Saturday, 30 September 2017

Radici, Islington, London Italian restaurant review

Francesco Mazzei is a Calabrian chef with a big reputation. Perennially tipped for a Michelin star at his previous restaurant L’anima, he now runs the equally swish Sartoria on Saville Row.

Radici, located opposite the Almeda theatre in Islington, is his new entry level restaurant. 

The menu reads well across the board with cicchetti, antipasti, primi, secondi, sides and desserts all vying for attention.

I’ve heard talk that whenever Francesco is in the kitchen at one of his restaurants you’re guaranteed a good meal. At other times, things can be a bit more hit and miss. Francesco wasn’t around when we visited.

Cicchetti included perfectly cooked calamari (£7.50) with an overly-sweet chilli jam. 

Meatballs (£7.50) had a disappointingly dense processed texture but combined well with a spicy tomato sauce and a good dollop of mash. 

‘Nduja (£4.50) on toast had been strangely combined with cream cheese to mitigate the spreadable sausage’s chilli heat (one of its main selling points). Toast for accompanying tomato bruschetta was also sadly on the soggy side.

My primi of taglierini, fagioli beans and pancetta (£13) was a triumph. Silky pasta, meaty beans and an intense porky broth were topped with a liberal grating of savoury cheese. 

Lasagna (£13) was great too. The light take on the dish saw beef ragu and grana padano cheese piled on top of thin layers of pasta. 

Fettuccine with mussels and calamari (£13) were bathed in a well-flavoured sauce but let down by the cardinal sin of overcooked pasta. 

Mains continued the mixed bag.

Cod pizzaola (£16) was a bit bland; the flaky fish fillet and soft peppers were joined by a watery tomato sauce. 

Sweet calf liver (£18) was served with fragrant sage butter and crisp leaves, smooth mash and rashers of salty pancetta. It was an excellent dish except for a solitary tough piece of liver. 

A calabrese pizza (£12), slathered with fiery ‘nduja, light tomato sauce and mozzarella, was very good too. 

Courgette fries (£6) were the highlight of the meal. An overflowing cup of courgette fronds were coated in crisp, salty batter. Just give me a bowl of these and a couple of ice cold beers and I’d be a very happy man.

Desserts were an unqualified success. A rum baba (£7) was light, delicately boozy and fragranced with orange.

Chocolate tart (£6.50) was super crisp with a rich ganache and added luxury in the form of meringue shards and pistachio and strawberry pieces. 

A textbook tiramisu (£6.50) was big on alcohol and chocolate.

All in all, Radici was a hit and miss affair. Whilst we had a lovely evening at the restaurant, at £65 a head (including a couple of bottles of wine shared between 5), I’d expect more consistency for my money.

The Details:

Address - Radici, 30 Almeida Street, London N1 1AD
Web -
Telephone - 020 7354 4777

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The Royal Coast Cafe, Middle Eastern cafe, Cardiff city centre review

When I’m craving Middle Eastern food I normally head straight to City Road where there’s an embarrassment of delicious shish.

However, the city centre isn’t so flush when is comes to doner and kofta.

On Caroline Street there’s Efes BBQ (about which I’ve heard good things from Soliciting Flavours).

There's also the unassuming looking Royal Coast Cafe on Charles Street with its handful of tables inside and a small sheltered outdoor seating area.

Middle Eastern hot and cold mezze, kebabs, pastries and pre-order specials including a whole lamb stuffed with spiced rice and nuts (£180) are the focus of the menu. But, Western dishes including fried breakfasts, pizzas and burgers also put in an appearance.

A glass of lovely fresh mango juice (£2.50) was blended to order.

Mixed mezze (£8) was served with a basket of warm flatbreads. Highlights included golden falafel, vibrant tabbouleh bursting with parsley, chive and citrus, smooth hummus and filo rolls filled with spiced mince. Warak inab (stuffed vine leaves) were perfectly decent whilst muttabal was a bit heavy on the lemon juice.

