Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Smoking Goat, Shoreditch brunch review



The spicy and fragrant flavour punch of Thai food makes it one of my favourite cuisines.

But, I've never considered how this could translate into a devastatingly delicious brunch. 

Thankfully, Shoreditch's Smoking Goat have.

This acclaimed restaurant and bar, which serves Thai drinking and comfort food, has a breakfast menu which includes epic sounding dishes like curried saffron eggs, roti and lardo and crispy wild mussel and beansprout omelette with house sriracha.


A buttery, flaky, charred roti (£5.70) was topped with a mesmerisingly good combination of smoky beef sausage, golden-frilled deep fried egg, fiery chilli paste and red chillies, creamy mayonnaise and a liberal quantity of fresh coriander. This was a turbocharged McDonald's breakfast wrap.


First-rate fried chicken (£7.60) was served with coconut rice and a chilli-laced curry sauce. My friend paused halfway through the meal to contemplate the ferociousness of the spice.


Finally, a bowl of Khao Soi Northern Thai gravy noodles (£7.60) was unlike any other Thai curry I've eaten - a compelling herbal hit (cardamon?) was the source of its uniqueness. In amongst the gravy bobbed slippery al dente noodles, smoky bits of yielding burnt ends, spring onion and cabbage. Deep fried noodles on the surface provided crunch. 


Breakfast at Smoking Goat was totally different and delicious. If you want a change from smashed avocado on toast then go get involved. 

The Details:

Address - Smoking Goat, 64 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Llanerch Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan restaurant review


Over the last few years Welsh wine has been getting more and more airtime. Earlier this year, a feature on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch sang the praises of wines from Glyndwr, White Castle and Ancre Hill. 

Llanerch Vineyard is another of Wales’s best known wine producers. Located in Hensol in the Vale of Glamorgan, the vineyard also comprises a wedding venue, cookery school and the Cariad bistro and restaurant.

 
The restaurant has a lovely view out over the vineyard and Ely Valley beyond. 


Both wines that I drank surpassed expectations; they were excellent. A Cariad sparkling brut (£7.50) had plenty of citrus fruit and a smooth fizz. Even better was the Cariad medium dry white (£4.65) with floral notes and a delicate sweetness. 

The menu reads exceptionally well. Eye catchers include snacks of chicken crackling with pancetta salt and black pudding bonbons with truffle mayonnaise as well as a main of lamb neck fillet with sweetbread and apricot faggots.

A pair of nibbles kicked things off on a very good note.

Whitebait (£3) coated in golden batter sat on top of a chunky tartare sauce packed with capers and gherkins. 


Pieces of uber-creamy and soft buffalo mozzarella (£3) were bathed in a refreshing tomato essence and topped with a crisp fragrant sage leaf. 

 
Things took a dip with the starters.

Thinly sliced butternut squash carpaccio (£7) was marinated in a vinegar dressing which overwhelmed everything else on the plate - tangy cubes of feta, lovage oil and a punchy harissa mayonnaise. 

 
A pressed ham hock terrine (£8) looked the part but was dense and a touch dry. A quail scotch egg was also on the dry-side; a shame as the egg was perfectly runny and the crumb delightfully crunchy. Accompaniments of crisp chicken skin and a mild mustard sauce were on the mark. 

 
Things picked up again with the mains.

Tender and meaty monkfish goujons (£19) were coated in a fine crumb and served with top drawer polenta fries and delicately fragranced wild garlic mayonnaise. 

 
A pair of dainty duck fillets (£21) were cooked a precise pink and served with a deeply spiced bhaji of shredded duck. Buttery potato galette, smooth spiced carrot puree and richness balancing poached rhubarb were all good accompaniments but a piece of chewy and flavourless duck jerky had no place on the plate nor did a greasy bit of duck crackling. 

 
Desserts were both pretty good.

An enjoyably wobbly buttermilk panna cotta (£7.50) was creamy, not too sweet and twanged with vanilla. Slightly tart poached rhubarb and a warming crystallised ginger crumb were nice accompaniments. However, pea shoots, fresh berries, berry coulis and a sweet citrusy kumquat pate de fruit were a few elements too many. 

 
A Welsh cheese selection (£8.50) comprised a tasty yet dainty selection of Perl Las, Perl Wen and Welsh cheddar. It was joined by quince jelly, nifty dehydrated grapes on the vine, quality crackers, blobs of beetroot puree and chutney that was a bit heavy on the chilli.

 
Our dinner at Llanerch Vineyard was a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst there was some very good cooking, a few dishes disappointed and some ingredients baffled. But, the lovely wine and excellent service meant we still had an enjoyable evening.

