Friday, 15 July 2011

Poppupadom, Indian Pop-up restaurant, Cardiff review

Having eaten a fantastic meal at Chai Street last week, the neighbouring Mint & Mustard was instantly promoted to the top of my list of restaurants to eat at. At the time I was under the impression that M&M was under the stewardship of the critically acclaimed Anand George. However, during a conversation at last week’s tweatup, a fellow blogger notified me that Anand had in fact left Mint & Mustard a few months ago to pursue other projects. This was news to me and has certainly not been widely publicised in Cardiff foodie circles. Coincidentally on Tuesday night I received an invite from a PR agency promoting the launch of Wales’s first Popup restaurant (they’re all the rage in London don’t cha know) being run by Anand George. Hats off to the person who came up with its incredible name - Poppupadom.

The PR agency explained that whilst Anand looks for the right venue to open his next permanent restaurant, he is pursuing a number of side-projects, Poppupadom being one. Open for one night only in Cardiff Bay at The Glasshouse and also set to feature in September at Abergavenny food festival for 2 nights, the PR agency invited me along as their guests to sample Anand’s food. If you were paying for the food, £39 would have bought you 4 courses of food along with a pre-starter and a pre-main.

I’ve never accepted a freebie before from a PR agency and have pondered on many occasions the ethics of such things. Having read a few interesting posts from other food bloggers I reached the conclusion that I would happily accept a free meal as long I disclosed that my meal was a freebie. Secondly I vouched that I would maintain impartiality when reviewing the establishment. On this basis, I present my review of Poppupadom.

Overall, I found the experience a little disappointing. Granted, some of the dishes I ate were very good indeed, the setting looking out over the waters of Cardiff bay was a lovely place to sit on a balmy summer’s evening and the service was friendly and efficient. However, I ate far too many mediocre dishes. Certainly not what you would expect if you had spent £39 of your hard earned cash on a special meal out. To draw a comparator, the meal I ate at Ffresh in Cardiff bay offered food of a significantly higher (although still not without its flaws) quality for £45 and this included 5 generous glasses of wine to boot.

In spite of this, I’m willing to give the team behind Poppupadom the benefit of the doubt as there were a number of mitigating circumstances. Firstly the kitchen at Glasshouse is far smaller than a typical restaurant kitchen and would have been unfamiliar to the chef. Secondly, as a result of dining with the PR agency we were the last to dine in a restaurant of approximately 40 covers. As a result, some of the quality of the banquet style food may have been compromised. Finally this was the first (and only) night of the restaurant being open and so there were inevitably the teething troubles associated with any new venture.

Prestarter - Dhaniya Shorba - A very average spiced tomato & coriander soup. The flecks of grease on the rim of the glass were a little unappetising.

Starter - Trio Alexander
Beetroot Pattice -An excellent spiced beetroot patty coated in crisp panko breadcrumbs.
Chicken Tikka – Well flavoured but unfortunately the meat was fairly dry.
Aloo Tikki – Delhi-style crisp potato cakes on spiced chickpeas. If I wasn’t made aware from the description of this dish that the potato cakes were meant to be crisp then I’d have been happy. However, there was no crispness anywhere to be found in this dish. The soft potato cake was very pleasant and worked very well with some lovely spiced chickpeas and a tamarind sauce.

Fish course - Seabass Pollichathu - A pleasant fillet of seabass cooked in a sauce of shallots, garlic and curry leaves. However, this dish felt more Mediterranean than Indian due to the sauce tasting mainly of tomato, shallot & garlic. It therefore felt a little out of place in an Indian banquet.

Pre-main - Passion fruit & coconut sorbet - This sorbet had a wonderful flavour, the sharpness of the passion fruit cutting through the creaminess of the coconut. However, I question the role of such a creamy dish as a palette cleanser. In addition the sorbet was fairly well melted by the time we received it.

Main Course –
Lamb Ulathiyathu – My favourite dish of the evening. Melt in the mouth pieces of lamb cooked in an intensely spiced sauce with tons of curry leaf.

Kadai Murg Borg – Tender chicken and a well spiced tomato based sauce. However, there was little to elevate this dish above a good run of the mill curry house.
Prawn Alleppey – King prawns in a spiced ginger and mango sauce. This dish tasted exactly as the dish described but unfortunately much like banana (I still reel at the thought of the chicken curry with banana from my local curry house in Newcastle – think curried banana milkshake), I don’t think mango works in a curry sauce.

Chicken (left), Prawn (right)
Dessert- A trio of desserts
Chocomosa – A crisp mini samosa filled with melted chocolate. Really rich and really tasty. 
Creme Brulee –A good taste of vanilla and perfectly crisp sugar top but unfortunately the brulee was very runny.
Fruit compote – There was no mention of this on the description of the dessert and it didn’t really add anything to either the chocomosa or the crème brulee.

In spite of the numerous mitigating circumstances in defence of this meal, my overriding feeling is still one of disappointment.  From what I’ve heard from other reliable sources, Anand George is a chef of considerable ability. I’d still very much like to try his food when he’s cooking in his own kitchen. Until then I’ll reserve my final judgment. 

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