Saturday, 30 August 2014

Ultracomida, Narberth, Spanish deli and tapas bar review

Ultracomida is a very, very dangerous place.

I could regularly spend all day snaffling their delicatessen's free samples of Spanish cheese, meats, olives and dips.

Then I’d pull up a pew at one of the communal tables in their bustling restaurant and order a ton of tapas from their daytime menu.

Finally, I’d spend all of my savings on more of their frigging lush produce to take home for later.

There are 2 branches of Ultracomida – the original in Aberystwyth and the younger sibling in the pretty Pembrokeshire town of Narberth, the one we visited.

So immense was our enjoyment that we visited en route to holidaying on the Pembrokeshire coast…. and then we popped in on our way back.

Their lunch menu is packed with classic tapas. 

Complimentary bread and meaty olives were of the highest calibre. Crunchy patatas bravas (£3.95) were accompanied by a reassuringly breath shnozzling aioli & a punchy tomato sauce.

A platter of charcuterie and cheese (£5.95), which comprised of soft brie, nutty manchego, sweet quince jelly, pickled chillies and fat-flecked salamis, hit the mark. However, the portion was on the small side and I wasn’t a sold on the potently anise flavoured crackers. 

Plump, crisp, paprika dusted anchovies (£4.95) were served with an umami-rich anchovy infused mayo whilst tender morsels of chorizo (£4.95) were served in an uber-addictive poaching liquor of Welsh cider. 

Churros were slightly too crisp (£2.95) but well dusted in cinnamon & sugar and accompanied by a lava-like hot chocolate. 

On our return trip we checked out Ultracomida’s breakfast menu and both ordered an excellent value set deal (£5.95) which included toasted ciabatta (delicious drizzled with a liberal glug of olive oil), mouth-meltingly soft serrano ham, a young manchego and a disappointingly fridge cold tomato.

A sturdy cafe con leche and a super fresh orange juice were included in the price. 

I would love a branch of Ultracomida in Cardiff. However, it’s just as well – I'd spend all my time and money there.

The details:

Address - Ultracomida, 7 High St, Narberth SA67 7AR
Telephone - 01834 861491

Ultracomida on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Cronut! Cup and Cake Bakery, Riverside Market - Hunt for Cardiff's Best Breakfast

This is probably my briefest ever post.

You see, I only went to Riverside Market last Sunday morning for a low key cronut from Cup and Cake Bakery (£2.50) and a coffee from the Caffeine Kid (£2.20).

However, it’s 4 days later I’m still thinking about that pastry.

I now understand the hype.

I now understand last summer's column inches.

I now understand those huge stateside queues. 

The crisp croissant like layers of pastry, the pillow soft sugariness of a doughnut, the sharpness of the raspberry icing and the ooze of white chocolate ganache thrown in for good measure – it stills weigh heavily on my mind.

And that flat white was frigging lush too (£2.20). Just look at the milk art.

The details:

Cup and Cake Bakery sell their cronuts at St Mary Street Market on Saturdays, 11am – 5pm, at Riverside Market on Sundays, 10am – 2pm and online soon. Flavours vary by week. 

The Caffeine Kid is at Riverside Market on Sundays.

Address – Riverside Market, Fitzhamon Embankment, Cardiff CF11 6AN
Telephone - 029 2019 0036

Credit: RCMA Farmers' Markets

Saturday, 16 August 2014

A few more of the best places to eat in Cardiff

I’ve been a bit tardy updating my list of the best places to eat in Cardiff.

In fact, as Cardiff’s food scene keeps going from strength to strength, I thought I’d just share a whole new bunch of recommendations.

So, here they are in no particular order, a few more of Cardiff’s best restaurants, cafes and bakeries:

Caffe Citta – A tiny City Centre Italian resto with a huge reputation. Pizzas are cooked in a wood-fired oven and beers are served in iced glasses.

Mowlana – The best chicken shish in the ‘diff and fresh breads bigger than a frisbee are dished up at this Persian restaurant.

Nata & Co – Killer custard tarts are just some of the epic pastries at this Splott-based Portuguese bakery.

Restaurant James Sommerin – Ok, it’s not Cardiff but this Penarth restaurant is the area’s great hope for a Michelin star. 

Bangkok Café – A stalwart of the Cardiff food scene, Bangkok Café’s Thai food is packed full of spice and fragrance. 

Kimchi – Grill your own meats on tabletop hotplates at this Canton-based Korean restaurant. Make sure you also stuff your face with their Korean fried chicken and bibimbap. 

My Place - Hearty, rustic Polish food is served at My Place. It’s not exactly warm-weather food but I’ve dreamt about their smoky borscht, beer braised ham hock and sauerkraut on many a cold winter’s night. 

Yakitori#1 – My pick of Cardiff’s Japanese restaurants. Super fresh sushi, groaning hand rolls, uber-crisp tempura and lush noodles all feature on the menu.

Hogwurst - Native Breeds frankfurters and Allen’s Bakery brioche rolls combine to make Hogwurst's killer hotdogs.

Kumar’s - The lamb kothu parotta served at this City Road South Indian restaurant is one of my favourite things to eat in the whole of Cardiff.

Calabrisella - Thin crust Italian pizzas the size of a car wheel are served at this deceptively cheap and cheerful looking Canton based Italian restaurant.

Burger & Lobster - The best burger in Cardiff in my book. Served a perfect medium-rare, it's devastatingly juicy, ridiculously tasty and eye-wateringly expensive at £20. 

Bar 44 Cardiff - Praise the Lord that modern tapas heroes Bar 44 have opened a Cardiff city centre branch.

The Grazing ShedGot Beef & BrewDog – This trio collectively raised the game for Cardiff’s burger scene. They've only recently been surpassed by Burger & Lobster.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Miller & Carter, The Hayes, Cardiff steakhouse review

Miller & Carter have pulled off a blinder by locating their newest steakhouse slap bang in the middle of the Hayes, Cardiff’s shopping epicentre.

Taking full advantage of the passing trade, it was impressively two thirds full when we visited on a Monday evening at 6.30pm.

They’ve also spent a bob or two on the conversion of the former Habitat store. There’s leather, polished metal, exposed brick and mirrors galore.

The location and décor’s a winner, but how’s the food?

Miller & Carter, a 34-strong chain of steakhouses, is owned by Mitchells & Butlers, the UK’s largest operator of restaurant pubs and bars. Sibling brands include names like Toby Carvery, All Bar One, Browns & O’Neill's. Certainly not my favourite bunch of restaurants and therefore I had my reservations.

A pint of Pilsner Urquell (£4.25) in a funky glass tankard kicked things off on a positive note. 

A sharing platter of starters (£12.50) was a mixed bag. Crisp breadsticks with a gooey mozzarella and spinach dip were very good whilst unjointed yet juicy chicken wings in barbecue sauce, dainty pieces of calamari and nachos were all enjoyable but not out of the ordinary.

Let downs included flabby pork belly cubes crying out for a good crisping and a slice of Miller & Carter's “famous” onion loaf. I’m not sure why it’s famous; a crisp top belied a soggy battered onion mass which lay beneath. Give me a slice of onion bread or a tower of onion rings any day. 

So far so meh. However, things then picked up... a lot.

Crisp and fresh iceberg wedge salads were served before the mains. Next time I’ll give the starters a miss and go straight onto the salad. Mine was served with a punchy honey mustard dressing with a generous handful of crisp bacon bits whilst a blue cheese version was topped with a good scattering of crumbled stilton. 

A steakhouse lives and dies by the quality and cooking of their meat. Thankfully, Miller & Carter have an impressive selection of 28-day aged cuts and someone who knows how to cook them. 

My porterhouse, (£21.95) served a recommended medium, was succulent, crisp-crusted and packed with flavour. Fries were top-dollar and a silky béarnaise (a little on the runny side) was indulgently buttery with a good whack of tarragon. A grilled tomato, a pointless scatter of mixed leaves and some more of that onion loaf completed the dish. 

Rhys’s t-bone (£21.95) was another top-notch steak, this time served a recommended medium rare. It was accompanied by a flavour-packed yet unappealingly grey looking blue cheese & mushroom sauce and a side of claggy mash. 

It’s worth noting the wedge salad, a side and a sauce are all included in the price of a steak. Often, it can be all too easy to rack up a serious bill for a steak, chips & sauce. 

Desserts were lush.

Rhys’s banoffee pie (£4.95) was one of the best versions of the dish I’ve had. A commendably crisp biscuit base was topped with thick and slightly chewy caramel, whipped cream and fresh slices of banana. 

My pud was simple yet delicious. A crisp and chewy double chocolate cookie was served with three scoops of smooth ice cream (vanilla, double chocolate, and strawberry). A frozen bowl prevented any mid-dessert melting. 

Starters aside, we were impressed by Miller & Carter. Service was super-friendly, the dining space is one of the nicest in town and their steaks are cracking. Next time Mrs G drags me shopping, I'll be using a post-retail steak as a bargaining chip. 

I was invited to Miller & Carter - all food and drink was complimentary.

The details:

Address - Miller & Carter Cardiff The Hayes, 9-11 The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1AH
Telephone - 02920 372344

Saturday, 2 August 2014

BrewDog Cardiff - Searching for Cardiff's best burger

I’ve already declared a lot love for BrewDog on this blog.

Since their arrival on the scene in 2007, the Scottish independent brewer’s unique beers and irreverent branding can be credited with giving the UK’s craft beer scene a huge kick up the ass.

Now, the opening of BrewDog on Westgate Street has well and truly cemented the area’s reputation as Cardiff’s Craft Beer Quarter.

The other fine company which BrewDog keeps are Urban Tap House, The City Arms, Queens Vaults & Zero Degrees. In fact, throw in a spot of karaoke and a City Road kebab and it sounds like my dream kind of night out. 

Alongside BrewDog’s own eclectic range of brews (I supped on a pint of light and citrusy Dead Pony Club - £4.05), they’re also welcoming a rotating selection of guest beers from well-regarded names such as Dupont Brewery, Anchor and Mikkeller. 

They also serve a reassuringly compact food menu comprised of 3 burgers, 1 hot dog, 1 veggie dish and tater tots. 

The Burger – BrewDog burger with American Napalm cheese

1. How was the patty? Excellent – flavoursome with a perfectly juicy pink interior and a crisp exterior.

2. How was the bun? Eschewing the trend for all things brioche, BrewDog serve a straightforward yet super light and soft white bun.

3. How was the other stuff in the bun? Gooey American cheese, crunchy pickles, a leaf of lettuce, diced white onion and a good smear of 5am Saint ketchup and Dead Pony Club mustard.

4. How were the fries? Top dollar crisp, fluffy and well-seasoned skin-on fries.

5. What was the price? £8.50 including fries – as far as gourmet burgers go I reckon that’s pretty good value.

6. How was the service? Order at the counter from one of the friendly bar-people.

7. How was the other stuff? A side of tater tots with white onion, jalapenos and melted cheese (£5.50) were a little bit pants. The hand-shredded, deep-fried potato balls were under-seasoned, under-crisp, over-priced and over-greasy. Despite that, the combination of toppings was a success. 

8. So what's the verdict? The combination of super-soft bun, American cheese and uber-juicy patty reminds me of MEATLiquour’s celebrated burgers. BrewDog's burger is a bobby-dazzler and joins the Grazing Shed and Got Beef as another must-try in Cardiff.

The Details:

Address - BrewDog Cardiff, 31 Westgate Street, Cardiff, CF10 1DX
Web -
Twitter – @BrewDogCardiff

Brewdog on Urbanspoon