Saturday, 31 October 2015

Secret K Garden, Crwys Road, Cardiff Korean restaurant review

A pop-up Korean restaurant in a falafel shop.

Yes, you read that correctly.

A pop-up Korean restaurant in a falafel shop.

Crwys’s Road’s Falafel Kitchen (here’s the review - it’s ace) now only serve their delicious pitta pockets at lunchtime whilst in the evenings a Korean restaurant called Secret K Garden takes over.

It’s secret by name and secret by nature, as except for a discrete sign in the window there’s no indication of Secret K Garden’s existence. In fact, someone tried to order a takeaway falafel whilst we were dining.

Despite the lack of street and web presence, Secret K Garden were three quarters full on the Thursday evening I visited.

Unlike Yakiniku and Kimchi, Cardiff’s other Korean restaurants, there are no hot plates for DIY cooking. However, the menu is extensive with an impressive range of dishes I’ve never heard of, many of which look vegetarian.

I kicked off with a super-refreshing Hite beer (£3.50).

Korean fried chicken (£9.50) saw tender chicken in crisp batter with a sticky, sweet and mildly spiced glaze. The dish would have been improved with more of the delicious glaze and slightly thinner batter.

Dolsot beef bibimbap (£8.90) was ace - a delicious combination of rice, fried egg, minced beef, beansprouts, onion, carrot, cucumber, fried egg and fiery chilli sauce in a piping hot stone dish. 

The ingredients jumbled up to make a deliciously comforting bowl of food, the rice gradually crisping on the edges of the dish over time.

Tteokbokki (£7.50), fishcake with rice sticks was unlike anything I’ve eaten before, and I’m not sure I mean that in a good way. One of Secret K Garden’s most popular dishes, potently fishy slices of fishcake and hyper-chewy cylinders of bland rice stick were served in a sweet chilli sauce flecked with cabbage and carrot. Whilst the fishcake and rice sticks left me unconvinced, my dining companion thought it was pretty decent. 

A trio of complimentary salads were good (aubergine & carrot, mushroom and onion, and potato and carrot) whilst an enjoyable dish of kimchi (£2.50) had its usual familiar tang, fizz, funk and kick of chilli.

For dessert, homemade green tea ice cream (£3.75) was deliciously soft and creamy but a touch light on tea flavour. 

Secret Korea Garden is another interesting addition to Crwys Road’s internationally diverse dining scene. I wanted to love the place but on this showing I was a bit underwhelmed. 

The Details:

Address - Secret K Garden, Falafel Kitchen, 76 Crwys Rd, Cardiff CF24 4NP
Telephone - 02920228228

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Pizza Pronto, Cardiff Bay review

With hindsight there are some business ideas that are so brilliantly obvious that I can’t help but think I wish I’d thought of that.

Like putting a shipping container opposite Tesco’s in Cardiff Bay and selling freshly baked pizzas to the lunchtime hordes who are dissatisfied with their depressing pre-packed sandwiches.

Pizza Pronto have done just that.

The second outpost of this pizza takeaway (the original branch is in Penarth) has popped up in Mermaid Quay for at least the winter.

Pizzas are well priced and proportioned for the lunchtime market with prices ranging from £3.50 to £4.95 for an 8 inch pizza.

They also do Berlusconi soup (I don’t know either), filled doughballs, and nutella and dough sticks for dessert. 

Service is quick, we only waited five minutes after ordering.

And the pizza was lovely too, the base enjoyably soft and crisp, and the toppings generous in quantity.

I ordered the Nduja (£4.95) topped with unctuous fiery Italian sausage. 

My colleagues enjoyed a margherita (£3.50),

a pepperoni (£3.95),

and The King, topped with chicken, ham and pepperoni (£4.95)

I can see Pizza Pronto becoming a regular part of my lunchtime routine. It’s great to have another quality independent to break up the chain homogeny of Cardiff Bay.

The Details:

Address - Pizza Pronto, 7-8 Bute Crescent, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff CF10 5AN

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A few special restaurants close to Cardiff

Are you in the market for a swanky meal and want to get out of the 'diff?

Perhaps you’re looking for an alternative gift to the usual Esso garage bouquet or off-licence Ferrero Rocher?

Well, you’re in luck, because here’s a list of a few very special restaurants, all within an hour’s drive of Cardiff.

Fill up your petrol tank and put on your eating trousers because you’re in for a treat at any of these gaffs.

Restaurant James Sommerin - Penarth sea front is the home to chef James Sommerin’s eponymous restaurant. The stunning looking (and tasting) food more than makes up for the lack of sea view.

The Whitebrook, Monmouthshire - A restaurant with rooms in the wilds of Monmouthshire, Chef Chris Harrod’s intricate Michelin-starred cooking incorporates a number of foraged ingredients. 

Llansantffraed Court, AbergavennyLocated in a characterful country house just outside Abergavenny, head chef Mike Hendry is knocking out superb posh nosh using cracking local produce and vegetables from their kitchen garden.

The Hardwick, Abergavenny - Stephen Terry was awarded his first Michelin star at the age of 25. However, he left the pomp of fine dining behind to open the Hardwick which serves a menu of down to earth, meaty, comfort food. 

Hare & Hounds, Aberthin near Cowbridge - Chef Tom Watts-Jones recently returned from London, where he trained at the legendary St John restaurant. The £45 tasting menu, with dishes including John Dory in lobster sauce, is one of the tastiest and best value meals I’ve eaten this year. 

Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon - The archetypal country pub, The Felin Fach Griffin is all roaring fire places and wood beams. However, the refined grub is a cut above your typical pub.

The Great House, Laleston - There’s some tasty cooking going on at this hotel restaurant close to Bridgend. Tommy Heaney, the former head chef of Bar 44 Tapas, is serving delicious dishes which include pork belly with slow-cooked pork and pork shoulder croquette.

The Walnut Tree, Abergavenny - Elder statesman of British cooking Shaun Hill’s Michelin-starred food is all about the flavour without any of the gimmicks. I like this restaurant so much that it’s where I proposed to Mrs G.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Locke & Remedy, Cardiff review

Marston’s Brewery, the owners of Locke & Remedy on the Hayes, have done a spiffing job with the refurbishment of the place.

The former site of a string of disappointments which includes The Old Library, Que Pasa, The Toad, Bar 1876 & Big Blue Sports Bar has been transformed by Farrow & Ball shades, eclectic furniture, exposed metal beams, filament bulbs and an imposing pizza oven which stands guard over the entrance.

In keeping with the classy interior is a swish menu of craft beers, inventive cocktails, gourmet burgers and wood fired pizzas.

We kicked off with a pair of cocktails - a highly neckable yet slightly non-descript Roots & Rhizome (£7.95) made from vodka, sloe gin, rhubarb liqueur and grapefruit juice. More refined in appearance and flavour was an Elixir of Life (£7.95) - a deceptively easy drinking combination of gin & cherry Heering liqueur.

We then worked our way through a selection of top drawer yet pricey craft beers which included Flying Dog Easy IPA (£4.85), Anchor California lager (£4.85) & Founders All Day IPA (£4.50).

A pair of burgers were the standouts of the evening, a squishy seeded bun being a winning element in both.

A maple glazed bacon burger (£8.85) combined a juicy and very well flavoured 6oz patty, crisp streaky bacon, oozy American cheese, delicious mayo-mustard burger sauce, diced lettuce and a slice of tomato.

Disappointingly, the burger was ordered medium-rare yet served medium-well.

A gargantuan buttermilk chicken burger (£8.50) was crisp of crumb and juicy of flesh and paired nicely with warming spicy coleslaw and little gem.

The burgers were joined by a mix of superb sweet potato fries and run of the mill regular fries (£3.50).

A vat of spicy coleslaw (£2) disappointed on its own - a fairly generic slaw was flecked with a few bits of chilli.

A good thin and crispy pizza (£9.95) was topped with a mega meaty combination of parma ham, chorizo, beef ragu and pepperoni. However, with such an impressive oven, the pizza's lack of a raised cornicione (rim) seems like a missed opportunity.

For dessert, a supremely gooey warm chocolate brownie (£5) was served with great salted caramel sauce and creamy vanilla ice cream.

A lemon tart (£5) disappointed as much as the brownie impressed. Pallid, limp pastry contained an under-flavoured lemon filling. A dollop of clotted cream was the most enjoyable thing on the plate.

Locke & Remedy is a classy addition to Cardiff city centre and I’d recommend a visit for a burger & brownie.

Disclosure - I was invited to Locke & Remedy, all food and drink was complimentary.

The Details:

Address - Locke & Remedy, 18-19 Trinity Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BH
Telephone - 029 2167 6982
Web -

Locke & Remedy Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Il Pastificio, Roath Italian restaurant review

Il Pastificio is one of the most impressive Cardiff restaurant success stories from the last few of years.

Having originally opened in dinky Wellfield Road premises, this neighbourhood Italian restaurant rapidly built a large and loyal fanbase making it perennially difficult to snag a reservation. A few months ago they relocated to a larger place around the corner and surprise surprise, it’s still just as difficult to get a table for dinner on the weekend.

Embarrassingly, for a restaurant of such renown located only a few minutes from my home, this was my first visit.

ll Pastifico means the Pasta Factory (according to the font of linguistic wisdom Google Translate) and living up to their name, seven out of eight mains incorporate homemade pasta (check out the bottom of the post for a sample menu as they don't have a website). 

To start, a trio of juicy meatballs (£5.95) were flecked with hunks of mortadella and bathed in a tomato sauce heady with garlic and oregano. This was a cracking plate of comfort food. 

There’s nowhere to hide with a plate of fritto misto (£7.50) and it mostly delivered. Tender calamari were coated in grease free batter whilst a whopping king prawn and a dollop of punchy garlic mayonnaise were both on the nail. The only let down was a few batons of courgette which were well flavoured but disappointingly limp. 

Onto mains and spaghetti ai frutti di Mare (£13.50) saw banging al dente pasta with mussels, squid, king prawns, squid and cockles in a sauce which beautifully balanced butter, white wine and shellfish intensity. 

A tagliatelle dish (£11.95) meanwhile combined top drawer pasta bathed in a potently savoury and creamy dolcelatte sauce. Chunks of anise twanged homemade sausage, pieces of braised broccoli and a handful of rocket balanced the richness of the blue cheese. 

Desserts maintained the high standard.

A pretty lemon tart (£4.50) matched thin pastry with a sweet and slightly sharp filling. 

A torta al caramello (£6.50) was a trio of indulgent elements. A crisp biscuit base was topped with smooth salted caramel, glistening chocolate ganache and amaretti crumbs. Super soft vanilla gelato and a turbo-charged espresso shot were excellent foils. 

Il Pastificio is an example to other neighbourhood Italian restaurants which rely on the same old menu of spag bol and pepperoni pizza. It deserves the hype. 

The Details:

Address - Il Pastificio, 2 Penylan Road, Cardiff CF24 3PF
Telephone - 029 2049 4138

Il Pastificio Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato