Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Arbennig, Pontcanna, Cardiff restaurant review

It’s been a couple of years since my last visit to Pontcanna's Arbennig and the menu is still packed with interesting seasonal dishes including octopus with smoked aubergine and braised blade of Welsh beef with turnips, pickled mushrooms, king cabbage and bone marrow.

This time we visited for the great value set lunch menu that offers 2 courses for £15.95 or 3 courses for £19.95.

To start, a trio of light finely-textured fragrant Thai-style fishcakes were dressed in a sticky, not too sweet and sour glaze scattered with sesame seeds. Crisp leaves, pink pickled onions and sour cream provided balance to the plate.

Golden crumbed pucks of seriously meaty shredded mutton and haggis were served with a creamy root vegetable slaw and smokey slightly acidic walnut puree which cut through the richness of its accompaniments.

A meat-packed main comprised of a pair of plump middlewhite pork sausages and a big porky rissole thwacked with juniper and sage. Glossy caramelised onion gravy, buttery mash and a generous scattering of crisp onions completed the dish.

Mussels weren’t the plumpest of specimens and a few were on the gritty side but they were bathed in a lovely lemony and buttery sauce.

Their accompanying french fries were impeccable.

Truffled mac and cheese was a lovely plate of comfort food. The huge bowl of pasta was coated in a velvety cheese sauce fragranced with just the right amount of truffle and flecked with soft sweet confit onions and pieces of kale. Crispy kale and onions provided welcome crunch.

We had a bit of a wait for dessert but it was worth it. Light vanilla cream, crumbled oat biscuits, golden honeycomb and sweet and sharp lemon curd was a bowl of tasty things.

A dollop of airy and not too sweet chocolate mousse was accompanied by hot and tender caramelised roast pear, warming pieces of stem ginger and a crunchy chocolate crumb.

We had a really tasty and good value lunch at Arbennig. If you haven’t tried their interesting comfort food yet then add it to your list of places to visit.

The Details:

Address - Arbennig,  6-10 Romilly Crescent, Pontcanna, Cardiff, CF11 9NR
Telephone - 029 2034 1264
Web - 

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

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Mint and Mustard, Cardiff South Indian restaurant review

Mint and Mustard’s restaurant on Whitchurch Road is where it all began for high end South Indian cooking in Cardiff.

Whilst I’m a huge fan of Anand George’s Purple Poppadom and have had lovely meals at Dill Jeera, Chutney Roti, and Chai Street, I’ve been back to Mint & Mustard more times than anywhere else. As well the consistently lovely cooking, its proximity to Penylan helps provide an explanation.

Taking advantage of a great value voucher deal, Mrs and G and I feasted on tasting menu 2 (normally £36.95 a head).

A trio of starters kicked ass - a good wodge of soft, smokey and creamy tikka paneer was spiced with mustard and honey; a bronzed tiger prawn was coated in a punchy paste of kashmiri chilli and turmeric; and a juicy turkey seekh kebab zinged with fresh coriander. 

A little pot of lemon sorbet was just the right side of sharp and sweet. 

Mains were a triumph.

Dhaba murgh saw pieces of tender chicken tikka cooked in a rich tomato sauce fragrant with garlic, ginger and coriander. 

A whopper of a tandoori king prawn was sweet of flesh and licked with smoke.

Majestic lamb was a deep flavoured dish of yielding meat in well-spiced gravy.

A light and fresh tarka dhal was tempered beautifully with garlic, cumin, onion and tomato. 

Steamed basmati rice was as fluffy as it gets. 

Perfectly soft naans were brushed with butter - there was a mix of sweet coconut stuffed peshwari and tomato, coriander and red onion topped varieties.

The chocomosa is a classic for a reason. A crisp filo pastry triangle oozed hot chocolate ganache and was balanced by a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a piece of caramel topped banana.

We had an ace meal at Mint & Mustard. If you’re looking for first rate Southern Indian food then you're always in safe hands.

The Details:

Address - Mint and Mustard, 134 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff, CF14 3LZ
Web -
Telephone - 029 2062 0333 

Mint and Mustard Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Beach House, Oxwich Bay, Gower restaurant review

Restaurateurs Neil Kedward and Zoe Agar definitely have an eye for a view.

The Beach House at Oxwich Bay and Coast in Pembrokeshire, two of their three restaurants, have some of the finest panoramas I’ve witnessed in the UK.

Their most recent opening, the Beach House, was named the AA restaurant of the year for Wales 2017-18. Heading up the stoves is Hywell Griffith, a Welshman whose career has taken in sous-chef positions at Michelin-starred restaurants Simon Radley in Chester and Machynlleth’s Ynyshir Hall and a head chef role at the Freemasons at Wiswell, currently ranked 4th in the UK’s best gastropubs.

