Sunday, 24 November 2013

Nata & Co, Portuguese bakery, Splott, Cardiff food blog

Nata & Co has serious pastry pedigree – their baker has a family business back in Lisbon which has been dishing out tarts and cakes for decades.

Having launched in Cardiff a year ago, this Portuguese bakery has been selling their carbohytreats from a stall at Splott Market and supplying the cafes and delis of the ‘diff too.

Now, they’ve opened their own cafe on Clifton Street in Splott. 

Their coffee is the robust continental type and their pastries are the shove-them-in-your-cakehole sort.

Whilst perched at a stool in the window, I sampled a pillow-soft donut filled with wobbly custard as well as a bobby-dazzling pastel de nata (custard tart) – the layers of flaky pastry cradling more of the caramelised golden good stuff.

Wanting to buy ALL the sweet stuff to takeaway, I showed restraint and plumped for a light coconut brioche, a coconut tart, a supremely crisp almond and coffee pastry and a glace fruitcake.

Unsurprisingly, everything was lush and at around a pound a pop per pastry, it’s cheap too.

Nata’s has a pretty uber-looking bread display as well.

Having got my gnashers around one of their sourdough loaves at home, I can confirm they taste just as they good look.

The details:

Address - Nata & Co, 118, Clifton Street, Splott, Cardiff CF24 1LW
Telephone - 07455337053

Friday, 22 November 2013

La Shish, City Road - The Cardiff Kebab Quest

Another excellent kebab…blah, blah, blah.

On City Road…yawn…snooze…bore.

I’m sorry, I know this is all getting a bit repetitive. 

However, there’s no escaping the fact that City Road is Cardiff’s kebab house epicentre. 

This time it’s the turn of La Shish and as you’ve probably guessed, it’s another cracker. 

As far as City Road kebab house interiors go, La Shish is one of the nicest – everything is bright, modern and clean. 

There’s no booze on the menu so we quaffed a couple of soft drinks - a top-notch freshly squeezed OJ (£2.50) and an ayran (£1.50), a surprisingly tasty, slightly salty, slightly sour and slightly creamy yoghurt drink.

To start we shared an excellent small mixed meze (£6.50) which comprised of a smooth almost nutty hummus, a lemony and parsley packed tabbouleh, a creamy moutabal with a smoky kick in its tail, crisp tahini drizzled falafel, juicy dolmades, mixed olives and some pickled gherkins and chillies. The selection was accompanied by fresh, soft and crisp flatbread. 

The kebab – Mixed kebab platter 2 (£16.95)

Meat – A whopping tagine laden with juicy lamb and chicken kofte, tender lamb and chicken shish, and crisp and fatty lamb and chicken shawarma. 

Other stuff – Beneath the meat sat a mound of superb buttery, fluffy, saffron infused rice – some of the best I’ve eaten.

Bread – A duo of hard to fault soft and crisp fresh flatbreads.

Salad – A decent fresh salad selection, which I have to admit, was neglected due to the sheer quantity of food elsewhere on the table. 

Sauce – Three dainty dishes contained a respectable chilli sauce, a garlic mayo lacking the freshness of its yoghurt-based equivalent and a gratuitous tomato ketchup. 

The verdict – It’s hard to fault La Shish except for some of their sauces. As such, it joins KBS, Lilo, Shaam Nights and Troy in the upper echelons of Cardiff kebabage.

The details:
Address - La Shish, 17-19 City Road, Roath, Cardiff CF24 3BJ
Telephone - 029 2049 3337

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Vegetarian Food Studio, Indian restaurant, Cardiff review

The Vegetarian Food Studio has cult status in the eyes of many Cardiffians.

Dishing out Indian vegetarian nosh on Penarth Road since 2004, they recently relocated to a bigger space and also added the wordy title of joint Best Asian Restaurant in South Wales (East) in the Asian Food Awards to their extensive list of accolades.

Visiting on Bonfire Night, VFS's bright and functional dining space provided welcome shelter from the cacophony of whizzes and bangs in the night sky.

We ordered a pair of excellent mango lassis to drink (£2.65) but the Food Studio is BYOB if you’re hankering for a lager to go with your curry. 

