Saturday, 16 December 2017

Six great places to eat and drink in Cardiff Market


It’s great to see the renaissance of Cardiff Market.

This beautiful Victorian building located in the heart of the city has great produce stalls like E.Ashton fishmongers and JT Morgan butchers. But, it’s increasingly gaining the food stalls that make the central markets in cities like Lisbon and Barcelona such magnets for visitors. It would be great to see communal seating and an on-license booze trader in the market push things on even further.

Here are my picks of the places to visit in Cardiff Market for a tasty bite to eat and a drink.

Milgi Market



The outpost of this highly regarded Roath plant-based restaurant and bar serves vegetarian and vegan salad boxes, hot pots, sandwiches and cakes with globally-inspired flavour combinations.


A Nourish wholefood bowl (£5) comprised of nutty well-herbed pearl barley, a selection of fresh vegetables including steamed kale, garlicky mushrooms, spiced butternut squash and light sauerkraut. Everything was brought together by a savoury, creamy and fragrant miso and ginger dressing and topped with crisp seeds and jewels of refreshing pomegranate.


Hard Lines Coffee



Formerly known as Outpost, Hard Lines serve one of the best cups of coffee in the whole of Cardiff. Expect single origin beans from the best suppliers, flawless latte art and tasty snacks from Alex Gooch and Flapjack Nation.


Thai Asian Delish


For seriously tasty and good value Thai food you can’t go wrong with Thai Asian Delish. Dishes like nutty Massaman curry and chicken pad thai are packed full of flavour.


The Cheese Pantry



The Cheese Pantry, a sister establishment to the excellent Penylan Pantry, have a killer selection of British cheeses that includes Perl Las, Gorwydd Caerphilly, Rollright and Quickes cheddar as well as delicious local chutneys from Penylan Preserves.


B.R.Donnelly Cafe



I love faggots and B.R.Donnelly, an old skool greasy spoon cafe, serves some fine examples. Faggots, peas, chips and bread and butter will set you back a mere £3.80. A rich and offaly faggot comes perched a top a pile of crisp chips and proper marrowfat peas. Thick gravy (I think it may be Bisto but Mrs G thinks it’s a cut above) and a slice of soft pappy white bread complete the dish.


Cardiff Bakestones


The Welshcakes from Cardiff Bakestones are frigging lovely and an absolute bargain too. Ask for what’s fresh off the bakestone as they’re at their very best when they’re still warm.


The Details:

Address - Cardiff Market, St Mary Street, Cardiff CF1 2AU 
Web - https://www.cardiff.gov.uk/ENG/Visiting/Culture-art-and-museums/Pages/Cardiff-Central-Market.aspx
Telephone - 029 2087 1214

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny afternoon tea review


I’m all in favour of annual Christmas traditions.

Like putting up the Christmas tree whilst listening to my favourite festive album.

Or watching It’s A Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve whilst chomping on a brick of stilton.

Yesterday, I think I may found a new ritual, Festive High Tea at the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny.

This gorgeous hotel with pretty nooks and roaring fireplaces has won heaps of plaudits for their afternoon teas including the The Tea Guild's most prestigious award, the Top City and Country Hotel Tea Award.

I can understand why.

The Wedgewood Room, where afternoon tea is taken, is a classy affair that balances classic and contemporary design. We had the best seats in the house sat next to the fire.


For £30 a head, the high tea includes three tiers of savouries, sandwiches, scones and patisserie. You also get as many pots of tea or coffee from their extensive selection as you can drink.

Mrs G and her mum both kicked off with a glass of Bollinger (£12) before moving on to excellent loose leaf fruit infusions.


I glugged down a couple of pots of lovely Assam tea.


The cake stands arrived in procession and took over what little space remained on our table. 


Sandwiches were very good but a bit less exciting that what was to follow. First rate egg and cress and poached salmon with dill were the standouts whilst wafer-thin turkey and cranberry and cucumber and cream cheese were a bit more run-of-the-mill. 


