Saturday, 20 June 2015

Bar 44 Cardiff, Spanish bar & restaurant review

I doubt there’ll be a better restaurant to open in Cardiff City Centre in 2015 than Bar 44 Cardiff.

In fact, I doubt there’s a better restaurant in Cardiff City Centre full stop.

Whilst eating out in the the suburbs of Pontcanna, Canton, Cathays and Roath has improved immeasurably in the last couple of years, the number of decent independent restaurants in the middle of the city can still be counted on one hand.

The arrival of Bar 44 Cardiff, a sibling to the award-winning Spanish restaurants in Cowbridge and Penarth, means I now have a go to restaurant in the city for all occasions:

Times when I’m in the mood for a table-top’s worth of impeccably cooked tapas washed down with a glass or two of sherry poured from the barrel.

And nights when I’m hankering after a lighter snack of jamón washed down with a pint of lager.

Bar 44’s two kitchens mean their menu is divided into two sections. Firstly, La Despensa - charcuterie, jamón, bread, olives and snacks served from a small pantry kitchen. Secondly, De La Cocina, more involved tapas dishes which weigh in around the £5 to £7 mark. 

Whilst making the impossible choice of which tapas to order, we picked at brilliant Alex Gooch sourdough (£3.60) served with grassy olive oil and whopping, juicy Gordal olives (£3.50).

A board of the daddy of all hams, the acorn-fed Jamón ibérico de Bellota (£11.50) was as good as it gets - mouth-meltingly rich fat and blushing pink flesh.

A Bikini (£4.50), named after the concert hall in Barcelona, was as sexy as its name suggests - a dainty toasted sandwich of jamón and salty manchego topped with a quail’s egg and a drizzle of cep oil. 

Slow cooked octopus (£7.25) was as tender as can be. It was served with smooth potato puree and a sweet sauce tempered with smoked paprika and garlic. 

A quartet of gigantic prawns (£6.50) were coated in a light tempura batter and served with airy, lightly-spiced Moorish mayonnaise.

Al dente broccoli (£4.50) was flecked with the delightfully savoury combination of anchovy and capers. A pepper puree and crushed nuts provided extra dimension.

Golden chicken thighs (£5.70) were joined by charred padron peppers and sweet Romesco sauce. 

A kaleidoscope of beets (£4.75), served with crunchy hazelnuts, deftly balanced sweet and sour.

Croquetas (£4.50), filled with the silkiest of ham-studded béchamels, were every bit as incredible as I’ve come to expect from Bar 44. They’re definitely a buy

Flavour-packed lamb rump slices (£7.50) were matched with chorizo-like pieces of chistorra, griddled fennel and salsa verde. 

And lastly, rare slices of uber-tender iberico pork fillet (£7.25) sat atop Pembrokeshire Earlies and a vibrant watercress puree. 

We finished off the meal with a pair of killer desserts.

A Spanglish trifle (£4.50) was familiar yet different - fresh raspberries, sherry, chocolate sponge, fruit jelly and chewy meringue were all in the mix. 

Santiago tart (£4.95) with crisp pastry, a sweet almond filling and fragrant quince jam was paired with the freshest of orange sorbets. 

Bar 44 Cardiff is brilliant. I want to go back now.

Disclosure - I visited Bar 44 during the soft launch period - a donation to charity was made in lieu of payment for food.

The Details:

Address - Bar 44 Cardiff, 15-23 Westgate Street, Cardiff CF10 1DD
Web -
Email for reservations - 


  1. looks like lovely tapas indeed but is it just me that find the prices really steep ?!

    1. For the quality I reckon it's pretty reasonable. Most tapas at La Tasca are around £5 - £6...and Bar 44 is hell of a lot tastier.

    2. It's a fair question. I went last night and the food is excellent. Proper Spanish produce that is hard to get and expensive even in Spain (like the ham featured, which can be around £200-500 per kilo, or mojama). It's definitely indulgent but most dishes have an upmarket twist that would involve a premium in Spain too.

      The course sizes where smaller than I'd expect, so I guess I'll top up at my local in Spain when I go that way. Just to compare, a dozen good prawns there are 8-12e depending on provenance and a fino is 1.75e a glass (!!).

      Summary: definitive premium in the price but top notch produce hard to beat in the UK. You pay for that stuff in Spain too.

  2. Looks incredible! Next time I go to Cardiff I will have to remember this place.

  3. Definitely booking in for a visit when we get back in December. Salivating here!!

  4. Bar44 Westgate St. is definitely worth a visit.

    Having said that, my visit wasn't perfect, but it was one of their first days of being open 'properly'.

    We were away from the main bar area, so not too many people around, but on a warmish evening the room was airless and not too pleasant a place to be.
    A bit more enthusiasm from the aircon would've been good.

    Food was pretty ok.

    Bread was pleasant, but could've been fresher - it felt like yesterday's delivery.

    A tortilla was very good. Patatas Brava , as you would want them, and the Croquetas were good too.
    Merluza didnt quite hit the mark - perhaps a tad under cooked and not as crispy as I would've liked.
    The Bikini was a little odd. A lot more greasy than the one you had, perhaps needing a bit more heat when cooking.
    The Puntillitas Negra Burger was a great twist on a burger, though again, perhaps a little more heat would've been good to get the squid a little crispier. The 'slaw that came with it was pretty much room temperature, which didnt seem right to me.
    Despite these comments I really enjoyed it.

    Service was enthusiastic, pleasant, and efficient

    It was very early days when I visited, so no Specials available.

    I'll definitely revisit, as I'm sure the glitches will be ironed out.

    Six Tapas, Bread, and a beer and a soft drink came to £37.Thought that was pretty fair.

  5. Is this where Pica Pica used to be? Do you know how it to compares to the former? I used to love that place but don't want to expect the wrong thing from Bar 44!

    1. @Anonymous - It's way more authentic than Pica Pica. I'm sure you won't be disappointed!