Saturday, 1 May 2021

A few great places to eat in Cardigan, West Wales


Some travel destinations steal your heart more than others.

They’re the kind of places you can picture regular repeat visits rather than a solitary tick on the list.


The bustling pintxo bars of San Sebastian, the grand Georgian architecture of Edinburgh and Manchester’s killer craft beer scene. These are all places I’d visit time and time again.

West Wales’ Cardigan is another place to add to that list. With its proximity to miles of staggeringly beautiful coastline, a trendy creative vibe, and a handful of delicious independent eateries, Cardigan is undoubtedly going to become a regular holiday destination.


Mrs G and I visited for the first time this year for our tenth wedding anniversary - we spent the mornings strolling the beaches of Poppit Sands, Mwnt and Newport, our afternoons spotting birds in the Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve and the evenings eating tasty nosh from Cardigan’s finest.


Here’s a rundown of a few lovely places to eat:

Crwst

I’ve been drooling over pictures from craft bakery Crwst ever since they opened in 2018. So, I was pleased to finally get my hands on some of their carbs.


Everything we ate was delicious from their crisp and soft crumbed bloomer to a bevy of sweet treats.


Chocolate brownies were a perfect balance of crust, squidge, chocolate intensity and caramelised white chocolate chunks which lurked at the bottom.


A behemoth of a glazed doughnut topped with vanilla icing was reassuringly robust with a light chew whilst a salted caramel doughnut was filled with a compellingly toasty custard.


Lastly, a flaky sausage roll was packed to the rafters with well-herbed sausage meat.


El Salsa

El Salsa’s hip Mexican cantina wouldn’t look out of place in a Shoreditch back street. With a customisable range of burritos, plates, nachos and tacos, El Salsa has a slick online preordering system in place so they can race through the orders. Your name even flashes up in lights above the door when it’s ready to collect.


Trios of tacos (£8.80) saw 14 hour slow cooked Welsh free range pork coated in a big flavoured chipotle marinade and more delicately spiced fajita chicken loaded into crisp-edged corn tortillas with a fresh tomatillo salsa, sour cream, cabbage salad and a good squeeze of lime.


Tillo nachos (£4.80) were topped with more of that salsa and sour cream with a good ooze of melted cheese.


Dewi James a’i Gwmni

Dewi James high class butchers certainly lives up to its name. With a bounteous window display of marbled steaks, marinated meats and legs of lamb, I’d quite like to eat my way through the whole shop.


Their treacle baked ham puts every supermarket ham I've ever eaten to shame. Thick cut and coated in a sticky, dark caramelised crust, it would have been rude to eat with anything else.


Soft textured lamb faggots were huge flavoured with a big lamb hit and delicate offal twang. They were gorgeous served with marrowfats, chips and gravy.


Treacle cured bacon was thick and meaty AF with a sticky sweet exterior. Not a single drop of water cooked out like cheaper bacon.


The Pizzatipi is a very cool set up. It’s understandable given that it’s owned by the seriously cool looking Fforest retreats.

Sitting by the side of the river Teifi on a summer's eve with a few craft beers and a pizza would undoubtedly be a heck of a lot of fun. However, we had one of their pizzas to takeaway as a late afternoon snack, natch.


Thin and crisp of crust with a bit of give on the base, a Summertime was topped with a light tomato sauce, chorizo, peppers and olives.



The family-owned Cardigan Bay Fish source their crab directly from their own vessels and other fishermen based in Cardigan. Available to pre-order from Dewi James butchers, it’s great to be able to enjoy shellfish which has been landed on the doorstep.


A whole Cardigan Bay dressed crab was absolutely packed with white and brown meat. Served on some Crwst bloomer with mayo, lemon juice and cucumber, it made for a first rate lunch.


Bowen’s Fish and Chip Shop,  2 High Street, St Dogmaels

Our friend's family has been running Bowen's fish and chip shop in St Dogmaels for over 28 years and you can tell there are experienced hands behind the fryer.


Golden bubbly battered cod flaked nicely, chips were pleasingly crisp for chippy shop chips, and a pot of curry sauce had a nice fruitiness.


The Garden Room

We stayed in the gorgeous Garden Room (£100 a night), one of a trio of charming apartments located in the centre of Cardigan. 


With impeccable interiors, a modern kitchen and lovely courtyard garden, it was a great base for our explorations.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Ren Japanese Food, Vale of Glamorgan review


Overseas travel seems like a very distant prospect at the moment. If we make it to West Wales, Somerset and Cornwall for this year’s planned trips then I’ll be absolutely delighted.

One consolation for the lack of jet setting is being able to eat food in Cardiff from different countries around the globe. It makes the world feel a much smaller and brighter place.

I was fortunate to travel to Japan back in 2005 and it’s pretty much my favourite country I’ve ever visited - from the jaw-droppingly beautiful shrines of Kyoto and the free roaming deer of Nara to the zany modernity of Harajuku, everything is so damn cool.

So, it’s fair to say that whenever there’s an opportunity to broaden my Japanese food horizons, I’m keen to get involved.

Yuko Harris’s Ren Japanese Food has been on my radar for a number of years. Yuko has previously organised a series of sell-out supper clubs at Waterloo Tea in Penarth.

Based in Barry, Ren Japanese Food has a changing monthly menu available to pre-order via email or text message. Service takes place only on Saturday evenings with collection or delivery available (up to 10 miles from CF63 2PL for £5). Ren’s menu features meal sets such as chicken karaage and yakitori, sushi sets, katsu curries and desserts.


A misokuze salmon set (£15) saw a flaky fillet of fish bathed in a savoury-sweet miso and mirin crust. It was joined by a bevy of sides including light-textured Japanese omelette, charred spring onion, broth cooked carrot and mushroom, and crisp lotus root salad.


Vegetarian fotomake saw a nice mix of cucumber, pepper, carrot and avocado coated in well-seasoned loosely packed rice.


Kakiaga tempura was an absolute belter - a mix of finely shredded sweet onions and carrot were coated in super crisp and light batter.


A non-vegetarian sushi set (£15) was commendably fresh across the board. Fatty salmon, sweet prawns, salty fish roe, pert sea bream, crisp cucumber, and big flavoured smoked salmon and mackerel inside out rolls were all joined by more of that well-seasoned rice as well as soy, pickled ginger and wasabi.
 

Desserts were enjoyably different - the skewered dango mochi with sweet soy sauce on the menu also caught my eye. 

A slice of matcha chocolate cake (£4.50) had a fudgey brownie like texture with a good note of grassy green tea and sweet chocolate. Whipped cream twanged with red beans and a chocolate shard added an extra dimension.


Ichigo daifuku (£2.50) saw a soft and slightly elastic glutinous rice flour ball filled with sweet red bean paste balanced by the clarity of fresh strawberry. I really liked it but Mrs G wasn't a fan of its elasticity.


We really enjoyed our dinner from Ren Japanese Food and it certainly transported me across the globe for the duration of our meal. If I was based in the Vale of Glamorgan, where there are limited Japanese food options, then I think I'd be a regular. 

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