A Royal Mixed Grill (£7.99) saw a trio of lamb shish, lamb kofta and chicken shish skewers served with gorgeously buttery and cardamom fragranced rice, more flatbread, a lemon juice dressed side salad and a bonus pot of garlic mayonnaise. All the meat was very well cooked but perhaps a touch light on spice / marinade. 

We had a feast at the Royal Coast Cafe for less than £20. If you’re ever in the city centre and craving a kebab then I highly recommend a visit.

The Details:

Address - Royal Coast Cafe, 11 Charles Street, Cardiff CF10 2GA
Telephone - 02920 220 257

The Royal Coast Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday, 16 September 2017

The Beefy Boys, Hereford, burger restaurant review

To say that the story of Hereford’s Beefy Boys is impressive is an understatement.

Originally a team of amateur cooks from Hereford with a passion for burgers and bbq, they entered Grillstock in 2014 and won the title of best burger. Wow.

They then represented the UK at the World Food Championships in Las Vegas where they competed against 50 other chefs for the title of world’s best burger. They came second overall with their butty bach burger winning in the final. Double wow.

The Beefy Boys used their winnings from Vegas to open their first restaurant in Hereford, an industrial space with corrugated metal, wood-panelling and strip lighting.

Unsurprisingly, the menu is dominated by burgers; there’s sixteen of them (plus specials) including chicken and veggie options.

A salted caramel milkshake was big on flavour and topped with a nice piece of gooey brownie. But for me it was too thin and milky. Mrs G disagreed. 

We ordered a few sides to go with our burgers.

Hella crisp mac and cheese balls (£4) were as filthy-tasty as it gets; crisp crumbs gave way to velvety macaroni cheese. 

They were topped with parmesan, chives and crisp bacon shards and accompanied by a smokey spicy chipotle ketchup. 

Ninja wings (£4) were twice cooked giving them a super crisp exterior that was coated in a sweet, sticky, savoury glaze of soy, garlic and honey. Whilst they were tender, they weren’t the juiciest of wings I’ve eaten, perhaps a result of the double cooking process. 

Millionaire fries (£3.50) were topped with an indulgent combination of funky truffle oil, parmesan and chives. Whilst truffle oil often dominates, in this case it harmonised well with everything else. 

A burger lives and dies by the quality of its patty and this is where the Beefy Boys shine. 21 day aged Hereford beef is ground coarsely daily and is the sole ingredient in their patties (other than seasoning). Served a perfectly pink medium they’re big on flavour with a robust yet juicy texture.

The second most important element, the bun, is killer too. Their squidgy but sturdy and not too sweet semi-brioche buns are made by local baker Peter Cook using a sourdough starter. 

I ordered the Beefy Boy (£8), the signature burger. A messy beast, it was topped with crisp streaky bacon, oozy melted American cheese and Swiss cheese, lettuce, red onion and richness piercing gherkin. The kicker was a liberal dollop of secret special sauce - a creamy and tangy number that reminded me of Big Mac sauce but without the gherkin.

Mrs G’s Bacon Boy (£9) was topped with double bacon, bacon mayo, American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, red onion and gherkin. The only let down was a slice of fridge cold beef tomato that did its accompaniments no justice. 

We had a kick-ass lunch at Beefy Boys. Their quality is absolutely top drawer and they're great value to boot. If you’re ever in the Hereford area, make sure you visit to recalibrate your burger expectations.

The Details:

Address - The Beefy Boys, Old Market, Hereford HR4 9HU
Telephone - 01432 359209

Friday, 8 September 2017

Outlaw's at the Capital, Knightsbridge, London Michelin-starred restaurant review

How do you decide if a meal is good value for money?

A mystery meat burger might set you back a couple of quid. But, if it tastes worse than a sweaty plimsole then you’re clearly not getting much bang for your buck.

Similarly, sous vide fimble fowl served with crumpetty tree puree might get your pulse racing. But, if you still have to reach for the box of cornflakes when you get home then something’s amiss.

This brings me to Outlaw’s at the Capital, one of the best value meals I’ve eaten in 2017. For £33 I had a heroically good Michelin-starred meal that filled me to the brim.

