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 - http://www.bar44.co.uk/
Email for reservations - Cardiff@Bar44.co.uk 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Hilton Cardiff, Afternoon tea review


The Hilton Cardiff is a lovely place to while a way an hour or two over afternoon tea.

A panoramic view of Cardiff Castle and a weekend harpist all add to the refined atmosphere.


We ordered the Welsh afternoon tea (£15) - coffee or tea, sandwiches, scones and cakes are all included in the price.

Tea, English breakfast from Twinings, and a cappuccino both did the job.


An impressive wooden stand loaded with goodies arrived.


Triple layered sandwiches were first up. The standouts were Severn and Wye salmon and cucumber containing a delicious mix of poached and smoked fish, and Welsh cheddar packed with mature cheese and juicy tomato. Ham & grain mustard and egg mayonnaise were both good but the mixed seed bread was a touch dry around the edges.


Onto the sweet stuff and the clear standout was a superb warm buttermilk and sultana scone. Golden, crisp and soft on the inside, it was brilliant slathered with clotted cream and strawberry jam.


Other winners included a cracking chocolate macaron, a dinky pot of smooth white chocolate mousse, a chocolate dipped strawberry and a moist banana and walnut cake.


A slice of generic coconut-topped carrot cake was fine whilst the day's duds were Welsh cakes which were slightly underdone on the inside and a mini chocolate brownie which was dense and dry.


Overall, afternoon tea at the Hilton was good. A few tweaks and it could be excellent.

Disclosure - I was invited to Hilton Cardiff, all food and drink was complimentary.

Address - Hilton Cardiff, Kingsway, Cardiff CF10 3HH
Telephone - 02920 646300
Web - http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-cardiff-CWLHITW/dining/index.html 

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Moody Sow, Cardiff Farm Shop, Old St Mellons


Stonking scotch eggs, stellar steaks and banging burgers.

Here are 3 reasons why it’s worth visiting the multi-award winning Moody Sow farm shop located on the edge of Cardiff near Old St Mellons.

Whilst Moody Sow stock a range of produce including beers, bread and fruit and vegetables, it’s all about their meat.


Their pork is sourced from their own pedigree pigs that range free in the woodland next door to the shop.

Their beef, which is hung on the bone for a minimum of at least 21 days, is sourced from local farms.

The quality shows as Moody Sow have picked up a clutch of awards. 


Their burgers (£1.10 each or 4 for £4), made from a blend of brisket, flank and rib cap, were recently crowned best burger in the UK at the Q Guild butcher awards.

Thick, well-flavoured and juicy, they’re cracking. 


Meanwhile, Moody Sow’s sirloins won best steaks in the UK at last year’s awards. The 31 day-aged beauties that we bought were seriously well-marbled, deep tasting and crusted up a treat in the pan. 


Finally, Moody Sow’s scotch eggs (£2.85 each or 2 for £5 ) have picked up a pair of Great Taste Awards.

Crisp of crumb, generous of meat and with a barely set golden egg yolk, their are four different varieties to pick from. 


The pick of the bunch is the 2 star-winning black pudding variety, the sausage meat flecked with earthy black pudding.

The 1 star-winning classic egg was my second favourite, whilst the two new varieties - brie and grape and apple and stilton were both delicious but not as good as their less exotic siblings. 


Next time you’re craving meat, I’d recommend picking up some treats from Moody Sow.

The Details:

Address - Moody Sow, Cefn Mably Farm Park, Began Road, Old St Mellons, Cardiff, South Glamorgan CF3 6XL
Telephone - 01633 680 034

Thursday, 4 June 2015

A few of the best places to eat in Lisbon


Lisbon is an epic place for a city break. The reasons are many.

Firstly, you can pick up a beer, a custard tart or a strong coffee for 90 cents (65p) from the multitude of cafes dotted around the city.

Secondly, it’s likely to be warmer than 20°C if you visit between May and October (it hovered around 30°C when we visited mid May).

Thirdly, there’s a load of interesting architecture and street art.


Finally, and most importantly, there’s a ton of tasty stuff to get in your belly.

In addition to Mini Bar, perhaps the best value meal I’ve ever had in a restaurant, here are my Lisbon eating highlights:

Landeau


Landeau only serves one thing – chocolate cake. And it’s frigging good.

Light sponge is topped with sticky ganache and a dusting of cocoa powder. It’s not too sweet, not too rich and just a little bit salty.

Address - Rua das Flores, No 70 1250-195 Lisbon
Webhttp://www.landeau.pt/

Restaurante O Churrasco


Reportedly the best roast chicken to be had in Lisbon, it definitely knocks Nando’s into a cocked hat.

Golden, tender, buttery and citrusy, the roast chicken is served with a cute little pot of fiery chilli oil. The fries are pretty lush too.

Address - Rua das Portas de Santo Antao 83/85, Lisbon

Pastéis de Belém


This is the global epicentre of Portuguese custard tarts. After all, they were invented by the monks of Mosteiro dos Jerónimos which is located just next door in the Lisbon suburb of Belem.

Pastéis de Belém have been baking natas since 1837 and they’re the best I’ve ever eaten. Served warm with a sprinkle of icing sugar and cinnamon, the pastry crunches and custard wobbles in all the right places.

Address - R. Belém 84-92, 1300-085 Lisboa
Web http://www.pasteisdebelem.pt/

Time Out Market 


Time Out’s food court is located in a market in the middle of Lisbon. It’s a great place to sit and eat and booze for an evening. 


Highlights included the croqueteria (you can guess what they serve).

A seriously garlicky steak sandwich from O Prego Da Peixaria was served in a soft cake like roll which reminded me a lot of the Geordie stottie.

Santini, who have been serving up Italian gelato to Lisbon since 1949, also have a little stall. 

Address - Avenida 24 de Julho, Lisbon

O Lugar


O Lugar is a stylish little bistro located just around the corner from the Time Out market. Their great value lunch menu included bitoque (Portuguese style steak) and a glass of homemade spiced apple ice tea for the princely sum of €8.

A thin cut steak was served with a glistening savoury sauce, a fried egg and grease-free, straight out of the fryer potato crisps.

Address - 265, R. Moeda 1C, 1200-265 Lisbon
Web http://www.olugar.net/

Cave Real


A final shout out goes to Cave Real, a little neighbourhood restaurant located close to our hotel in the Saldanha area of Lisbon. I wouldn’t schlep across the city to visit but if you find yourself in the area then you’re guaranteed a warm welcome from the veteran waiting team.

Their prawns are fried in what must be a bottle's worth of olive oil and a whole clove of garlic.

And their golden salt cod fritters are served with a whole saucepan of rice and beans. The waiter tops up your plate until you’re ready to pop.

Address - Avenida 5 de Outubro 13, 1050-047 Lisbon
Webhttp://restaurantecavereal.pt/pt

I can’t recommend Lisbon enough as a city break destination.