Saturday, 29 March 2014

Deli-Rouge, Roath - Hunt for Cardiff's Best Breakfast

I’ve done kebabs and burgers to death.

After an extensive and (pseudo)scientific search, I’ve located stupendous examples of each in Cardiff.

And then I went and ate a cruddy burger at Jamie’s Italian and a dire kebab on City Road. Therefore, I think it’s probably best if I move onto pastures new*…

It’s with great pride that I present the lazily (and search engine friendly) named Hunt for Cardiff’s Best Breakfast.

I apologise in advance for the number of fry-ups. And, if I’m eating with Mrs G, I’d better apologise for all those eggs Benedicts.

However, I'll also be including cracking pastries from places like Nata & Co and Allen's Bakery - the kind of breakfasts which make me happily forego a full Welsh.

Err…and that’s about it… 

Please send your suggestions my way.

Also I’m not doing rankings or scores – they’re a bit too reductive.

First up, is Deli-Rouge.

Located in the back streets of Roath, this charming little deli, with enticingly produce-laden shelves, serves a menu of breakfasts, sandwiches, salads & evening-time tapas.

The breakfast – Mega Breakfast

The price - £7.95

Pros – Superb doorstop white toast, crisp thick-cut bacon, sweet grilled tomatoes and a pair of runny fried eggs.

Cons – Fried mushrooms were mixed unnecessarily with red onions and I wasn’t totally sold on the herby yet slightly chewy sliced Italian style sausage.

Beverages – A respectably robust Americano (£1.95) 

Verdict - A lovely breakfast in a charming location. Whilst the Mega Breakfast wasn't without its imperfections, I'd still happily eat one every weekend. 

Details – 

Address - 73 Pen-y-wain Road, Roath, Cardiff, CF24 4GG
Telephone - 02920 483871
Web -

*I'm not going to bore you so often with burgers and kebabs. However, if something notable comes along then I’ll write about it.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Duchess of Delhi, Cardiff Bay, Indian restaurant review

Beer then curry, is there a more logical sequence of events?

Lager followed by goat’s cheese tartlet...ale then Caesar salad...stout then trout… they just don’t have the same appeal.

However, that last one does have a certain ring to it.

So, after a clutch of post-work weekday pints down the Bay, there was only way the evening was going to go…

The Duchess of Delhi’s Head Chef, Sundaramoorthy Krishnasamy, knows how to cook a damn fine curry. I’ve previously enjoyed his Southern Indian food when he was running the kitchen at Spiceberry. And with experience behind the stoves at Purple Poppadom and Mint & Mustard, Krishnasamy has an enviable Cardiff curry CV.

Whilst The Duchess of Delhi’s a la carte menu encompasses specialities from across Southern Asian, including Nepalese momos and Indonesian Nasi-goreng alongside more familiar curry house staples, it’s reassuring to see there’s still a dominance of Southern Indian food.

However, this is a little moot as we arrived just before 7pm and so were able to take advantage of the bargainous lunch and early evening menu; a fact not lost on the clock-watching waiter who only brought us this menu on request after we were initially presented with the a la carte. 

Customary poppadoms (£2.50 per person) were exceptionally fresh whilst an average pickle selection included an under-flavoured raita and an overly-vinegary tamarind(?) chutney. 

Starters were prettily presented yet equally pedestrian. 

Onion pakoras were crisp and well seasoned - everything you can expect from the most ubiquitous of Indian starters.

Chicken tikka was Lilliputian (the set menu did warn portion sizes were "promotional") and not the most tender. 

However, that was the final mediocre mouthful to pass my lips for the rest of the meal.

Mains brought two superb Southern Indian curries. Kerala chicken curry was packed with creamy coconut, fragrant curry leaf and a pleasingly potent chilli after-burn. 

Lamb pepper roast comprised of unctuous, slow cooked meat in a richly spiced, heavily reduced gravy; a chargrilled green pepper hidden at the bottom of the bowl was an added bonus. 

This photo looks in focus after a few pints...
Saffron rice was fragrant and fluffy…

whilst garlic naan bread (£2.75) was crisp and soft.

Desserts were equally inspired.

A rose petal crème brûlée (a little familiar from the Purple Poppadom) was perfectly-scented and crisp-topped. 

Payasam, an Indian riff on rice pudding made instead with vermicelli, was comfortingly creamy and heady with cardamon.

The Duchess of Delhi’s Southern Indian curries and refined desserts are a bang tidy addition to Cardiff Bay. Whilst the starters we ate were unremarkable, the food that followed provided concrete evidence of the talent behind the stoves. 

The Details:

Address - The Duchess Of Delhi, 6 Bute Crescent, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AN
Telephone - 029 211 53574

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Jamie's Italian, Cardiff - Searching for Cardiff's best burger

You know what sticks in my craw, grinds my gears and does my box in?

Slow service; style over substance; and mediocre overpriced food all trading off the name of a celebrity chef…

After an hour’s wait at the stylish Jamie’s Italian, our starters finally arrived - a pedestrian antipasti plank (£20.55 for 3 people).

Amongst a bean-counted portion of unremarkable salami, mozzarella balls, mortadella and underdressed slaw overwhelmed by mint, the only stand-outs were some top notch ice cold, fragrant olives.

For mains, whilst my dining companions chowed down on a selection of mediocre pasta dishes, I decided to give the burger a run for its not so insignificant money.

The Burger – The Jamie’s Italian Burger

1. How was the patty? A well-seasoned and flavoured patty made from a blend of chuck and flank steak. Overdone and consequently dry, it’s a shame the decent quality beef had been cooked into oblivion.

2. How was the bun? A good soft bun dotted with poppy and caraway seeds. However, the menu proudly described it as charred - why would you advertise the fact you serve your rolls burnt?

3. How was the other stuff in the bun? A preposterously tall yet tasty selection of balsamic onions, melted mozzarella, undetectable mortadella, lettuce and tomato. Pickled chillies (stalks and all) were a curious addition.

4. How were the fries? Posh chips were crisp and fluffy and covered in salty parmesan shavings. However, the fungal twang of truffle oil was overwhelming.

5. What was the price? £13.45…

6. How was the service? Friendly but slow as heck… 2 courses took over 2 hours.

7. How was the other stuff? A small bottle of Moretti cost £4.15. Yep, £4.15.

8. So what's the verdict?

I left Jamie’s Italian feeling utterly peeved #firstworldproblems.

Whilst I can understand the appeal of the restaurant's well designed, moodily-lit dining space – that’s where the charm ends.

The details:

Address - Jamie's Italian Cardiff, Unit LG 69/70, St David's 2 Shopping Centre, Cardiff, CF10 1GA
Telephone - 0292 002 7792

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Cicchetti, Radyr restaurant review

It’s thanks to Restaurant Man Russell Norman and his Polpo small-chain’s successful formula of booze-friendly food, cool venues and trendy staff that Cicchetti or “Italian tapas” have become so trendy.

Now, Cardiff has it’s own small plate gaff called... Cicchetti.

Owned by the well-respected Trattoria Group who have existing outposts in Talbot Green and Pontypridd, Cicchetti have cannily spotted a gap in the market in Radyr, which has been crying out for a decent restaurant.

First impressions are all important, and Cicchetti produces the goods.

The breezy buzz of conversation; a bright interior melding contemporary and traditional; a cute bar where you can perch for a Peroni; and a laden deli counter all give the feeling that Cicchetti is a place you’d happily spend an evening. 

A pre-dinner Campari spritz (£4.50) successfully balanced the sweetness of prosecco and the bitter ming of the dark red liqueur whilst a couple of moreish homemade grissini – crisp in places and bready in others – helped keep the wolf from the door.

Cicchetti’s menu is a peculiar beast – whilst half of it is devoted to small plates, the other half is made up of the familiar (yet admittedly exciting looking) selection of pizza, paste, carne & pesce.

Therefore, with no explanation, it’s not clear whether Cicchetti regard their small plates as starters (how they were referred to by the friendly waitress) or as the building blocks for a standalone meal…

Of course, we ditched the mains and launched in with a selection of the smaller plates.

Crisp crocchette (£4.25), filled with a light, cheesy potato mixture, were served with a vibrant summer-coloured mustard mayo.

A solid selection of Italian meats (£5.95) included bresaola, a couple of salamis, mortadella and a superb prosciutto. Mrs G’s plank of just ham (£5.95) was therefore an even stronger option. Accompanying breads were fine but neither the crustiest nor the softest.

An aubergine stack (£3.95) made from layers of tender aubergine, melted mozzarella and a peppy tomato sauce was a bob-on piece of Italian comfort food.

A whopper of an arancino (£4.25) filled with meat ragu and oozy cheese was a little stodgy but equally comforting.

Fritto Misto (£5.25) included some of the most tender octopus I’ve ever eaten. In contrast, the squid and mussels were run of the mill and an advertised accompanying saffron aioli never materialised.

Last up was an excellent frittata which nestled perfectly tender potatoes amongst its eggy goodness (£4.95).

For those with an eye for greenery, it’s also worth noting that rocket is served with every single plate - a whole salad bag’s worth for dinner therefore gets a little repetitive.

Desserts, a sharp lemon tart (£3.50) & a raspberry tartlet (£3.50) were perfectly tasty but lacked the Italian charm of the rest of the meal.

I really like Cicchetti. Whilst the food certainly wasn't faultless and the concept needs a little more clarity, the atmosphere more than makes up for it.

The details:

Address - Cicchetti, Station Road, Radyr
Telephone - 029 2084 8773

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Llansantffraed Court, Abergavenny restaurant review

Oi Abergvanny, what’ya playing at?

Can you please just stop hogging all the best restaurants.

It’s a testament to Abergavenny’s embarrassment of restaurant riches that up until late last year I’d never considered a visit to boutique hotel Llansantffraed Court.

However, the appointment of Mike Hendry as Head Chef (Hendry was Sous Chef during James Sommerin’s Michelin starred reign at The Crown at Whitebrook) and the restaurant’s subsequent award of Best Small Restaurant in Wales at the National Tourism Awards gave me cause for a rapid change of opinion. 

Llansantffraed Court is now boshing out high-end grub, using cracking local produce and vegetables from their kitchen garden, which showcases the best Wales has to offer.

Whilst there’s a 3 course set dinner menu available at £27.50 and an a la carte offering mains around £20, I found it impossible to resist the siren song of the tasting menu; Llansantffraed’s 6-courser weighs in at a rather reasonable £50.

After a 40 minute drive from the ‘diff, a pre-dinner half of lager and a killer trio of canapés by the fireside helped me take a load off; a flaky Sunblush tomato and pesto tart, a cone of crisp and salty cockle popcorn and an ethereal parmesan gougere were all mega. 

Having relocated to the dining room, a tastefully inoffensive space, we got going with the meal proper.

First up was a clean-tasting and pretty arrangement of white crab meat, foraged leaves and cucumber, paired with the warmth of finely diced red chilli. 

My only concern about the dish’s lightness was the infinitesimal dent it made to my appetite. I really shouldn’t have worried…

A breadbasket yielded a warm, crisp wholemeal sourdough and herb and olive oil rich focaccia. Both were smothered with liberal amounts of fluffy, salty butter.

The first meat dish had me making Egg Wallace-esque moans of satisfaction.

It was hard to find fault with the combination blushing pink pigeon breast, crisp parsnip crisps, earthy beetroot puree, complex wild mushrooms and a gleaming meat sauce.

Another stunning plate of hunky halibut, tender octopus, light truffle sauce and a trio of artichokes (Globe, Jerusalem & Crosne) had the richness of a meat rather than a fish course. 

The best dish of the night had me planning a day-trip to The Welsh Venison Centre.

A whopping piece of lightly-smoked, uber-tender, hyper-flavoursome, perfectly-pink venison was celebrated by its pairing with sweet heritage carrots, celeriac puree, butternut squash puree, wild mushrooms and another phenomenally meaty sauce. A delicately sweet empanada of unctuous, slow cooked venison was the cherry on the cake.

If the first dessert was the last course of the meal, I would have returned home a full and happy man.

Wobbly honey-infused panna cotta, crunchy honeycomb pieces and sweet white chocolate crumbs were balanced by zingy plum sorbet and tart poached plums. 

The final dish, a cute DIY play on a cappuccino – an uber rich, gooey chocolate fondant, topped with light milk foam, crisp cookie crumbs and a boozy shot of Pedro Ximénez - ensured I barely had the appetite for a McMuffin the next morning.

Dinner at Llansantffraed Court was one of the finest meals I’ve ever eaten in Wales. 

Friendly service, top-notch produce, pretty yet gutsy food, and a super-talented chef mean Abergavenny is now home to another of Wales’ best destination restaurants. 

I was invited to Llansantffraed Court - all food was complimentary.

The details:

Address - Llansantffraed Court, Clytha, Llanvihangel Gobion Nr. Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales NP7 9BA
Telephone - 01873 840678