Saturday, 25 March 2017

Asador 44, Cardiff Spanish restaurant review


Asador 44 is the fourth restaurant from the award-winning Bar 44 brothers, Owen and Tom Morgan.

Located on the former site of Greenwood & Brown, they’ve done a stand up job in refurbishing the place. Ageing cabinets display handsome hunks of cow, a cheese cave is the home to over 30 different varieties and a beast of an asado grill belches flames from behind a window into the kitchen.


Asador 44’s menu differs from Bar 44’s in that the focus is on dishes cooked over charcoal instead of tapas - octopus, fish and iberico pork all appear but it’s steaks of Welsh beef and Spanish rare-breed old cows that are the main event. 


My trip last summer to Bar Nestor in San Sebastian was a defining beefy moment in my life - a sharing chuleton of retired dairy cow with its salty crust, complex beefy flavour and buttery yellow fat was an absolute joy. It’s this type of beef and the even more revered Rubia Gallega (Galician Blonde) that Asador 44 specialise in.


Lots of thought has gone into the extensive list of Spanish wines and sommelier Fergus Muirhead (he’s previously overseen beverages for Jason Atherton’s restaurants in Asia) recommended an excellent light yet complex garnacha blanca (£25).


We kicked off with toasted Alex Gooch sourdough (£3) accompanied by lush whipped butter flecked with crunchy bits of meaty jamon and the grassiest of olive oils. 


A crisp-skinned fillet of oily mackerel (£8) was balanced by mustard twanged celeriac remoulade, caper berries and a charred wedge of endive. 


A carabinero was billed as the world’s finest red prawn. I can see why. At £16 it’s a special treat but the juicy super-sweet flesh and the intense bisque-like head juice were a killer combination. A lick of smoke from the parilla added an extra dimension. 


For main we shared the lomo bajo (£49), a 700g sirloin of 9 year old Asturian ex dairy cow. It was an absolute beauty. Bronze crusted and tender of flesh, the sliced rare steak had a deep beefy flavour and a funky end-note from weeks of ageing. 


Included in the price were a choice of two sides.

Refreshing blood orange, fennel, crunchy pine nut and aromatic mint salad was the perfect counterpoint to the rich meat. 


Smokey and tender grilled romanesco cauliflower was accompanied by crisp fragrant sage leaves and smooth cauliflower puree.


A selection of five exemplary cheeses (£12) were accompanied by olive oil crackers, sweet tomato chutney and quince jelly. A villarejo rosemary was a manchego like variety fragranced from rolling in rosemary and lard (oofh). Luna negra was a delightfully light and creamy ash coated goat’s cheese whilst a cave-matured Cabrales was a knock your socks off socky blue cheese. 


Desserts were very good but the least impressive element of the meal.

Mrs G was sold at the mere mention of a tarta de queso (£7). The light cheesecake with its burnished top was joined by a crisp almond tuille and blueberries cooked in tempranillo. 


A chocolate and hazelnut ball (£7) packed a seriously rich punch but it could have been less crumbly. A scoop of fresh cherry sorbet, a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of vanilla salt balanced out the dish. 


If there’s one type of restaurant Cardiff has been lacking until now, it’s a first-rate steak joint.

With the opening of Asador 44, Cardiff has its answer. 

We loved our meal and there are so many more dishes that I’m itching to try as soon as possible.

The Details:

Address - Asador 44, Quay Street, Cardiff CF10 1EA

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Talgarth Mill and The Baker's Table, Brecon Beacons cafe review


It can hardly be surprising that my favourite tourist trips of my youth all involved food.

Beamish open air museum with its Victorian sweetshop and coal-powered fish and chip shop.

Cadbury World with its ridiculous amount of free chocolate; I made serious inroads into a 1kg bag of misshapes on the journey home.

Lindisfarne island and its nectar-like honey mead.

Talgarth Mill in Wales's Brecon Beacons (in between Brecon and Hay-on-Wye) also ticks all of my boxes when it comes to food tourism.


This historic watermill was restored using lottery funding and featured on the BBC’s Village SOS. A community enterprise, it’s staffed almost completely by volunteers and produces its own award-winning, additive-free flour. It also happens to have a frigging awesome café where you can sample their wares.

A guided tour (£4) from Jez, one of the volunteer millers, was a fascinating experience. We saw the whole process from winnowing the grain to bagging up the flour.

A post shared by Gourmet Gorro (@gourmetgorro) on


The big pay-off was lunch in the Baker’s Table Café where almost every dish involves some of the stonkingly good fresh bread. 


Mrs G’s salad (£6.75) came topped with a whopping piece of grilled goat’s cheese and was flecked with pieces of sweet butternut squash. 


Crisp crusted slices of seeded bread were slathered with thick butter. 


My Miller’s lunch (£9) was exemplary. The groaning board was laden with locally baked ham, thick pieces of nutty Hafod cheddar and creamy Cenarth brie, a lightly vinegary carrot and cabbage slaw, chilli-laced piccalilli, well-dressed leaves, miscellaneous salad and a crisp apple. And of course, there were a couple of slices of the excellent bread. 


Talgarth Bakery is my kind of tourist spot. You learn something, you eat something – what’s not to love?

The Details:

Address - Talgarth Mill, The Mill House, The Square, Talgarth, Powys LD3 0BW
Web - http://talgarthmill.com/
Telephone - 01874 711125

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Swan at Hay, Hay-on-Wye hotel and restaurant review


The Swan at Hay reopened in February following a £2 million refurbishment.

The new owner of this grade-2 listed Georgian hotel is the same man behind Llangoed Hall (The Good Food Guide’s 48th best restaurant in the UK).

There's also a new head chef with serious quality on his CV. Jerry Adam is a former sous-chef of both Llangoed Hall and the Michelin-starred Ynyshir.

Before dinner, we window-shopped to our hearts' content in Britain’s town of books. As well as the cornucopia of book shops, including the legendary Richard Booth’s, Hay-on-Wye has an enviable selection of art galleries, vintage fashion boutiques and cookware shops.


We also made time for a sheep’s milk ice cream from Shepherd’s (damson and chocolate with biscotti for me and elderflower sorbet for Mrs G) and a drink at the recently opened Beer Revolution who have an excellent range from brewers such as To Øl, Beavertown and Arbor. 


Dinner at the Swan was served in the Garden Room, a grand old space with huge wooden dressers, crystal chandeliers and floor to ceiling windows. If you'd prefer a more informal setting then the restaurant menu is also served in the bar. 


Chef Adam’s dinner menu (£40 for 3 courses) takes a number of influences from the cooking at Ynyshir with its Japanese flavours, carbohydrate light dishes and use of pickles and ferments.

A flaky sundried tomato and parmesan wheel was served with a pot of light garlic foam. This was a new one on me but the airy, creamy and garlicky foam was a big success. 


A hot, crisp and nutty wheaten roll was served with whipped pork fat and crackling. This was seriously porky, dare I say it almost too porky. In small quantities it was tasty but it was a seriously rich prospect. 


A nibble knocked it out of the park – a crisp and yielding lamb rib was topped with salty, savoury anchovy pieces and crunchy breadcrumbs. I could easily have inhaled ten or so. 


Onto starters, and Mrs G ordered the lamb sweetbreads – the tender caramelised glands were served with punchy fermented black garlic and pickled and roasted cauliflower. 


My starter was a corker. A pair of plump red charred prawns were served with a clever oriental twanged garnish – satay sauce, raw beansprouts, crunchy peanuts, a black squid rice cracker and fragrant background notes of coriander and lime. 


Pre-main was excellent too – crisp and beefy braised oxtail pieces were joined by a sour apple puree, mushrooms, crisp toasted rice and a refreshing smoked eel dashi. 


Mains were the first courses to really challenge (in a way reminiscent of Ynyshir) – in fact, Mrs G and I ended up swapping dishes as we had contrasting opinions of each other’s plates.

A super tender piece of beef cheek, a delightfully crisp battered oyster and oyster mayonnaise were buried beneath a mound of crispy seaweed (dulce and sea lettuce). Mrs G loved the huge hit of seaweed whilst I felt it overwhelmed. 


A lovely piece of local venison was accompanied by toasted seeds, punchy pickled cabbage and a hugely citrusy minneola puree (a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine). I loved it whilst Mrs G thought the citrus and vinegar notes were too much. 


Consensus was restored with the savoury course (£6 supplement). Oozy, creamy tunworth cheese sat a top toasted wheaten bread and a good smear of aromatic and sweet quince and chervil jam. Savoury and sweet, this was an excellent bridging course between main and dessert. 


Mrs G’s dessert was a stunner. Aromatic passion fruit curd, tangy yoghurt sorbet, coconut shavings and meringue shards combined in a tropically refreshing pudding.


My dessert was nearly an unqualified success – rich, sticky baked treacle tart filling, cleansing apple shavings and crisp puff pastry pieces all hit the mark. But, a pool of wood sorrel juice was a massive hit of freshly mown grass that disrupted the indulgence of the dish.


Overall, we had a very good meal and Jerry Adam is clearly another big talent operating in Wales.

Replete, we retired to our freshly decorated bedroom and had a great night’s sleep. 


Breakfast was first rate - warm croissants and jam were followed by the mother of fry-ups. Thick cut bacon, meaty spiced mushrooms, golden yolk poached eggs, Stornoway black pudding and finely ground herbed sausage were all excellent. 


We had an excellent stay at The Swan. Staff were warm and friendly across the board and it’s a lovely luxury base for exploring Hay. Also, they’ve currently got an excellent dinner, bed and breakfast package from £165 per room running until the middle of May.

Disclosure – I was invited as a guest of The Swan at Hay. Accommodation and food were complimentary.

The Details:

Address – The Swan at Hay , Church Street, Hay-on-Wye HR3 5DQ
Web – http://www.swanathay.com/
Telephone - 01497 821 188

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Noble Rot, London restaurant and wine bar review


Forgive me for being a fanboy. But, there’s so much for me to fawn over about Noble Rot.

Firstly, the Sportsman’s Stephen Harris is consultant chef at this wine bar-cum-restaurant in Bloomsbury. As I’m not going to visit Whitstable anytime soon, it’s the closest I’ll get to sampling his food.


Secondly, the place is tied to the phenomenally cool Noble Rot wine magazine. As such, it’s got a corking selection of wines by the glass. I worked my way through Albert Mann Riesling 2015 (£5), Julien Sunier Morgon (£7), Gran Cerdo Rioja 2015 (£2) and Oremus Tokaji (£8) whilst Mrs G did damage elsewhere.


The menu is made up of seasonal British and international dishes cooked with the highest skill.

Jamon Iberico de Bellota (£14) was in top condition – the fat mouth-meltingly soft with a great depth of flavour. 


Slip sole (£10), the signature dish of the Sportsman, was cooked to perfection and coated in spicy, smoky paprika butter. 


A whole roast quail (£19) was as tender as all examples should be with a nutty skin from basting in lots of butter. Spiced red cabbage and creamy celeriac puree were great sides. 


Gnocchi (£18) were super soft and light instead of being claggy warheads. They were served with intense kale pesto, savoury chanterelles and mascarpone to make a dish that dialled the flavour up to 11.  


A simple looking plate of cheese (£11) more than delivered on taste. Umami-rich comte, creamy and savoury colston bassett stilton and funky cider-washed camembert were served with water biscuits. 


Sticky toffee pudding (£7.50) was the only bum note of the meal. The toffee had been taken to its extreme so that it tasted burnt rather than sweet – it was sent back uneaten and taken off the bill without prompting. Credit restored. 


Noble Rot tart (£8) in contrast was epic. Light, honey drizzled sponge in the most delicate of pastry cases was joined by sweet roast pears and a dollop of mascarpone.


Dinner at Noble Rot was ace. From the food, to the wine, to the service, there’s a lot to love about it.

The Details:

Address - Noble Rot Restaurant & Wine Bar, 51 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N 3NB
Telephone - 0207 242 8963 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Society Standard, Cardiff restaurant review


Burger Theory, Small Bar & Wriggle – over the last 12 months Cardiff has seen a number of quality independent imports from Bristol.

Society Standard on Whitchurch Road was the first Bristolian business to set up shop last summer. A bar-cum-restaurant, they’ve good beers from Welsh brewers like Pipes and Mad Dog and a menu that spans from burgers (they're very good) and ribs to more nuanced plates like charred sprouting broccoli and smoky black bean chilli.


The house brew, Double Standard, from Bristol’s Arbor is an absolute banger – packed with fruity hops and a good chew, we sank a few pints throughout the evening. 


Golden salt cod croquettes (£4.95) were packed with tender flakes of fish and a smooth potato base. Earthy beetroot crisps and a potent aioli were well judged accompaniments. 


My blackened chicken wings (£4.95) were coated in an enjoyably sticky creole hot sauce. But, they would have benefited from a good jointing and skin crisping. Also, the accompanying dirty rice was a bit claggy and one dimensional. 


For main, Mrs G ordered another couple of small plates.

Smoked duck breast slices (£5.95) were joined by a peculiarly delicious funky blue cheese and celeriac remoulade. 


A super light and fresh yoghurt-based beetroot dip (£4.50) was topped with walnut pieces and salty feta. Warm flatbreads were ideal for dipping. 


The Mactorious P.I.G (£8.95) might well be one of the most memorable sounding dishes in Cardiff. It tasted just as extravagant and filthy as it sounds.

A first rate bronzed brioche bun was loaded with a crisp-crumbed fritter filled with oozy macaroni cheese, unctuous shreds of smoky pulled pork dotted with crispy bits, and a runny fried egg. It was served with a side of good skinny fries. This was proper Friday night comfort food. 


Having struggled to finish my epic main, I moved on to dessert.

A sticky toffee sundae (£4.95) was a proper looker. Light sticky toffee pudding pieces, creamy vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, pecan brittle crumb and warm salted caramel sauce combined in a melange of deliciousness. 


I really like Society Standard – it’s a quality independent that makes Whitchurch Road an altogether nicer place to spend a night.

The Details:

Address - Society Standard, 79-81 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JP
Telephone - No reservations