Saturday, 30 July 2016

Cafe Du Chat Noir, Roath, Cardiff cafe review

You know how some places are worth the visit for one dish alone?

The Café Du Chat Noir in Wellfield Court in Roath is one such place. This friendly little café, where the serving team have authentic French accents, make an absolutely banging croque monsieur (£4.95) & croque madame (£5.45). 

There’s nothing posh about this classic bit of comfort food but everything about it hits the nail on the head.

Crisp and golden white sliced bread is fried in a ludicrous amount of butter and filled with a generous quantity of tender ham and velvety béchamel twanged with nutmeg. It's then topped with a bubbly layer of stringy melted gruyere (and a runny poached egg if you go for the Madame). 

The finished product is gloriously rich and seriously moreish. 

I’ve tried a couple of other things on the menu, some are a hit and others a bit miss.

The French onion soup (£3.95) has a good thwack of caramelised onion and meaty stock. And, it’s served with really good oozy gruyere topped croutons. But, it was let down a bit by a slightly gloopy texture. 

A plate of mixed charcuterie (£6.95) was highly serviceable. 

A friend highly rates the homemade quiches (£5.95) with changing varieties including goats cheese or salmon and broccoli.

However, an apple and caramel pie lacked flavour and a crisp pastry case. Furthermore, the coffee on offer needs a rethink as it’s lacking in flavour. 

In summary, go and eat a toasted sandwich at the Café Du Chat Noir. You won’t be disappointed.

The Details:
Address - Café Du Chat Noir, 28 Wellfield Rd, Cardiff CF24 3PB
Telephone -  029 2048 8993

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Amser, Yr Hen Lyfrgell / The Old Library, Cardiff Sunday roast review

*** Update 30/07/2016 - Sadly Amser is closing its doors on 3rd August 2016. More information can be found here. ***

I loves a good carvery.

One of my earliest memories as a wee nipper was visiting the local Toby whenever I stayed with my grandparents in Essex. The groaning plates of meat, the whopping Yorkshire puddings and the posh carrot batons all hold a special place in my heart.

However, when I last visited a Toby a couple of years ago it wasn’t as good as I remembered it. The meat was wafer thin, the potatoes weren't crisp and the gravy was as thick as treacle.

So the fact that Amser, the restaurant at Yr Hen Lyfrgell / The Old Library (the Welsh cultural centre in the city centre), do a banging Sunday carvery that lives up to my nostalgic memories is a very good thing.

Behind the stoves at Amser is the well-regarded Paj Jones; rumour has it his tenure at the long gone Le Gallois was the closest Cardiff has ever been to gaining a Michelin Star.

A single course will set you back £9.95 and you can add on a pud for £3 extra. There’s also a couple of cracking Pipes beers on tap if you want to make a day of it. 

I ordered the pork loin and belly which were sourced from the Vale of Glamorgan and Abergavenny. This was first rate meat and there was an added bonus of crisp crackling on the belly.

Mrs G ordered the lamb, sourced from a few miles away in Rudry. Also super tender and well-flavoured Mrs G could perhaps have benefited from an additional slice.

A roast dinner is only as good as its trimmings and Amser’s are pretty fine and rather plentiful.

Crisp and fluffy Yorkshire puddings were the size of a grapefruit. Golden roast spuds were all crunch and fluff whilst the cauliflower cheese had a potent honk of cheese. 

Buttery carrots, well-seasoned swede and carrot mash, creamed leeks, savoy cabbage flecked with bacon, flavoursome gravy and new potatoes completed the heaving plates of food. 

Whilst Mrs G and I were both pretty stuffed I’ve come to terms with the grim reality that I don’t know how to say no to dessert.

Apple crumble comprised of soft cinnamon spiked fruit with a proper thick crumble top and a good ladle of vanilla fragranced custard.

Meanwhile a good sticky toffee pudding was cannily flecked with nuts and sultanas but was a touch too cakey rather than sticky. 

Sunday roast at Amser is lovely. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “where’s good for a roast dinner in Cardiff?” No doubt I’ll be adding Amser to my list of recommendations.

