Saturday, 22 September 2018

Dusty Knuckle, Cardiff pizzeria review


Phill Lewis, the owner of Dusty Knuckle, is at the vanguard of Cardiff’s food scene.

As well as being one of the first street food vendors to make the transition to bricks and mortar in 2016, he organised this year’s brilliant Bite festival at Insole Court and is half of the cheekily named Ogmore Beach pop-up Two Anchors.

Despite having eaten Dusty Knuckle’s Neapolitan style pizza on a number of occasions from their street food stall, I’ve never got around to a sit down meal at their restaurant.

Located in a covered semi-outdoor area in Canton’s The Print Haus, it’s a beaut of a space - mishmashed furniture, a woodfired pizza oven and graffitied walls all give off good vibes.


The menu sees creative seasonal starters and pizza specials combine with classic pizzas and comfort food puds. On our visit their signature Blas y Mor pizza was out of stock but it’s a cracker of a combo of cockles, bacon, samphire and laverbread.

The booze selection is well-considered too. Draught beers are provided by nearby Pipes and there’s an interesting list of natural wines.

Mrs G had a half of Pipes California Pale Ale (£2.25) whilst the designated driver made do with a can of Soda Folk root beer (£1.80). She then moved onto a very neckable glass of Bergerie de la Bastide white wine (£4).


A super pretty heritage tomato salad (£6) combined sweet and juicy toms with creamy shreds of mozzarella, a drizzle of glossy olive oil, leaves of basil and the vinegary hit of caper.


The second starter was immense; in fact, I’m going to “attempt” it at home. Crusty toasted sourdough (£5.50) was dolloped with creamy mascarpone and served with a mound of salty, oily and savoury anchovies which hummed with garlic and parsley. The combination was killer.


Onto our pizzas, and they were both very tasty but let down slightly by fairly dense and doughy crusts. I’ve had better from Dusty Knuckle on previous occasions.

The thin base and flavour-packed tomato sauce on both pizzas were on the mark.

So too, was the gooey fior di latte cheese and leaves of basil on my Margherita (£8).


The beautifully creamy ball of burrata and dots of fiery spreadable sausage on Mrs G’s 'Nduja (£11) were lush too.


Dessert knocked it out of the park. A gloriously creamy, wobbly and vanilla-flecked panna cotta (£5) was topped with fragrant diced peaches and chopped pistachios.


We had a really tasty meal at Dusty Knuckle. It’s a stalwart of Cardiff’s independent restaurant scene for good reason.

The Details:

Address - Dusty Knuckle, 70 Llandaff Rd, Cardiff CF11 9NL
Web - http://www.dustyknuckle.co.uk/
Telephone - 07955 212075

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Bara Menyn, Cardiff Bay cafe review


Apologies if you have a sense of déjà vu as I’ve already reviewed Bara Menyn and ordered exactly the same things before.

Having finished their residency at Ffandango’s on Llandaff High Street, Bara Menyn now have their own permanent gaff at the Gloworks in Cardiff Bay’s Porth Teigr area.

It’s a slightly peculiar location - during the week I imagine they’re kept busy with workers from the office upstairs and staff from the BBC. But, on a Sunday morning the area is deserted except for a few security guards from the Beeb patrolling their territory. And there’s only one other table occupied during our meal.


Bara Menyn’s menu reads well with a Welsh slant to many of the dishes on offer including Buck rarebit with poached egg and chipotle marmalade (£6) as well as homemade Glamorgan sausage sandwiches (£4.20). 

 
Coffee is supplied by Carmarthenshire based roasters Coaltown. Our flat whites are both lovely and they’re deducted from the bill as we have over a 30 minute wait for our breakfasts. 


Both our dishes are big beasts. But this isn’t at the expense of quality; you can tell there’s a focus on top-drawer producers here. Take for example their house tomato and brown sauces which come from Merthyr Tydfil’s Chilli of the Valley. 


My full Welsh breakfast (£9) comprised of a pair of well-seasoned and meat-packed pork and leek sausages, thick cut bacon, a big wodge of black pudding, a meaty portobello mushroom, a nicely browned grilled tomato, a runny fried egg and home baked beans made with an intense tomato sauce with a good thrum of chilli. 

A couple of ingredient substitutions meant that sourdough toast was replaced by wholemeal with a good slather of butter. Meanwhile their signature cockle, oat and laverbread bomb was swapped for thick cut sautée potatoes sprinkled with crisp seaweed. Whilst both swaps were delicious, I’m sure the billed items would have elevated the breakfast even further. 


Mrs G’s vegetarian breakfast (£9) switched the meaty items on my breakfast for golden sticks of fried halloumi and a top drawer Glamorgan sausage which was crisp of crumb and packed with uber-cheesy and leek-flecked mashed potato. 


We had a delicious brunch at Bara Menyn - it’s one of so few quality independents amongst Cardiff Bay’s sea of chains. Even if you’re not based down the Bay, it’s worth heading down for a restorative fry-up.

The Details:

Address -
Bara Menyn, Porth Teigr Way, Cardiff CF10 4GA
Telephone - 07814 033760

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Dirt, Cardiff, vegetarian pop-up restaurant review


There’s no doubt that flexitarianism is on the rise

Even a dedicated carnivore like myself is ‘attempting’ to reduce my steak intake.

So, I guess it’s no surprise that one of Cardiff’s most well-regarded chefs, John Cook, the former chef-patron of Arbennig, has chosen a vegetarian theme for his series of Dirt supper clubs.

Using the ethos of ‘seed to supper’ cooking, Dirt showcases seasonal vegetable-based food at venues around south Wales. We visited Dirt at Cardiff's Cocorico but another night is taking place at The Quarter Penny in Cowbridge on 21 September. November dates are to be announced soon.

A six course meal (excluding booze) will set you back £40 and the menu changes on a monthly basis. If you have any concerns about the quantity of food you’ll eat then don’t worry - I’d never heard of the veggie sweats until I experienced them at Dirt.

Our meal kicked off with ribollita, a light yet huge flavoured Italian soup which bobbed with bread, cavolo nero, tomato, beans, celery, carrot and breath endangeringly large slices of garlic. A good swirl of glossy olive and a crumble of tangy cheese added extra luxury to the dish.


Next up was a mound of finely shredded red cabbage, with just the right amount of bite, flecked with sweet pear, salty feta and the crunch of pine nuts. The dish was brought together by a creamy and delicately tangy buttermilk dressing.


Onto the main course and tender chickpeas and grilled aubergines were enrobed in tomato sauce which delivered Middle Eastern fragrance and a big whack of chilli. The heat was tempered by a good dollop of creamy and yoghurty labneh whilst scorched baby gem brought lightness to the dish. A minor criticism but the gem’s lick of char was barely perceptible.


Next up was a delicious assembly of three great Welsh products - moist and nutty walnut bara brith from Baked by Mel, fruit-packed fig and apple chutney from Inner City Pickle and buttery and tangy Black Bomber cheese.


Dessert was my standout of the night and the first time I’ve ever knowingly eaten cobnut; apparently they’re a type of hazelnut. Warm and super short pastry was filled with a compellingly nutty and moist cobnut frangipane. It was served with tart elderberry sauce and a clever airy cream whose sweetness was delivered by the addition of barley. The pud reminded me of the ultimate jam tart and cream.


Dinner was rounded off by a signature chocolate Dirt carrot, made in collaboration with Cocorico. Sat on edible chocolate soil, a strawberry and coconut variety tasted like a lux strawberry mouse whilst a dulce de leche number was like a high end Caramac.


We had a cracking evening at Dirt. It’s vegetarian food like this which doesn’t make me miss meat for a second. I’d highly recommend booking in for an evening.

The Details:

Web - http://www.dirtpopup.co.uk/
Twitter https://twitter.com/DIRTpopup

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Chain House and The Prince's, Pontypridd reviews

The Prince's Cafe, Pontypridd
The old and the new. Each has an equally important role to play in my book.

As long as your food is damn tasty, I couldn’t care less whether you're serving oysters with dill emulsion and cucumber granite or haddock and chips with mushy peas.

This brings me to Pontypridd’s Chain House and Prince’s Cafe; establishments which typify the old and the new.

The Chain House


Chain House was opened in early 2018 by two friends who used to work for Otley Brewery pubs. The cosy joint has a modern feel with its white tiles, reclaimed wood and industrial metal.

It's just a few minutes' walk from Ponty's beautifully restored Lido so we popped in after a swim.


A daytime menu consists of brunches and toasted sandwiches whilst on Friday and Saturday nights, a dinner menu includes more ambitious dishes like beef featherblade cromesqui with pickled onions and carrot puree and dark chocolate torte with maple butter icing and pistachio.


Decent Americanos (£2) helped us through a slightly long 30 minute wait for our food (despite the place being pretty quiet).


Thankfully, both our plates were very tasty.

The clear winner was toasted sourdough (£6.50) heaped with briny cockles and crisp bacon flecked with laverbread. A richness balancing squeeze of lemon and runny poached egg elevated the dish further.


A Chain House club sandwich (£8) saw toasted bloomer filled with crisp crumbed chicken goujons, melted tangy cheddar, smashed avocado, tomato and rashers of slightly flabby streaky bacon. A side of skin on french fries hit the mark.


We liked Chain House and it's bringing something new to Pontypridd's food scene. On this evidence, their evening menu would be well worth a go.

The Prince's

For dessert, Mrs G and I moved onto the charming The Prince’s cafe, a national treasure of yesteryear like Betty’s of Harrogate or Sally Lunn’s in Bath.


Opened in 1948 by the Gambarini family, it’s now run by the original owner’s grandson and the decor still has a number of its original art deco features from the cashier’s desk to the tea room signage.


The original ornate copper water boiler still sits proudly on the counter.


Groaning window displays of corned beef slices, pasties, pies, rolled fruit pancakes, strawberry tarts and iced fingers had customers queuing out the door on the Saturday lunchtime we visited.


Mrs G and I picked up a coffee choux bun and a strawberry and custard slice for a bargainous sum of £2.40.

Perched on a nearby bench we tucked into the gargantuan choux which combined light pastry stuffed with whipped cream and topped with sweet and sticky coffee icing. The custard slice was a fine example of its type too - the pastry crisp and the custard light and wobbly.


I’ve already fallen for the old fashioned charm of Prince’s Cafe and can’t wait to go back for a slap up lunch after another swim at the Lido.

The Details:

Chain House
Address - Chain House, 11A Bridge Street, Pontypridd CF37 4PE
Web - https://www.facebook.com/chainh0use11/
Telephone - 01443 856442

The Prince's
Address - The Prince's, 74 Taff St, Pontypridd CF37 4SU
Web - https://twitter.com/theprinces1948
Telephone - 01443 402376