Saturday, 29 August 2015

City Salt Beef, City Centre, Cardiff

Noshing on salt beef is one of my favourite things to do in life.

In fact, during my 32 years, many of my most vivid memories originate from inhaling a tower of juicy meat slapped between two slices of bread.

These include the drunken 2am salt beef bagel from Brick Lane’s Beigel Bake during the days when I used to go out past 10pm; the time my friend nearly choked to death on a lump of beef at Selfridge’s Brass Rail when she literally bit off more than she could chew; and visualising that When Harry Met Sally moment whilst eating one of Katz’s Deli's vertiginous sandwiches in New York.

My debut Reuben from Cardiff’s City Salt Beef now joins these recollections in my bovine memory bank. 

City Salt Beef just opened / rebranded last week on Charles Street in the middle of town. Previously a branch of Coffee A Go Go, the owners decided to focus on selling salt beef sandwiches (£7) & reubens (£4.50).

I ordered a reuben on caraway and rye bread (£7) substituting the pastrami on the menu for salt beef. Whilst both meats are sourced from the highly regarded Henson’s in London, it's only the salt beef which is cooked on the premises. 

Everything about this sandwich was top notch.

The toasted caraway and rye bread from the ace Allen’s Bakery had just the right twang of anise; the mountain of meat was impeccably salty, juicy and tender; a heap of sauerkraut tempered the richness; a slather of Thousand Island sauce dialled the richness back up again; and a couple of slices of Swiss cheese were thrown in for good measure. 

City Salt Beef’s reuben is a stonking addition to Cardiff's sandwich line-up. And unlike some of Cardiff’s other best sandwich gaffs, they’re thankfully open on Saturdays when I can make it into town.

Disclosure - I was invited to City Salt Beef, all food and drink was complimentary.

The Details:

Address - City Salt Beef, 41 Charles Street, Cardiff CF10 2GB
Telephone - 029 2023 5141

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Pooja, Indian sweets and chaat house, Cardiff

To the novice Indian sweet shop and Chaat house goer (me), Pooja doesn’t exactly make itself accessible.

A couple of printed sheets of A4 on the wall and in the window name the available dishes. There are no descriptions.

Some items are familiar- samosas, bhajis, bhel puri, curries (oddly takeaway only) and barfi (the milk-based Indian sweet which tastes like its name sounds).

However, there are other items which have me baffled - batata vada, pease kachori, dahi puri and aloo tikki to name a few.

I stick to the known.

Pani puri (£2.50 for 6) are great - six crisp parcels filled with soft potato and chickpeas, coriander and red onion. They’re accompanied by a little pot of spicy & fresh pani water so you can fill the puri at the table and keep them nice and crisp. 

A paneer tikka roll (£1) is a comforting deep-fried pastry filled with well-spiced paneer and vegetable curry. It’s microwaved to order so is inevitably lacking on the crispness front. 

Dessert is an excellent gulab jamun (£2). Served at room temperature and lightly fragranced with cardamom, it’s accompanied by a scoop of smooth Sidoli’s vanilla ice cream.

Pooja is a different, tasty, cheap and cheerful lunchtime pit stop. If you fancy something different to the usual cheese sandwich and sausage roll then give it a go.

Update 26/03/2017:

Soon after my first visit, Pooja introduced a much clearer menu with visual prompts and a number of bargainous meal deals. I've been back for countless plates of pani puri and paneer rolls.

Their samosa chaat (£2.50) comprised of a broken up vegetable samosa topped with mild chickpea curry, yoghurt, tangy tamarind sauce, fresh coriander and crisp bits of pani. It's a lovely bit of comfort food.

A paneer tikka curry (£3) was well spiced and laden with bits of cheese. It was a bit heavy on the ghee but I'm not complaining at this price. A pair of soft chapatis were warm and super fresh.

The Details:

Address - Pooja, 3 Albany Road, Cardiff CF24 3LH
Telephone - 029 2021 4987

Monday, 10 August 2015

Granger & Co, Clerkenwell, London brunch review

When I visited Australia ten years ago, I didn’t get on too well.

Firstly, the sunny climate didn’t suit me. I’m the kind of person who complains it’s too hot when the mercury hits 20°C, covers myself head to toe in factor 50 and then worries I’m going to burn after 10 minutes in the shade.

Secondly, I’m pants at every single sport. In a country as exercise obsessed as Australia, it’s no good to be the guaranteed last pick in any kind of team sport.

Finally, I’m not a massive fan of killer spiders, killer snakes, killer jellyfish, killer sharks, killer kangaroos or killer koalas.

However, one thing that did impress me was the food. The barbecued meat; the stonkingly fresh fish and the Asian-fusion cooking all linger in the memory.

Bill Granger’s sunny, simple and eclectically influenced cooking sums up what Australian tucker is all about. As well as his four Australian restaurants, he owns three London branches of Granger & Co and outposts in Japan, Hawaii and South Korea. 

We visited the Clerkenwell restaurant for his famous brunch. The bright and chic interior, our super-super-friendly Australian waitress and the menu of juices, fruits, freshly-baked cakes and healthy (sounding) hot plates transported me 10,000 miles across the planet.

A cold pressed concoction (£4.80) of green apple, cucumber, ginger, silver beet, chia & coconut water tasted far too healthy instead of tasty. Savoury rather than sweet, it reminded me of the liquid that settles at the bottom of a bowl of salad after it’s been sitting around a while. 

In contrast, everyone else’s drinks were frigging lush. Bill’s Beets (£4.80) was a vivid, well-balanced combination of beetroot, carrot, fennel & apple whilst Sunrise (£3.50) was breakfast in a cup - a sweet, tangy combination of berries, banana, apple, yoghurt and orange.

The pick of the bunch was a watermelon and lime frappe (£4.50) - the combination of smooth ice slush, refreshing watermelon and zesty lime was greater than the sum of its parts. 

Sweet corn fritters (£13.50) were two golden frisbees of light batter studded with sweetcorn, peppers and spring onion. The accompaniments brought the supremely comforting carb-cakes alive. Bacon rashers were flame-grilled with an unmistakeable lick of char, roast tomatoes were semi-dehydrated giving them a meaty sun-dried tomato-like quality and a splodge of avocado salsa (£2.80) punched through the dish's richness. 

Broken eggs (£8.80) were very good - essentially a skillet cooked omelette meets eggs Florentine mash-up, they were served with dollops of creamy ricotta, wilted spinach, fiery chilli and toasted sourdough. A side order of vegemite sadly never arrived. 

The final dish (£13.80) let itself down in its focus on health over flavour. Flakes of excellent hot tea-smoked salmon were joined by a tasty yet functional combination of steamed kale, coriander, poached eggs, avocado and cherry tomatoes. There’s no doubting the quality of the produce but the overall impression was of a number of disparate ingredients chucked on the plate. 

A side of miso chestnut mushrooms (£3.80) were a delicious double-umami hit. 

A cake display carried a bounty of captivating looking treats.

I ordered a phenomenal coconut and passionfruit slice (£3). Moist and dense like a brownie, it was topped with lime twanged icing and pearls of fragrant passionfruit.

Granger & Co is a great brunch spot. It may be a bit on the pricey side but it’s cheaper than getting a return ticket to Bondi for breakfast.

The details:

Address -
Granger & Co, 50 Sekforde Street, London EC1R 0HA
Telephone - 020 7251 9032

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Chutney Roti, Whitchurch Road, Cardiff restaurant review

Chutney Roti on Whitchurch Road is an interesting proposition.

Their menu largely comprises of home-style Indian food with a strong showing of fish dishes. In fact, one of the menu’s sections is called Sea World - reassuringly there’s no sign of Willy or Shamu.

For those looking for something more familiar, all the old favourites including bhunas and kormas are present and correct.

Crisp & fresh poppadoms (70p each) were accompanied by an interesting mix of chutneys (£1.50). Fragrant nigella seed flecked mango chutney & a fruity yet not too sweet blackberry chutney were the standouts. 

To start, Amritsari fish (£4.50) comprised of tilapia fillets coated in an intensely spiced batter twanged with garlic, ginger and cumin. 

A pair of generously filled samosas (£3.50) were pepped up with a topping of chopped red onion, yoghurt and a mix of chutneys. Whilst the samosa pastry lacked a bit in crispness, the addition of pastry shards provided welcome crunch. 

Unsurprisingly, chilli paneer had a good wallop of heat (£4.95). Fried cubes of cheese were served with a mix of peppers and onions. It was a good plate but lacked the hit of soy sauce I'd normally associated with this Indo-Chinese classic.

Mains were all very good.

Dhaba lamb (£8.50) contained a generous amount of yielding meat in a sauce of onion, tomato and coriander with a tang of yoghurt. 

Ginger chicken (£7.99) was succinctly described on the menu as “Chef’s speciality”. Another lovely curry, tender meat was served in a tomato-based sauce stacked with fresh ginger. 

Finally, prawn chettinad (£12.99) contained a ton of juicy tiger prawns in a sauce containing fragrant curry leaf, fresh ginger, onions and pepper. Described as medium, I reckon it could have done with a bigger whack of chilli. 

Accompanying paratha contained the expected layers but could have been slightly more buttery. 

Plain naan breads (£1.95) were excellent.

So too was lemon rice (£2.95) which was well fragranced and fluffy. 

Chutney Roti’s dessert menu is particularly strong with no sign of a Punky Penguin or ice cream filled coconut shell. Options include chocolate samosas, mango & cinnamon cheesecake & kulfi.

Tandoori pineapple (£4.50) was soft and juicy with a smoky lick of char. A drizzle of honey and crushed pistachios added sweetness and crunch. A scoop of pistachio ice cream was well flavoured but could have been a touch smoother. 

Gulab jamun (£3.50) were of the highest order. Warm, moist and sweet yet still retaining a spongey bite. They were accompanied by more of the same pistachio ice cream. 

Dinner at Chutney Roti was very good - it’s definitely one to add to your to visit list.

The Details:
Address - Chutney Roti, 90-92 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3LY
Telephone - 029 2023 1511