The Details:

Address - Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan CF72 8GG
Web - http://www.llanerch-vineyard.co.uk/
Telephone - 01443 222716

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Purslane, Cheltenham restaurant review


A good friend of mine reckons it’s much better to go to a restaurant for lunch rather than dinner.

His argument is based on the availability of great value set menus (see Cardiff's Asador 44, Arbennig and Milkwood, all of which offer 3 courses for £20 or less) and the fact there are normally fewer dishes available to mess-up.

With this theory in mind, Mrs G and I visited Purslane in Cheltenham, the kind of high end neighbourhood bistro I wish was located around the corner from my house.

Whilst they have an a la carte menu available with starters weighing in at £10, mains £22 and desserts £9, their concise working lunch menu offers three courses for a fantastic £18. 


It’s rare that the accompaniments show up the bread (£4) but a light and smokey taramasalata topped with crisp puffed rice and whipped butter sprinkled with seaweed powder were both absolutely belting. In contrast, slices of crisp wholemeal bread and fennel seed dotted rolls were good but a mini soda bread loaf was dense and dry. 


To start, a supremely creamy bowl of white asparagus veloute was joined by a picturesque linseed cracker topped with light cod brandade and pearls of salty caviar. 

 
A cylinder of yielding and deeply meaty slow-cooked hogget shoulder was joined by cleverly crisp roast heritage carrots, a good dollop of buttery chive mash, charred leaves of hispi cabbage, sweet carrot puree and a first rate glossy sauce. This was cooking of the highest calibre. 

 
Across the table, Mrs G had a stonking plate of fish and chips. A flaky cornish ling fillet coated in airy and crisp beer batter sat atop a mound of mint twanged crushed peas. 

 
Triple cooked chips were exemplary - extremely crisp on the outside with fluffy interiors. Richness balancing tartare sauce was loaded with citrus, capers and parsley. 

 
Creamed spinach (£4) saw lightly wilted leaves bathed in a liberal amount of dairy and topped with a crunchy and hyper-meaty bone marrow crumb. 

 
The only dessert on offer, sticky toffee pudding was a perfect example.   

Super soft and moist, every pore of the pudding was infused with rich toffee sauce. A not-too-sweet and slightly bitter Guinness ice cream was the perfect foil.


We had a fantastically tasty and good value lunch at Purslane. I think I might have joined Team Lunch.

The Details:

Address - Purslane, 16 Rodney Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1JJ
Telephone - 01242 321639

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Canaima Coffee, Cardiff Venezuealan cafe review


Some of the places which I’ve written about that linger longest in the memory are the international cafes and restaurants which have added colour to Cardiff’s dining out scene.

Kimchi’s Korean food, the Brazilian and Portuguese cooking at Amazonas, the Malaysian nosh at Wok-ker Shaker and the Middle Eastern cooking at Falafel Kitchen all spring to mind.


Canaima Coffee on Roath’s Albany Road is Cardiff’s first Venezuelan cafe. Of course, we’ve already got the street food of The Queen Pepiada, but I’m talking bricks and mortar.

Canaima is a cute little space with bright and modern decor. The menu consists of Venezuelan specialities including arepas, empenadas and sweet pastries. 

 
A chicken empenada (£4.50) saw an enjoyably corn-twanged deep-fried pocket filled with tender shredded chicken with a touch of tomato. The lack of crispness in the exterior was a slight drawback. 

 
A Pabellon arepa (£6.95) saw a grilled crisp and squidgy maize bread filled with shreds of tender beef, soft black beans, sweet and starchy fried plantain and crumbled tangy cheese. This was a very tasty combination of flavours and textures. But, considering the price a bit of side salad would have made it a more substantial meal. 


From the pastry selection we ordered a milhojas (£1.99), a delicious Venezuelan take on a mille-feuille. Thin and crunchy layers of puff pastry were sandwiched with rich custard and sweet dulce de leche.


Drinks were just as unique as the food - a papelon con limon (£2.50) saw sweet sugar cane juice balanced by the acidity of lemon juice.

Chicha (£2.95) was essentially a rice pudding milkshake. It was creamy, not too sweet, a little nutty from the rice and sprinkled with cinnamon.


Canaima is a welcome addition to Roath's dining scene. If you fancy a change from your usual ham sandwich and chocolate muffin then go check it out.

The Details:

Address - Canaima Coffee, 131C Albany Road, Cardiff CF24 3NS
Web - https://www.canaimacoffee.co.uk/
Telephone - 02920 488655

Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Lansdowne, Canton, Cardiff Sunday roast review


The Lansdowne’s Sunday lunch has a reputation which precedes itself.

