Saturday, 26 March 2016

Rotterdam - city guide and a few of the best places to eat

After 2 days in Rotterdam I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the cultural and gastronomic delights of this Dutch metropolis.

With its futuristic high rise architecture, broad range of museums and galleries, seven Michelin-starred restaurants, giant sculptures and cornucopia of casual bars and restaurants, Rotterdam is thoroughly deserving of it’s position in Rough Guide’s Top 10 Cities of 2014 and Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities of 2016. It’s a little bit Singapore, a little bit London and a little bit Blade Runner.

Located just a 25 minute train ride from Schiphol airport, it’s definitely a viable option for a weekend break. We stayed at the ultra-hip Citizen M Hotel where an ipad in the room controlled everything from mood-lighting in the toilet to the vast selection of free movies. Room size meanwhile was swapped in favour of spacious communal areas. 

Over the two days we trekked around the city on foot, taking in the iconic Erasmusbrug bridge and skyscrapers of the Kop van Zuid district, the hipster streets of Katendrecht, and the Museumpark where we wandered around the preserved 1930s Sonneveld House and temporary fashion museum at Het Nieuwe Instituut

But, most importantly, we stumbled from one meal and beer to the next.

The Market Hall was the epicentre of our scoffing. This stupendously cool arch-shaped block of flats contains an indoor food market where you can spend time grazing whilst gazing at the food mural which adorns the ceiling. 

The Surinamese food from De Palmboom was a highlight - a crisp and light bara was stuffed with a well spiced chicken curry and lightly pickled cucumber. 

War fries, topped with a beguiling combination of satay sauce, mayonnaise and chopped onion, from Bram Ladage were on point. Someone really needs to bring these to Chippy Alley in Cardiff. 

Van Vliet cooked us warm syrup-filled Stroopwafels to order. It’s hard to imagine a better way to spend €1,50. 

Finally, the golden crisp and chewy white chocolate filled coconut macaroons of Madame Cocos and the groaning doner buns from Esmekci are worth a mention too. 

Cafe Dudok on Meent is a grand space with vast concrete columns and legendary apple pie. Served warm with a cinnamon crumble topping and cinnamon ice cream, the pasty is crisp and fruit filling has a perfect amount of bite. 

On one evening we hung out on the hip Witte De Withstraat with its cool bars and globally-influenced restaurants.

We ate dinner at Warung Mini, where an eclectic crowd flock for cheap and cheerful Surinamese comfort food (think Friday night Chinese takeaway with a touch more spice). We inhaled lamb curry with wilted greens, chicken satay, deep-fried plantain and mixed fried rice. 

For dessert we visited the starkly minimalist De Ijssalon ice cream parlour which stays open until 10pm daily and 11pm on weekends. Pistachio and coconut flavours were on the nail. 

On a couple of occasions we made a pitstop at the iconic Hotel New York on the Kop Van Zuid, located in the former head office of the Holland America cruise line. We washed down plates of kibbeling (battered fish pieces) and bitterballen (beefy croquetas) with goblets of amber De Koninck beer. 

We also enjoyed a cooked breakfast and first rate coffee at the chilled out Picnick on Pannekoekstraat. This street is also home to a couple of Vietnamese Cafes including Pho Hanoi where we had decent barbecue pork banh mi. 

I ate so much in Rotterdam and there’s so much more I want to eat. I’d definitely recommend a trip.

The Details:

Direct flights to Amsterdam Schiphol are available from Cardiff with KLM and Bristol with KLM and Easyjet. Rotterdam is a 25 minute direct train ride from the airport.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Gina's Cafe, Cardiff review

A few weeks back I visited Gina’s Cafe. Located on the corner of the High Street opposite the castle, with it’s colourful wallpaper and mishmash of furniture, it’s a hippy oasis in the grey city centre.

Gina’s Indian inspired street food menu comprises of filled chapatis, wraps and dosas along with a diverse drink selection which includes cardamom spiced chai karak, arabe coffee and ginger milk.

I ordered a cup of teh tarik (£1.50). Strong, hyper-creamy and hyper-sweet it was a cracking example of the hot milk tea drink which is especially popular in Malaysia.

A Masala Dosa was great value for £3.50. The whopping crisp pancake was filled with mild potato curry which would have benefited from a little more spicing. Accompanying perky tomato chutney and a deeply spiced lentil sambal brought the dish to life.

On it’s own the masala dosa would have been sufficient for lunch. Of course, I ordered more.

A pair of weeny filled chapatis represented more dubious value for money at £2.70 & £2.50 respectively for a keema and a chicken variety.

The hot, crisp, flaky and buttery bread was superb and so was the heavily spiced lamb mince filling. However, the chicken variety was dry and bland and crying out for a good glug from a bottle of chilli sauce found on the table.

I enjoyed Gina’s Cafe. It’s unlike anywhere else in the city centre and I’d definitely go back for a teh tarik and a Masala Dosa.

The Details:

Address -
Gina's Cafe, 34 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1PU
Web -
Telephone - 07790 744444

Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Pickled Radish, Llandaff, Cardiff restaurant review

*This restaurant is now closed*

Last year’s dinner at The Pickled Radish in Laleston near Bridgend was one of the higher-points of 2015. Just over a week ago, their fun twist on British comfort food arrived in the Cardiff suburb of Llandaff.

Located down the street from the former sweetshop (now a Chinese takeaway) which featured in Roald Dahl’s Boy and which was thought to provide the inspiration for stories such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Pickled Radish has a sense of whimsy very much in keeping with the Cardiff-born author.

Whilst the Pickled Radish's playful crockery selection might be the stuff of nightmares for fans of We Want Plates, there’s substance to back up the style.

A snack of perfectly crisp, salty and warm pork crackling (£3) was up there with the best. Accompanying rocket and parmesan dip was fine but a little light on cheese and heavy on the salad.

Mrs G successfully worked her way through the Pickled Radish’s trio of cocktails. First up was a Llandaff Mojito (£6.50), a well balanced twist on the classic, fragranced with blueberry and raspberry. I made do with a Super Bock (£4) whilst we munched through a bowl of rosemary and chilli oil marinated olives (£3).

The other top-notch cocktails were a fragrant Pickled Rose (£6.20) made from rosewater and Brecon gin which skilfully steered away from potpourri territory and a Roald Dahl (£6.50), a potent chocolate and coffee martini.

Onto the starters and I ordered the potted Gower crab and crayfish (£8.50). A jarful of lightly dressed sweet shellfish was topped with a layer of set butter and richness busting cucumber and tomato salsa. A bowl of crunchy toasts and a punchy frisée salad were great accompaniments.

Mrs G meanwhile loved her pot of rich and smooth organic chicken liver parfait (£6.85) joined by a wonderfully fruity raisin & bacon jam and more of the excellent toasts.

The Pickled Radish’s 56-day aged steaks sourced from Llantwit Major take the prize for the best I’ve eaten in Cardiff. Deeply meaty, and supremely tender, my blushing pink medium-rare Rib-Eye (£23) was served with crisp thick-cut chips and on the nail roasted vine tomatoes and field mushroom.

A pot of truffle hollandaise was good but so rich in butter that it slipped off the chips whilst a spray bottle of vinegar mist was perhaps a gimmick too far.

Mrs G's Brecon roasted pheasant (£19.55) just missed the mark. A couple of tender pheasant pieces, earthy girolles, salty pancetta lardons, buttery roasted parsnip puree, a glossy port reduction and baby spinach were let down by a disappointingly dry leg and breast piece of the game bird.

Things returned to form with a pair of very good desserts.

A banana tart tatin (£6.75) combined golden pastry and caramel with tender banana and a scoop of wicked condensed milk ice cream.

My ice cream sundae (£6.50) may have been served in a tin pot but it was far more luxurious in taste. Creamy vanilla and condensed milk ice creams, salted caramel sauce, soft brownie pieces and fresh berries were a cracking combination.

Whilst Cardiff's dining scene continues to improve at a rate of knots, one thing it lacks is quality British restaurants. The Pickled Radish fills a welcome gap in the market.

The Details:

Address - The Pickled Radish Llandaff, 48 high street, Llandaff, Cardiff CF5 2DZ

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Waterloo Gardens Teahouse, Cardiff brunch review

The contribution of Waterloo Tea to the evolution of Cardiff’s cafe scene shouldn’t be underestimated.

Since opening their first branch in Penylan in 2008, their obsession with sourcing the world’s best teas has raised the bar for cafe tea quality.

Now, I’m a PG Tips kind of guy but if tea is your shtick then Waterloo’s apothecary like selection, which includes Iron Goddess of Mercy Oolong, Ancient Emerald Lily Green Tea and Puerh Vintage Tuo, will probably have you... puerring.

Furthermore, their stylish interiors, innovative cake selection and globally influenced food has meant the three branches of Waterloo Tea have established themselves as part of the Cardiff cafe furniture. 

We visited the Penylan shop for Saturday brunch and were glad to find plenty of free tables to accommodate us.

To drink, a chai latte (£3) was enjoyably creamy, spicy and not too sweet. 

An imposing jug of pour-over Has Bean Guatemalan coffee for 2 (£5) looked like the kind of thing Darth Vader might enjoy for elevenses on the Death Star. Mrs G rated it very highly. 

Onto the scran.

For me, a pair of golden runny poached eggs (£7.50) were joined by top-rate smoked salmon, silky & buttery hollandaise, fresh spinach and a slice of Alex Gooch’s award winning toasted sourdough. 

Lizzie O ordered the smashed avocado and feta on toast (£5.50). The ripe avocado, creamy yet sharp cheese, warming chilli oil and earthy red cress were a lovely flavour combination. The large quantity of topping meant that another slice of the excellent toasted sourdough wouldn’t have gone a miss. 

Mrs G kicked off with a bowl of chai spiced porridge (£4.50). The giant portion of the delicately spiced porridge was topped with poached plums and toasted pecans. Temperature-wise it could have been a touch hotter. 

I had the task of helping Mrs G out with her porridge so she had enough room for a couple of slices of toasted sourdough and jam (£1.50). 

Brunch at Waterloo Tea was lovely. It’s well worth adding to the weekend brunch list.

The Details:

Address - Waterloo Gardens Teahouse, 5 Waterloo Gardens, Penylan, Cardiff, CF23 5AA
Telephone - 02920 456073