Savouries were a bunch of bobbydazzlers - a puff pastry tart filled with apricot flecked coronation chicken; an unctuous ham hock terrine and onion chutney crostini; a filo basket filled with shreds of duck and hoisin sauce; a sweet and savoury devil on horseback; a mustard glazed chipolata; and an enjoyably meaty quiche. 


Pastries were just as good. Highlights included a delicate custard filled choux bun topped with an intense coffee glaze; warm mince pies capped with brandy cream; a crisp strawberry meringue with a floaty light interior. A wobbly custard slice and slice of Christmas cake were tasty but less remarkable. 


A lush pot of trifle contained just the right balance of vanilla-infused custard, toasted almonds, whipped cream, proper sponge and strawberry jelly.


Last but by no means least were warm scones served with thick jam and a choice of clotted cream or whipped cream. I tried both and the clotted cream won hands down.


Whilst I managed to demolish everything put in front of me, Mrs G and her mum boxed up their leftovers for later.


High tea at the Angel is brilliant. If you’re looking for a special treat (or an early Christmas present from your mother-in-law in my case) with great food, service and atmosphere then get involved.

The details:

Address - The Angel Hotel, 15 Cross Street, Abergavenny NP7 5EN
Web - https://www.angelabergavenny.com
Telephone - 01873 857121

Saturday, 2 December 2017

da Mara, Penylan Italian restaurant and pizzeria review


da Mara has relocated from Lakeside to Penylan.

Occupying the former site of Il Pastificio, this is great news (for me) as this lovely pizzeria is now just a stone's throw from my doorstep.


I've reviewed da Mara twice before (review 1 & review 2) and both times I've been a big fan of their beautifully speckled wood-fired Neapolitan-style pizzas.

Thankfully, they've brought their Rolls-Royce of a Steffano Ferrara pizza oven with them to their new location. And they’ve got a Neapolitan pizza chef who knows what he’s doing.


Their menu is the same as before with a range of classic Italian starters, pasta, fish and meat dishes in addition to pizzas.

Easy-drinking Peroni red (£3.90) and Sardinian Ichnusa (£3.90) beers kicked us off. 


A pair of decent starters provided the warm-up for the main event.

Whitebait (£4.95) coated in a super-crisp golden crumb were served with a piquant tartare sauce.


Beef polpette (£6.95) and mushrooms were bathed in a tomato sauce with a good wallop of parmesan, garlic and chilli. 


Our pizzas were both stunning. All the elements were on the nail from the beautifully soft, airy and mottled crust to the thin base, light san marzano tomato sauce and seriously creamy mozzarella.

I ordered a margherita (£8.95) with a scattering of fragrant basil.


Mrs G ordered the ‘nduja (£9.95) with little pockets of fiery and unctuous chilli sausage. 


Smooth and creamy pistachio and stracciatella ice cream (£3) completed the meal.


I love the pizzas at da Mara and can’t recommend checking them out highly enough.

It’s also worth noting they do takeaway pizzas with 20% off the main menu prices. And on Mondays you can get a margherita with two toppings and a glass of wine or beer for £10.95.

I suspect I’m going to be eating a lot more of their pizza.

The Details:

Address - da Mara, 2 Penylan Road, Penylan, Cardiff CF24 3PF
Telephone - 02920 482222 / 07956 188595

da Mara Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Coast, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire restaurant review


Coast in Saundersfoot has a new head chef. Following the departure of Will Holland in October, Tom Hine is now running the stoves at the sister restaurant to the excellent Grove of Narberth and AA’s restaurant of the year, the Beach House in Oxwich.

Hine has done his time in many an acclaimed kitchen. He spent five years at Rick Stein's Seafood Restaurant in Padstow and eight years with Michael Caines, initially as sous chef at Gidleigh Park and most recently as executive head chef at Lympstone Manor. 

