Saturday, 28 February 2015

Cardiff Bakestones Welsh Cakes, Cardiff Central Market

Welsh cakes aren’t all that... right?

Before I moved to Wales I’d never even heard of them.

And, the ones my colleague in work made yesterday were as solid as Jamie Roberts’ biceps and as dry as the Millennium Stadium’s bars after a six nations match.

However, when it comes to warm Welsh cakes fresh off the bakestone, it’s a completely different story.

The toasty, soft raisin-studded cakes with a light dusting of sugar are an absolute joy to behold - a simple yet devastatingly moreish combination.

I’ve previously waxed lyrical about Fabulous Welshcakes in Cardiff Bay but I only recently discovered Cardiff Bakestones in the heart of Cardiff Central Market… it’s taken just five years’ of me living in the city to find out about them.

You can watch the cakes being made before your very eyes before taking your pick from a range of flavours which includes original, chocolate chip, lemon curd and jam-filled.

I normally ask what’s still warm off the bakestone. 

And if you’re lucky it’ll be the chocolate chip variety with gooey pearls of melted chocolate nestled within. 

And the other bonus? They’re an absolute bargain - 30p each or £2.90 for 10.

Do you have any other tips for tip-top Welsh Cakes in Cardiff? If so, let me know and have a lovely St David's Day weekend.

The Details:

Address - Cardiff Bakestones, Cardiff Central Market, Saint Mary Street, Cardiff CF10 1AU

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Golden Corner, Cardiff Chinese restaurant review

How can you tell how good a restaurant is based on sampling just a handful of dishes from a menu?

What if you luckily pick all the best dishes? Or, even worse, you choose all the duds.

It’s a question that is particularly pertinent in the case of Golden Corner, a city centre Chinese restaurant with a menu of biblical proportions spanning from anglicised Cantonese classics (e.g. sweet & sour pork) to obscure regional Chinese dishes (e.g. Szechuan pig blood & bean sprouts in hot soup).

Crisp and grease-free prawn crackers (£0) and a refreshing pint of Cobra (£3.95) were hoovered up whilst we struggled to decipher the menu's vast selection. Thankfully, there are accompanying pictures to guide you through the more mysterious dishes. In the end, we played it pretty safe.

Salt and pepper spare ribs (£6.80), tossed with mixed chillies and onions, were ultra-crisp, tender and well-seasoned. 

BBQ roast pork buns (£3.50) were comfortingly soft and filled with a sweet and sticky pork mix. 

For mains, a Cantonese roast meat mix (£8.80) contained generous portions of crisp pork belly, char sui pork and roast duck drizzled with a sweet and deeply-savoury sauce. It didn’t hit the same level as Birmingham’s New Sum Ye, but that’s a very high benchmark indeed. 

The other main, a sizzling beef fillet hot plate (£7.80) lived up to its description as it spewed chilli oil onto the table. Soft meat, bitter peppers, onions and a good kick of chilli and ginger combined to make a very good dish.

A bowl of egg-fried rice (£3) was delightfully fluffy. 

Last but not least, a complimentary plate of orange and melon helped ease the carbo-protein bloats. 

On the basis of our selection of dishes, Golden Corner is a very good restaurant. However, it’ll take me a lifetime to work my way through every single dish to give you a definitive judgment.

The Details:

Address - Golden Corner, 23 Churchill Way, Cardiff CF10 2HE
Telephone - 029 2023 2769

Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Hellenic Eatery, Crwys Road, Cardiff Greek restaurant review

I’ve got a hell of a lot of love for Hellenic food.

When I was 18 years old, a lads’ trip to Faliraki involved me leaving the nightclub early every night to get to the kebab shop for a gyros fix.

And, shortly after Mrs G and I started dating, a holiday to Crete consisted of moussaka, souvlaki, feta salad and Mythos beer interspersed with the odd bit of sunbathing.

It’s therefore wonderful news that the recently opened Hellenic Eatery on Crwys Road is so good.

The reassuringly concise menu focuses on grilled meats alongside a handful of salads and cheese based starters. 

Our party of five gave most of the starters a run for their money.

Golden, crisp and salty halloumi was served atop superb warm pitta, which tasted as though it had been griddled in olive oil. At £3 it was a bargain too. 

A Greek salad (£4) with a generous amount of feta and a good dusting of oregano was as fresh as can be. 

Dakos (£3.30) transported me straight back to Crete. A crisp barley rusk was drizzled with olive oil, finely chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta and oregano. It was lush but not quite as good as the version I ate on holiday; it benefits from sitting around so the tomato juice soaks into the rusk. 

Lastly, grilled feta (£3) was delicious but the least impressive starter. A foil parcel of feta had been baked with tomato, green pepper, oregano, paprika and olive oil. 

