Saturday, 15 December 2018

Odessa, Crwys Road, Cardiff, Middle Eastern restaurant review

We didn’t originally plan to go for dinner at Odessa.

We planned to visit another recently opened Mediterranean restaurant. But having seen that the menu incorporated burgers, pizza and pasta as well as French and Greek dishes, we decided it probably wasn’t for us.

Odessa is much more singular in its focus. It's a well-priced Middle Eastern charcoal grill restaurant with most starters costing around £3 and mains around £8 - £9. 

Located on the corner of Crwys Road and Fairoak Road, Odessa’s building has been in a state of refurbishment for a number of years. Whilst Niche (the previous occupants) sadly never managed to open their doors, it’s good to see the building finally in use.

A pair of juices (£3) were both lovely. Mint and lemon was ice cold, super zesty and not too sweet whilst mango was thick and delivered a good hit of tropical fruit. 

Starters were unquestionably the highlight of the meal.

Borek (£3.50) was fried to order. The bubbly pastry parcels were filled with tangy melted feta and wilted spinach, and accompanied by a cucumber-laden and garlic-thwacked tzatziki. 

A mixed mezze (£6.50) was excellent too. Smooth hummus, a lightly smokey and creamy baba ganoush, a fiery tomato-based ezme dip and more of the lovely tzatziki were joined by citrusy stuffed vine leaves and olives. 

Fresh Turkish bread was warm and soft with a light chew.

Mains didn’t quite hit the same high as starters but they were both tasty, particularly my Odessa mixed grill (£10.50).

A quartet of kebabs saw herby and juicy chicken and lamb kofte joined by tender chicken and lamb shish. Also on the plate was buttery and fluffy rice, slightly under-charred tomatoes and green peppers and a fresh green salad. 

Mrs G’s chicken quozi (£8) saw half a grilled bird accompanied by a bowl of flavoursome tomato and okra sauce. The chicken’s thigh and leg were properly juicy but the breast could have been a touch moister. 

Stuffed, we passed on the dessert options which included freshly baked baklava and kanafeh. But, the bill was accompanied by a couple of pieces crisp and syrup laden katayef. If the rest of their desserts are this good then they’re well worth checking out. 

We had a very tasty and good value meal at Odessa. It’s a nice addition to Cardiff’s roster of kebab restaurants and it should be far enough from City Road to be able to cater to a different crowd.

The Details:

Address - Odessa Mediterranean restaurant, 150 Crwys Rd, Cardiff CF24 4PW
Telephone - 029 2034 4664

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Tuk Tuk, Thai street food restaurant, Cardiff

Do you believe that some restaurant locations are cursed?

You know, those venues that have a wicked combination of low passing trade, bad parking and an odd layout or huge number of covers.

I’m dubious.

Whilst some spots are definitely much better than others, I believe (perhaps naively) that if you’re good enough then people will come.

One such awkward location is 22 Crwys Road, the former home of Jerk It (good), Mashup (also good) and Munchies (they served a fried breakfast in a jar).

Tuk Tuk, a Thai street food restaurant, is the latest business to make a go of this location.

Their menu is compact, well-priced and features familiar Thai classics as well more unique dishes such as kai jieaw (crispy Thai omelette), larb (spicy and sour mince with mint) and nomyen (pink milk tea).

A pair of Singha beers were ice cold and malty. They’re complimentary until 28 December if you follow Tuk Tuk on Instagram or Facebook.

Starters were excellent. In fact, they were the highlight of the meal.

Crisp and golden grease-free spring rolls (£4.25) were filled with a light mix of chicken, mushroom, carrot and onion. Accompanying sweet chilli sauce was free from clag. 

Som Tam, green papaya salad (£5.95), saw crisp shreds of papaya and carrot bathed in a potent dressing of citrus, chilli and fish sauce. It was a lovely balance of sweet, spicy and sour with crunch and chew in the form of toasted peanuts and dried shrimp. 

The standout dish of the meal was a quartet of delightfully tender pork skewers (£4.25). Crisp, sticky, lightly charred in places and warming spiced they were perfect beer food. 

Mains were both very good.