Coppett Hall beach, the vista from Coast

Unsurprisingly, Coast’s menu has a fish-focus but there are vegetarian and meat options available throughout. Starters average around £12, mains £25 and desserts £9.

We ordered the 6 course tasting menu (£75), always Mrs G’s preferred option as it means she doesn’t have to wait for me to take photos of her food. 


A trio of generous pre-dinner snacks were washed down with a large glass of excellent Koester-Wolff riesling (£7.30). 

A soft sweet scallop coated in nutty sesame seeds was bathed in a ponzu dressing with a good hit of citrus and soy.

Lightly textured and potently cheesy parmesan polenta was topped with rosemary and the crunch of candied walnuts. The combination of sweet nuts and salty cheese was delicious. 

The standout was spiced potted shrimp sat atop dill cream and finished with a shellfish espuma that was as intense as any lobster bisque. 


Uber-light and crisp brown bread with the warmth of cumin and pretty as heck mini French loaves were both first rate. The warm breads were served with a compelling caramelised butter. 


A crisp-skinned fillet of oily mackerel and crumbed briny oyster were paired with an enjoyably savoury miso mayonnaise and cleansing cucumber emulsion and cubes. 


Charred sweetcorn risotto was a big winter warmer of a dish. The velvety risotto, flecked with the caramelised corn, was topped with spicy chorizo oil and pieces, sweet flakes of white crab, a good grating of savoury parmesan and rich egg yolk, and blobs of intense shellfish emulsion. This was a delicious dish but the delicate white crab was a little lost amongst the other intense flavours. 


A spoonably soft piece of confit salmon was served with cubes of smokey potato with just the right amount of bite, courgetti and a creamy white wine veloute. Pearls of salty caviar brought both balance and luxury to the dish. 


Mrs G and I gave both the mains on offer a run for their money. Both were lush but Mrs G won with the fish dish.

A precisely-cooked fillet of halibut was served with potent mushroom puree, charred spring onion, meaty hen of the woods mushroom and salty pancetta. 


A side of mash was the kind of thing I could have inhaled by the troughful. The hyper smooth and buttery potato was topped with uber-meaty chicken jus and a well-judged quantity of fragrant truffle.


My tender piece of crisp-skinned suckling pig was served with an extra wheel of top drawer crackling. Double crackling win. The pork was joined by curried butternut squash puree, sweet apple sauce, bronze and squidgy sage gnocchi, crispy sage leaves and a glossy sauce. 


Dessert saw a very tasty yet slightly low key and dinky end to the meal. Wobbly vanilla panna cotta pieces were served with an intense and super smooth blackberry sorbet, blackberry pieces and puree, the crunch of candied nuts and a light lemon curd. 


The food at coast is big on flavour and technical skill. Add to that the stunning vista and lovely service and they’re onto a winner. Compared to my last visit, I definitely think the food has stepped up a notch.

Disclosure - I was invited to Coast, all food was complimentary. I paid for my own drinks. 

The Details:
Address - Coast Restaurant, Coppett Hall Beach, Saundersfoot, SA69 9AJ
Web - http://coastsaundersfoot.co.uk/
Telephone - 01834 810800

Saturday, 18 November 2017

The best places to eat in Boston, USA


I’m smitten with Boston.

After a week of mooching, eating, walking and drinking in the capital of Massachusetts, it’s safe to say that it’s one of my new favourite places. The brownstone buildings are stunning, there’s heaps of history and culture to absorb and it’s possible to see almost everything on foot.


Here’s my list of the favourite places we ate at during the week (starting with my top picks first). From Italian to Chinese and American, there’s an awesome array of food to be eaten in Boston:

Alden & Harlow


The modern American food at at this buzzing subterranean restaurant in Cambridge was the most creative of any we ate during our trip.

A complimentary snack of sweet & tangy pickled runner beans were drizzled with first rate olive oil and sesame seeds. 


Dishes are medium-sized so we ordered five to share.

A ubiquitous kale salad made me fall in love with kale, something that I thought was impossible. Massaged with olive oil to the point of tenderness, the kale leaves were coated in a creamy and nutty pistachio dressing, flecked with fennel shavings and nuts, drizzled with honey and topped with crispy kale. 


A light chicken liver mousse was slathered across golden brioche toast and balanced by lightly pickled blueberries, fragrant fried sage and crunchy smoked hazelnuts. 


A breaded cuboid of intensely herby and meaty shredded rabbit was joined by creamy and cooling blue cheese sauce dotted with warming chilli oil. Pieces of refreshing celery, radish and apple balanced the dish’s richness. 


Regina Pizzeria

Regina Pizzeria have been serving brick-oven baked pizzas since 1926. A visit to their original branch in the North End feels like a quintessential Boston experience. 


We enjoyed a whopping 16 inch signature Giambotta pizza. This beauty was topped with oodles of fennel rich Italian sausage, pepperoni, salami, anchovy, onions, peppers, mushrooms, light tomato sauce and oozy mozzarella.


James Hook & Co

You can’t go to Boston and not have a lobster roll. Whilst the destination for the best lobster roll is up for serious debate, we were blown away by the example from James Hook, a little portacabin cafe. 

A warm soft toasted brioche roll was loaded with heaps of sweet flesh coated in light mayonnaise. 


Trillium Brewing Company

Trillium beers are frigging lush. Super hoppy and chewy, their IPAs and DIPAs are everything I look for in a beer. It’s well worth tracking them down at their takeaway brewery shop in Fort Point or their beer garden on the Greenway during the summer months.


Mei Mei

Mei Mei is cool AF. This sustainable Chinese-American restaurant that began life as a street food cart sources almost all of its seasonal produce from within 200 miles of Boston.

A double awesome lived up to its name. Crisp, flaky spring onion pancake was loaded with oozy cheddar, crisp bacon, gooey fried egg and vivid herb pesto. 


Crisp potsticker dumplings were filled with cumin-thwacked lamb mince and served on another vibrant herb dressing. 


Golden, light and cakey sweetcorn fritters served with warming sriracha aioli were a delight.


Monica’s Mercato

Italian-American deli sandwiches rock and the Italian sub from Monica’s Mercato in the North End rocks more than most. Every slice of prosciutto, mortadella, salami, and provolone is sliced to order meaning that you can be in for a bit of a wait for your sarnie. 


The huge quantity of protein is served in a crisp Italian roll and accompanied by a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic, a good shave of funky parmesan, salad and richness busting pickled cucumbers and hot peppers. 


Toscanini's

The prize for best ice cream of our trip goes to the wonderful Toscanini’s in Cambridge. Adventurous flavours include goat cheese cherry and ginger snap molasses.

I went for the legendary B3, a distinguished combination of brown sugar, brown butter and brownie pieces. Mint choc chip cookies and cream was loaded with massive bits of dough. 


Sullivan’s

Like Will Hunting, Sullivan’s is a Southie (South Boston) institution. This seaside shack is famous for its $2 hot dogs which are served in a beautifully soft toasted roll. Uber-creamy clam chowder dotted with pieces of tender potato, clam and white fish was also excellent.


Sweet Cheeks Q

Massachusetts isn’t known for its barbecue but I had to get my fill of low and slow smoked meat whilst in the States. Winner of best barbecue restaurant in Boston for 6 years running, we were rather impressed with Sweet Cheeks Q. 

Warm biscuits served with whipped honey butter were phenomenal. 


Brisket was the best I’ve ever eaten; hyper juicy, beefy and smokey with a good bark. Ribs were good but lacked a little on the flavour front. Super tender and juicy shreds of smoked chicken were excellent.

Sides smashed it out of the park - red-skinned potato salad with a hit of dill, hyper-cheesy macaroni cheese with a crisp crumb topping and addictive broccoli cheese bake were all excellent. 

 
Flour Bakery

Whilst Flour Bakery serve a range of gorgeous looking cakes and sandwiches, it’s their sticky buns for which they’re famous. Essentially a pecan pie in brioche bun format, they’re light and sweet with the crunch of pecan and a sticky spiced caramel glaze. 


Row 34

Seafood and craft beer sounds like a great idea to me and that’s what the trendy Row 34 in Boston’s Southport district serve up. 


We inadvertently ordered a main to start but a pile of plump, crisp-crumbed oysters were served with crisp fries and a great malt vinegar aioli. 


A whole black bass was a beautiful beast. Tender of flesh and crisp of skin, it was served Asian-style with spring onion, soy and chilli and accompanied by spiced romanesco and cauliflower. A side of uber thin onion rings were coated in a crack-like super-savoury old bay seasoning. 


Eastern Standard

There’s a grand French brasserie vibe to this Back Bay restaurant and cocktail bar that also has a big range of craft beers.

Highlights of our meal included unctuous beef bone marrow served with crisp toasts. The dish’s richness was balanced by radishes, earthy hen of the woods mushrooms and the vinegary kick of sport peppers. 


A main of two huge pieces of crisp-skinned confit duck was served with lardon-flecked beans. 


Pavement Coffeehouse

I had a lovely breakfast at the Back Bay branch of this trendy small chain of coffee shops. Fragrant iced coffee and a crisp and chewy poppyseed bagel loaded with airy scrambled egg, crisp bacon and sharp melted cheddar all hit the mark. 

 
Tenoch

Okay, so I know Boston isn’t the place to expect authentic Mexican food but I couldn’t resist. Tenoch’s tacos were pretty good with the El Pastor, consisting of well-marinated pork and refreshing pineapple, being the highlight. 


Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe

This famous South End diner dates back to 1927 and pictures of celebs such as Sammy Davis Jr and Barack Obama adorn the walls. It’s the perfect place to go for old skool Americana and hearty breakfasts. 


Turkey hash (made with minced turkey, mashed potato, peppers and onions) served with country style potatoes, fried eggs and toast was a tasty yet unremarkable combination. 


Mrs G’s hot cinnamon spiced banana bread was a delicious choice.

 
Vietnamese Sandwich

I love a good Banh Mi and Vietnamese Sandwich in Chinatown serve up a fine example. A preternaturally light and crisp baguette was stuffed with flavoursome bbq pork, lightly pickled veggies and fragrant coriander and mint. 


The Pour House

This cheap and cheerful bar was just around the corner from where we were staying in Back Bay.

A breakfast of pumpkin pie pancakes was well-spiced with cinnamon but a touch bitter tasting. Thankfully, a good drizzle of maple syrup balanced them out nicely. 


Emack & Bolio’s

This Back Back ice cream parlour has a history that dates back to the hippy era of the 70s. The ice cream is good but rather indistinguishable from Ben & Jerry’s, another New England stalwart. Cake Batter was the highlight with bits of cake and chocolate flecked throughout. 


Mike’s Pastry

An institution of the North End, Boston’s Italian district, Mike’s Pasty are supposed to serve the best cannoli in the whole of town. I wasn’t blown away to be honest. A chocolate chip cannoli could have been crisper, the chocolate could have been better quality and the ricotta filling was a bit grainy.


Union Square Donuts


With an outpost in Boston’s funky Public Market, Union Square Donuts has a range of distinct flavours that include sea salted bourbon caramel and brown butter hazelnut crunch.

Give Quincy Market a miss and go to the gourmet Public Market instead
A maple bacon donut was super light and squidgy and topped with a not-too-sweet maple glaze. But, the crisp pieces of bacon didn’t work for me. Too fatty and too savoury, they tipped the donut too far in the direction of a savoury product. Mrs G of course disagreed.