Saturday, 14 July 2018

The Red Lion at Pendoylan, Vale of Glamorgan pub review

You can tell a lot about the ambition of a pub from the ingredients on its menu.

Hafod cheese, salsa verde, peas a la français, Alex Gooch sourdough; all are signs that a pub is aiming to knock out more than lowest common denominator grub.

Coupled with the above ingredients and the recommendations I’d received, we decided to book into The Red Lion at Pendoylan for Friday night dinner.

Despite the ambition of The Red Lion’s cooking, the menu is keenly priced. Starters average £6, mains £13 and desserts £6. Furthermore, they run a £20 3-course set dinner and drink on Wednesday and Thursday evenings and Friday from 6-7pm. 

A nibble of Alex Gooch sourdough and Hay Charcuterie selection (£6) was the only genuine disappointment of the meal. One slice of bread, four slices of well-spiced dry-cured ham and a dollop of pokey chilli jam doesn’t really constitute value for money or a selection in my book. 

Things picked up a lot with starters.

Pea, broad bean and runner bean risotto (£6) was super creamy and packed with verdant vegetables. But, it could have taken a bigger savoury hit of the billed Hafod cheese. 

A golden-skinned fillet of sea bream (£6) served with a peas a la français was the biggest winner of the night. The al dente peas, lettuce and bacon pieces were enrobed in a luxurious level of cream. 

A salad (£6) of enjoyably rare steak, tangy blue cheese, sweet heritage tomatoes and well dressed-leaves completed a clean sweep of starters. 

Onto mains, and big hunks of medium-cooked tender lamb rump (£16) were served with golden balls of tempura cauliflower, raisin and apple flecked couscous, nutty hummus and richness balancing cucumber raita. This was a very tasty summer dish which would have been elevated further by a wallop of Moroccan spicing. 

My beer battered hake (£12) was a handsome devil. The batter was gorgeously crisp and grease-free but the fish itself was a little overcooked. Brilliantly brittle and fluffy triple cooked chips were as good as it gets and chunky tartare sauce and smooth pea puree hit the mark. 

Desserts were both delicious.

A vanilla pannacotta (£6) was perfectly jiggly and served with dainty pieces of sweet honeycomb and soft baked figs. 

Sweet apricots (£6) were delicately poached in boozy amaretto and served with a dollop of ridiculously creamy clotted cream ice cream. This was an understated yet delicious pud. 

We had a lovely dinner at The Red Lion. The food wasn’t without its faults but the ambitious yet good value cooking and excellent service meant we had a really enjoyable evening.

The Details:

Address -
The Red Lion at Pendoylan, Pendoylan, Cowbridge CF71 7UJ
Telephone - 01446 760690

Sunday, 8 July 2018

A weekend break in Bordeaux

How can I sum up Bordeaux?

Well, we didn’t have a bad glass of wine during our weekend break in this beautiful city on the banks of the Garonne river. From red to white and rose, nothing disappointed. 

Other than the booze, the architecture is stunning.

The giant gothic cathedral, the iconic Place de la Bourse, and the hulking gatehouses of the Porte Cailhau and Grosse Cloche are all absolute beauts.

We also moseyed around the Cité du Vin, a museum of wine which resembles a giant decanter. We didn’t bother with the €20 exhibition as we’d heard mixed reports. 

The Marché des Capucins was buzzing on the Saturday we visited with the biggest crowds reserved for the groaning platters of oysters and fruit de mer served by Chez Jean-Mi. 

Anyway, you're probably here for the nosh so here’s where we ate and stayed during our trip: 

Belle Campagne
15 Rue des Bahutiers, 33000 Bordeaux, France

I love the locavore ethos at Belle Campagne. 

All of their seasonal produce is sourced from within 250km of the city and the vast majority from within 100km. Their eclectic decor, interesting wines by the glass, friendly serving team and tasty small plates are all great. 

An enjoyably rare piece of rump steak (€11) was served with a textbook bearnaise. 

A lovely bit of hake (€9) was perched in a huge pool of intense crab bisque alongside tender lentils which cleverly added bulk to the dish. 

Golden duck fat chips (€4,50) were served with a seriously rich aioli packed with garlic. 

Seasonal vegetables (€6) included sweet baby onions, carrots, spinach and caramelised new potatoes coated in a generous drench of butter. I’d happily eat vegetables this good on their own as a meal. 

Dessert saw sweet and fragrant strawberries (€7) covered with cubes of cleansing cucumber and a good dollop of thyme flecked whipped cream. The combination of sweet and savoury was lovely.

Le Flacon Saint Michel
9 Place du Maucaillou, 33800 Bordeaux, France

Le Flacon is an uber-cool wine bar that wouldn’t look out of place in Hackney. We had a bunch of lush wines by the glass and a selection of small plates to share. 

Bitesize bits of croque monsieur (€7) were fragranced with the indulgent funk of truffle. Tuna rillettes (€6,50) was brightened up by the freshness of lime and ponzu. It was lush slathered over crisp baguette.

Soft and creamy butter beans (€6) were lifted by the zest of preserved lemon and drizzled with top notch olive oil. 

