Saturday, 16 June 2018

Herbivore at The Embassy Cafe, Cardiff vegan and vegetarian brunch review

Herbivore is the creation of Simon Matthew.

A chef and vegetarian, his globally influenced cooking makes use of seasonal Welsh produce.

As well as hosting monthly supper clubs at venues such as Kemi’s in Pontcanna and The Fig Tree in Penarth, Herbivore also has a permanent residency at The Embassy Cafe at Cathays Community Centre on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am - 5pm.

The short but well formed menu is predominantly vegan with a couple of veggie options. It’s the kind of food which ticks my boxes - there are no faux meat substitutes, just herb and seasoning-laden dishes that make sense with no meat or dairy. 

A big flavoured, coconut-twanged Caribbean-inspired curry (£7) of tender blackeye beans was served with fluffy cardamom-fragranced rice, sweet charred plantain and roast sweet potatoes (of which a couple of bits were still a touch firm). Freshness was brought to the plate by a cleansing and chilli-laced watermelon salsa. 

Super crisp yet moist fritters of shredded beetroot (£6.50) and dill were flecked with earthy cumin seeds. They were accompanied by a thick chickpea and chive puree, pieces of tender charred aubergine topped with creamy and nutty tahini, couscous-like grated cauliflower punctuated by pearls of pomegranate, and charred flatbread. 

A green shakshuka (£6.50) was a big comforting plate of eggs baked together with soft aubergines, sweet peppers and paprika-spiked potatoes. The dish was lifted by a handful of fragrant coriander and a dollop of nigella seed dotted yoghurt. On the side was an elastic and puffy flatbread. This dish would have been improved even further by the ooze of runny egg yolks and a touch of chilli heat. 

Having shared three generous dishes between the two of us, we valiantly ploughed onto dessert. Just as much thought has gone into Herbivore’s sweets as their savouries.

A piece of orange, almond and strawberry cake (£2.50) was packed with citrus and sweet berries and moist with a polenta cake style texture. 

A big, crisp and chewy cookie (£1.50) was infused with peanut butter throughout and dotted with crunchy peanuts and nuggets of dark chocolate. 

Alongside our food I enjoyed a floral, citrusy and not too sweet homemade elderflower fizz (£1.80) whilst Mrs G had a good mug of filter coffee (£1.80).

Brunch at Herbivore was delicious. It’s great value and is definitely bringing something different to Cardiff’s brunch and cafe scene. I'd recommend a visit.

The Details:

Address - Herbivore at The Embassy Cafe, Cathays Community Centre, 36 Cathays Terrace, Cardiff CF24 4HX
Web -

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Koya Bar, Soho, Japanese restaurant review

Koya Bar has been on my list of places to visit ever since it opened its doors in 2013.

This celebrated Japanese udon bar in the middle of Soho makes the best use of British seasonal produce with its daily changing blackboard specials menu.

After a swift 15 minute queue we perched at counter seats, which dominate the whole restaurant alongside the open kitchen.

As an udon ignoramus, the various merits of hot udon with hot broth, cold udon with hot broth, cold udon with cold pouring sauce, and cold udon with cold dipping sauce were unclear.

My friend and I both went for hot udon and hot broth.

A special of light miso broth contained bobbing dumplings of chicken and fragrant wild garlic (£11.90). Light, tender and of the non-pastry variety, they certainly occupied the healthier end of the dumpling spectrum. 

The udon themselves were a delight - the fat slippery noodles retained just the right amount of bite. 

To my right, a big bowl of udon and broth was topped with a fat tempura prawn (£10.50) with a bubbly batter coating. 

A side of pork belly (£7.10) long braised in cider was tender of flesh and wobbly of fat with a rich sweetness. A blob of fiery English mustard was the perfect foil. 

Tempura vegetables (£8.60), grease-free and hyper-crisp, were more interesting than the usual assortment; cauliflower, king oyster mushroom and marrow all put in an appearance. 

They were accompanied by the usual light vinegar dip and a selection of ginger, radish, spring onion and seeds. 

We had a very good lunch at Koya.  However, I must admit that I prefer the rich, fatty and spicy flavours of tonkotsu ramen over the understated clean taste of Koya’s udon.

The Details:

Address - Koya Bar, 50 Frith Street, London W1D 4SQ

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Garopapilles, Bordeaux Michelin-starred restaurant review

When I think of French Michelin-starred restaurants, I picture temples of haute gastronomy with starched tablecloths, stiff waiters and cream heavy dishes.

Garopapilles in Bordeaux is the antithesis.

At this cool wine shop meets restaurant there are no tablecloths, the friendly waiting team are eclectically dressed and the food is light, modern and seasonal.

Having opened in 2014 as a joint venture between chef Tanguy Laviale and wine specialist Gael Morand, Garopapilles was awarded a Michelin star in 2018.

It was sunny on our visit so most tables, including ours, had been moved outside into a pretty courtyard. Two menus were available at lunchtime, a 5 course tasting menu for €60 and a 3 course market menu for €35. With a bucketload of eating ahead of us, we decided on the lighter option.

To accompany our meal, we had a couple of lush glasses of wine by the glass including a delicious Bordeaux (obvs) and a Côtes du Rhône which each cost around €7,50 a pop. If you fancy something by the bottle then there’s over 600 available.

Snacks saw a quartet of uber-thin and crisp tartlets filled with light and nutty chickpea mousse dotted with pieces of smoked herring, tangy feta and a lift of mint. 

A carpaccio of meaty John Dory was joined by pearls of salty lobster roe, crisp croutons, fresh-as-you-like al dente peas and an aromatic and creamy lemongrass soup. 

Bread was of the highest calibre - a crunchy, squishy and buttery brioche twist and a lovely white baguette. 

Mrs G declared her fillet of iberico pork to be the finest bit of pig she’d ever eaten. Phenomenally tender, packed with flavour and blushing pink, it was accompanied by a glossy meat sauce swirled with butter, mushrooms, caramelised baby onion and white and green asparagus. A few pesky seeds added no flavour and their only purpose seemed to be getting stuck in my teeth. 

A cheese course to share (€12 supplement) saw two good sized pieces of creamy and bouncy Saint Nectaire served with a fruity and tangy homemade apple and rhubarb jam. 

With produce as fine as seasonal cherries, things don’t need to be overcomplicated. Lightly poached and served warm in their cooking liquor, the sweet and slightly sharp fruit was joined by candied pistachios, crisp baby meringues and a light botanical ice cream. 

A bowl of warm beignets served on the side were dusted in coconut sugar. They were so addictive it was a relief that we had a handful each. 

Accompanying the bill were pieces of light and squidgy blackcurrant marshmallow and a chocolate and pistachio cookie with a good crunch and chew. 

Lunch at Garopapilles kicked serious ass. The food and wine were lush and well-priced and the atmosphere was enjoyably relaxed. In terms of bang for my buck, I can’t think of many better meals I’ve eaten in 2018.

The Details:

Opening hours - Lunch: Tuesday to Friday, Dinner: Thursday and Friday
Address - Garopapilles, 62 rue Abbé de l'Epée, 33000 Bordeaux, France
Telephone - +33 9 72 45 55 36

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Crumbs Kitchen, Cardiff vegetarian and vegan cafe review

In the cut-throat world of hospitality, I’m impressed when a restaurant or cafe manages to survive for more than a couple of years.

So to still be thriving after nearly half a century is pretty unbelievable.

Crumbs Kitchen, a vegetarian cafe in the Morgan Arcade originally opened in 1970. Whilst the cafe changed hands a few years ago, it still holds firm to the ethos of the original owner.

The well-priced menu comprises salad bowls (for which they’re well known), homemade soups, jacket potatoes, pies, quiches, curries and chilli. Nothing costs more than six quid and most things weigh in around £4.

Mrs G and I both ordered a small salad bowl (£3.85), which gave us a selection of three salads from the six on offer.

Everything was really fresh and tasty - sweet shredded red cabbage and carrot, nutty brown rice flecked with crunchy peanuts and a creamy coleslaw punctuated with pieces of pear. 

Mrs G added a couple of extras in the shape of tahini and garlic rich hummus (80p) and a scattering of peanuts (45p). 

A slice of lovely quiche (£3.35) was packed with tender broccoli and savoury stilton.

I would never have guessed that an organic mango and coconut cake (£2.75) was vegan. Moist, a touch dense and heady with tropical fruit, it was a lovely bit of cake. 

We had a delicious, fresh and great value quick bite to eat at Crumbs. Here’s to the next fifty years.

The Details:

Address - Crumbs Kitchen, 33 Morgan Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1AF
Web -
Telephone - 029 2039 5007