Time and time again I’ve heard great things about the roast dinners at this Canton pub that’s owned by the same team as the excellent Milkwood and The Grange pub.

 
When we pitched up at 1pm the place was packed to the rafters but service remained impressively swift throughout.

Six different roasts were available on our visit including veggie and vegan options. All weigh in at £11.95 for an adult portion and £6 for a kids portion. A few other mains were available for those who aren’t partial to a roast (weirdos).

 

The roast dinners lived up to expectations. They were very good indeed.

My rolled breast of slow roast salt marsh lamb was tender as heck and filled with a herby and meaty stuffing. 


Mrs G’s roast topside of beef was a perfect pink and also nicely tender. 

They were both served with flavour-packed gravy that was neither too thick nor too thin, perky cabbage, al dente carrots and a crisp yet squidgy Yorkshire pudding.

Roasties were the only element that weren’t excellent - they were perfectly decent but a touch dense and a little lacking in crispness. 


A generous bowl of cheesy and creamy cauliflower cheese was a delicious extra treat.


Desserts were very tasty but not quite at the same level.

A chocolate brownie (£4.50) was more spongey than gooey but it was very nice. Moist and not too sweet, it was served with a pot of single cream. 


Sticky toffee pudding (£4.50) had a good twang of dark sugar but was a little bouncy. It was served with Ambrosia-esque custard. 

 
Sunday lunch at The Lansdowne is lovely and well-priced. Their reputation is well deserved.

The Details:

Address - The Lansdowne, 71 Beda Road, Cardiff CF5 1LX
Telephone - 029 2022 1312

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Cornerstone, Hackney Wick, London restaurant review


Cornerstone in Hackney Wick is owned by Tom Brown, former head chef of the Michelin-starred Nathan Outlaw at The Capital (where I had one of my best meals of 2017). Understandably, as a protégé of Outlaw and a fellow Cornishman, Brown specialises in fish cookery.

The restaurant is a stark industrial space which is dominated by a big open kitchen with counter seating. It feels very hip, very Hackney.


The menu comprises of small plates; always a bit of a risk as a punter as you often get less bang for your buck and run the gauntlet of having to split an egg three-ways.

We ordered the chef's selection (£45 a head) which allowed us to put most of the menu through its paces. We also ordered a couple of extra dishes. Natch.

As a table of three, ordering the chef's selection seemed to be a canny manoeuvre as we were served two of each dish - I suspect a table of two would have received one of each.


Sourdough toast with a good char and chew was served with a generous slab of meaty dripping.


Delicately pickled oysters retained their ozonal freshness and were topped with warming horseradish cream, finely diced celery and fragrant dill oil. This was a cracking dish.


Our first extra dish was raw scallops. Tender and sweet of flesh they were joined by a verdant herb sauce and the crunch of hazelnut. But, £18 for one and a half scallops felt a bit steep.


Meaty slices of cured brill were joined by an ajo blanco inspired garnish. Whilst the blobs of tangy cream cheese, toasty almonds, cleansing grapes and sherry vinegar were all delicious, it didn't really remind me of ajo blanco. I think this was largely down to the presence of the cream cheese.


A delightful dish of al dente white broccoli was topped with a buttery sauce flecked with two types of umami-rich anchovy. Separately, this dish would have cost £10 for three bits of brassica.


Our second extra plate saw a crisp homemade crumpet (£12) topped with a mound of mildly spiced and buttery shrimp, shavings of fennel and chopped parsley. This was a major upgrade on the crumpets and marmite I often have for my breakfast.


First rate fish cookery followed.

A crisp-skinned, meaty fillet of hake was joined by a chilli-thwacked cafe de Paris hollandaise studded with capers.


A soft and sweet fillet of lemon sole was bathed in an intense chicken jus and joined by sweet garden peas and mild wild garlic.


The final savoury dish was a rich stew of unfeasibly tender cuttlefish topped with richness puncturing pieces of pickled apple and spring onion.


Dessert, a few blobs of tasty things, was good but didn't wow. A milky chocolate mousse was served with caramel topped banana, custard and candied pecans.


Uber-creamy chocolate fudge accompanied the bill.


The fish cookery at Cornerstone is excellent and we had a really delicious dinner.

However, I'm still not sure about the small plates thing - the price of a few dishes seemed a bit steep and splitting two plates between three was a faff.

The Details:

Address - Cornerstone, 3 Prince Edward Road, Hackney Wick, E9 5LX
Telephone - 0208 986 3922