaurant in my book as you can drink something interesting and save a good whack off the bill.

We enjoyed a bottle of fruity Von Goler Riesling, a good match for a spicy curry. However, I was jealous of the adjacent table who had brought a mini keg of beer. Skills.

Maya’s decor, with its coloured light fittings and diamante studded seats, isn’t quite to my taste but the restaurant is warm, clean and comfy. The menu is chock full of curry house classics with a scattering of more interesting dishes in the specials section.

Poppadoms (70p each) were warm, crisp and grease free. Accompanying chutneys were run of the mill, the highlight being a pokey mixed pickle.

I kicked off with haryali kebab (£5.95). Four huge pieces of juicy chicken were coated in a fresh and vibrantly coloured spinach paste. The meat had a nice lick of smoke from the tandoor and was served with soft and sweet onions and fiery chilli and fragrant mango chutneys.

A quartet of golden onion bhajis (£3.50) were crisp on the outside with a properly cooked interior.

A lovely chicken shashlik karai (£10.95) saw tender pieces of chicken tikka and flame licked onions and peppers in a well-spiced gravy.

Murghi massala (£9.95), my go to curry house dish because it’s a meat feast, was excellent. A heap of shredded tandoori chicken, coarse keema and caramelised onion were coated in another nicely spiced sauce.

Pilau rice (£2.90) was made more interesting thanks to the crunch of crispy onions.

A pillowy peshwari naan (£2.70) was made even more indulgent thanks to a drizzle of honey and a scattering of sesame.

We had a very good meal at Maya and their BYOB policy makes it stand out from other curry houses in Roath. If you’re looking for a tasty curry then I recommend it.

The Details:

Address - Maya, 68 Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff CF24 3RS
Web -
Telephone - 02920 470 004

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Paco, Bristol, Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant review

We all know someone who’s talented at everything they turn their hand to.

Like my buddy Pete, who’s an award-winning animator, accomplished sportsman and skilled handyman.

Or Hugh Jackman, the ultimate triple threat. I mean that guy can really sing, dance and act.

The same can be said for Peter Sanchez-Iglesias. I don’t know how good he is at belting out a show tune but he’s Britain’s culinary equivalent of a triple threat. 

As well as heading up Casamia, a Michelin-starred restaurant known for its cutting edge seasonal cooking, Sanchez-Iglesias also has Pi Shop, an acclaimed wood-fired pizza joint and Paco Tapas, a Michelin-starred Spanish restaurant.

Pretty frigging impressive. 

All three restaurants are located on the waterside of Bristol’s Bathurst Basin in the rejuvenated General Hospital.

We visited Paco on a bracing yet sunny Saturday lunch and ordered the chef’s menu, a whistle stop tour of the restaurant’s best dishes and a canny option for a group of 4 who couldn’t be faffed with divvying up a sardine. At £50 a head, it’s about as cheap as it gets in the UK for a Michelin-starred tasting menu. We were also able to substitute a few dishes so we could try even more of the menu. 

A great value sherry flight (£25) provided a spectrum of Tio Pepe sherries matched with each course including a bone dry fino, nutty oloroso and a sweet and seriously neckable solera cream sherry. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about shez then this is a great introduction. 

Top drawer marinated olives were lovely paired with the fino. 

Smoked paprika twanged chorizo iberico de bellota was mouth-meltingly good. 

Galician beef cecina was one of the finest pieces of charcuterie I’ve ever eaten. Made with prized rubia gallega beef, it had the deep beefiness and buttery fattiness of a stonking steak. 

Boquerones, aka marinated anchovies, were plump and briny of flesh and drizzled with killer grassy olive oil. 

Toasted sourdough with a good lick of smoke and a light chewy crumb was drizzled in more of that olive oil. If you’d have just given me a bowl of this bread I’d have been a happy man. 

My standout dish of the meal was a masterclass in how the simplest ingredients can be elevated to the highest level. A tortilla made with tender confit potatoes and onions and twice as many egg yolks to egg whites was as comfortingly rich as it gets. 

Cooked to order, the tortilla’s interior was a golden goo that implored the plate to be wiped clean. I no longer feel so bad about missing out on Bar Nestor’s legendary version

Crab and jamón croquetas were both exemplary (there’s a theme here). The crisp-crumbed crab variety contained béchamel flecked with sweet white crab meat and were joined by a crab mayo whose shellfish intensity had been achieved by steeping roasted shells in the oil that had been used to make it. 

A tomato salad was a prime example of first rate ingredient sourcing - juicy black ibérico and raft tomatoes were topped with a flavour-enhancing combination of aged sherry vinegar, grated tomato and olive oil. 

Beasts from the deep followed in the form of gambas al ajillo. The mahoosive prawns were sweet of flesh with a smokiness of charcoal and hum of garlic. The intense head juices were the perfect natural dip for the crustacean. 

A gloriously flaky fillet of hake was cooked in manteca, cured iberico pork fat fragranced with rosemary, to give the dish a rich meatiness. A squeeze of charred lemon balanced the plate perfectly. 

The Spanish know how to cook an egg and Paco’s huevos a la Flamenca is no exception. A red hot pot of thick smokey, spicy sweet tomato sauce was topped with a golden baked egg and crisp bits of salty jamon. Jumbled up together it was the kind of dish that most hungover Sunday mornings cry out for. 

All Paco’s grilled meats share a compelling lick of smoke from the charcoal and applewood grill.

Duroc pork ribs were my favourite, the supremely tender flesh of the first rate pig was achieved by 16 hours of slow-cooking before finishing on the grill. 

Confit quail was a close second - the juicy game bird was stuffed with a sweet and smokey combination of medjool dates and sobrasada. 

Rump of lamb cooked directly on the coals was my least favourite dish of the day; it was still really delicious. The crisp-fatted flavoursome flesh was joined by a vivid yoghurt dipped twanged with the warmth of cumin, paprika and piquillo pepper. Crunch arrived in the form of pine nuts. 

Desserts kept up the ridiculously high standard.

A rich and gooey chocolate mousse was made all the more interesting and indulgent by a scattering of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil. It was adorned by a crown of wafer thin toast. 

It was shown up by the crema catalana which was the b(rul)ee’s knee’s. The rich and glossy egg custard was topped with a layer of super thin and crisp sugar and a scattering of fragrant fennel pollen. 

Lunch at Paco was utterly class. From the flawless food, to the knowledgeable and friendly staff and the epic booze (we ordered too many artisan G&T’s, a large bottle of Left Handed Giant spelt saison and a few glasses of albarino), it’s very hard not to fall in love with the place.

The Details:

Address - Paco Tapas, 3a The General, Lower Guinea Street, Bristol BS16SY
Telephone - 0117 925 7021

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Arbennig, Pontcanna, Cardiff restaurant review

It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to Pontcanna's Arbennig and the menu is still packed with interesting seasonal dishes including octopus with smoked aubergine and braised blade of Welsh beef with turnips, pickled mushrooms, king cabbage and bone marrow.

This time we visited for the great value set lunch menu that offers 2 courses for £15.95 or 3 courses for £19.95.

To start, a trio of light finely-textured fragrant Thai-style fishcakes were dressed in a sticky, not too sweet and sour glaze scattered with sesame seeds. Crisp leaves, pink pickled onions and sour cream provided balance to the plate.

Golden crumbed pucks of seriously meaty shredded mutton and haggis were served with a creamy root vegetable slaw and smokey slightly acidic walnut puree which cut through the richness of its accompaniments.

A meat-packed main comprised of a pair of plump middlewhite pork sausages and a big porky rissole thwacked with juniper and sage. Glossy caramelised onion gravy, buttery mash and a generous scattering of crisp onions completed the dish.

Mussels weren’t the plumpest of specimens and a few were on the gritty side but they were bathed in a lovely lemony and buttery sauce.

Their accompanying french fries were impeccable.

Truffled mac and cheese was a lovely plate of comfort food. The huge bowl of pasta was coated in a velvety cheese sauce fragranced with just the right amount of truffle and flecked with soft sweet confit onions and pieces of kale. Crispy kale and onions provided welcome crunch.

We had a bit of a wait for dessert but it was worth it. Light vanilla cream, crumbled oat biscuits, golden honeycomb and sweet and sharp lemon curd was a bowl of tasty things.

A dollop of airy and not too sweet chocolate mousse was accompanied by hot and tender caramelised roast pear, warming pieces of stem ginger and a crunchy chocolate crumb.

We had a really tasty and good value lunch at Arbennig. If you haven’t tried their interesting comfort food yet then add it to your list of places to visit.

The Details:

Address - Arbennig,  6-10 Romilly Crescent, Pontcanna, Cardiff, CF11 9NR
Telephone - 029 2034 1264
Web - 

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