Saturday, 27 May 2017

Hare and Hounds, Vale of Glamorgan restaurant review 2017


I had no intention of blogging about my most recent visit to the Hare & Hounds.

I’ve already been as gushing I can be about this Vale of Glamorgan country pub here and here.

But, I can’t resist sharing some more love for their ingredient led, seasonal cooking.

There are no foams, smears, spherifications or other gimmicks; just flavour packed, technically accomplished, simply presented food that’s served by a knowledgeable and friendly front of house team.

This time we visited for the Spring tasting menu evening where seven courses, a glass of fizz and extras cost £55 a head. But, you can have the tasting menu anytime if you pre-order.


A glass of prosecco was fragranced with a light strawberry syrup.



Snacks comprised of a light and fresh asparagus soup with ricotta, airy Hafod cheddar gougeres and super short and rich cheese biscuits. 


Oysters are a mainstay at the Hare and Hounds but this is the first time I’ve ever eaten them cooked. The pairing of briney beer-battered molluscs and smoky romesco sauce was a big success.


Bread was as good as ever - a burnished complex wholemeal sourdough and cheese-twanged focaccia were served with creamy home-cultured butter. 


Next up came one of the standouts of the night. The shortest of pasty cases cradled silky bechamel sauce studded with Wye Valley asparagus and turbo-charged with savoury Hafod cheddar. 


A runny confit egg yolk dialled up the indulgence of the plate even further. 


A copper-coloured lobster and crab bisque, heady with the earthy intensity of brown meat and liquorice twang of tarragon, nestled a dainty raviolo filled with sweet lobster and crab meat and chive. 


I’m not the biggest bresaola fan as it lacks the fatty richness of other cured meats. But, this was the best example I’ve had. Cured in the pub’s cellar for four months, the tender beef was spiced with juniper and pepper. It was elevated by slow-cooked sweet tomatoes, a smoked tomato puree and peppery rocket leaves. 


My favourite dish of the evening comprised of a flaky hake fillet and soft leeks blanketed in a buttery and delicately lemony hollandaise laced with pieces of meaty mussel and fragrant laverbread.


A rack of sweet and tender milk fed Torgelly lamb was joined by a disk of lamb shoulder, a chargrilled asparagus spear, intense wild garlic puree, roasting juices and a richness-balancing sharp mint sauce. 


A fragrant rhubarb granita cleansed the palette before dessert. 


Souffle is another fixture on the menu at Hare and Hounds and with reason; they’re always frigging amazing. The perfectly risen cloud-light pud was fragranced with fresh strawberries. A scoop of uber-creamy vanilla ice cream was plonked into the middle. Oofh.


Petit fours maintained the stonking standard to the last mouthful. A homemade jammy dodger combined the shortest and butteriest of biscuits with tangy jam. A rich chocolate mousse was balanced by a boozy as heck cherry and a crisp biscuit base. 


As you can tell, I love the Hare and Hounds. If you haven't visited yet then I highly recommend pre-ordering the tasting menu.

The details:

Address - Hare & Hounds, Aberthin, Cowbridge CF71 7LG
Web - http://hareandhoundsaberthin.com/

Telephone - 01446 774892

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Cocorico Patisserie, Cardiff afternoon tea review


At the time of writing, Laurian's team from Cocorico Patisserie are tearing it up on Bake Off Creme de La Creme. Their semi-final will be broadcast this coming Wednesday 24 May.


I’m already a big fan of Cocorico’s macarons and pastries but seeing their impressive creations on the TV reminded me that I was yet to try their afternoon tea.

Available for pre-order at £15 a head, it’s the ideal showcase for their precise technique and penchant for interesting flavours.


My drink of choice was a lovely pot of loose leaf English breakfast tea. Mrs G and her mum both had very good flat whites. 


We kicked off with a savoury layer that was far more exciting than the usual finger sandwiches.

A beautifully warm, flaky and buttery mini croissant was stuffed with an enjoyably savoury combination of goat’s cheese and olive. A textbook crisp and soft white roll was filled with smoked salmon, cucumber and cream cheese whilst a dinky pie contained a comforting combo of chicken, leek and potato. 