The Beach House certainly lives up to its name. It’s perched right on the edge of the beach and the interior, with its whitewashed wood panelling, feels like the perfect place to take shelter on a blustery day. 

There a number of menus on offer including a 3 course set lunch (£28), a la carte (starters £13 and mains £26 approx) and 5 course (£55) and 8 course (£75) tasting menus.

The 8 course menu, which we'd purchased on a voucher deal, kicked off with a golden cube of shredded and breaded ham hock topped with blobs of tangy pineapple and punchy parsley puree. 

Bread was some of the finest I’ve ever eaten anywhere. 

The warm, crisp crusted, super light and soft white loaf was streaked with salty and savoury laverbread. A good slather of whipped butter melted into it beautifully. 

A creamy cauliflower soup topped with a voluptuous cheese foam was cauliflower cheese in a liquid state. The luxurious combination was balanced by dinky pieces of pickled cauliflower. 

A lovely piece of classical cooking was up next. Precisely cooked lemon sole was served with tender razor clam slices, light kohlrabi spaghetti, fragrant and cleansing diced grape and a lemony fish veloute. 

A sweet whopper of an Atlantic prawn was wrapped in pasta that was a little too firm around the edges. It was bathed in a restorative broth that blew the cobwebs away with its warming hit of ginger and fragrant lemongrass. Fresh pak choi, diced spring onion and rehydrated pork skin noodles completed the lovely dish. 

The meal’s standout came next. A buttery golden-crusted lobe of foie gras was served with toothsome maple and sherry glazed puy lentils, a disc of smokey and fatty morteau sausage, crisp puffs of rice and a sweetly acidic sherry puree. 

A cylinder of pig trotter was filled with a light mousseline studded with pork shoulder and chorizo. Sweet white onion puree, crispy onion shreds and punchy baby pickled onions completed dish. The only element I didn’t love was the flabby texture of the trotter.

Our main was a triumph. Golden-skinned pink Gressingham duck breast was joined by a glossy five-spice twanged sauce of the highest calibre. Buttery parsnip puree, tender roast parsnip, earthy baked beetroot and buttery spinach were faultless accompaniments.

Tangy and refreshing blood orange segments and gel were accompanied by oat crumble and a light and aromatic lemon verbena ice cream. A dollop of yoghurt at the bottom of the dish clashed a little with the creamy ice cream. 

Finally, a bara brith souffle knocked it out the park - sweet and warm-spiced it was delightfully airy in texture. It was accompanied by beautifully smooth lapsang souchong tea ice cream whose smokiness slightly overwhelmed the flavour of the souffle. 

We had an excellent lunch at the Beach House and the kitchen team has bags of skill. A few minor elements didn’t quite work for me but if you’re looking for a high end lunch on the Gower then this is the place to go.

The Details:

Address - Beach House, Oxwich Beach, Gower, Swansea SA3 1LS
Web -
Telephone - 01792 390965

Saturday, 10 February 2018

Pim's @ iCookThai, Cathays, Cardiff Thai restaurant review

This is only half a review.

Whilst I can firmly say that the food served at Pim’s @iCookThai is lovely, I don’t know how good the legendary after dinner entertainment is. Mrs G and I left before Pim, the owner / chef / singer / guitarist, took to the stage.

Judging by the evening’s background music, which included guilty pleasures such as Extreme’s More Than Words and Simply Red’s Stars, Pim’s vast array of guitars and equipment, and the lyrics to Stand By Me chalked on the wall, it’s safe to say the post-dinner concert would have been a lot of fun.

Pim’s @ iCookThai on Crwys Road is a cookery school on Monday to Tuesday and a BYOB Thai cafe and restaurant from Wednesday to Sunday.

The dining space has a warm homespun feel with its shelves of cookery books, strings of fairy lights and eclectic nicknacks. 

The menu is reassuringly focused with its 5 starters, 10 mains and 1 dessert. However, if there are any Thai dishes that don’t feature then Pim is happy to cook them for you if you give him 24 hours notice. 

Mrs G and I shared a gorgeously light and fruity Hans Michel Riesling (free corkage) before moving on to a couple of bottles of lager. 

Thai dim sum (£4.50) was reminiscent of Siu Mai, the classic Chinese dumpling. Soft wonton wrappers were filled with a light mix of minced chicken and mushroom. A good drizzle of soy dialled up the umami. 

Som Tum salad (£4.50) was made with mango instead of the usual green papaya. The sweet mango, crisp shredded carrot, green beans and tangy tomatoes were bathed in a mouth-tingly hot citrus dressing. 

A lamb shank special with tamarind (£12.50) was everything I wanted it to be. A fall-apart-tender piece of meat was bathed in an intensely meaty gravy balanced by the tang of tamarind. Pieces of red pepper and courgette completed the delicious plate. 

