Friday, 29 April 2016

Wok-ker Shaker, Cardiff Malaysian restaurant review

The phrase “cheap and cheerful” could easily have been coined especially for Wok-ker Shaker, a noodle bar and Malaysian cafe located on Cardiff’s Tudor Street in the shadow of the Millennium Stadium.

To put it bluntly, their basic decor isn’t going to win any prizes but their excellent value Malaysian food might. During our meal we shared a bench with a pair of Malaysian students who live by Jalan Malaysia yet had travelled to the other side of the city to eat Wok-ker Shaker’s food. 

A couple of mugs of Teh Tarik (Malaysian tea - £1.50) were everything they should be - strong, creamy and sweet. 

Beef kuey teow (£4.95) combined tender, thick rice noodles flecked with soft steak, peppers, onions, carrots, beansprouts and omelette. A light soy based sauce and scattering of spring onions pepped up the excellent plate. 

Nasi Lemak (£3.95) was a very good example of the Malaysian classic. Light, sticky coconut fragranced rice was joined by a sweet and spicy chilli paste, crispy dried anchovies and peanuts, cucumber, a half boiled egg and a spiced lightly-battered chicken wing. An additional portion of chicken rendang (£1.50) was a thunderingly good combination of yielding meat and a deeply spiced coconut based sauce. 

Nasi Ayam (£4.95) combined first rate fried chicken (boneless thigh meat in a black pepper spiked crumb) with second rate rice which was heady with chicken stock but was leaning towards the dry-side. 

Bowls of fiery chilli sauce and comforting chicken broth tied the dish together. 

I like Wok-ker Shaker a lot. It's another of Cardiff's hidden gems which definitely deserves a visit. 

The Details:

Address - Wok-ker Shaker, 8 Tudor Street, Cardiff CF11 6AF
Telephone - 029 2034 1918

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Gower and Swansea Bay short break

Rhossili Bay
One of the most beautiful places in the UK is located just an hour and a quarter’s drive from Cardiff. It’s a fact I always take for granted. Named the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty way back in 1956, the Gower’s rugged coastline, sweeping beaches and harsh moors are a sight to behold.

Three Cliffs Bay
So, when the good people at Visit Swansea Bay invited Mrs G and I on a mini break, our response was "Hell yeah".

Setting of from the 'Diff mid-Friday afternoon, we made a quick pitstop at the Selwyn’s Seaweed factory shop in Penclawdd on the Gower estuary. Originally known for their cockles and laverbread, Selwyn’s moved with the times by producing healthy and addictive nori-like seaweed snacks. This was to be the only healthy thing I ate all weekend…

Having dropped our bags off at the gorgeous Fairyhill, a 5 star AA award-winning restaurant with rooms located in the heart of the Gower, we headed out for an evening stroll at Three Cliffs Bay. 

With its hulking trio of limestone cliffs and Pennard Castle overlooking us, Three Cliffs Bay is pretty Game Of Thrones-esque.

Looking back to Pennard Castle from Three Cliffs Bay
Appetites worked up, we headed back to Fairyhill where we had a stonkingly good dinner packed with local produce. Highlights included seared and soused mackerel with cucumber and almonds, intense crab and chive linguine and tender Pembrokeshire duck (more to follow in a separate post).

Rising early with the sunshine the next morning, we somehow managed to find room for Fairyhill’s kick ass full Welsh breakfast served with a uniquely delicious oat and laverbread cake. Hot pikelets (Welsh dropscones) served with a good drizzle of runny honey and squeeze of lemon juice were also gorgeous.

Our first pitstop of the day was Worms's Head and Rhossili Bay, probably my favourite beach in the world. I’m not alone as it was named Britain’s Best Beach by Tripadvisor voters for two years running. 

Worm's Head
Arriving early meant we had the place pretty much to ourselves except for a handful of sheep and their offspring.

Driving back towards Swansea, we headed to Mumbles where we took in views of the seaside resort (Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones have a home there don't cha know) from the battlements of the impressive 12th century Oystermouth Castle.