Despite VFS’s menu encompassing a huge range of Northern Indian, Southern Indian and Indo-Chinese dishes, it was a foregone conclusion that we’d each order their famed Gujarati Thali Special.

At £6.25 you get a heck of a lot of curry for your money…

Starters of the day, a light, cakey onion pakora and a potato pakora, were moreish but disappointingly lacking in crispness. So too, was a fiery masala coated poppadom.

Curry of the day, a buttery black lentil daal with plenty of bite, and a mild sweet red lentil and tomato soup were hearty but essentially simple tasting dishes. A quartet of soft puri and a bowl of fluffy rice were ideal mops for the sauce.

The last element on the platter was a pleasant pot of a thick, sweetened, fragrant creamy pudding. 

Having been drawn to the display of Indian desserts by the entrance to the restaurant, we ordered a trio to round off the meal (£2.50).

A soft and nutty fig roll was excellent. However, cubes of pineapple and pistachio barfi were too saccharine even for my sweet tooth. 

Even though the Vegetarian Food Studio’s special thali is cheap as chips, the flavours and textures on show didn’t blow me away. Perhaps there are richer pickings to be had from their main menu.

The Details:
Address - Vegetarian Food Studio,115 Penarth Road, Cardiff, CF11 6JU
Telephone - (029) 2023 8222

Saturday, 9 November 2013

KBS, City Road, Cardiff - The Cardiff Kebab Quest

Regular readers of the blog will know I’ve got a whole lot of love for KBS.

Ever since falling in love with their kebabs after my first drunken late-night visit, KBS has been one of my favourite places (to eat) in Cardiff.

Perhaps, there’s an element of blind loyalty at work – after all it was my Cardiff kebab first love, my high-school doner sweetheart.

However, you don’t win a WKD Golden kebab award or become one of the Daily Star’s top 10 UK kebab shops for nothing…

At first glance KBS looks exactly like a run of the mill kebab shop.

However, look beyond the blindingly obvious, and there are a few telltale signs which expose the magic at work.

Firstly, there’s a tandoor oven in the corner for making fresh bread.

Secondly, the elephant’s feet look in rude health instead of in danger of extinction.

Lastly, there are people actually ordering food at normal human mealtimes… families, students, coppers and taxi drivers come alike. KBS’s business isn’t only the 2am visit of shame.

In fact, Mrs G and I made the trip to KBS for a romantic meal for 2 last Friday night.

The kebab – Super Mixed kebab - £12 (serves 2)

Meat – A silver salver festooned with flame-licked herby lamb kofte, tender chicken and lamb shish, unctuous chicken doner and soft, spiced lamb doner magical mystery meat.

Bread – Two excellent, freshly cooked flatbreads – crisp and soft in equal measure.

Salad– An obvious yet fresh selection of cucumber, lettuce, onion, carrot, tomato and cabbage. Darn it, I’ve realised I forgot to ask for any pickled chillies.

Sauce – Your choice… we went for a trio of slightly sweet & slightly fiery chilli sauce, a cooling yoghurt-based mint sauce and a romance-killingly potent garlic sauce.

The verdict – KBS serve stellar kebabs. Granted, there are other places on City Road where you can enjoy excellent kebabs in more rarefied surroundings. However, if you’re just after meat, bread, salad and sauce then look no further than KBS; in my mind it’s the archetypal kebab shop. 

The details:
Address - KBS, 242 City Road, Cardiff, CF24 3JJ 
Telephone - 02920456545
Web -

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Got Beef - Searching for Cardiff's best burger

UPDATE - April 2014 - Got Beef now have their own bricks and mortar establishment on Whitchurch Road in Cardiff. Details here.

Got Beef have been selling their burgers at festivals around Wales for a while.

Yet, inexplicably, their meaty-wares have eluded my gnashers, up until now…

Throughout November, Got Beef have jettisoned their burger bus and are running a series of pop-up restaurants around Cardiff.

On Sundays from 12-4pm they’re at the Mackintosh Sports Centre in Roath and on Fridays from 7-11pm they’re at La Viva in Cathays.

Overly keen as I am, I pitched up for Got Beef’s first Sunday at the Mackintosh at exactly midday.

Unsurprisingly, I was the first customer.

Having glanced at their menu for all of 15 seconds, I placed my order at the bar and took my seat in the Mackintosh’s dowdy dining space.

Got Beef’s pop-up menu is reassuringly brief. There’s a weekly-changing choice of 5 burgers which includes the “funguy” with swiss cheese, mushrooms, and bacon and the “Uni” with edamame and Chinese leaf slaw, sriracha mayo and calamari rings. There are also a couple of sides and desserts.

The Burger - Looking no further than the tried and tested combination of bacon & cheese, I ordered the Soprano.

1. How was the patty? A well-proportioned, well-seasoned, well-flavoured True Taste award winning Welsh beef patty served a juicy pink.

2. How was the bun? An excellent super soft, slightly sweet brioche bun – I asked Got Beef where they sourced them from but they’re keeping it a closely guarded secret!

3. How was the other stuff in the bun? Crisp, salty, smoky bacon, a handful of lettuce, subtly spicy jalapeno mayo and melted Monterey Jack cheese all hit the mark. However, I quickly ditched a couple of slices of chorizo and salami which dominated the other elements in the bun.

4. How were the fries? Crisp, fluffy fries were lightly dusted in paprika.

5. How was the other stuff? A portion of ultra-crisp panko-crumbed Cajun onion rings (£3.50) was excellent.

6. What was the price? £9 – a little pricey but there’s no doubting the quality of burger you get for your buck.

7. So what's the verdict? Got Beef’s patties and buns are absolutely top dollar. Ditch the salami & chorizo and The Soprano is one of Cardiff’s best.

UPDATE - April 2014 - Got Beef now have their own bricks and mortar establishment on Whitchurch Road in Cardiff. Details below:

Address - Got Beef Bar & Kitchen, 83 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JP
Twitter -

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Yakitori#1, Cardiff Bay, Japanese restaurant review

The opening of a decent independent restaurant in Cardiff Bay is always a cause for celebration.

Every unique, family-run, passion-driven place which opens means a redressing of the balance against the identikit Gourmet Waganandos Expresses.

It’s not that I’m anti-chain, it’s just the number of ‘em down the Bay makes it feel a bit like any high street in any city and not the distinctive destination which is home to Welsh government and Cardiff's most interesting architecture.

Yakitori#1 is the Bay’s newest Japanese restaurant.

The décor is light, clean, modern and utilitarian – exactly what you’d expect.

Their menu is pleasingly familiar territory too – there are hot appetisers (yakitori, tempura, miso soup, etc.), a huge selection of sushi, a few salads and good range of noodle & rice dishes (katsu curry, ramen, etc.)

Whilst Yakitori#1’s prices are steeper than other Japanese restaurants in the city, their fish (supplied by the royal-warranted Channel Fisheries) is the best I’ve eaten in Cardiff.

We started with a few beers whilst we selected more food than 3 people should be able to eat. 

First up were chicken gyoza (£5.60). Crisp, thin, bubbly cases cocooned a juicy chicken and chive filling.

A selection of textbook hand rolls followed (they’ll be making an appearance on the menu in the next couple of weeks around the £3.50 mark). 

Crisp nori, room temperature rice, cucumber, a couple of leaves and a generous quantity of protein were all as should be.

The silky salmon and avocado... 

...and crisp chicken katsu with marie rose sauce were inhaled with equal ferocity.

A 12-piece sushi platter (£17.95) was first-rate - 3 pieces each of meaty tuna, tender salmon, whopping prawns and yielding avocado with saline seaweed.

Next were maki rolls - the generosity of filling elevating them above others I’ve eaten.

Sweet-glazed, tender teriyaki chicken and cucumber rolls (£7.50) were topped with creamy marie rose and salty seaweed.

Salmon and avocado rolls (£9.50) were filled with avocado, sweet crabstick and topped with seaweed, salty roe and a liberal amount of fish.

We finished the meal with an excellent plate of yaki soba (£12.95). 3 huge prawns crowned a bowl of lightly soy-glazed noodles flecked with chicken, peppers, shallots, pak choi and carrot.

Yakitori#1’s supremely good sushi is a welcome addition to Cardiff Bay.  

Next time you’re visiting, ditch the chains and check out this excellent independent.

Disclosure - I was invited as a guest of Yakitori#1. All food and drink was complimentary. 

The details:

Address - Unit 10, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF10 5BZ
Telephone - 02920 495050