Friday, 19 October 2012

Almada, Portuguese restaurant, Cardiff review

I’ve been brushing up on my Portuguese pub quiz trivia by reading October's edition of Monocle magazine. 

Here’s a few highlights:
  •  There are 8 Portuguese speaking independent countries in the world: Portugal, Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, and Timor-Leste.
  • Collectively they are known as the Lusosphere and a Portuguese speaker is called a Lusophone.
  • Every country in the Lusosphere has a coast.
  • Nando’s serves Portuguese-Mozambican food.
This segues rather nicely into my review of Almada, a Portuguese restaurant located in Canton.

Prior to Tuesday evening, my only experiences of Portuguese cuisine were a handful of visits to the cafes of Little Portugal aka South Lambeth Road in Vauxhall, London. My main memories are of guzzling Super Bock and steak, egg and chips. Oh yeah, and I've been to Nando's a few times. 

Almada, is owned by a waiter and chef who formerly worked at Casanova, one of my favourite restaurants in Cardiff. To add to this good omen, we were visiting with friends who had already enjoyed a very good meal at Almada.

There’s a homely feel to the dining room and this is accentuated by the warm and good humoured service. Complimentary nibbles were brought to the table whilst we chose what to eat: crunchy, sweet and sour pickled carrots, plump mixed olives, and some excellent white bread.

As I was driving, I restricted myself to a solitary Super Bock (£3.50). The other 3 demolished 2 bottles of an excellent Portuta da Tinto (£17.50).

To start, I was always going to order the salt cod fritters (£4.75). A crisp, grease free exterior gave way to a filling of salty flaked fish and smooth potato. Simple yet delicious, it was served with dressed leaves.

Mrs G really enjoyed her starter of mushrooms in a cream, white wine and garlic sauce served in puff pastry (£4.25)

For main, I shared a seafood casserole (£32 for 2 people). Heaps of king prawns, plump mussels, pork fillet and chorizo were served in a flavour-packed broth. Salty shellfish liquor, paprika-rich chorizo oil and parsley all played their part.  The casserole was served with a bowl of very good homemade chips.

Mrs G reluctantly shared a small mouthful of her pan-fried duck served with parsnip puree, roasted asparagus and forest fruit sauce (£14.95). The richness of the pink meat, crisp skin and smooth parsnip puree was balanced perfectly by the sweet and sharp forest fruit sauce.

The only main course disappointment came from our friend’s chicken piri piri (£12.95). Having ordered it on her previous visit she felt the current version wasn’t a patch on the last. The char-grilled chicken thighs lacked any real spicing. In contrast, the previous version made using chicken escalope was slathered in piri piri marinade.

Desserts sadly let our excellent first two courses down.

Mrs G’s torta de natas (cream tart) looked and tasted like a block of cream (£4.75). It was saved only by some mixed berry coulis which added a little bit of interest.

I was looking forward to a Portuguese custard tart but sadly they were off the menu the night we visited.  I had to make do with a Portuguese take on a crème brulee (£4.75). Whilst it looked the part, the thin caramelised sugar top gave way to a disappointing set egg custard. I’m not sure whether this is a trait of Portuguese crème brulees, but I would have preferred it if it was less set and there was a bigger hit of cream and vanilla.

If it wasn’t for the desserts, I’d be raving about Almada. It’s a charming neighbourhood restaurant where I’d happily spend a number of hours drinking Super Bock and eating salt cod fritters.

The Details:
Address - 146 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF11 9ND
Telephone - 02920 226242

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