Hungry once again (when am I not?), we took a load off at Verdi’s Italian Cafe on the seafront where an uber-busy lunchtime service was comfortably dealt with by the rapid serving team. A quattro stagioni pizza (£9.75) oozing with mozzarella and a light caprese salad (£6.95) were very good but a pair of ice cream sundaes were historic. 

For me a toffee chip crunch (£5.40) with creamy vanilla and toffee ice creams, crunchy toffee pieces and a hot caramel sauce and for Mrs G super-smooth lemon sorbet (£4.80) with a sprightly raspberry compote.

With more than enough calories on board, we wandered around Mumbles Head to the picturesque Bracelet Bay where we soaked up the sunshine.

In the evening we headed back to the Gower for dinner, this time to The King's Head in Llangennith with views looking down to the sea. Owned by the excellent Gower Brewery, we enjoyed pints of the easy drinking Gower Gold and a mostly very good meal.

A starter of mussels (£7.95) were bathed in a lush sauce of garlic, cream and white wine. For mains a tender slow-cooked Gower lamb shank (£16.50) was served in a cawl like broth with buttery mash whilst a disappointing piece of pork belly (£12.95) was under-rendered and served with an odd combination of sweet berry sauce, carrot puree and crispy squid.

It was worth the trip alone for the corking cheeseboard (£7.95) which included a greatest-hits of Welsh cheese - creamy brie-like Perl Wen, potent Black Bomber, crumbly Gorwydd Caerphilly, buttery Golden Cenarth and more were accompanied by excellent homemade onion chutney. 

On Sunday morning we wandered around Swansea Marina and had a quick look at the National Waterfront Museum which tells the story of Welsh industry and the low-key Swansea museum with its nifty Egyptian mummy.

Our final port of call before heading back to Cardiff was the stunning Margam Park with its Abbey ruins, Gothic mansion, 18th-century Orangery and ridiculously cute farm animals.

We had a lush staycation in Swansea Bay and the Gower. With its stunning coastline, first-rate accommodation and great local produce, I've resolved to visit more often than my three trips in the last seven years.

Disclosure: I was invited as a guest of Visit Swansea Bay - accommodation and meals at Fairyhill, Verdi's and The King's Head were complimentary. 

The Details - 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Ethicurean, Bristol restaurant review

With sweeping views over the Mendips, the Ethicurean’s walled garden location 10 miles south west of Bristol is pretty frigging special. So too is their ethos of sourcing all of their fruit and vegetables either from within their garden or from another community garden located less than ten minutes' drive away. Meat and fish mostly come from within an hour’s drive.

There’s first rate cooking to accompany the first rate produce and chefs Matthew & Iain Pennington have been recognised by being named Guardian restaurant critic Marina O’Loughlin’s second favourite restaurant in the whole of the UK and the Observer’s Best Ethical Restaurant in the UK in 2011.

During the daytime, The Ethicurean offer an a la carte menu whilst in the evenings (when we visited) there’s a no choice five course set menu which will set you back £41.

Whilst we waited for our friends to arrive, we ordered a clutch of drinks made from The Ethicurean's homemade selection of cordials, juices and tinctures. A cockle warming Gardener’s Old Fashioned (£9.50) combined Somerset cider brandy, bitters, toffee apple cake syrup, vanilla and chipotle. As the designated driver, I ordered a delicious mocktail (£4.50) combining apple juice pressed from the fruit of the garden’s orchard, honey and bitters.

The meal commenced with lovely crisp sourdough served with slightly fridge cold butter.

A smooth, complex and faintly bitter fermented leek and smoked potato soup was balanced well by oozy cubes of creamy and funky Ogleshield cheese and a spiced dukkah seed and nut mix.

Next up, segments of al dente earthy beetroot were matched with a creamy beetroot crème fraîche, salty granola and a tangy ball of ewe’s curd.

The following three courses took things up a level. Deliciously meaty gin cured salmon, creamy celeriac slaw, a sliver of pickled celeriac and an intense garden herb emulsion combined brilliantly.

A duck breast was of the highest quality - pink, tender, well-flavoured and with crisp, rendered fat it was served with steamed kale, buttery carrot puree, ribbons of lightly pickled carrot and a sticky jus.

Dessert was equally brilliant. A light and sticky toffee apple sponge, crunchy honeycomb and an intense blackcurrant sorbet were all on the nail.

I loved dinner at The Ethicurean, the ethos, the friendly serving team, the setting and the clever cooking are all on the nail.

If I have one criticism, a few of the portion sizes could have been bigger. As we rounded off the meal and the table polished off its second bottle of wine, my friend exclaimed he could murder a cheeseboard.

The Details:

Address - The Ethicurean, Barley Wood Walled Garden, Long Lane, Wrington, Bristol BS40 5SA
Web -
Telephone - 01934 863713

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

The Bridge Tavern, Newcastle restaurant review

Trolls, they’ve really given things which live under bridges a bad reputation.

Thankfully, the Bridge Tavern in Newcastle has gone a long way to restoring the honour of things dwelling beneath river crossings.

Nestled beneath the supporting structure of the Tyne Bridge, on first impression The Bridge Tavern appears like any other packed Quayside boozer. 

However, if you only popped in for a few pints of one of their microbrews you’d be missing out on their ridiculously delicious and good value comfort food. 

Unusually, with food so awesome, The Bridge Tavern stop serving food at 7pm between Friday and Sunday. We placed our order at the bar just in the nick of time and quaffed pints of Wylam Brewery’s Keep Taking the Pilsener whilst we waited for our food to arrive. 

Preternaturally light and crisp spiced crackling strands (£3) were up there with the very best. 

Golden pigs head croquettes (£3) were joined by a good dollop of gherkin and caper laced tartare sauce. 

A groaning portion of plump mussels were bathed in a light broth of shellfish liquor and ale. They were excellent value too at £6.50. 

My dad raved about his plate of spiced chicken livers on toast (£5.95). Tender, deeply-flavoured and without a hint of bitterness, I’m sure far more people would be offal converts if they were always cooked this well. 

My starter (£6.50) was also a beauty. Top-drawer toasted sourdough, flakes of sweet white crabmeat, a comforting curried mayonnaise, shreds of cleansing fennel and fragrant fennel leaves were a superb combination. 

Finally my mother and Mrs G loved their salad of golden and crisp Jerusalem artichokes (£5.95), sweet softened onions, toasted walnuts and salty blue cheese topped with a handful of watercress. 

Onto the mains, and slices of venison (served well done at my mother’s request) were tender, smokey and gamey (£12.95) - they sat atop a meaty butterbean broth fragranced with wild garlic and flecked with spinach. 

The chips at the Bridge Tavern are a work of staggering genius. Triple-cooked, hyper-golden, super-crisp and mega fluffy they were enjoyably not too thick. 

For my brother they were accompanied by a wonderfully flaky battered haddock fillet (£9.95), some more of the excellent tartare sauce and proper mushy peas made with marrowfats (whoop whoop). 

My dad ordered the flat iron steak - this was a cracking piece of meat and cooked to perfection. A knob of smoked bone marrow butter dialled up the luxury a notch and at £12.50 including the chips it’s hard to think of a better value steak going. 

Mrs G enjoyed her veggie option, a beetroot, hazelnut and quinoa burger (£8.95) served in a soft brioche bun. But she had serious food envy of all the other dishes around the table. 

My main was also a bobby-dazzler. A thin, golden pie crust (£8.95) cocooned yielding pieces of slow cooked beef and a rich gravy studded with carrot pieces and thickened with pearl barley. Smooth and buttery mashed potato and buttered savoy cabbage were the ideal companions. 

For dessert we all dived into a stonkingly good sundae (£4.95) which harmoniously combined whipped cream, smooth pistachio ice cream, boozy brandy soaked cherries and wonderfully gooey chocolate brownie. 

We left stuffed and the bill including 5 pints, snacks, 2 courses for 5 people and a dessert came to £116. A bargain as far as I’m concerned. If you’re looking for a casual eatery in Newcastle then check out the Bridge tavern.

The Details:

Address - The Bridge Tavern, 7 Akenside Hill, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3UF 
Web -
Telephone - 0191 261 9966