Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Real Italian Pizza Company, Cardiff city centre Italian restaurant review

The Real Italian Pizza Company has quietly built up a good reputation over the last couple years.

Located on Trinity Street in Cardiff city centre, this family-run restaurant is the younger sibling of an original Bath outpost.

Wood-fired pizzas are the focus with an impressive oven dominating the ground floor dining room and a menu featuring over 35 different options. A handful of salads and pasta dishes appease the pizza dodgers.

Both pizzas we ordered were excellent. A nicely mottled rim, thin base with good sag and chew, and light tomato sauce were all bang on.

My quattro formaggi (£10.95) was generously topped with tangy goat’s cheese, salty and savoury gorgonzola, creamy mozzarella and buttery fontina cheese. 

La Bella Vita (£11.95) was a meatfest topped with spicy pepperoni, salami, shredded chicken, crisp bacon and mozzarella. 

Desserts hit the mark too.

Homemade lemon sorbet (£3.95) was smooth and slightly creamy with a good zip and zing. 

A pretty tiramisu (£4.95) with light and sweet mascarpone cream and coffee and booze soaked sponge was as comforting as you could hope for.

I really like the Real Italian Pizza Company. If you’re looking for a good independent pizza place in Cardiff city centre then it’s definitely worth checking out.

The Details:

Address - The Real Italian Pizza Company, 22-23 Trinity Street, Cardiff CF10 1BH
Telephone - 02920 235 963

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Wylam Brewery at the Palace of Arts, Newcastle Sunday roast review

Wylam Brewery at the Palace of Arts in Newcastle is the most beautiful pub I’ve ever been to.

It would be worth a visit even if they only served warm pints of Stella and microwave pizzas.

Fortunately, Wylam is one of Britain’s best brewers. They knock out a cracking range of beers from the super hoppy Jakehead IPA to the lemony Hickey the Rake pale ale.

And, their hearty Sunday roasts have gained a bit of a reputation too. On the sunny Sunday we visited it was a full house. Reservations are essential. 

Wylam Brewery is located in the middle of Newcastle’s Exhibition Park in the Palace of Arts. It’s the only building that remains from the North East Exhibition of 1929, a world fair that was held to encourage local industry.

When I was growing up the building used to be a fusty tank museum. Wylam have done a beautiful job at refurbishing the place - the exposed brickwork, large windows and wood-panelling are all uber-sophisticated. And, the central function room with its domed ceiling is an absolute stunner. Mrs G and I are thinking of renewing our vows just so we can have a big shindig there. 

Drinks orders were taken at the table with a big selection of Wylam brews on tap. Mrs G kicked off with Swipe Right, an easy drinking session pale, whilst I had a Le Saissoner, a saison fragranced with a huge hit of lemon balm and rosemary.

Before the main event of the roast dinner, there are a small selection of starters on offer including cured meats and smoked salmon with chopped egg. However, as Mrs G and I had eaten a fifteen course meal the night before we thought it would be sensible to go straight onto mains.

My pork belly (£12) was a beaut. Tender of flesh, with well-rendered fat and the crispest of crackling, it was accompanied by a behemothic Yorkshire pudding, buttered cabbage and sweet carrot and turnip puree. Roast potatoes and parsnip were soft but could have been a touch crisper. 

Mrs G’s leg of lamb (£12) was also lovely. Tender and well-flavoured the only drawback was Mrs G wanted three slices instead of two.

It’s also worth mentioning the extra jug of seriously meaty, glossy gravy that was brought to the table without prompting. By the end of the meal Mrs G and I were spooning it into our mouths.

Desserts were also lovely. We paired them with a couple of sweet, fruity and hoppy imperial IPAs and double IPAs. For Mrs G a Blow Out IIPA and for me a Sticky Bud DIPA. 

A classic apple crumble (£5) with custard was inhaled by my father. Gluttony definitely runs in the family.

Mrs G and I shared a sticky toffee pudding sundae (£5). The soft, sweet sponge, vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, custard and toffee sauce were all lovely. 

My brother and his wife shared the cheeseboard (£6). A quartet of lovely British cheeses were joined by pink pickles, chutney and a decent selection of crackers. 

Go to Wylam Brewery. Drink beer. Eat a roast dinner. You won’t be disappointed.

The Details:

Address - Wylam Brewery, Palace of Arts, Exhibition Park, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 4PZ
Telephone - 0191 650 0651

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Humble Onion, Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan restaurant review

What’s in a name?

Well not a lot really. You can get a vague impression of a restaurant from its name, from the insufferable Scoff and Banter to the classy Noble Rot. But places with shocking names can be brilliant and those that sound great can be a crushing disappointment.

The Humble Onion in Dinas Powys has a great name. It’s understated and gives the impression that its owners appreciate the most basic ingredients can be the most flavoursome. But, does the restaurant live up to its billing?

Run by a former chef from Pontcanna’s acclaimed Bully’s, the restaurant is hidden away behind The Star pub. If we didn’t know where we were going in advance then we’d have been looking for it for ages.

The Humble Onion’s concise menu reads well with its classic bistro dishes, some using understated ingredients like smoked mackerel and pig’s cheek.

Soft sourdough with treacly balsamic reduction and rapeseed oil (£4) was good but looked a bit ridiculous with its giant bowl for the oil and vinegar. 

The humble soup (£6.50) was a must order as the restaurant’s namesake dish. A stonkingly good onion soup was thick, meaty, sweet, savoury and packed with tender onion. A slice of melted comte was delicious but a bit awkward to eat as it slipped off in one go. 

Goat curd salad (£7.50) was a simple but tasty plate combining tangy and creamy curd, dressed leaves, crunchy walnuts, sweet sunblushed tomatoes and a runny boiled egg. 

A fillet steak (£27) was an absolute belter of a dish. The super tender, well-flavoured piece of beef was joined by an addictive Gentleman’s relish (i.e. a turbo-charged spiced anchovy butter), soft carrots and spinach, carrot puree and caramelised onions. 

Accompanying chips were as good as I’ve had in a very long time. Hyper crisp and fluffy there must have been some triple cooking involved.

My main was very good too. A burnished pork chop (£17.50) sat atop buttery potato puree was accompanied by sweet and delicately sour pickled red cabbage, a punchy green herb sauce and spring onions. 

For dessert, a passion fruit coulis elevated a lovely Eton mess (£6.50) made with crisp meringue and fluffy cream. 

A beautifully wobbly panna cotta (£7) was indulgently creamy and delicately fragranced with lemon. Accompanying lemon curd, raspberries and blackberry puree were bang on but a scattering of granola could have been a touch crisper. 

I really like the Humble Onion. The hearty food cooked with skill and the friendly service were both lovely. This is another good addition to the Vale’s dining scene.

The Details:

Address - The Humble Onion, Station Rd, Dinas Powys CF64 4DE
Telephone - 02920 514 900

Thursday, 6 July 2017

El Chilango, Cardiff Mexican pop-up restaurant review

I crave Mexican food during the balmy summer months - the light, fresh and citrusy flavours are a perfect pairing with an ice cold beer.

El Chilango are one of the newest additions to the Cardiff street food scene. They regularly ply their trade at Roath Market on a Saturday, Riverside Market on a Sunday and they’ve recently started doing kitchen take overs at the brilliant Small Bar in the city centre.

Ricardo the man behind El Chilango has a serious CV. He trained at one of Mexico City’s top cookery schools before spending four and a half years at Michelin-starred restaurants in Barcelona. With experience like that you know you're going to be in safe hands.

We dined al fresco at Small Bar during a recent three night stint. The menu was reassuringly compact with just four dishes. So, of course we ordered the lot.

Loaded nachos (£7) comprised of grease-free and corny home-made nachos topped with a well-balanced combination of melted cheese, tender black beans, chilli con carne, fiery jalapenos, light and citrusy guacamole and sour cream. Whilst so many plates of nachos are a heavy handed muddle of flavours, everything on this plate brought something to the party. 

Fish tacos (£7) saw golden flaky beer-battered cod on soft tortillas accompanied by smoky chipotle mayo, fresh pico de gallo (a salsa made from tomato, onion and coriander) and crisp cabbage. A squeeze of lime and a drizzle of citrusy green and fiery red salsas completed the dish. The funk of raw cabbage was the only element I wasn’t completely sold on - perhaps it would have benefited from a dressing. 

Tacos dorados (£6.50) were my pick of the meal - crisp cylindrical corn tortillas were filled with yielding shredded chicken and piled high with fresh lettuce, pico de gallo, tangy crumbled cheese and sour cream. A drizzle of the salsas and squeeze of lime added an extra dimension. 

The veggie version (£6.50) were just as good - filled with a mix of soft sweet potatoes, peppers and onions. 

We had a very good meal from El Chilango. And, it was made all the more enjoyable washed down with a killer selection of beers from Small Bar. Gorgeously tart Running Beer from Mills Brewing was my pick of the night.

We’ve also visited El Chilango for Saturday brunch at Roath Market where we had the chilaquiles verdes (£6). The homemade tortillas topped with salsa verde, fragrant refried beans, cheese, sour cream and an oozy egg were a lovely antidote to a heavy night. 

El Chilango are a refreshing addition to Cardiff’s food scene. I can’t wait to see what else Ricardo has up his sleeve.

The details:

Address - Various locations around Cardiff 
Web - (keep an eye on Twitter for their latest pop-up details) 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Tyddyn Llan, North Wales Michelin-starred restaurant review

Old School.

That’s what Tyddyn Llan in Denbighshire is. From the Lladro sculpture collection, to the floral curtains, to the food, it’s the most traditional of Wales’s Michelin-starred restaurants.

The chef-patron is Bryan Webb, an old master of the British restaurant scene who previously ran London’s legendary Hilaire for fourteen years. He opened Tyddyn Llan in 2002 before picking up a Michelin star in 2010.

There are no foams, gels or unusual flavour combinations to be seen on the menu; just classic ingredient driven dishes cooked with French technique.

At dinner, Tyddyn Llan offer a 3 course dinner menu (£65), 6 course tasting menu (£75) and 9 course tasting menu (£90). We of course went for the 9 courser.

Canapes consisted of a lovely mini scotch egg with a sadly set yolk, a sweet caramelised red onion tart with proper flaky pastry, a cod fishcake loaded with parsley and a mini-round of smoked salmon filled with a dill-laced mousse. They were all super delicious but I’ve eaten something similar, if a lot less well executed, at many a canapé reception. 

A generous basket of white and wholemeal bread and crisp breadsticks were bang on. 

Asparagus soup kicked the meal off. It was lovely but another flavour or texture contrast would have added interest to the dish. 

A trio of first rate langoustine were served with fresh-flavoured guacamole and shavings of fennel and radish.

Foie gras and chicken liver parfait is one of Mrs G’s all time favourite dishes and this was the best example she’d ever eaten. These classics cooked faultlessly aren’t so bad after all. 

The parfait was joined by light toasted brioche and a great onion chutney.

I really enjoyed a burnished scallop that was topped with crisp pancetta crumbs and served with smooth cauliflower puree and a caper and raisin puree that had a good sweetness and sharpness.

Fresh asparagus with a savoury dice of St George’s mushroom and a crispy egg was lovely. There was just a lot of asparagus in proportion to the other elements on the plate.

A tender, crisp-skinned fillet of hake was accompanied by samphire and a butter sauce with and without the savoury hit of laverbread. I had this dish years ago when Webb did a guest chef night at Wales Millennium Centre. I loved it then and loved it this time too. 

For main course there was a choice of two dishes. Both were faultless pieces of cooking. A stellar piece of duck came with an offal rich duck faggot, a stack of confit potato flecked with even more duck, a dollop of uber buttery potato puree, wilted greens and a classy cider and apple sauce. It’s also worth noting the portion size for a tasting menu. Whopping.

My pair of lamb cutlets were also perfection. Served with a round of unctuous lamb shoulder, a couple of compellingly punchy deep-fried garlic cloves and finely diced vegetables, it was a great dish. 

A pot of super cheesy and buttery potato gratin was the icing on the cake. 

Mrs G admitted defeat at this point so I valiantly plowed on.

A cheese selection was a who’s who of the best of British supplied by Neal’s Yard. It included mega Stichelton, Brie-like Baron Bigod and nutty Hafod, amongst others. 

They were served with a bountiful bowl of interesting crackers and a lovely fig and almond torta. 

Desserts were also both great (you have a choice of four). A flawless fragrant pistachio creme brulee was topped with a scoop of the smoothest of vanilla ice creams. 

Cherry soup comprised of a bowl of sweet poached cherries in a light cherry broth with the gentle warmth of booze. It was finished off with a scoop of gorgeous cinnamon ice cream. 

Dinner at Tyddyn Llan was lovely. However, a couple of the dishes lacked edge and the pace of the friendly service dropped off at times.

I’d recommend a visit if you like your fine dining classical and generously portioned. If you’re looking for whizzes and bangs and innovative flavour combinations, this isn’t the place.

The Details:

Address - Tyddyn Llan, Llandrillo, nr. Corwen, Denbighshire, North Wales LL21 0ST
Telephone - 01490 440264