The Details:

Address - Amser, Yr Hen Lyfrgell / The Old Library,  The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1BH
Telephone - 07342354356

Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Gallery, Barry, steak night restaurant review

Since I last visited The Gallery in Barry things have gone from strength to strength for this charming little independent restaurant. This year they were named Wales' Good Food Guide Readers’ Restaurant of the Year and they’ve also won Welsh Sustainable Restaurant of the Year for three years on the trot.

They've also started opening on Wednesday for steak night where for 50 quid you get 2 steaks, 2 portions of chips, 2 sauces, 2 flavoured butters, 2 wedge salads and a bottle of wine.

This, is a bit of a bargain. 

There’s no hiding the quality of their steaks which are sourced locally from Farmers Pantry in Llantwit Major - you can take your pick from a display which includes a mix of 28 day and 40 day aged cuts. 

To start, a crisp wedge of iceberg lettuce was the receptacle for a light Caesar dressing topped with shavings of savoury parmesan and plump briny anchovies. 

Mrs G enjoyed a potent blue cheese dressing with red grapes providing a counterpoint to the savoury cheese. 

A word of mention must go to the bottle of Los Picos Merlot included with the meal. It was seriously quaffable, in fact so much so that we ordered an extra bottle. 

An extra side of tender chicken wings (£2.50) had a crisp crumb and were served with a pot of tangy barbecue sauce. They were good but I'd have preferred it if the wings were served un-crumbed and coated in the sticky sauce. 

Onto the main event and it did not disappoint one jot.

A huge, juicy, tender 26oz Chateubriand (£9 supplement) for two was cooked a perfect rare. A couple of knobs of maple-smoked butter added an extra dimension to the already flavour-packed piece of meat. 

Everything surrounding the cow was on the nail too.

Hyper-crisp and grease-free onion rings; crisp, soft and slightly meaty chips; a fragrant thyme roast tomato; a portobello mushroom; a ramekin of silky bearnaise twanged with tarragon and a jug of warming peppercorn sauce spiked with brandy. 

We also ordered a basket of truffled polenta chips (£2.50) for the table. Super crunchy with shavings of umami-rich cheese and the right level of fungal twang, they were off the hook. 

By this point we were completely and utterly stuffed. In fact, I left an onion ring - the horror. We then ordered dessert.

Keeping it simple, The Gallery only offer one pudding on Wednesdays, the chef’s special sundae (£5). It changes every week and on this occasion it was white chocolate and berry. 

It was an absolute beauty, combining creamy white chocolate ice cream, fresh blackberries and strawberries, strawberry coulis, sweet golden biscuit crumbs and a thin shard of caramel. 

Steak night at The Gallery is excellent - there’s certainly not (m)any other places where you can get such a good steak and sides for two including wine for £50.

The Details:

Address - The Gallery, 2 Broad Street Barry, Wales CF62 7AA
Telephone - 01446735300

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Amazonas, Brazilian and Portuguese street food cafe review, Cardiff

There’s something so very special about home-cooking made with love and served in warm and homely surroundings. When this spirit is channeled into a restaurant environment it’s almost certainly the recipe for success.

Amazonas, a brand new Brazilian and Portuguese street food cafe, located on Splott’s Clifton Street nails all of the above.

Whilst the decor is bright, minimalist and modern, the super-friendly owner (who hails from Madeira) gave us the warmest of welcomes. Having been given a detailed run through of the menu, which comprises of a mix of small dishes with a few larger plates and daily specials thrown in for good measure, we ordered a selection to share and waited for the good stuff to arrive. 

Caldo de cana (sugarcane juice) was served ice cold with a twist of lime and the addition of fresh mint (£2.95). It was reminiscent of the ultimate virgin mojito. A mango smoothie (£2.95) was a bit light on fruit but was still very refreshing. 

Milho Frito (£1.50) were golden cubes of polenta, crisp on the outside and silky smooth and lightly herbed on the inside. Moreish as hell.

Feijão tropeiro (£2) had a breakfast comfort food kinda thing going on - soft beans, salty bacon, cassava flour, scrambled egg and chopped parsley all combined to make a tasty plate. 

A prego (£4), the traditional Portuguese steak sandwich, was better than any I ate in Lisbon last year. The soft homemade flat roll was slathered with garlicky butter and filled with tender slices of thin steak alongside lettuce and tomato. 

Well-flavoured picanha steak pieces (£5.95) were tender of flesh with a crisp strip of fat. A dusting of savoury manioc flour and a squeeze of lime juice added an extra dimension to the dish. 

Finally, a palmito pastel (£3.25) saw a super-light and crisp pastry pocket filled with a soft palm heart paste. A tomato and red onion vinaigrette served on the side was the ideal counterpoint to the sweetness of the palm heart paste. 

The dessert of the day was one of the highlights of the meal. A beautifully smooth and fragrant set coconut cream was topped with a golden prune caramel (£2.95). If you’re a fan of panna cotta and creme caramel then this kick-ass hybrid will be right up your street. 

Everything we ate at Amazonas was delicious and refreshingly different. Wth a bill for two coming in at £30 including drinks and service, I can see myself becoming a regular.

It’s worth noting they see themselves more as a snack bar than a restaurant. In fact, the kitchen closes at 7pm in the evening and they shut their doors at 8pm. However, I defy you to visit Amazonas and just order a snack - I don’t think I could do it.

The Details

Address - Amazonas, 140 Clifton Street, Cardiff CF24 1LY
Telephone - 029 2132 2829

Amazonas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 2 July 2016

The Fox & Hounds, Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan restaurant review

I’m a sucker for a good CV.

So, when I heard that the new Chef Patron of The Fox & Hounds in the pretty village of Llancarfan (10 minutes from Cardiff Airport) had worked at The Felin Fach Griffin and done stages at Le Champignon Sauvage and the Kingham Plough, I was sold.

With work experience like that you’d expect the Fox & Hounds to serve pub grub with a few fine dining flourishes. That’s exactly what you get.

Homebaked soda bread was crisp of crust and light of crumb. The accompanying butter could have been a little softer. 

Delightfully sweet and clean tasting dressed white crab meat (£9) was dotted with capers, samphire, lightly pickled cucumber and served with a delicate parsley sauce.

Sweetbreads (£7.90) coated in a golden crumb were served with a silky and deeply meat sauce and fresh summer greens. This was a hearty starter and Mrs G commented that it would have been just as tasty without the breadcrumbs. 

The mains both blew our socks off.

Mrs G described her Rosedew farm lamb cannon (£19) as one of the best pieces of sheep she’d ever eaten. The tender and flavour-packed meat was served with a wonderfully offaly homemade faggot, a golden and light potato cake, fresh asparagus, peas and broad beans, sweet braised little gem, pea puree and a meaty sauce. 

My steak was so much more than just a fantastic slab of meat (£19). Here steak and chips were elevated far above the perennial restaurant “safe option”. The delightfully pink rib-eye was joined by sweet onion puree, a golden onion ring, a baby onion and another superb sauce. 

On the side, triple-cooked chips were of the very highest order. But a dinky pot of cottage pie was the star of the show - golden-crusted fluffy potato sat atop belting beef mince in gravy heady with rosemary. A confession, I wiped the pot clean with my fingers. 

Desserts maintained the exceptional standard of the mains.

A sticky toffee pudding souffle (£6.50) was super light and and twanged with caramel sweetness. A pool of toffee sauce at the bottom of the dish was a pleasant surprise whilst a scoop of creamy banana ice cream deftly avoided tasting artificial. 

A smooth, sharp and not too sweet set lemon cream (£6.50) was adorned with first-rate fragrant strawberry sorbet, pieces and coulis, and crumbled honeycomb. 

The Fox and Hounds is another cracking addition to the Vale of Glamorgan.

With Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, the Hare and Hounds, Bar 44, Restaurant James Sommerin, The Gallery and now the Fox and Hounds all calling the Vale home, it’s a very exciting time for food in the county.

The Details:

Address - The Fox & Hounds, Llancarfan, Vale of Glamorgan CF62 3AD
Telephone - 01446 781287