A big portion of pad thai (£7.95) saw a mound of well separated rice noodles bound with tangy tamarind sauce flecked with plentiful chicken, nuggets of sweet spring onion, peanuts, al dente beansprouts and the freshness of lime. 

A Massiman curry rice set (£7.95) was good too. A bowlful of creamy, coconutty, mildly spiced curry sauce was bobbing with fall-apart tender chicken, sweet onions and soft potatoes. 

A mound of sticky rice was cooked on point. 

We had a delicious and good value meal with charming service at Tuk Tuk. I really hope they can make a success of 22 Crwys Road.

The Details:

Address - Tuk Tuk, 22 Crwys Rd, Cardiff CF24 4NL
Telephone - 029 2023 1334

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Market Hall Victoria review

Whenever I plan a visit to London I find myself in a state of dilemma.

Which restaurant should I visit this time?

Is Shoreditch’s newest Peruvian barbecue guinea pig joint or Mayfair’s edible gold leaf encrusted Russian salad specialist the safest bet for a great meal?

The opening of Market Hall Victoria (just opposite the train station) has eased my indecision as it brings together some of London's best restaurants under one roof.

It's essentially a luxury canteen. You order from one of the numerous traders, grab your buzzer and wait for your scran to be cooked to order.

There's some good breweries on the bars - Thornbridge, Siren and Magic Rock to name a few. We had a few halves of light and hoppy Magic Rock Saucery session IPA for a London priced £3.50 a half.

Amongst the traders we didn’t have a chance to visit this time were salt beef specialists Monty’s Deli, Japanese noodle masters Koya Ko, the questionably named Fanny’s Kebabs, and award-winning fish and chip shop Kerbisher & Malt.

Here’s a run down of everything we ate in order of deliciousness. We visited Market Hall Victoria on day ten of business so I’m sure there’s still plenty of scope for further improvement.

Gopal’s Corner was the most popular vendor on our visit by a mile, and with good reason too. Owned by the legends at Euston’s Roti King, there are regularly large queues for their critically acclaimed Malaysian food.

Flaky, light and buttery roti cani (£7.95) was a dreamy mop for a beef rendang of tender slow cooked beef bound together by a deeply spiced coconut gravy. 

A gargantuan thosai / dosa (£5.95) was thin, crisp and slightly tangy. It was served with a trio of great dips - a coconut chutney with a big whallop of ginger and thwack of chilli, a luxurious lentil based sambhar stew and a piquant tomato chutney.

Hackney’s Marksman pub are renowned for their starter of baked and steamed beef and barley buns, so it would make sense for them to open a stall that just sells buns.

Bun Shop’s beef bun had sold out so we made do with the bacon bun (£5). The gorgeously light and squidgy glazed bun was filled with tender shreds of ham hock and toasted oats. It was lovely with a tangy and lightly acidic homemade tomato ketchup. 

Dim sum specialists Baozi Inn’s signature dumplings include ruby prawn dumplings in beetroot dough and custard baozi in carrot juice dough.

We had a plate of delicious traditional jiaozi (£5.50); thinly cased filled pork mince dumplings flecked with a ton of fragrant chives. A bowl of vinegar was a perfect foil for the fatty meat. 

Super Tacos is an outpost from the Breddos Tacos team. Their flavour-packed corn flour tortillas were the star of the show but the toppings on both tacos we ate (2 for £6.50) had a good balance of fat, chilli and citrus.

Crisp and smokey charcoal grilled chicken was accompanied by black beans and avocado salsa verde whilst a spit roast pork taco was lovely but slightly on the tepid side. 

The only dish of the day which disappointed was the pici cacio e pepe (£8) from Nonna Tonda

The sauce was a silky and potent mix of emulsified parmesan and black pepper. But, the pasta was poor - our first portion was really underdone rather than al dente and after we sent it back, our second portion was still pretty rubbery. Hopefully this was just teething troubles. 

Market Hall Victoria is a delicious and fun place to while away a few hours. There also plans or a roof terrace to open next year so I can imagine it will be an awesome place to spend a summer's evening.

The Details:

Address - Market Hall Victoria, 191 Victoria Street, London SW1E 5NE
Telephone - 020 3773 9350

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Anderson's at the Waterloo Hotel, Newport restaurant review

Sitting in the shadows of Newport’s imposing Transporter Bridge, the Waterloo Hotel is one hell of a building.

Built for the wealthy captains of Newport’s Alexandra Dock in 1904, as the area declined the hotel became a less salubrious dockers pub and then a doss house. Eleven years ago it was bought by its current owners who fell in love with the grade 2 listed building and restored it to its former glory.

With its high ceilings, ornate tiled bar with brass rails, grand entrance staircase and historical knick-knacks, it’s a place which oozes character.

In keeping with the ornate setting, head chef Dickie Flinn’s compact menu is a lot more interesting than run of the mill pub grub. It changes regularly, the sign of a kitchen that’s keen to use seasonal produce and try new things. 

A thick duck pate (£6.50) with a good twang of liver was joined by caramelised onion chutney with a nice balance of sweetness and acidity, as well as a couple of wedges of granary toast. 

A warm wild mushroom and truffle tart (£6.50) saw a homemade short pastry case filled with buttery celeriac puree, pan fried mushrooms humming with truffle and a richness elevating runny egg yolk. It was a tasty dish which would have been improved further with more of the billed mushrooms. 

Onto mains and a crisp-skinned fillet of sea bass (£19.95) was garnished with plump briny mussels, fragrant tarragon, crunchy chopped almonds, al dente tenderstem broccoli and a clutch of new potatoes. 

A hillock of flavoursome slow-cooked shredded lamb (£15.50) was punctuated by warming dijon mustard and topped with golden garlic-spiked toasted breadcrumbs. Accompanying roasted new potatoes had captivating crunchy crevices. 

These were both very tasty dishes but both would have benefited from a bit more saucing to lubricate the plates and bring the dishes together. 

Desserts were lovely.

A sharp and not too sweet cauldron of lemon posset (£5.85) had an almost a buttery lemon curd vibe. It was joined by a superb thick and creamy liquorice ice cream with a big herbal hit. Whilst it wasn’t pretty, it more than made up for it in flavour. 

A warm chocolate brownie was big on goo and chocolate. It was lovely paired with a creamy, fresh and natural tasting banana parfait which lacked any hint of artificality. 

We had a very tasty meal at the Waterloo. It’s worth a visit for the building alone but thankfully the food is well worth checking out too.

The Details:

Address - Anderson's at the Waterloo, 113 Alexandra Rd, Newport NP20 2JG
Telephone - 01633 264266

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Seville tapas guide

Seville is an incredible city.

The architecture is outrageously stunning.

There’s Seville Cathedral, the largest gothic church in the world…

the Alcazar of Seville, a royal palace which you might recognise from Game of Thrones…

the vivid blue tiles of the Plaza de España…

and the wooden canopy of Las Setas.

It’s all just so beautiful.

The weather is tasty too. When we visited in mid-October the temperature was in the mid-twenties.

Crucially, the food and drink is gorgeous. In fact, I think it’s pretty much on a par with San Sebastian, the best food city I’ve ever visited.

Tapas culture is where it’s at. We’d visit a bar for a couple of plates of food and a drink before moving onto the next place. Small beers cost around €1,50 whilst a glass of wine or sherry was between €2 and €3.

Here’s a rundown of where we ate. We didn’t have a dud meal.

A massive thanks go to Soliciting Flavours, Seville Tapas and Owen from Bar 44 whose tips were invaluable.

Espacio Eslava
Calle Eslava, 3, 41002 Sevilla

Eslava serves a mix of modern and traditional tapas.

A light funky boletus mushroom cake (€3,10) was topped with creamy mushroom sauce, gooey slow cooked egg yolk and a caramelised wine reduction. It was a lovely balance of sweet and savoury.

I could have eaten Eslava's sticky, yielding honey glazed ribs (€3,10) with rosemary all day long. It seems like everyone else was of the same opinion as they sold out within twenty minutes of opening.

A lush terrine was made with finely sliced courgette and peppers (€2,90)...

croquetas were stuffed with silky bechamel and jamon (€2,90)…

and corking little sardines (€2,90) were paired with a fresh salsa.