Chicken terrine en croute (€6) saw tender flesh seasoned with warming mustard. The pastry case lacked a little crispness but it was still a highly effective booze sponge. 

Finally, a killer tonka bean panna cotta (€5,50) was ridiculously creamy and fragrant with an epic wobble. 

Bouchon Bordelais
2 Rue Courbin, 33000 Bordeaux, France

Our meal at Bouchon Bordelais (€39 for 3 courses) was a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst most dishes were lovely, a couple really disappointed.

A deep flavoured snail and bacon ragout was loaded onto mushrooms and wrapped in more bacon for good measure. 

However, a chilled green soup (made I think with pea and asparagus) lacked any oomph or seasoning. 

Mains were both a success. A crisp crusted fillet of beef was brilliantly rare and marinated in a seriously savoury soy-based sauce. Garden peas, green tomatoes and buttery caramelised new potatoes were lovely accompaniments. 

Across the table, a veal chop was joined by a flavour-packed artichoke and sage croquette, grilled asparagus and a light aubergine and tomato ragout. 

My dessert was a showcase of Valrhona chocolate - a super smooth and not too sweet cremeux, light mousse and thin tuille sat atop a short biscuit base. The pud’s richness was balanced by a slightly sharp berry coulis. 

But, a “famous” cheesecake was woeful. Far too set and devoid of flavour, it remained uneaten. 

62 Rue Abbé de l'Épée, 33000 Bordeaux, France

I’ve already wittered on about Garopapilles but our €35 Michelin-starred lunch at this wine shop and restaurant was the standout meal of our trip to Bordeaux. 

I would seriously recommend booking a table. 

La Maison des Vignes
27 Rue des Vignes, 33800 Bordeaux, France

We stayed in a gorgeous little bed and breakfast (£91 a night) called Maison des Vignes, located just a few minutes’ walk from the Marché des Capucins. 

An architectural curiosity, the building is made from two separate houses which were previously separated by a narrow alley. 

Stylishly decorated and owned by a really friendly couple, we loved our breakfasts of fresh fruit salad and bread served with homemade fruit compotes, yoghurts and granola. 

Bordeaux is a cracker of a city. If you're looking for a weekend away featuring great wine, food and architecture then I highly recommend it.

The Details:

We flew direct from Bristol to Bordeaux via easyjet. 

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Rochelle Canteen ICA, London restaurant review

Posh and Becks, Beyonce and Jay Z, Harry and Meghan, George and Amal.

There’s something enthralling about the concept of the power couple - twice the celebrity, twice the talent and twice the Instagram following.

In the restaurant world, Margot and Fergus Henderson are the closest thing it gets.

Margot is the co-owner of caterers Arnold & Henderson and the Rochelle Canteen, a legendary and well-hidden Bethnal Green restaurant.

Fergus is the father of Nose to Tail cooking and owner of Michelin-starred St John.

Last year, Margot opened a second branch of Rochelle Canteen in the Institute of Contemporary Arts on the Mall in central London. The modern and minimalist space is a good fit for Margot’s confidently simple British cooking.

The menu is a belter - seasonal, to the point, and packed with dishes with ingredient combinations which you know are going to be full of flavour. 

A bunch of refreshing radishes (£5.50) were served with a compellingly savoury and smooth anchovy mayonnaise. This is a dish I’m going to attempt to replicate at home. 

Hunks of soft sourdough (£1.50) were served with a big slab of creamy butter. 

Oily and meaty smoked trout (£8.50) was served with deseeded cucumber dressed with a sinus-warming mustard mayo speckled with dill. All the textures and flavours balanced beautifully and it was a clever use for this ubiquitous salad vegetable. 

A cold beetroot soup (£5.50), dotted with chives and a blog of creme fraiche, was a super springtime dish. Thick, sweet, earthy and cooling, its richness was punctured by a delicate note of acidity. 

Onto mains (£16), and a handsome puff pastry-capped pie was filled with tender guinea fowl in a light, delicately sweet, meaty and buttery cider sauce.

This was a very generous dish for one and if Margot Henderson says it’s a pie, even if it has no bottom, then I’m not arguing.

A whole shrubbery of verdant, buttery and peppery greens (£4) defeated us. 

Crisp-crumbed, deep fried rabbit (£16.50) was a proper guilty pleasure. The flesh was a touch on the dry side but it was a great match with crunchy, citrusy, palette-cleansing kohlrabi and cabbage shavings flecked with punchy capers and parsley. A big dollop of aioli honked of garlic. 

A trifle for two (£10) was a handsome devil. Layers of thick whipped cream, decadent vanilla-fragranced custard, soft rhubarb without a hint of tartness, and brandy soaked sponge fingers were an awesome combination. 

It was made even better by a generous scattering of Frostie-like nutty almond clusters. 

Lunch at Rochelle Canteen was my kind of meal - seasonal, flavour-packed and uncomplicated. This is a big central London winner.

The Details:

Address - Rochelle ICA, The Mall, London SW1Y 5AH
Web -
Telephone - 020 7729 5677