Saturday, 28 December 2013

Victoria Park Creperie, Canton, Cardiff

The French accent reigns supreme in the world of food.

Passion, expertise, authenticity and glamour are all captured by a single “ooh la la.”

Take the following examples…

The awesome French accent of Cardiff’s onion man makes his door-to-door sales pitch almost compelling.

Raymond Blanc could make lardy cake sound like the sexiest dish on Earth.

The French owners of the Victoria Park Crêperie and the superb pancakes and waffles they serve both help create a slice of France on Cowbridge Road East. 

The Crêperie’s menu is reassuringly focused – crepes, galettes, waffles and ice cream form the mainstay. There are also a few salads, baguettes and soups IF for some crazy reason you don’t fancy a two-course meal of pancakes and waffles. 

First-rate coffee met Mrs G's seal of approval. 

For main, I ordered a ham, cheese and egg galette (£4.50). The soft, thin pancake cosseted the dynamite combination of runny egg, tender ham, oozing salty cheese and oregano. A handful of perfectly dressed leaves provided freshness on the plate. 

Mrs G’s bacon, cheese and egg galette was excellent as well (£4.50). However, a friend’s chicken, cheese and tomato option (£4.80) was rated average – the chicken being a touch too dry. 

Desserts were killer.

A crisp and cloud-like waffle (£4.00) was served with soft, sweet apple, a drizzle of light homemade caramel, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a scoop of creamy Wild Fig vanilla ice cream. This was easily one of the best desserts I’ve eaten in Cardiff this year. 

Crepes with crisp almonds and nutella (£3.50) and tender banana and chocolate sauce (£3.50) were also fantastic - both generously filled and not too sickly. 

The Victoria Park Crêperie serves food which is both authentic and excellent value. Furthermore, if you want to practise your “sacrebleus” whilst mange-ing on a pancake then the Crêperie also hosts a monthly French speaking group.

The details:

Address - 1 Victoria Park Road West, Cardiff, CF5 1EZ
Telephone - 02921 157308

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Ruby Tuesday, St David's Centre, Cardiff - Searching for Cardiff's best burger

*This restaurant is now closed*

It was inevitable that my recent run of banging burgers would come to an end…

Ruby Tuesday, an American chain of over 900 restaurants, has only two British outposts; the first opened in Cardiff back in 2010 and the second in Cheltenham in 2012. 

This is a salad bar
Whilst we browsed the menu of American staples including meatloaf, ribs, grilled chicken and shrimp, we ordered a couple of bottomless drinks including a fresh strawberry lemonade (£3.29) with a good level of sharpness and fruit. 

The Burgers – a Triple Prime Cheddar Burger for me (£11.99) and a Smokehouse Burger (£11.99) for Mrs G. 

Triple Prime Cheddar Burger
Smokehouse Burger
1. How was the patty? My burger, made from 100% prime beef, was described as “the best of the best”. Despite the patty's decent flavour, it was disappointingly dense, dry and well done. The Smokehouse burger’s patty was worse; it had the same flaws as the Triple Prime and lacked flavour to boot. 

2. How was the bun? The Triple Prime was served in a promising looking egg-rich knot. Sadly, it was on the dry-side and fragmented messily in my hands. The Smokehouse was served in a stodgy brown roll. That’s not a typo… a brown roll. 

3. How was the other stuff in the bun? Pretty good in fact. The Triple Prime was accompanied by a generous ooze of melted cheese, mayo, lettuce, gherkin, tomato and red onion. Meanwhile, the Smokehouse’s combination of deeply savoury blue cheese, sweet barbecue sauce, smoked bacon & flabby onion rings looked minging but tasted nice.

4. How were the fries? Average. However, the availability of bottomless refills is to be commended. If we had more time I’d happily have tucked away another plateful. 

5. What was the price? £11.99 – not cheap. I wouldn’t have minded if it was half decent.

6. How was the service? Ruby Tuesday was rammed on the weekday night we visited. In spite of this, once we managed to get seated, service was friendly and efficient. 

7. So what's the verdict? Ruby Tuesday’s mediocre burgers serve as timely reminder of how much Cardiff's burger scene has improved recently. In fact, for the rest of the evening Mrs G made it very clear that I’d denied her a visit to The Grazing Shed.

The details:
Address - Ruby Tuesday, St David's shopping centre, Cardiff, CF10 2EF
Telephone - 029 2034 9930

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Kemi's Cafe / Pipes Brewery, Pontcanna, Cardiff food blog

Salad, it’s not really my bag.

I don’t mind lettuce… as long as it’s the background crunch for the croutons, parmesan and rich dressing of a Caesar Salad.

Tomatoes, they’re pretty good too, if served in equal measure with creamy mozzarella, a few tears of basil and a good glug of olive oil.

So, you see, unless the rabbit food is served with something as fattening as a quarter pounder with cheese, it’s not really my cup of tea. 

It’s with great admiration then that I doff my cap to Kemi’s Café in Pontcanna. They’re knocking out bloody lush salads and there’s not even the merest hint of a cube of feta or a slice of halloumi.

Despite Kemi’s menu being dominated by a range of sandwiches and jacket potatoes, it’s their salad feast for which they’re famous.

Their counter boasts a handsome display of the range of roughage on offer. 

A first-rate cappuccino and a refreshing ginger & lemongrass presse both did the job.

Mrs G and I both ordered the salad feast with Glamorgan sausages (£7.25) – a generous plate groaned with a banging selection of mixed leaves with mandarin oranges; stewed figs; home-pickled cabbage, chillies, carrots & cucumbers; tender roasted sweet potatoes; spiced boiled potatoes; chickpea & romesco salad; aromatic couscous; roast asparagus and bhelpuri. There were others too I’m sure… 

A pair of Glamorgan sausages were unctuously cheesy and crammed with herbs but, a little disappointingly, lacking in crispness. 

A friend ordered the salad feast with quiche (£7.25) - thin pastry and a balanced filling of caramelised red onion and goat’s cheese were both bob on. 

To counteract any semblance of healthy eating which had taken place, we finished lunch with cakes from a heaving baked-goods cabinet. 

A cherry tiffin (£2.50) of chocolate, crushed digestives and glace cherries was tasty yet unremarkable…

whilst a slice of coffee sponge (£2.50) was a touch on the dry-side.

I’d highly recommend Kemi’s Café for a “light” lunch – in fact their salads are worth a trip across Cardiff alone.

However, if you happen to visit Kemi’s on a Saturday, you can also pop over the road to Pipes craft brewery to pick up a few bottles of their awesome lagers. 

And, if you happen to be visiting on the first Saturday of the month, you can chillax with a pint in their charmingly ramshackle outdoor bar.

The details:

Kemi's Cafe
Address - Kemis Pontcanna, Kings Road, Cardiff, CF11 9DF
Telephone - 029 2037 2055

Address - 183a Kings Road, Cardiff 
Telephone - 07776382244

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Spiceberry, Cardiff City Centre, Indian restaurant review

Spiceberry on Caroline Street has a new chef of some pedigree – Chef Pramod Nair is a former Sous Chef at the Taj Malabar hotel, Exec Chef of Mint & Mustard group and most impressively, whilst cooking in London, the indomitable Fay Maschler named his restaurant, Coromandel, as one of her top five Indian gaffs.

The arrival of a new chef at Spiceberry also heralds a slight change of direction in the menu since our last visit – it’s been paired back and its focus shifted solely to the fish and coconut-laden cuisine of Kerala. 

With a brief menu (by Indian restaurant standards) of nine starters and nine mains, there’s little room to hide. Dining as a group of six, we worked our way around most of dishes and found some to be excellent and others to be average. 

Fresh poppadoms kicked off the meal with standard mango and lime chutneys and a delicious sweet tamarind variety. 

Pick of the starters was thara kuttanadan (£6.20) a wondrous, meaty dish of slow cooked, yielding duck with coconut and curry leaves.

Enjoyable but not wow were kozhi porichathu aka Kerala Fried Chicken (£5.20) - lightly spiced fried chicken served with a fiery chilli sauce and kappa fry (£4.50) – earthy pieces of cassava fried with mustard seed and fiery chillies. 

Thairu wada was the only major disappointment (£4.20) - a bland starter of lentil donuts in yoghurt.

Kerala Fried Chicken
Mains too were a combination of peaks and flats. 

Superb was beef varatt (£10.95), a slow cooked, meat packed dish heady with ginger and curry leaf. 

Meen curry (£12.90) was the antithesis of its name – generous fillets of meaty swordfish in a vibrant red, aromatic curry. 

Tasty yet unremarkable was malabar kozhi curry (£9.95), succulent bone-on chicken in a mild coconut-based gravy dotted with fierce green chillies.

So too were the breads (parathas and chappathis) which were serviceable but could have been softer. 

The only below par dish was malabar aaturachi ishtu (£10.95), pleasingly soft lamb in a seriously bland creamy sauce. 

We rounded off the meal with teapots of superb spiced, creamy aadivasi chai (£2.75) and a complimentary birthday dessert - godambu apple aluva (£3.80), a first-rate example of Indian comfort food. Reminiscent of mashed up bread and butter pudding, this wheaten dessert was brimful with soft apple, raisins, cardamom and cinnamon. 

Spiceberry remains one of the most exciting restaurants amongst the chain dominated offerings of Cardiff City Centre. Choose wisely and there’s an excellent meal to be had.

The details:
Address – Spice Berry, 30 – 32 Caroline Street, Cardiff, CF10 1FF
Telephone – 02920 099 199

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Himalaya, Wellfield Road, Roath, Indian restaurant review

Having reached 500,000 page views on the blog, it’s time for a spot of self-indulgence – a return to the scene of the crime of my first blog post, a tipsy midnight curry on Wellfield Road.

3 years of blogging later and much has changed for the better in Cardiff’s dining out scene. In fact, pretty much all of the most exciting places in the ‘diff have emerged in the last couple of years; .CN, Purple Poppadom, Potted Pig, Bar 44 (Penarth) and Hang Fire Smokehouse amongst others have signalled Cardiff's independent restaurant revival. 

Even, the Himalaya has improved…

Well, they’ve spruced up their interior and gone all posh.

However, the rest is reassuringly familiar.

It’s still packed out at midnight on a Saturday night - the dining room buzzing with the slurred conversation of drunken revellers.

The food is the same too - inexpensive, average high street curry which is elevated to a magical status after a handful of pints.

Poppadoms were warm and crisp and served with mango chutney, onion salad, mint raitha and a spicy red sauce of unknown extraction.

Onion bhajis (£2.50) were diminutively dimensioned but crisp and grease-free. I shouldn’t complain about their diddy size, after all it’s questionable whether I should have even been eating a 3-course meal after midnight anyway.

Sizzling nawabi chicken (£6.95) was as I remembered it - tandoori chicken strips, minced lamb, onion and coriander in a medium-spiced sauce. Oh yeah… and don’t forget the slick of ghee.

Half and half (£2), one of Wales’s national dishes, was as expected - fluffy boiled rice and crisp bought-in chips.

Having finished my food and the meals of 2 my other friends and with a few pints already sat in my stomach, I was nigh on ready to explode. 

So, the prospect of a wafer-thin mint was sadly declined.

The details:
Address - Himalaya, 24 Wellfield Road, Roath, Cardiff
Telephone - (029) 2049 1722
Web -

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Nata & Co, Portuguese bakery, Splott, Cardiff food blog

Nata & Co has serious pastry pedigree – their baker has a family business back in Lisbon which has been dishing out tarts and cakes for decades.

Having launched in Cardiff a year ago, this Portuguese bakery has been selling their carbohytreats from a stall at Splott Market and supplying the cafes and delis of the ‘diff too.

Now, they’ve opened their own cafe on Clifton Street in Splott. 

Their coffee is the robust continental type and their pastries are the shove-them-in-your-cakehole sort.

Whilst perched at a stool in the window, I sampled a pillow-soft donut filled with wobbly custard as well as a bobby-dazzling pastel de nata (custard tart) – the layers of flaky pastry cradling more of the caramelised golden good stuff.

Wanting to buy ALL the sweet stuff to takeaway, I showed restraint and plumped for a light coconut brioche, a coconut tart, a supremely crisp almond and coffee pastry and a glace fruitcake.

Unsurprisingly, everything was lush and at around a pound a pop per pastry, it’s cheap too.

Nata’s has a pretty uber-looking bread display as well.

Having got my gnashers around one of their sourdough loaves at home, I can confirm they taste just as they good look.

The details:

Address - Nata & Co, 118, Clifton Street, Splott, Cardiff CF24 1LW
Telephone - 07455337053

Friday, 22 November 2013

La Shish, City Road - The Cardiff Kebab Quest

Another excellent kebab…blah, blah, blah.

On City Road…yawn…snooze…bore.

I’m sorry, I know this is all getting a bit repetitive. 

However, there’s no escaping the fact that City Road is Cardiff’s kebab house epicentre. 

This time it’s the turn of La Shish and as you’ve probably guessed, it’s another cracker. 

As far as City Road kebab house interiors go, La Shish is one of the nicest – everything is bright, modern and clean. 

There’s no booze on the menu so we quaffed a couple of soft drinks - a top-notch freshly squeezed OJ (£2.50) and an ayran (£1.50), a surprisingly tasty, slightly salty, slightly sour and slightly creamy yoghurt drink.

To start we shared an excellent small mixed meze (£6.50) which comprised of a smooth almost nutty hummus, a lemony and parsley packed tabbouleh, a creamy moutabal with a smoky kick in its tail, crisp tahini drizzled falafel, juicy dolmades, mixed olives and some pickled gherkins and chillies. The selection was accompanied by fresh, soft and crisp flatbread. 

The kebab – Mixed kebab platter 2 (£16.95)

Meat – A whopping tagine laden with juicy lamb and chicken kofte, tender lamb and chicken shish, and crisp and fatty lamb and chicken shawarma. 

Other stuff – Beneath the meat sat a mound of superb buttery, fluffy, saffron infused rice – some of the best I’ve eaten.

Bread – A duo of hard to fault soft and crisp fresh flatbreads.

Salad – A decent fresh salad selection, which I have to admit, was neglected due to the sheer quantity of food elsewhere on the table. 

Sauce – Three dainty dishes contained a respectable chilli sauce, a garlic mayo lacking the freshness of its yoghurt-based equivalent and a gratuitous tomato ketchup. 

The verdict – It’s hard to fault La Shish except for some of their sauces. As such, it joins KBS, Lilo, Shaam Nights and Troy in the upper echelons of Cardiff kebabage.

The details:
Address - La Shish, 17-19 City Road, Roath, Cardiff CF24 3BJ
Telephone - 029 2049 3337