Onto the sweet stuff and a mini Mont Blanc saw a short-crusted blueberry tart topped with airy whipped cream and sweet chestnut puree vermicelli.

A light choux bun was filled with praline cream, a caramelised hazelnut and whipped cream. The glossiest of glazes coated an intense blackcurrant mousse that sat atop another mini blueberry tart. 


You get to choose a macaron as part of the tea. All were crisp, soft, a tiny bit chewy and packed with flavour. I tried the raspberry and chocolate and delicately boozy Bailey's varieties. Mrs G’s raspberry and violet flavour was as pretty as a Jackson Pollock painting. 


Finally, on the top layer was a finger of waffle topped with jam, whipped cream and slices of strawberries. It was a lovely flavour combination but the crisp and slightly chewy waffle was my least favourite part of the tea. 


Afternoon tea at Cocorico was a real treat.

This isn’t the place to come if you want to stuff your face with bought in cupcakes and brownies. But, if you want to try the most technically accomplished patisserie in Cardiff then this is the right place.

The Details:

Address - Cocorico Patisserie, 35 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JP
Web - http://www.cocoricopatisserie.co.uk/
Telephone - 02921 328 177

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Patricia, Jesmond, Newcastle restaurant review


From the moment I first read about the Patricia, I could tell it was my kind of restaurant.

Firstly, the place has got the same name as my mum.

Secondly, everything on the menu sounds far more interesting than the norm.

Instead of steak and chips, they’ve got 40-day dry aged Belted Galloway sirloin with soft polenta & bitter leaf salad.

Instead of ham and melon, it’s charentais melon with salame toscano and castelfranco.

I like the dining room with its moody lighting and dark burgundy walls. But, I'm not sure I’d want to hide away in the darkness on a summer’s evening.


Perfect crisp and tangy sourdough got things off on the right note. I could tell from the bread that we were in safe hands.


A snack (£4) was the best thing I ate all dinner - thin slices of fried sourdough and an ooze of the funkiest of epoisses cheeses were balanced out with a couple of sweet and tart preserved cherries.


Starters were very good.

A pot of smooth and creamy chicken liver pate (£8) was topped with a punchy layer of madeira jelly. It was lovely slathered over a slice of sweet brioche toast.


My starter was a tasty as it was ugly. Bronzed brussel sprouts (£7) and a sweet red onion jam were blanketed in a hyper savoury and creamy parmesan cheese sauce. It was indulgently rich but very well balanced.


Onto mains, and a confit chicken thigh (£20) was soft of flesh and crisp of skin. It was accompanied by fresh turnip tops, stock rich lentils and sweet Datterini tomatoes.


Slow-cooked lamb (£22) was packed with flavour but a touch dry. Uber-herby salsa verde, soft Jersey Royals and sweet roast peppers completed a lovely plate.


Desserts knocked it out of the park.

Pear and almond tart (£7) combined thin crisp pastry and a light almond frangipane with a compellingly chewy top and tender pieces of fruit. 


A plate of chocolate mousse (£7) was a mound of rich delights. Rich, silky, not too sweet mousse was joined by crunchy hazelnuts for texture, juicy and tart preserved cherries and a knockout salty blob of miso caramel.


I really enjoyed dinner at The Patricia - the food and service were both lovely. However, I'd be interested to see how the menu and dining space changes with the seasons as it felt a little wintry even in the middle of April.

The details:

Address - The Patricia, 139 Jesmond Road, Newcastle NE2 1JY
Telephone - 0191 2814443
Web - https://www.the-patricia.com

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Tiny Rebel, Cardiff craft beer pub review


I’m a fan of Tiny Rebel.

This multi-award winning Welsh craft brewery makes lush beers including Clwb Tropicana tropical IPA and Super Saison fragranced with kaffir lime and lemon verbena. They also won champion beer of Britain 2015 for their Cwtch red ale.


Since my last visit, their flagship pub in the middle of Cardiff has rebranded from Urban Taphouse to Tiny Rebel (brand consolidation innit). They’ve also appointed a new head chef who’s refreshed the food menu. Alongside burgers and pizzas can now be found snacks like Fubar infused Welsh rarebit, salt and pepper calamari and breaded halloumi fingers, as well as salads and vegan dishes.