A red chicken massaman curry (£11.50) contained tender meat, peppers, courgette, finely diced carrot and peanuts bathed in a coconut milk-based sauce that was loaded with flavour and spice. It was a very good Thai curry. 

Both our mains were accompanied by a dome of sticky Jasmine rice (£2.50). 

We had a lovely meal at Pim’s @ iCookThai. There were a couple of fairly hefty waits for our starters and mains but if you’re sticking around for a night of food, booze and entertainment then it wouldn’t be too much of an issue (although perhaps they could sell prawn crackers as a snack).

Next time, I’m going to make sure I hang around for the after dinner sing-a-long.

The Details:

Address - Pim’s @ iCookThai, 45 Crwys Rd, Cardiff CF24 4ND
Telephone - 07789016354 (Book by text message)

Saturday, 3 February 2018

The Whitebrook, Monmouthshire Michelin-starred restaurant review

Chris Harrod, the Chef-Patron of The Whitebrook in the wilds of Monmouthshire, has held a Michelin star for 4 years.

A protégé of Raymond Blanc, Harrod’s cooking is big on classical technique but he also makes extensive use of locally foraged herbs like pennywort, three cornered garlic and hogweed. Whilst these ingredients could add up to challenging flavour combinations, there’s something reassuringly comforting about all of Harrod’s food.

Mrs G and I visited on a last minute dinner, bed and breakfast package for £199. But, the tasting 7 course tasting menu normally costs £82 a head with a 3 course dinner menu costing £68. 

Pre-dinner drinks comprised of a glass of bone dry Gutierez Colosia fino sherry (£5.50) and a Botanical (£9.95), an enjoyably floral yet dry combination of gin, elderflower and cucumber.

The interesting and delicious snacks set the tone for the rest of the meal. A crisp rye cracker was topped with a velvety chicken liver parfait and sweet quince puree. 

A golden croquette filled with soft parsnip was cut by the tang of apple puree. 

Light and sweet pumpkin puree was studded with crisp seeds and pieces of meaty spiced black pudding. A couple of slivers of pickled pumpkin provided balance. 

With the rise of sourdough in swanky restaurants, classic white loaves don’t seem to get much of a look in. The Whitebrook’s white bread was gorgeously soft with a crisp and floury crust whilst a brown loaf was fortified with the richness of stout. I’m not gonna lie, I ate four pieces of the stuff. 

Golden pieces of sweet roast Jerusalem artichoke (a few pieces were a touch under) were joined by bold flavoured goats cheese puree, crisp artichoke skins, parmesan shavings, mixed nuts and seeds, and the background fragrance of rosemary. This dish was rich as heck so the dainty portion was bang on. 

A perfectly caramelised scallop was cleverly paired with the intense fruitiness of elderberry, sweet and buttery roasted and pureed parsnip and salty rock samphire. 

A blushing breast of squab pigeon was one of the night’s standouts; it was paired with the sweet tang of forced rhubarb puree and the distinct charred notes of crispy kale and romanesco. Wild chervil, uber-smooth cauliflower puree and pine oil all brought extra interest to the dish. 

Another blindingly good dish followed. An enjoyably firm-textured fillet of brill was perched atop a pile of buttery caraway seed-flecked cabbage and a good blob of sweet onion puree. Tangy beer pickled onions provided a counterpoint but the most compelling element was a bacon foam which gave everything a twang of meat. 

Our final savoury plate was a piggy menagerie. Tender crisp-skinned suckling pig chop, spoonably tender belly and a rich flavoured head croquette were served with caramelised celeriac puree, a gorgeously meaty sauce, pretty Japanese artichokes, lamb’s sorrel and a clever stack of finely sliced roast potato and pear. The dish was brought together by cleansing uncooked pear slices. 

Pre-dessert was a big herbal hit. A pretty swirl of fragrant chamomile ice cream and intense blackberry jelly perched on top of fizzy, fruity and punchy flavoured blackcurrant sage rock.

Dessert was a light yet comforting combination of soft and sweet poached pear pieces served with crisp and buttery yoghurt crumble, light buttermilk ice cream, shards of milk crisp and a dusting of vivid green maritime powder. 

A pair of ace petit fours rounded off the meal - a sticky hazelnut sponge topped with a not too sweet chocolate ganache and a perfectly wobbly piece of quince jelly. 

Our accommodation is also worth mentioning. Our cosy double room included freshly made Welsh cakes on arrival. 

Whilst our cooked breakfast the morning after was a dainty beast that included killer Trealy farm black pudding and bacon, plump herby sausages and the most perfect poached eggs I’ve ever eaten. 

We had a stonkingly good meal at The Whitebrook. I seriously recommend a visit.

The Details:

Address - The Whitebrook, Whitebrook, near Monmouth, Monmouthshire NP25 4TX
Telephone - 01600 860 254

The Whitebrook Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato