Miller & Carter have pulled off a blinder by locating their newest steakhouse slap bang in the middle of the Hayes, Cardiff’s shopping epicentre.
Taking full advantage of the passing trade, it was impressively two thirds full when we visited on a Monday evening at 6.30pm.
They’ve also spent a bob or two on the conversion of the former Habitat store. There’s leather, polished metal, exposed brick and mirrors galore.
The location and décor’s a winner, but how’s the food?
Miller & Carter, a 34-strong chain of steakhouses, is owned by Mitchells & Butlers, the UK’s largest operator of restaurant pubs and bars. Sibling brands include names like Toby Carvery, All Bar One, Browns & O’Neill's. Certainly not my favourite bunch of restaurants and therefore I had my reservations.
A pint of Pilsner Urquell (£4.25) in a funky glass tankard kicked things off on a positive note.
A sharing platter of starters (£12.50) was a mixed bag. Crisp breadsticks with a gooey mozzarella and spinach dip were very good whilst unjointed yet juicy chicken wings in barbecue sauce, dainty pieces of calamari and nachos were all enjoyable but not out of the ordinary.
Let downs included flabby pork belly cubes crying out for a good crisping and a slice of Miller & Carter's “famous” onion loaf. I’m not sure why it’s famous; a crisp top belied a soggy battered onion mass which lay beneath. Give me a slice of onion bread or a tower of onion rings any day.
So far so meh. However, things then picked up... a lot.
Crisp and fresh iceberg wedge salads were served before the mains. Next time I’ll give the starters a miss and go straight onto the salad. Mine was served with a punchy honey mustard dressing with a generous handful of crisp bacon bits whilst a blue cheese version was topped with a good scattering of crumbled stilton.
A steakhouse lives and dies by the quality and cooking of their meat. Thankfully, Miller & Carter have an impressive selection of 28-day aged cuts and someone who knows how to cook them.
My porterhouse, (£21.95) served a recommended medium, was succulent, crisp-crusted and packed with flavour. Fries were top-dollar and a silky béarnaise (a little on the runny side) was indulgently buttery with a good whack of tarragon. A grilled tomato, a pointless scatter of mixed leaves and some more of that onion loaf completed the dish.
Rhys’s t-bone (£21.95) was another top-notch steak, this time served a recommended medium rare. It was accompanied by a flavour-packed yet unappealingly grey looking blue cheese & mushroom sauce and a side of claggy mash.
It’s worth noting the wedge salad, a side and a sauce are all included in the price of a steak. Often, it can be all too easy to rack up a serious bill for a steak, chips & sauce.
Desserts were lush.
Rhys’s banoffee pie (£4.95) was one of the best versions of the dish I’ve had. A commendably crisp biscuit base was topped with thick and slightly chewy caramel, whipped cream and fresh slices of banana.
My pud was simple yet delicious. A crisp and chewy double chocolate cookie was served with three scoops of smooth ice cream (vanilla, double chocolate, and strawberry). A frozen bowl prevented any mid-dessert melting.
Starters aside, we were impressed by Miller & Carter. Service was super-friendly, the dining space is one of the nicest in town and their steaks are cracking. Next time Mrs G drags me shopping, I'll be using a post-retail steak as a bargaining chip.
Address - Miller & Carter Cardiff The Hayes, 9-11 The Hayes, Cardiff CF10 1AH
Telephone - 02920 372344