We ordered a couple of kick ass beers from the extensive craft, keg and bottle selection. My pint of Cloudwater seville orange sour was an absolute corker; light, juicy, delicately sour and bitter. Mrs G’s Zirkus was a hoppy and juicy tropical lager from the always excellent Magic Rock.


Mrs G was attempting to be healthy so ordered a salad (£9). Soft avocado, tender beetroot and mixed leaves were coated in a light and creamy blue cheese dressing and scattered with crunchy pumpkin seeds.


The ‘rebel plate’ (£14) comprised of pokey Blaenavon cheddar, a big slice of tangy Welsh goat’s cheese, well-spiced pastrami and a single slice of so so Carmarthen ham. Toasted granary loaf, crisp flatbreads, mixed olives and a spicy tomato chutney completed the dish. This was a good plate but I don’t think it warranted the price tag - more meats and another cheese wouldn’t have gone amiss.


Red onion and Cali beer bhajis (£4.25) were delicious - the golden fritters had a big punch of spice that was balanced by a good dollop of creamy mint raitha.


Dirty Stop Out and black pudding fritters (£4.25) divided opinion. We both liked the combination of earthy blood sausage and smoky stout with a sweet and tangy apple compote.


But, I didn’t like the claggy interior. Mrs G did.


We had a good lunch at Tiny Rebel. It wasn’t without its faults. However, if you’re looking for a killer beer selection and a menu that caters to eclectic tastes and dietary requirements then it’s well worth checking out.

Disclosure - I was invited to Tiny Rebel, all food and drink was complimentary.

The Details:

Address - Tiny Rebel, 25 Westgate Street, Cardiff CF10 1DD
Web - http://www.tinyrebel.co.uk/bars/cardiff/
Telephone - 029 2039 9557

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Small Bar, Cardiff craft beer bar review


Small Bar is a brilliant boozer.

This craft beer pub, located on Cardiff’s Church street, is one of the main reasons (alongside Roath Bottle Shop) why I’ve developed an expensive habit for hoppy IPAs and fruity sour beers. Any money which I didn’t spend on food, now goes on craft beer.


Small Bar’s name comes from the awesome small breweries like Magic Rock, Beavertown, Cloudwater, Wylam and Northern Monk who are represented on their ever changing list of 31 beers on tap.

Owned by a former director at BrewDog, Small Bar’s owner also runs Bristol’s Left Handed Giant Brewery and craft beer distribution company The Big Beer Co. Making, distributing and selling your own beer seems like a smart move to me. 


But, enough about the booze.

Small Bar’s food menu features the kind of high end junk food that goes hand in hand with beer - burgers, hot dogs and pizzas. On a Sunday they do roasts and there are offers on chicken wings on Wednesdays and 2 for 1 pizzas on Mondays. 


We gave the three main components of the menu a run for their money.

An original dog (£7.95) was pretty much bang on. A soft brioche roll nestled a deliciously snappy smoked beef wiener, sweet fried onions, a scattering of melted cheese and a squeeze of ketchup and American style mustard. Skin on fries were lovely - perfectly crisp, well-seasoned and enjoyably fluffy. 


A wild mushroom pizza (£8.95) wasn’t a looker but it tasted good. A crisp crusted base with a decent sag and chew was topped with potent garlic butter, meaty fungi, fragrant thyme. an ooze of mozzarella and crumbled tangy goats cheese. 


The double cheeseburger (£9.95) looked the part but didn’t quite deliver - a soft toasted Hobbs House bakery seeded bun was stuffed with two giant patties, melted cheddar, crisp gherkin, lettuce and tomato. The advertised condiments were ketchup, mustard and burger sauce but I don’t think any of these were present. Instead a pleasant smoky tomato relish sat on the bottom. 


Also, as the patties were served well done, it turned out to be a bit of a beef overload.


The food at Small Bar is tasty. It won’t win any awards but the beer will. And for that reason I’d highly recommend a visit. Spend an evening there and work your way through their superb range of beers and order some food to soak up all that booze.

The Details:

Address -  Small Bar Cardiff, 17 Church Street, Cardiff  CF101BG
Web - http://www.smallbar.co.uk/cardiff/