Saturday, 25 April 2015

Wright's Food Emporium, Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire review

Wright’s Food Emporium, in Llanarthne near the National Botanic Garden of Wales, is the brainchild of restaurateur, broadcaster and writer Simon Wright.

Much like its owner, the café-cum-restaurant-cum-delicatessen is a jack-of-all-trades and master of all.

Service is friendly & slick; the menu is packed with crowd pleasers that take in global influences from Italy to the USA; the décor is trendy yet not contrived; and the produce on offer is a showcase of Wales’ and Britain’s finest – Charcutier Ltd, Coaltown Coffee, Seren Brewing Co and Trealy Farm all appear.

We visited on a sunny Saturday lunchtime, the peak time for Wright’s. Despite arriving at midday to ensure we got a table (groups smaller than 6 can’t reserve at lunch), no one was turned away during our visit. 

With the prospect of an anniversary meal in the evening, we’d planned a light lunch. It didn’t work out that way…

Drinks comprised of a filter coffee and a root beer.

Seemingly every other order processing out of the kitchen was a pork belly cubano (£7.50); perhaps it’s the Chef effect or perhaps it’s because this sandwich's reputation has travelled far and wide.

A soft yet crusty home-baked ciabatta roll was stuffed with golden pork belly, thick cut ham, grated cheese, warming sriracha mayo and richness busting jalapenos and gherkins. Frigging lush. 

The other American-inspired sandwich was a Reuben (£8.50). Toasted white bread was crammed with tender salt beef, sharp sauerkraut, creamy Russian dressing and melted cheese. This was another great sandwich but it would have benefited from being grilled in a little bit less butter to dial the richness down a notch.

For dessert, poached pears and plums (£4.50) were pleasingly spiced and served with whipped cream and a meringue of perfectly poised crunch and chew. 

Meanwhile, a slab of baked sultana cheesecake (£4) was fluffy and well flavoured with nutmeg.

This was a lush lunch and I’d love to work my way through the rest of the menu at Wright’s. It’s just a shame it’s an hour and quarter’s drive from Cardiff.

The Details:

Address - Wright's Food Emporium, Golden Grove Arms, Llanarthne, SA32 8JU
Telephone - 01558 668929

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Calabrisella, Italian restaurant, Cardiff review

Calabrisella isn’t much of a looker.

With its brick effect wallpaper, budget furniture and tatty bits of paper plastered across its windows, you could easily mistake this Canton-based Italian eatery for a greasy spoon caff and give it a miss.

However, if you did that then you’d be depriving yourself of some of the best Italian food in Cardiff.

Whilst pizzas are the forte of the house, breakfasts, sandwiches, pastas and other daily specials feature on the menu – there were two types of calamari and a steak on offer the night we visited.

To start, a whopper of a golden crumbed arancino (£2) erupted with perfectly cooked risotto (each grain still distinct), oozy cheese and meaty Bolognese.

A pair of beers – a Peroni red (£2.50) and an Ichnusa (£2.50) – brought memories of holidays in Italy flooding back. 

Pizzas were stunning, each comprised of a golden crust and a millimetre thin base topped with perky tomato sauce and melted mozzarella. They were also the size of a car tyre.

For Mrs G, a Roma (£8.50) topped with tender chicken, mushrooms and funky, creamy gorgonzola.

For me, a Calabrisella (£10.90) capped with unctuous, fiery nduja sausage and sundried tomatoes with a pleasing bite. 

I took advantage of an excellent value £10 meal deal offering any pizza, fries and a soft drink.

The chips were fine but nothing remarkable whilst a can of Chinotto once again left me questioning how a drink which tastes like cough medicine can be so delicious. 

Mrs G and I were both stuffed so we doggy-bagged the equivalent of nearly a whole pizza… and then moved onto dessert.

A generous slate of tiramisu (£3.50) was everything it should be – moist, boozy, chocolatey and creamy. 

We had a superb meal at Calabrisella and the owner gave us a very warm welcome. My advice, ignore the wallpaper and just enjoy the great value and seriously delicious Italian food.

The Details:

Address - Calabrisella, 154 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF11 9ND
Telephone - 029 2022 5839
Web -

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Chai Street, Cardiff Indian restaurant review

Southern Indian food is one of Cardiff’s strongest suits. Purple Poppadom, Mint & Mustard, Kumar’s, Spice Berry, Chaiholics and The Duchess of Delhi all predominantly serve south Indian cuisine that ranges from the good to the outstanding.

Mint & Mustard were the pioneers back in 2007 and now they’ve resurrected Chai Street, their cheap-eat concept which used to live next door to the mothership on Whitchurch Road.

The relocation to Canton seems like an obvious move - the restaurants no longer stealing business of each other.

The décor is a charming mix of Bollywood posters, vibrant colours and reclaimed wood.

The menu meanwhile focuses on street food snacks, kati rolls and their famous thalis.

A mango lassi was ultra-thick, ice cold and fragrant (£2.95).

Pav bhaji (£4.95) wasn’t much on the eye but was moreish as heck. A toasted roll was served with minced potato in a spicy and buttery tomato-based gravy. If you’d told me it was keema I’d have believed you, such was its depth of flavour. However at £4.95, the price seemed a bit steep. 

A trio of samosas (£3.75) were crisp, grease-free and loaded with filling – spicy minced lamb, milder minced chicken and oozy cheese. A side salad or some chutney wouldn’t have gone amiss though.

For mains, pretty much everyone ordered the Chai special thali (£9.95). The portion size was decent but not bounteous.

A crunchy onion bhaji, shards of poppadom served with a mouth-puckering lemon pickle, fluffy rice, creamy raitha and a thin & crisp naan all put in an appearance. 

And then there was the quartet of cracking curries – the pick of the bunch was a mega meaty and deep-spiced lamb curry. A milder chicken curry, dry potato curry and velvety dhal were also excellent. 

Onto dessert and gulab jamun (£3.25) were sweet and syrupy but disappointingly soggy – they were accompanied by an exceptionally creamy vanilla ice cream.

Carrot halwa was much better (£3.25) – a soft, sweet and moist combination of grated carrots, whole milk, dried fruit and nuts. 

Chai Street is a great addition to Cardiff’s curry cohort. With a few tweaks to the portions and prices the recommendation would be unequivocal.

The Details:

Address - 153 Cowbridge Road East, Canton, Cardiff CF11 9AH
Telephone - 02920 22 88 88 (note, Chai Street don't take reservations)

Chai Street on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

5 of the best BYOB restaurants in Cardiff

Is there anything more fun than a slap up meal with a group of mates in a top-notch restaurant?

Well, perhaps one thing…

A slap up meal with a group of mates in a top-notch restaurant accompanied by ridiculously cheap booze.

Here are 5 of Cardiff’s finest Bring Your Own Bottle restaurants where you can enjoy cracking nosh as well dirt-cheap plonk.

1. Hogwurst

Stellar hotdogs made with frankfurters from the award winning Native Breeds and brioche rolls from Allen’s Bakery. They also serve a lush range of cakes and pastries to enjoy for dessert.

Corkage charge – Free

2. La Mangiatoia 

The portion sizes are epic and the prices are bargainous at this Italian restaurant in Riverside.

Corkage charge - £1 a head

3. Kumar’s 

This City Road restaurant serves delicious, bargainous and erratically spiced Southern Indian food. Their lamb kothu parotta is one of my favourite dishes in the whole of Cardiff.

Corkage charge – Free – at least I’m pretty certain I’ve never been charged anything… it’s all a bit hazy.

4. Mowlana

The best chicken shish in Cardiff is served at this Persian restaurant just off Newport Road.

Corkage charge – Free

5. Sen BBQ

Groaning platters of meat are served at this Turkish restaurant in Canton.

Corkage charge – Free

Are there any other humdingers I’m missing out on? If so, give me a shout in the comment box.