Saturday, 25 January 2014

Mowlana, Persian restaurant, Splott - The Cardiff Kebab Quest

January always seems to be the hardest month to cobble together restaurants to review on the blog.

Mrs G is on a diet and so won’t consider eating anything other than rice cakes, salad and 0% fat Greek yoghurt.

Even I’m feeling ashamed of the girth I’ve gained from my winter diet of port and toffifee.

It’s for this reason I found myself eating a solo kebab on the walk home from work on Friday night; it's a hard life.

Mowlana, a Persian restaurant on the awkwardly located Four Elms Road, was the venue of choice.

The kebab – Makhsoos (£12)

Meat – One skewer of unfeasibly tender chicken shish, which had been char-grilled to perfection, and a wafer thin lamb fillet. Whilst the lamb was well flavoured, it had cooked so quickly on the grill that it barely had a chance to gain any smoky goodness. 

Bread – A whopper of a naan (£1) – soft, elastic, crisp and the size of two dinner plates. 

Salad– A fresh selection of tomato, cucumber and lettuce. A wonderfully smoky, char-grilled tomato stole the show.

Sauce – Fiery chilli sauce...

and a soothing, delicate, garlic yoghurt (£2 – but it was kindly provided on the house)

Other stuff – A mountain of buttery rice was so fluffy that ever grain sat separately whilst the sound of a juicer motor reassured me that my fresh OJ was squeeze to order. 

The bill was also accompanied by a piece of chewing gum... I hope they weren't implying something about my breath after I'd consumed a whole bowl of garlic yoghurt. 

The verdict – Mowlana’s chicken shish and their naan bread are pretty much the best I’ve eaten in Cardiff; next time I’ll ditch the lamb fillet and just order a bargainous chicken kebab. The warm service, charming Middle-eastern inspired dining room and counter-laden with Persian pastries are other reasons I'll be sure to return soon.

Update - July 2016

I've now eaten Mowlana's chicken joojeh (£7.50) on a number of occasions and I reckon it's the best Cardiff has to offer. The meat is always just so tender and well seasoned with a good lick of char.

Also, the naan breads (£1) are still the size of a dustbin lid.

The details:

– 2-4 Four Elms Road, Cardiff, South Glamorgan, CF24 1LE
Telephone – 02920 480 100

Saturday, 18 January 2014

My Place, Polish restaurant, Splott, Cardiff review

Cockle-warming, rustic and substantial are all appropriate words to describe the Polish food served at My Place in Splott.

I’ve been intending to visit for ages but it’s only now the weather’s turned really cruddy that my cravings for soup, dumplings and meat have become intolerable.

Two things immediately struck me about their menu.

Firstly, it’s different (in a good way). Other than .CN, I can’t think of another menu in Cardiff which is so unique. Hunter’s stew, rye soup with smoked sausage and Silesian potato dumplings were just some of the intriguing sounding dishes that I’d never heard of.

Secondly, it’s cheap. A couple of large Polish beers were £3 a pop; mains are around £8 and desserts roughly £3.

A starter of borscht (£3.90) was a soup phenomenon. The intensely purple beetroot broth was meaty, earthy, smoky and delicately sweet. Mrs G worked her way through a couple of paper napkin bibs in her efforts to prevent any calamitous stainage. 

I’ve never previously been totally convinced by Pierogi (filled dumplings). I’m still not.

However, My Place’s mixed dumplings (£5.20) are the best version I’ve tried. Even though the dumplings were a bit pappy and they were covered in a curious mix of oil and onion, some of the fillings were lush.

A potato and cream cheese variety were comfortingly soft and simple. Sauerkraut and mushroom were the pick of the bunch – the vinegary cabbage providing a perfect foil for the bland casings. Minced meat was the only flavour lacking merit; the dumplings filled with non-descript, finely ground meat. 

My main course, a ridiculously tender ham hock slow-roasted in beer (£8.90), could have redefined the phrase “generous portion.” In fact, the delicious yet caveman-esque piece of meat would have comfortably fed two. 

It was served with crisp, seasoned wedges, whopping dollops of mild mustard and fiery horseradish, and sauerkraut.

Soft and mildly vinegary, the cabbage had taken on the porky qualities of the bacon flecked through it. 

I need more sauerkraut in my life. 

Mrs G enjoyed a tender and juicy steak (£9.50); it did however lack a bit in flavour. 

An accompanying trio of interesting salads – creamy grated carrot, cabbage slaw and a creamy chopped leeks - were all highly rated.

Utterly stuffed, I conceded defeat halfway through the hock and requested a doggy bag - the first time in the history of the blog, even when previously faced with the prospect of a 45oz burger

A slice of My Place’s rather tasty sounding Polish apple cake will have to wait for another day…

If you’re craving a change from the usual Saturday night pizza or curry, then My Place is highly recommended - whilst not everything we ate was an unqualified success, there are some absolute gems to be had. 

The details:

Address - My Place, 57 Broadway, Cardiff, CF24 1QE
Telephone - 02920 304 029

Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Hardwick, Abergavenny, Wales food blog

The Hardwick is one of Wales’s best-known and most celebrated restaurants.

You’ve probably already heard the blurb about their celebrated chef and ethos of generous, un-poncy, meaty, comfort food before.

If so, just skip to the pictures of the nosh…

Located in the country’s gastronomic heartland of Abergavenny, the rurally set Hardwick could variously be described as a “restaurant with rooms” or a “gastro-pub” depending on which cliché tickles your fancy.

Chef-patron Stephen Terry has a serious CV behind him. He trained under legendary chefs Marco Pierre White & Michel Roux Jr; he was awarded his first Michelin star at the age of 25; he’s mentored some of Britain’s finest including Jason Atherton and Hywell Jones; and he obtained household name status when he cooked the fish course on the Great British Menu in 2008.

We were visiting the Hardwick during the first flushes of December when I’d only just opened my first packet of stilton and when the thought of pyramids of Ferrero Rocher was still a twinkle in my eye.

In other words, I was up for some serious over-eating.

The Hardwick’s menu is one of those doozies where you’d happily order pretty much everything – it’s not cheap (starters are around the £10 mark and mains around £25) but there’s no skimping on the Welsh produce.

Take the bread (£1.50 pp) from award winning baker Alex Gooch, some of the finest sourdough I’ve ever eaten – crisp, soft, chewy and complex flavoured. 

To start, my middle-white pork meat loaf (£8) was actually fairly run of the mill. It was, however, elevated by the quality of the stuff around it – a slick of melted Swiss cheese, sweet red onion confit, crunchy cornichons and more of the superb toasted sourdough drizzled with olive oil. 

A salad of slow roast beetroot and Neal’s Yard goat’s cheese (£9) was exemplary – dressed well, ambient in temperature, creamy, earthy, made from interesting leaves and scattered with pine nuts and capers for complexity. 

Our other dining buddies raved about the confit duck hash (£10) served with a plump, fried duck egg.

I’ll dream about our main course during many a cold Winter’s night to come – a taste of local beef (£54 for two).

Essentially, it was a 2x4 of slow-cooked meat...

A soft, thin suet case drizzled with parsley sauce contained unctuous shredded oxtail; a cast iron pot of braised shin fell apart on the spoon; glistening 72 hour cooked short rib was uber-tender; a supremely mushroomy rib burger was adorned with wafer-thin onion rings.

Also nestled on the board were soft confit shallots and pots of bone marrow-laced bordelaise sauce. 

Sides were on point too – crisp triple cooked chips 

and a bowl of fennel, kale, greens, carrots and swede.

An additional order of courgette frites (£4.50) – strings of soft courgette in tempura batter adorned with a good measure of melted cheese – were scarily moreish. 

Replete, I attempted to finish everyone else’s mains and then moved on to dessert.

A trio of ice creams (£7) included a superb peanut butter and jelly flavour which tasted of both in equal measure, and a chocolate chip and honeycomb packed variety. Malted milk flavour was delicious but its subtlety was a little lost in comparison to its neighbours.

The smooth filling of a deconstructed baked cheesecake (£7) was studded with delightfully seasonal mincemeat from The Preservation Society. Scattered with crisp biscuit crumbs and served with winey poached pears, it was a brilliant seasonal pud.

As you can probably guess, I like the Hardwick a heck of a lot. 

In fact, what ever happened to Stephen Terry's plans to open a restaurant in Cardiff?...

The Details:

Address - The Hardwick, Old Raglan Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP7 9AA
Telephone - 01873 854220

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Milgi, vegetarian restaurant and bar, Cardiff review

Milgi’s status as one of Cardiff’s best alternative boozers is unquestionable.

Their chilled out and unpretentious atmosphere, comfy sofas, epic selection of cocktails, Pipes beer on draught, eclectic décor, friendly staff, live DJs and yurt out back mean they have a lot of things going for them.

In addition to being a cracking bar, Milgi have also built a reputation for their ethical food.

However, despite having necked plenty of their mojitos we’d never eaten their grub.

The reason being, Milgi’s serves vegetarian food…with a little bit of vegan and gluten free thrown in for good measure.

With the large number of exceptional kebab houses in spitting distance I'd slipped into a comfortable routine of cocktails first, kebabs second.

However, as I was dragging Mrs G along to a Friday night gig at The Globe, she succeeded in convincing me it would be a very good idea if we went for a meal at Milgi’s beforehand.

Cocktails, which we ordered whilst browsing the menu, were as awesome as always – a pair of textbook mojitos were laced with mint and a good whack of rum. Mrs G ordered a classic (£6.20) whilst mine had a fiery kick of ginger (£6.20).

Surprisingly, I found it incredibly easy to pick something tasty sounding to eat. This is because Milgi’s menu is packed with the kind of food which is my shtick - cheesy, deep fried and spicy.

I started with a very good Middle Eastern platter (£6.95) comprising a smooth sweet potato dip, crisp and light falafel, smoky baba ganoush, excellent olives and stellar pickles fragranced with star anise.

Mrs G’s starter was enjoyable but less remarkable (£6.95) – bruschetta with soft red onions and goat’s cheese were a touch dried out as a result of too many minutes spent under the heat lamp at the pass (the same fate befell the flatbreads served with my platter). An accompanying side salad of micro-herbs with dill oil, however, was excellent.

Onto mains, and my dish of beer battered halloumi and chips (£9.50) was pretty frigging excellent.

Crisp, light batter cocooned oozing, salty cheese. Chips were on the nail too. The only let down was a side of mushy peas which were utter bupkis – overly minted, too hard and made from garden peas; give this northerner marrowfats any day of the week.

Mrs G’s main of smoky pumpkin and black beans topped with crunchy quinoa (£9.50) was a tasty yet stereotypically vegetarian style dish i.e. wholesome, beany and textured like babyfood.

Desserts maintained the theme of the rest of meal – success for me whilst Mrs G was left underwhelmed.

I ordered grease-free sugar and cinnamon doughnuts (£5.50) served with a spiced hot chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Mrs G bombed out with a stodgy and dry banana and peanut butter bread pudding (£5.50) which more closely resembled a muffin. On the positive side, the accompanying ice cream was good...

So, our meal at Milgi’s didn’t quite turn out as expected.

In fact, I’m shocked to say that next time we’re having drinks I’ll enthusiastically propose eating dinner in a vegetarian restaurant. Mrs G, however, will most likely suggest going for a kebab…

The details:
Address - Milgi, 213 City Road, Cardiff, CF24 3JD
Web -
Telephone - 029 2047 3150