Nathan Outlaw’s eponymous fish restaurant in Cornwall has recently been named the best restaurant in the UK in the Good Food Guide 2018. The London outpost, located in the swish Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge, is headed up by Chef Tom Brown, a standout contestant on this year’s Great British Menu.

At lunch they offer a set menu for £33 for 3 courses as well as a summer menu (3 courses for £62) and tasting menu (5 courses for £85).

I went for the cheapest option. 

A crisp linseed cracker was topped with potent smoked cod roe.

Bread is baked daily by Nathan Outlaw’s father Clive; cooking talent clearly runs in the family. A pair of warm, crisp rolls included a malty Doom Bar type and an intense and fragrant cheese and rosemary flavour. I was offered a second round of bread and I of course accepted. 

You can judge a fish restaurant by the quality of its fish soup. Outlaw’s was brilliant. A vivid terracotta colour with a deep fish flavour from its gurnard base was balanced by refreshing slices of orange. A perfectly cooked fillet of cod sat in the middle. 

My main was a dish of massive flavours. A beautifully flaky crisp-skinned hake fillet was joined by soft confit fennel, dinky mushrooms, intense mushroom puree, seriously meaty chicken sauce and fragrant tarragon oil which lifted the whole dish. It was fantastic. 

Dessert also kicked ass. A golden super-thin crusted treacle tart was fragranced with orange. It was joined by vanilla ice cream, fresh raspberries and raspberry puree. 

Accompanying the bill was a tasty mini ginger biscuit and clotted cream sandwich and a piece of chocolate and sea salt fudge. 

My lunch at Outlaw’s was absolutely first rate. The fish cookery was as good as it gets and at £33 it was seriously good value for money too. I highly recommend it.

The Details:

Address - Outlaw's at the Capital, 22-24 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, London SW3 1AT
Telephone -  0207 591 1202

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Caban, Adamsdown, Cardiff vegetarian and vegan restaurant review

I should hang my head in shame.

Caban has been on my doorstep for over two years and before that existed as Canteen on Clifton Street since 2007. Yet, Mrs G and I visited for the first time just last week.

This Adamsdown vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant serves globally inspired food without the baggage of being labelled as a non-meat eatery. Whilst the compact menu of three starters, mains and desserts is almost exclusively veggie or vegan, there’s always a meat option (a beef thali on our visit) to keep carnivores happy.

Caban is only open on Friday and Saturday evenings and with a bring your own wine policy (£2.50 corkage) and three courses of lovely food costing just £19, it’s not surprising they were packed to the rafters. The dining room might not be the most Instagram-friendly but the warm atmosphere more than makes up for it. 

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To start I had the Mexican chilaquiles. Crisp tortillas were coated in a velvety and spicy black bean sauce and accompanied by zesty pico de gallo salsa and light guacamole. 

Mrs G’s pasta dish was a corker. A pair of giant al dente ravioli were filled with a smooth, sweet and delicately nutty butternut squash and amaretti puree. A rich and fragrant lemon butter and sage sauce completed the dish.

For main I had the modest sounding Indonesian stir fry with “chicken” skewers. The dish far surpassed its billing. Slippery udon noodles and crisp vegetables were coated in a flavour-packed spicy cashew nut sauce. A pair of slightly chewy soy protein skewers were the only “meh” note of the meal. 

A lovely vegetable thali comprised of a gorgeously smoky aubergine chutney, ginger-spiked lentil dhal, new potato, cauliflower and lentil curry, crisp poppadom shards, tomato salad and fluffy nigella seed fragranced rice. 

Desserts maintained the high standards of the first two courses.

A raspberry frangipane tart was as good an example as I’ve ever eaten. Warm, thin and crisp pastry contained a light berry-studded almond sponge with a golden crust. It was accompanied by a smooth raspberry sorbet. 

Soft and rich sticky toffee pudding was accompanied by vanilla-fragranced vegan ice cream that was a commendable dairy substitute.

We had an excellent meal at Caban and our bill came to just £41.50. I highly recommend a visit to try their great value global cooking.

The Details:

*Update - 16/06/2018 - Caban is now closed*

Address - Caban, 40 Clifton Street, Cardiff CF24 1LR
Telephone - 029 20454999

Caban Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato