Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Pizza Union, Kings Cross, London restaurant review

Located a few minutes walk from King’s Cross Station, Pizza Union serves Roman style thin and crispy pizzas.

They have a set-up which cannily straddles between fast food joint and full blown restaurant - the interior has an industrial canteen like vibe; the average pizza price weighs in around the £5 mark; and it’s self-service so you collect your order from the counter when a buzzer goes off.

After just a few minutes of waiting our our pizzas were ready.

First of all a word about the pizza base - thin and crisp with a dusting of semolina and a decent chew, it’s a fine example of its type. Combined with a light tomato sauce and good mozzarella, Pizza Union have a quality product.

A vesuvio (£5.50) was topped with a generous amount of pokey pepperoni and fiery green and dried chillies.

A calabria (£5.95) meanwhile combined spicy n’duja sausage with creamy mascarpone and a handful of peppery rocket. 

A manzo (£5.95) was the only average offering - the minced beef topping lacking a little in seasoning. 

For dessert there’s a fridge full of Italian gelato from Kensington’s Oddono’s to choose from. A salted caramel flavour (£2.50) was light, smooth and milky with a good level of salty sweetness. 

The star of the show (and arguably the meal) was a crisp pizza dough ring (£3.25) filled with molten nutella, creamy mascarpone and chocolate chips. As my good friend Gianfranco would put it "Wowee Wow Wow". 

If you’re looking for a quick and good value bite to eat near King's Cross then I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Pizza Union.

The Details

Address - Pizza Union, 246-250 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9JY
Telephone - 020 7278 9425

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Dill Jeera, Llandaff North, Cardiff Indian restaurant review

Dill Jeera, located in the suburb of Llandaff North, is one of a number of Cardiff Indian restaurants which are heavily influenced by Purple Poppadom and Mint and Mustard.

The chef and owner, Sundaramoorthy Krishnasam has previously worked in both restaurants, the food is a high-end take on southern Indian cuisine with a few other influences thrown in, and a few of the dishes are very very familiar.

It’s most certainly not a bad thing, in fact it’s fantastic that Cardiff has so many Indian eateries which steer away from the uninspired path of onion bhajis and chicken tikka masalas.

Crisp poppadom shards (£2.50) were served with a very good chutney selection - refreshing pineapple with a good spike of chilli, cleansing mint, and decent mango and date varieties.

Tender, perfectly pink lamb chops (£7) were coated in a potently spiced crust. I picked every last scrap from the bones. However, a pedestrian mustard vinaigrette coating the side salad felt like a missed opportunity. 

A trio of soft, flame-licked paneer pieces (£4.75) were delicately sweet and fragranced with saffron.

Onto mains, and a Karuveppilai chicken curry (£9) saw plenty of tender meat in a sauce fragranced with curry leaf, coconut and chilli. It was a good dish but the spicing lacked a little complexity. 

In contrast, there was a huge depth of flavour to a Malabar fish curry (£10.99). Meaty swordfish was bathed in a sauce heady with coconut, curry leaf, ginger, slightly sour kokum and chilli. 

A side of paragi parrapu curry (£4) was on the nail - the fragrant lentil dhal was flecked with pieces of butternut squash. 

A peshawari naan (£2.50) was as good as they get - crisp, soft and stuffed with a not too sweet nut paste. 

Coconut rice (£2.75) was light and beautifully aromatic.

Desserts were no afterthought. Perfumed sugar syrup soaked gulab jamun (£3.99) were served with first rate vanilla ice cream. 

Honey infused pineapple (£4.50) was balanced by a lick of smoke from the tandoor oven. It’s a dish familiar from the menu of Purple Poppadom and Mint and Mustard but it’s an absolute beauty. 

We had a lovely meal at Dill Jeera and I’d be chuffed if I was able to call it my local curry house. There’s also a friendly family feel to the place as we were enthusiastically served by the chef’s daughter.

It’s worth noting that when we visited Dill Jeera they were getting ready for a menu switchover. As such a number of items were unavailable - perhaps their new menu will be a little more concise as the current selection is slightly too expansive.

