Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sicilian Orange, Cardiff Italian restaurant review

*Update* - Sicilian Orange has now closed down

A few months ago, the owner of La Vita pizzeria relocated his business from the city centre to Whitchurch Road. Reasons for the move included St David’s shopping centre sucking the life out of parts of the city centre, expensive parking and raucous nightlife.

As far as locations go, I’m not sure the Gabalfa roundabout end of Whitchurch Road is much better - parking is a bit of a nightmare and there doesn’t seem to be much passing trade in the evening.

On the Friday evening we visited, Sicilian Orange's small dining space was full. The simple decor, open plan kitchen and muted TV showing Cupcake Wars gave the restaurant an informal atmosphere.

Like La Vita, Sicilian Orange serves Italian food. However, instead of pizza the menu focuses on pasta and other Italian classics.

My very good starter of Arancini piccoli (£6) could have been more accurately described as Arancini gigante (well that's according to google translate). 3 huge balls of bacon flecked, cheesy risotto were coated in crisp breadcrumbs. A simple tomato sauce cut through the richness of the risotto balls nicely.

Mrs G enjoyed her Caprino fritto (£5). Breaded creamy goats cheese was served with red onion chutney and a pesto dressed salad. Unfortunately, one of the pieces of deep fried goat’s cheese had leaked into the fryer and as a result had transformed into deep fried rind. .

Mains were tasty yet a little average. I ordered the Gamberoni siciliana (£11). Whilst the tomato, garlic, chilli and white wine sauce was well balanced and there was a generous number of prawns, the pasta was overcooked, even clumping together in places.

It was the other way around for Mrs G’s main of spaghetti with pesto (£8). The pasta was perfectly al dente but the fresh tasting pesto was on the oily side, leaving a large slick at the bottom of the bowl.

To finish Mrs G ordered an excellent affogato (£4.50). Good quality coffee and smooth vanilla ice cream were both present and correct whilst a scattering of amaretti crumbs added crunch.

My rum and chocolate mousse cake (£4.50) was good but a little stodgy.

In spite of the flaws in the food, the excellent service contributed to a decent evening at Sicilian Orange. The one waitress running front of house deftly kept service running smoothly throughout the meal. 

The Details:
Address - Sicilian Orange, 83 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff, CF14 3JP

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Double Super Happy, Dim Sum and Cocktail Bar Review

Update 23/02/2014 - Double Super Happy has closed. It will soon be replaced by BrewDog, Cardiff.

I haven’t stopped smiling since last night. Double Super Happy is chuffing awesome.

Double Super Happy is the latest venture from the owners of Tapas and Cocktail bar, Pica Pica. So it’s no surprise DSH also specialise in nibbles and cocktails. Their menu of pan-Asian Dim Sum is the kind of thing I could eat all day long. Lunch, afternoon snack, post-work snack, dinner or late-night snack, anytime is good for me. The mixologist clearly knows what he is doing too. Everything we ordered from the menu of Asian twists on classic cocktails was on the money.

DSH are currently only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 5pm and they’ve kept a low-profile during their soft-opening period. Their full launch is in a couple of week’s time when the opening hours will extend, another large room downstairs will open and there’s even talk of karaoke booths…..

Mrs G and I started with a couple of cocktails whilst we restrained ourselves from ticking every box on the dim sum menu. I had a deceptively strong Tokyo iced tea made (£6.90) with midori and the usual blend of white spirits. Mrs G started with a Mango Collins (£6.90) made with mango puree, gin and lemon juice.

The first dish of our small plate marathon was vegetable tempura (£3.00). Broccolli, mushrooms, courgettes and sweet potato were precisely cooked and coated in a light batter. An accompanying pot of sweet chilli sauce added a kick.

Next up was salt and chilli squid (£4.50). Tender pieces of squid were coated in delicate batter seasoned with salt, pepper and chilli.

Crisp cabbage and peanut salad (£4.00) is the kind of dish I wouldn’t normally give a second glance at on a menu, especially as it was in the section labelled 'salad'. However, I’m glad Mrs G picked this out. Finely shredded cabbage was scattered with peanuts and dressed with a zingy dressing of fish sauce, chilli and coriander.

Cantonese roast pork buns (£4.00) were as good as I’ve had anywhere. Soft pappy buns were filled with sweet and tender meat.

Pork and chive potstickers (£4.00) were ace but 3 little dumplings for £4 seemed a little stingy.

Agedashi tofu pieces (£3) were delicate, creamy and coated in fine, sesame-flecked batter. The accompanying bowl of chilli oil was on the bland side (it was so bland I’m not even sure it was chilli oil) and we thought the tofu worked much better dunked in a pool of salty soy sauce.