La Azotea
Calle Conde de Barajas, 13, 41002 Sevilla

The contemporary tapas served at Azotea really are brilliant.

Fall apart tender pig cheek braised in red wine (€6) and buttery potato gratin with tangy goats cheese sauce was an indulgent combination.

Filo parcels (€4,75) were loaded with whipped goats cheese, plump prawns and leeks topped with a creamy tomato sauce.

Ethereally light and crisp toasted cristal bread (€5) was drizzled with first rate olive oil and flavour-packed tomato concasse.

Salt cod (€6,50) was perched on mashed potatoes flecked with smoky sobrasada and scattered with intense trompette mushrooms.

Plaza Pintor Amalio García del Moral, 2, 41005 Sevilla

Tradevo serve modern tapas and cocktails in a funky space. We had a lovely pair of citrus-packed sherry (€7) and pisco sours (€7,50).

Filthily good deep fried sushi rice (€9) was topped with salmon, avocado and wasabi.

Impressively boned chicken wings (€4,25) with smokey chipotle mayonnaise were seriously addictive.

A pretty cannelloni of thin avocado slices (€9) was stuffed with a fine dice of sweet prawn, red onion and refreshing apple.

Bodeguita Romero
Calle Harinas, 10, 41001 Sevilla

This bar is known for their montadito de pringa (€2,50), a stonkingly good toasted sandwich loaded with shredded slow-cooked pork and soft black pudding.

But their battered tender aubergine (€2,20) drizzled with sweet molasses was seriously good too…

and so were their salt cod loaded croquetas (€3) …

and their yielding pork cheek (€3,70) bathed in a meaty sauce and sat on a handful of bonus chips.

Blanco Cerrillo
Calle José de Velilla, 1, 41001 Sevilla

On the Saturday afternoon we visited Blanco Cerrillo, hoards of people thronged the alley outside, mostly eating one type of tapas.

Their boquerones en adobo are legendary for good reason - plump briny anchovies are coated in uber-crisp grease-free batter with a hint of lemon. They’re the perfect snack to accompany a cold beer and a bargain at around €2 a plate.

Palo Santo
Plaza de La Gavidia, N.º 5 - B, 41002 Sevilla

Anywhere that serves manzanilla (€1,80) on draught is going to be a keeper.

We ate delicious little morsels of breaded iberico pork (€4,50) served with hella good smokey paprika mayonnaise.

Pan fried baby squid (€3,50) came with a big flavoured squid ink sauce, fresh pepper salsa and smoked mayonnaise.

Hops and Dreams
Calle Jesús del Gran Poder, 83, 41002 Sevilla

This craft beer bar has a lovely selection of Spanish brews. Dry-hopped Xino Xano Berlinerweisse (€3,20) from Cyclic Beer Farm and a juicy New England IPA (€3,50) from Cerveza Malandar were both lovely.

Their Tamil curry croquetas (€3,80) were also immense. Packed with complex spice, coconut, chilli and tender chicken, they were a first rate example of fusion cooking.

La Flor de Toranzo
Calle Jimios, 1, 41001 Sevilla

This buzzing place seems to be all about two things, Rioja Alta wine and mini toasted sandwiches. In fact there’s a bloke whose sole job is hammering out toasties.

A glass or two (€2,70) of the delicious red was ace paired with the ridiculously light, soft and crisp toasted rolls filled with the savoury saltiness of roquefort and jamon (€3,20) or spreadibly spicy sobrasada (€2,50).

La Brunilda
Calle Galera, 5, 41002 Sevilla

This modern bar is brilliantly busy, probably something to do with their high ranking on T***advisor. It was full within fifteen minutes of opening.

Our order went AWOL but it was more than worth the wait when it was rediscovered.

A juicy mini beef burger (€4,80) was served medium pink, seasoned with soy and topped with a killer curry mayonnaise. It was accompanied by a mound of sweet potato crisps.

Tender squid (€5) was served with light and crisp migas (crumbs) flecked with egg and tomato, and pearls of saline herring roe.

Iberico pork shoulder (€5,50) came with super soft sweet potato, the crunch of pistachio and a savoury yet creamy Idiazabal cheese sauce.

Vineria San Telmo
Paseo de Catalina de Ribera, 4, 41004 Sevilla

Combining the traditional and the contemporary, we had some cracking plates at Vineria San Telmo.

The king of spring rolls (€5,90) was loaded with deeply meaty oxtail stew. It was super rich and super good.

A well-crusted and well-flavoured piece of Argentinian steak (€6,30) was joined by thinly sliced fried potatoes loaded with garlic and red onions, and a creamy mustard sauce.

Pan-fried marinated artichokes (€5,60) had a vinegary hit which was nicely balanced by crisp and fatty pieces of ham.

Enrique Becerra
Calle Gamazo, 2, 41001 Sevilla, Spain

Enrique Becerra, the patron of this old school tapas bar and restaurant, surveys his territory from a place at the bar.

A brick pastry parcel (€3,80) was filled with flakes of salt cod and sat in a pool of cool ajo blanco, punchy with garlic and rich with almond.

Warming spiced and loosely textured morcilla (€3,50) was perched on toast with an oozy fried quail egg.

Mrs G is addicted to Russian salad (€3,60) and this lovely example, flecked with prawns, came with an extra blob of mayonnaise for good measure.

Palo Cortao
Calle Mercedes de Velilla, 4, 41004 Sevilla

This funky bar serves a big range of sherry by the glass. I had a couple of glasses of deliciously light manzanilla en rama.

Tuna tomato (€5) was an intense tuna pate cleverly enrobed in sweet tomato jelly. Crunchy soil provided textural contrast.

Sauteed chanterelles (€8) in a meaty and shroomy sauce were accompanied by a perfectly runny slow cooked egg.

Calle Delgado, 4, 41002 Sevilla

Maquila is another great shout for excellent craft beer and tidy tapas. They make Son Brewery beers in house and their session IPA (€2,40) is a belter. It's got a massive hit of juicy chinook and is very crushable.

These guys really know how to fry stuff. A mountain of grease-free breaded chicken pieces (€4) came with guilty pleasure tandoori mayonnaise.

Squid croquetas (€3,20) were loaded with light bechamel laced with squid ink.

Sal Gorda
Calle Alcaicería de la Loza, 17, 41004 Sevilla

The teriyaki style oxtail (€4,50) was just amazing at this tapas and craft beer bar. The yielding beeeeefy flesh was bathed in a thick meaty, soy-twanged sauce and sat on top of creamy mash.

A piece of suckling pig (€3,90) was gorgeously thin and crisp of skin but the fried potatoes underneath were slightly limp and tepid.

Las Terasas
Calle Sta. Teresa, 2, 41004 Sevilla

This charming bar with its old photos and hanging hams dates back to 1870.

Nutty and fat-meltingly good jamon iberico de bellota (€10) looked like a plate made of meat.

Plump boquerones (€3,50) in vinegar with a good drizzle of olive oil were as good an anchovy as I’ve ever eaten.

La Cata Ciega
Calle Zaragoza, 15, 41001 Sevilla

At this teeny tiny tapas bar we had addictive as heck Russian salad (creamy potato salad flecked with tuna - €2,50).

Soy marinated tuna was enjoyably rare in parts and well done in others and served with seaweed spaghetti (€3,80)

Casa Morales
Calle García de Vinuesa, 11, 41001 Sevilla

This old skool tapas bar is a proper looker. It dates back to 1850 and there are huge stone urns in the rear bar where they used to store wine.

A slice of warm, light and fluffy tortilla with a golden crust and the sweetness of onion (€2) was lovely with a couple of ice cold beers.

La Esperanza
Calle San Jacinto, 89, 41010 Sevilla

We nipped into La Esperanza in Seville’s Triana district for a Sunday morning plate of freshly fried hot churros and thick chocolate (€3). This was the breakfast of champions.

The Details:

We flew direct to Seville with Easyjet from Bristol airport.

We stayed in the centrally located Apartments Tempa Museo (€100 a night), nothing was more than around a twenty minute walk.