One of my favourite hobbies is eating snacks whilst having a drink. It ranks nearly as highly as my other favourite pastime – eating meals.
If there’s a nationality which takes simultaneous boozing and snacking to their heart more than any other, it has to be the Spanish. After all, they’ve made a national cuisine out of it. Sadly, the closest I’ve ever got to eating authentic tapas are the microwaved crimes perpetrated by La Tasca. Not very close then.
Bar 44 Tapas has been on my radar for a long time. I first read about them in The Good Food Guide and then heard that the daddy of British tapas, Jose Pizarro had visited. However, because of its Cowbridge location (there’s no way Mrs G was going to persuade me to be designated driver again) we hadn’t got round to visiting.
Until last Saturday lunch time…..
As Bar 44 don’t take reservations except on a Sunday lunch, when they serve up family paellas, I had visions of a Pamplona style crowd thronging Cowbridge High Street waiting for their tapas fix. Fortunately, after a brief 5 minute wait at the bar, a table became free and we were ready for action.
We ordered enough dishes to feed the population of a small principality. I washed them down with a glass of ice cold sherry.
A selection of good fresh bread (£3.50) - warm wholemeal, white and olive bread – was served with some top notch Arbequina olive oil and Pedro Ximenez sherry balsamic.
Some absolutely banging pork belly (£4.50) reminded me why this is one of my favourite dishes after some recent disappointments; crisp crackling, moist flesh and a hit of rosemary.
Salty and savoury manchego was served with soft and sweet quince jelly (£4)
Triple cooked bravas chips (£3.00) – basically a damn fine bowl of super crisp and fluffy chips served with breath destroying aioli and a light tomato salsa.
Chicken and Serrano ham croquettas (£3.95) were crispy flavour warheads filled with meat-studded béchamel sauce.
The large slices of garlic dotted throughout a dish of chestnut mushrooms with garlic and fino (£4.00) ensured that my breath, which had already been massacred by the aioli, didn’t recover until Sunday. It was a sacrifice worth making.
A heaving charcuterie board (£12.00) was laden with a selection of smoked and cured beef, 18 month aged grand reserve serrano ham and acorn fed Iberico chorizo, salami and pork loin.
A baked torta of tangy and creamy barros cheese (£4.95) was garnished with rosemary and served with a sweet tomato jam. It wasn’t quite melted enough to achieve a fondue effect, but I still managed to pile the hot soft cheese and tomato jam onto the bread with gusto.
Such was the high standard of the food that only 2 dishes were good rather than excellent. Whilst cider poached chorizo was tender (£4.25) and the paprika loaded oil at the bottom of the dish was delicious soaked into some spare bread, the cider only came through in the form a delicate sweetness. I was hoping for a little more apple flavour.
Furthermore, whilst the flesh of some hake goujons (£4.50) was delightfully moist, I found the crisp batter to be a touch on the greasy side. Thankfully, some caper and lemon aioli cut through the grease perfectly.
Even though we were stuffed, it would have been rude not to finish the meal with a plate of churros (£3.95). Warm and light cinnamon dusted doughnuts were served with a hot dark chocolate dip.
Whilst Mrs G settled up the bill, she enquired about a second branch of Bar 44 which is reported to be coming soon. I’d been hoping it was opening in Roath. Sadly, it’s going to be Penarth. It’s just as well, as based on this experience, if Bar 44 was within walking distance from my house, I’d visit for a post-work snack everyday and never make it home.
Address - Bar 44, 44c High Street, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, CF717AG
Web - http://www.bar44.co.uk
Telephone - 01446 776488