For main, Mrs G and I shared a Hellenic platter (£12). And what a platter it was too, offering a sample of every meat the restaurant has going. 

Highlights were slices of crisp and fatty pork gyros (a vertical spit-roasted kebab), tender and herby skewers of chicken souvlaki and fennel-twanged Greek sausages with a good bit of chew. Also on the plate were pork souvlaki and herby Greek burgers with an unusually soft texture. Accompaniments of seriously garlicky tzatziki, more of that excellent pitta and crisp chips were on the nail.

Across the table, a friend ordered a chicken souvlaki wrap (£3.90). A rolled pitta contained tender chicken, tomato, onion, yoghurt and a few chips for good measure. Considerably daintier in size than the Hellenic platter, it would be ideal for a light lunch. 

We didn’t enquire about desserts but Mrs G ordered a Greek coffee (£1.70); as strong as a few cans of Red Bull and as thick as treacle it was exactly as expected. 

The Hellenic Eatery is a cracking and great value addition to Crwys Road’s increasingly thriving food scene. Our bill for five people including drinks came to £55. Bargain. 

The Details:

The Hellenic Eatery currently doesn't have an alcohol licence so it's bring your own.

Address - The Hellenic Eatery, 100 Crwys Road, Cardiff CF24 4NQ
Telephone - 029 2132 1600 

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Leicester's restaurant, The Great House, Bridgend review

There’s something special cooking in the village of Laleston outside of Bridgend.

A few months before Christmas, Tommy Heaney took over the stoves at Leicester’s restaurant at The Great House Hotel.

This is exciting news.

Tommy is the former Head Chef of Bar 44, and under his guidance he steered them to the Good Food Guide readers’ restaurant of the year for Wales 2015.

Bar 44 also happens to be one of my favourite restaurants. So, when I heard that Tommy was moving onto a new project, it was added straight to my “to eat list”.

Pre-dinner drinks were taken in the bar; for Mrs G, a gutsy yet refreshing raspberry caipirinha (£6.95) and for the chauffeur a pint of diet coke.

Whilst we agonised over the menu a trio of stonkingly good canapés arrived: golden arancini studded with smoked pork and cauliflower, whopping olives filled with salty boquerones, and little brandy snaps filled with tangy goats cheese – the salt and savoury balancing cleverly. 

Having navigated our way through the 15th century person-friendly / 21st century-person unfriendly doorways, we settled in the dining room.

Warm breads – walnut and sun-dried tomato – were rapidly inhaled.

Mrs G rated her starter as one of the finest she had ever eaten. Fine cubes of cured salmon (£6.25), diced cucumber and dinky shimeji mushrooms were smothered in a creamy dill mayonnaise and topped with a richness moderating yoghurt granita, giving the dish the appearance of a pile of snow. 

For me, a trio of plump scallops (£8.95) joined by a hunk of meaty baked aubergine, a dollop of sweet miso mayonnaise, and lightly pickled and buttered sea vegetables. An almost brilliant dish, it was let down by the slight over-caramelisation of the scallops, resulting in a bitter note.

Both main courses smashed it out of the park.

A yielding slab of pork belly (£14.50) with golden crackling, a little pot of sticky slow-cooked pork shoulder twanged with star anise and a fiendishly good pork shoulder croquette were accompanied by smooth sweet potato puree, meaty jus, stock-rich puy lentils and charred spring onions. 

On the other side of the table, a perfectly-pink, crisp-skinned duck breast (£17.25) was accompanied by ultra-creamy parsnip puree, roast parsnips, slices of earthy black pudding and beetroot, and a glistening meat sauce. 

It would have been rude not to order a side of triple-cooked chips (£3.50). Hyper-crisp, ultra-fluffy these are as good as chips can be. 

For dessert, a crisp-based lemon and stem ginger cheesecake (£5.95) topped with strawberry jelly was creamy and sharp in equal measure. Accompaniments of honeycomb and velvety coconut sorbet completed a superb dessert. 

Meanwhile, a gooey salted caramel and chocolate tart (£5.95) was balanced beautifully by a caramel-fragranced beurre noisette ice cream. Whilst the lack of crispness in the tart base could have been the dish’s undoing, some nifty sugar work and a scattering of crunchy walnut praline provided the necessary texture contrast. 

Leicester’s at The Great House is a great restaurant. It’s well worth the 45-minute drive from Cardiff to sample Tommy Heaney’s innovate, visually impressive and flavour-packed food.

The Details:

Mrs G and I ordered from the a la carte but there are better value options – a fixed price dinner menu offers a selection of dishes from the a la carte at £21.95 for 3 courses, whilst dinner, bed & breakfast offers start from £50 a head.

Address - The Great House Hotel and Restaurant, 8 High Street, Laleston, Bridgend CF32 0HP
Telephone - 01656 657644
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