Cheese is great. Pungent Cheddar, ripe oozing Brie, filthy choccy Philly slathered over a digestive biscuit or sock-like Vacherin Mont d’or spooned straight from the container. It’s all good; except for cheese with bits in.
I think it’s fair to say that Cardiff’s cheese epicentre is Madame Fromage in the Castle Arcade. This café-deli has an excellent selection of cheese and serves lunches for people whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. Sounds like my kind of place then. Having meandered for a couple of hours through Bute Park and the Cardiff arcades, we were ravenous and I was in need of a cheese fix.
Madame Fromage was rammed when we visited for Saturday lunch and it’s clearly something they’re used to. A polite notice explains they’re a slow food café (not quite the original definition of the term) and that there’s often fairly long waits when it’s busy. So we placed our orders and hunkered down. Sipping on a Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola and reading the Saturday papers, half an hour passed fairly quickly and our food was upon us.
My Madame Fromage Gourmet Cheese Platter was herculean in size (£13.00). It’s meant to serve one person but you’d have to be a serious fatty like me to take it all on. Even I had to palm some off on the rest of the family. Cheeses included Caerphilly, Colston Basset Stilton, Brie, Cheddar, Gorgonzola and a horrific chilli cheese (get thee behind me Satan). Other highlights included a selection of bread including a light rye and an olive bread; meats including chorizo and parma ham; some flavoursome marinated olives and a rather good artichoke heart.
Everyone else really enjoyed their lunches.
Mrs G’s goats cheese, pesto and tomato tart (£8.00) was subtly flavoured with creamy cheese, a background note of iron rich pesto and the clean sweetness of tomato.
My dad’s first introduction to Cawl (£9.00) was a resounding success. Generously packed with huge chunks of tender lamb, carrots and potatoes this was a fine example of the national dish. It came with a slice of Caerphilly and a couple of pieces of garlic bread, which was good but overly sprinkled with dried herbs. My mum’s Mediterranean vegetable soup with bread (£4.50) was incredibly hearty; think ratatouille with a bit of stock to dilute it down.
We were all ready to pop but I’d already resolved that I couldn’t leave without a slice of dark chocolate, peanut butter and banana cake (£3.60). Peanut butter and chocolate is one of my favourite combos but the addition of banana to the mix was a wondrous thing.
Madame Fromage is one hell’uva place. For a generous, casual, lazy weekend lunch in the centre of Cardiff I can’t think of many better places. There’s also the added benefit of being able to take home a sack full of cheese to nibble on.
Madame Fromage, 21-25 Castle Arcade, Cardiff, CF10 1BU
Telephone: 029 2064 4888