Cocktail round 2 was ordered whilst we decided how many more dishes to order…1…2….3? I drank a Mizu Ushi (£7.10), a stunning blend of bison grass vodka, blackberry liqueur, peach schnapps and apple juice whilst Mrs G had a Basil bramble sling (£6.90) made from gin infused with sweet basil and blackberry liqueur.

Chicken satay (£5) were delightfully tender and had an excellent background note of chilli.

Spicy Singaporean yard long beans (£3.50) were as moreish as a pack of bacon fries. The al dente beans were coated in an oily dressing laced with chilli and savoury bonito flakes.

The only disappointment of the evening came from a plate of Thai red curry corn fritters (£3.50). Whilst these spicy little fried goods disappeared as quickly as the other things we’d eaten, the aromatic complexity of Thai red curry wasn’t there.

Well lubricated and stuffed, Mrs G and I opted for a liquid dessert…and just the one regular pudding. My Flying grasshopper (£6.90) tasted like boozy mint choc chip ice cream whilst Mrs Tiger’s milk (£6.90) made from brandy shaken with vanilla, cinnamon, milk and cream tasted like Christmas in a cup.

Toffee banana kept up the evening’s fried theme perfectly (£4.50). Crisp, soft, sweet pieces of toffee sauce drizzled deep fried banana were served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I can’t wait to back to Double Super Happy - I’ve got half of the menu still to eat and a booze fuelled rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody yet to sing.

The Details: 
Address: 31 Westgate Street, Cardiff, CF24 2DW

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Cardiff Restaurant Review Map

A number of people have requested a more convenient way to view my restaurant reviews by location.

After a few hours of faffing around, I've come up with a map of all the restaurants I've reviewed in Cardiff (and a little further beyond - you'll need to zoom out). I'll keep it up to date as I visit more places.

Click on the pins to find out more details of the restaurant and for a link to my review.

Updated - June 2018

View GourmetGorro - Cardiff restaurant map in a larger map

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Entrecote Cafe de Paris, Cardiff Bay, restaurant review

Sitting outside on a warm summer’s evening with a heaving plate of meat (ideally barbecued) and a cool glass of cider is always a treat.

However, because of this year’s almost non-existent summer (save for the few sunny evenings when I was glued to the Olympics), we’ve only dined al fresco a handful of times in 2012.

On a rare warm evening, Mrs G and I headed down to Cardiff bay to munch some dinner and soak up the setting sun. Cardiff bay’s newest opening is French restaurant Entrecote Café de Paris. As a member of the Bellini’s and Signor Valentino family, you’d be forgiven for expecting something a little middle of the road….

In fact, Entrecote heralds a change in direction from its siblings. A menu packed with French classics, an opulent gilded dining space, and a slick and knowledgeable serving team all add to Entrecote’s classy feel. However, with upmarket styling comes upmarket pricing: starters average around £7, mains £13-30 and desserts £6. If you’re feeling particularly oligarch-esque, you can splash out £135 on a 50g pot of Oscietra caviar before hopping back onto your super yacht. 

If it wasn’t for a more cannily priced introductory menu offering 2 courses for £17.50, I’d classify Entrecote as a special occasion kinda place.

A suggestion from the waitress of bread and olives whilst we browsed the menu, delivered a small plate of plump and fresh olives, excellent pain de campagne and walnut and raisin bread, and some desperately dry and dense baguette. The nibbles also delivered a buttock clenching £7.80 addition to the bill.

I drank an enjoyably farmyardy bottle of Breton cider which conjured images of barn dances and combine harvesters.

A complimentary amuse of rich salmon rillette and a crisp crouton set a positive tone.

Mrs G began with a dish of hot and creamy goat’s cheese, artichoke puree, tapenade, crisp ficelle bread rubbed with garlic butter, and well-dressed leaves. This was a dish of massive flavours working in harmony.

My plate of Parisienne style gnocchi was equally fine. Made with choux pastry batter instead of potato, the effect was lighter and fluffier than its Italian equivalent. Bathed in a light cheese sauce, scattered with crisp shards of air dried ham and topped with a crust of melted cheese, the dish was surprisingly light.

Mains were almost as good as starters.

Mrs G ordered slow cooked salmon. As the salmon was cooked sous-vide, we were warned it would appear translucent. What arrived was a very good yet entirely normal looking piece of meaty salmon with excellent crisp skin. It was accompanied by smooth buttery mash (potatoey butter may be a more appropriate descriptor), salty samphire, sweet cherry tomatoes, beurre blanc and richness busting capers.

My braised shoulder of lamb with Toulouse sausage and cauliflower puree was in the main rather ace. An unctuous lamb shoulder tower of babel, Toulouse sausage imbued with wine and bacon, rich gravy, smooth cauliflower puree and a light couscous salad made for a hearty and unmistakeably French dish. However, I wasn’t fully convinced by the temperature contrast of cold couscous, hot meat & gravy, and tepid cauliflower puree.

A banging apple tarte tatin (£6.50) finished off the meal. Crisp flaky pastry, moist apple, and golden caramel were elevated by a kick of PX sherry. A scoop of delicate buttermilk ice cream completed the dish.

Entrecote Café de Paris is a welcome addition to Cardiff bay. They serve interesting food, they’re helping to redress the independent v chain balance, and they probably have the best view from any restaurant in the Bay. Here’s hoping the introductory menu offer becomes a permanent fixture……

The details:
Address - Unit Upper 9, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5BZ
Telephone - 029 20 490 990

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Juno Lounge, Cardiff review - Searching for Cardiff's Best Burger

With a couple of days of freedom before starting my new job, I was in the mood for a leisurely lunch spent flicking through the papers. As far as watering holes go, I like the airy and eclectic feel of the Loungers group (21 UK outposts including Juno Lounge –Roath, Fino Lounge – Whitchurch and Ocho  Lounch – Penarth). However, at £3.40 for a pint of Beck’s and having been served a number of average yet pleasant meals on previous visits, they haven’t entirely won me over.

The Burger – 6oz Hamburger (served pink – according to the menu)

1. How was the patty? The reason I’d ordered the 6oz hamburger instead of the 8oz prime English beef burger (£8.50) was because unlike its larger sibling, it was advertised as being served pink. Sadly, it looked very much brown and as a result, the well seasoned patty was disappointingly dry.

2. How was the bun? A generic floured white bap. A bit like the kind of thing you serve at a family barbeque.  

3. How was the other stuff in the bun? Unassuming melted cheddar restored some moisture to the burger, whilst a couple of leaves of iceberg and slices of tomato and red onion added to its slightly homemade looking appearance. A handy toolbox of condiments included ketchup and mayonnaise. Lastly, a halved Gherkin tasted uncannily similar to a jar of Mrs Ellswood’s I’ve got lurking in the fridge.

 4. How were the fries? Good French fries; crisp and salty, they were the strongest element of the dish.

5. What was the price? £7.95 + 70p for cheese

6. How was the service? Friendly

7. So what's the verdict? Disappointingly mediocre but miraculously still better than Wellfield Road’s other burger offering…..

The Details:

Address – Juno Lounge, 14 Wellfield Road, Roath, Cardiff, CF24 3PB
Telephone - 02920 198 990

Monday, 3 September 2012

Big Apple Hot Dogs & BrewDog Edinburgh review

When I heard that heavyweights of the London street food scene, Big Apple Hot Dogs, were putting in an appearance at Edinburgh festival, it became my top priority to track them down. Out the window went plans to source the must have tickets to see Waiting for Godot meets Glee with a sprinkling of Alien 3. Now, it was all about the meat.

Having finally got hold of Big Apple on twitter, they revealed their hallowed hot dog stand was located bang in the centre of the Royal Mile. Boom.

One full Scottish breakfast and a leisurely stroll later, I was ready for an early lunch……

After a torturous decision making process, I plumped for Big Apple’s signature dog, The Big Dog (£4).
Over the years, I’ve eaten many a canned dog, rotisserie cinema dog and vac packed Herta dog and I’m pleased to say Big Apple’s effort puts them to all shame. They’re even superior to most I’ve sampled from the ubiquitous NYC street-side hotdog seller (are they meant to be good good or bad good?)

 A coarse ground blend of beef and pork, heady with herbs and smoke was enrobed in a snap-tastic casing. Meanwhile, a soft bun, liberal squeezes of Heinz ketchup and French’s Mustard, caramelised onions and a generous pile of cleansing sauerkraut finished the job nicely.

I could happily have worked my way through the whole menu. Unfortunately, with a seven course dinner lined up later in the day, I thought it sensible to show an uncharacteristic degree of restraint.

With an hour to kill before our show began, we went for a post-lunch drink at the Edinburgh outpost of Scottish craft beer maker BrewDog. After years of exposure to their mould-breaking branding and headline-grabbing super-strength special brews, it would have been rude not to pop in for a quick half (or two).

I sampled the 5.a.m Saint (a smoky amber ale) and Punk IPA, whilst Mrs G ordered a Dead Pony Club (a fruity ale). Served chilled, these refreshing yet complex brews were a refreshing change to my usual generic pint of lager. As someone with next to no clue about real ale, it’s admirable that companies like BrewDog and Newport based Tiny Rebel are generating interest in real ale amongst mainstream younger crowds.

The Details:

Big Apple Hotdogs –
Usual address - 239 Old Street, London, EC1V 9EY
Hours - Tues - Fri: 12-6pm
Telephone - 07989 387 441

BrewDog Edinburgh -

Address - 143 Cowgate, Edinburgh, EH1 1JS
Telephone -  01312 206 517