The Details

Address - Dill Jeera, 125 Station Road, Llandaff North, Cardiff CF14 2FE
Telephone - 02921 321 290

Dill Jeera Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Epicure Experience, Celtic Manor restaurant review

*This restaurant is now closed*

It’s no secret that the Celtic Manor wants a Michelin star.

And why the heck not? It’s the kind of luxury hotel where it's par for the course.

But, for one reason or another their previous fine dining restaurants, Terry M and the Crown at the Celtic Manor didn’t quite cut the mustard with the Michelin Man.

Now, Welshman Richard Davies has taken the helm with his new restaurant Epicure Experience and he’s got all the credentials to deliver the coveted star having held the accolade in his previous head chef roles at the Manor House in Castle Combe and Sawyards In West Sussex.

The restaurant has a choice of two menus for dinner, a three course a la carte (£65) and a six course tasting menu (£75). There’s no prizes for guessing which menu we ordered.

Pre-dinner snacks consisted of first rate gargantuan green olives and spiced mixed nuts.

Round two comprised of a toasted sliver of crisp buttery brioche topped with light chicken liver parfait, the crunch of hazelnut, and a sweet and slightly acidic fig and port puree. A crisp cube of piping hot polenta was topped with fragrant wild garlic pesto. 

Bread was of the highest calibre - crunchy French baguettes and malted rolls served with a beguiling cep infused butter.

A light as you like mushroom espuma was packed with flavour and topped with crushed hazelnuts and a richness penetrating sherry gel. 

The next dish elevated a classic flavour combination to the next level. Perfectly caramelised scallop was dressed with lightly pickled and poached beetroot and pureed, battered (oofh!) and slivered cauliflower. A drizzle of smoke oil add a compelling smoky dimension to the whole dish. 

A blow torched piece of buttery foie gras was balanced by sweet apple puree, palette cleansing apple batons and walnut pieces. An uber-inspired wine matching of a Coteaux du Layon, an almost dessert like white wine with citrus and acidic notes, deftly balanced the richness of the dish.

A stonkingly meaty turbot dish followed. The tender fish fillet was perched on crisp cubes of celeriac, creamy celeriac puree, salty pancetta and intense cep mushroom pieces and powder.

Welsh lamb was showcased in all its glory in the next plate. Flavoursome, tender, blushing lamb fillet and slow cooked, yielding lamb shoulder were daintily plated and paired with sweet baby onions and puree, wilted greens, baby leek and a light sauce. 

A bang on cheese course (£10 supplement) saw a brandy-washed funky number from Burgundy steal the show. 

Pre-dessert was a layered pot of sweet apple compote, light and tangy set yoghurt and intense and airy blueberry foam. All the flavours and textures harmonised brilliantly, even a cliched yet enjoyable scattering of popping candy. 

The final dish is chef’s most well known as it appeared on the Comic Relief banquet of Great British Menu in 2013. It’s a proper corker. A red nose-like strawberry dust-coated ball of creamy vanilla parfait was joined by biscuit crumbs, strawberry gel, aerated white chocolate, sharp lemon jelly, fresh strawberries and potent strawberry and basil purees. 

Petit fours accompanying our fresh mint tea maintained the meal’s exemplary standards - aromatic chocolate and cardamom truffles, light vanilla marshmallow, a decadently rich salted caramel cup, a fragrantly sour calamansi fruit jelly and a textbook vanilla macaron with a hidden raspberry puree filling.


Dinner at Epicure was phenomenally good. In fact, I’m struggling to find a single fault with the food or service. Wales’s newest destination restaurant has just entered the building.

The Details:

Address - Epicure Experience, The Celtic Manor Resort, Coldra Woods, The Usk Valley, Newport, South Wales, NP18 1HQ

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Munich - eating and drinking guide

Munich, a city of great beer, great meat and a great number of people wearing lederhosen.

With just those three things, the capital of Bavaria is already my kind of place.

But, there’s so much more to the city including great galleries, globally diverse dining, quirky dive bars and Renaissance architectural gems which won me over.

We visited Munich for a short break over the bank holiday weekend, taking flights from Cardiff Airport.

The Kings Hotel Center, with its enjoyably kitsch four-poster beds and slightly terrifying paintings, was a good base for our trip. It's located three minutes walk from the main train station and twenty minutes from Marienplatz.

Munich is most famous for its beer gardens and beer halls and this provided the focus for our itinerary. Honestly, I didn’t spend all day every day drinking…

With seating for 5,000 people, the vast Augustiner-Keller beer garden is shaded by a clutch of chestnut trees. Grab your stein of Augustiner beer from a serving hatch and pay for it at one of the rather nifty checkouts.

Located in the heart of the picturesque English Garden, the Chinesicher Turm (Chinese Tower) provides the back drop for a humungous 7,000 seater beer garden serving Hofbräu beer.

Hofbräuhaus is probably the world’s most famous pub. Despite its touristy feel there were still a fair few locals chilling out in lederhosen at the stammtischs (regulars’ tables) and it’s hard to argue with the beauty of the place.

Löwenbräukeller is another beauty of a building with a vast pub and a good-sized beer garden. We enjoyed pints of Löwenbräu and Franziskaner wheat beer. A plate of Leberkäse, a finely ground meatloaf served with fried eggs, fried potatoes and shreds of fiery horseradish provided a welcome afternoon snack.

We ate dinner on the first night at Der Pschorr, a grand restaurant located by the central food market, the Viktualienmarkt. Warm pretzels; crisp-skinned pork knuckle served with a buttery potato dumpling; and yielding beef shin in a deeply meaty gravy were washed down with pints of icy cold Hacker-Pschorr beer.

On the second night, we ate dinner at Andechser am Dom, located in the shadow of the cathedral. Cheesy käsespätzle flecked with pear and topped with crispy onions were good but paled in comparison to a stunningly good wienerschnitzel with the lightest of crumb and tenderest of flesh. The Andechser beer was some of the finest we drank during the trip.

Breakfast was another highlight of our stay.

We ate a Bavarian breakfast to the soundtrack of an Oompah band at the Weisses Bräuhaus. Beautiful weisswurst (poached veal sausages fragranced with chive) were served with sweet and fiery mustard and crisp yet soft pretzels. Of course, it’s traditional to wash the meal down with a pint of wheat beer.

We also had a stunning breakfast at a quaint bakery called Cafe Frischhut where unsweetened donuts called schmalznudel are served straight out of the fryer (sugar is optional). The cafe also does remarkably good panettone-like buns called rohrnudeln.

But, we didn’t just guzzle German beer and meat during our trip.

Since last November, Munich has had a branch of Eataly, the highly-regarded food hall. We inhaled free samples of proscuitto and nduja slathered bread and fronted up some cash for some excellent dulce de leche and pistachio gelato from Venchi as well as some decent aubergine topped pizza.

The Slemani Grill have been serving up Kurdistani food since 1957. In that time they’ve certainly mastered the art of cooking things with a flame. Chargilled meats and tandoor baked flatbreads were bang on.

The slightly shabby Taklamakan serves Uyghur food. Yep, I’d never heard of it either but here’s Wikipedia to help. Seemingly a bit Turkish and a bit Chinese we enjoyed freshly hand-pulled noodles served with a well-spiced lamb stew; Uyghur lamb kebabs coated in a salt and chilli crust and lamb and chive filled potsticker dumplings.

Cafe Kosmos is an enjoyably hip dive bar where the bill for a small beer and mojito set us back a paltry €4. A local artist has also created a couple of weird drink dispensers including Vodkarella who will piss a shot of vodka for €1.

Oh yeah, we also had time to do some sightseeing. Highlights included the stunning Renaissance Antiquarium at the Residenz Palace, the Baroque frescoes of the Asamkirche, the ornate architecture of the Neues Rathaus and the art and design collection of the Pinakothek der Moderne.

Munich is a brilliant city which more than surpassed my expectations of a lager drinkers paradise. I’d highly recommend a trip.

The Details - Flybe flights between Cardiff Airport and Munich are available six times a week, from £27.99 one way, including taxes and charges, and are bookable at

Disclosure - My flights were paid for by Flybe.