Saturday, 26 May 2018

Wright's Wines, Cardiff wine bar and restaurant review

Hidden away on the first floor of one of Cardiff’s Victorian arcades is a true gem.

Wright’s Wines is the dinky offspring of Carmarthenshire’s legendary Wright’s Food Emporium.

There’s no passing trade to speak of so unless you're in the know there's no way you'd stumble across it.

Much like its parent gaff, Wright’s Wines' focus is very much on brilliant produce and big flavours.

With seating for barely more than fifteen people, half of the place is given over to shelves of creatively labelled wines as well as a few beers, ciders and chutneys. 

Prior to my visits to Wright’s Wine, I’d only experienced one or two glasses of natural wine. Whilst I was a bit sceptical about them due to rants I’ve read in the media, I’ve been massively won over by the compact selection available by the glass at Wright's.

On the latest visit, I drank a summery and easy drinking Le Vendangeur Masqué (£6 - below second left) as well as a big berried fizzy Julien Pineau Bocca Di Rosa (£6 - below left). 

To accompany the lush wines is a brief menu of cheese, charcuterie and a couple of more elaborate dishes. 

Thin slices of uber-tender and fatty coppa (£6) were topped with a celeriac remoulade made with creamy mayonnaise thwacked with the savoury hum of anchovy and vinegary punch of gherkin. 

A crisp-crusted quiche (£9.50) was laden with sweet golden onions, sliced courgette and tangy feta. It was heated up in the weeniest of mini-ovens in the tiniest of kitchens. Accompanying it was a hefty mound of comforting potato salad coated with red onion and dill flecked mayonnaise. 

Wright’s bread (£2.50), crisp of crust and light of crumb, was served with grassy olive oil. 

A plate of whopping cantabrian anchovies (£6) was perfect wine food; meaty, umami-rich and not too salty. 

Stichleton (£4.50), the daddy of unpasteurised stiltons, was served as a big wedge with crisp homemade oat biscuits with a slight sweetness. 

A big dollop of tangy homemade tomato and red pepper chutney balanced the richness of the cheese and biscuits. 

On another visit, a plate of fatty spiced Zivieri mortadella (£4.50) was the finest example of this luncheon meat that I’ve ever eaten. Wright’s have sourced one of the few rare breed versions of this sausage in the world. It was served with homemade piccalilli with crunchy veggies and a punch of mustard. 

Both my visits to Wright’s Wine have been lush and it's well worth tracking down if you want some interesting wine and flavour-packed nosh. This is a marvellous addition to the city.

The Details:

A note about opening hours, Wright's are currently only open till 9pm on Thursday nights and 12pm - 6pm Wednesday to Saturday.

Address - Wright's Wines, The Balcony, Castle Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1BU
Web -

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Smoking Goat, Shoreditch brunch review

The spicy and fragrant flavour punch of Thai food makes it one of my favourite cuisines.

But, I've never considered how this could translate into a devastatingly delicious brunch. 

Thankfully, Shoreditch's Smoking Goat have.

This acclaimed restaurant and bar, which serves Thai drinking and comfort food, has a breakfast menu which includes epic sounding dishes like curried saffron eggs, roti and lardo and crispy wild mussel and beansprout omelette with house sriracha.

A buttery, flaky, charred roti (£5.70) was topped with a mesmerisingly good combination of smoky beef sausage, golden-frilled deep fried egg, fiery chilli paste and red chillies, creamy mayonnaise and a liberal quantity of fresh coriander. This was a turbocharged McDonald's breakfast wrap.

First-rate fried chicken (£7.60) was served with coconut rice and a chilli-laced curry sauce. My friend paused halfway through the meal to contemplate the ferociousness of the spice.

Finally, a bowl of Khao Soi Northern Thai gravy noodles (£7.60) was unlike any other Thai curry I've eaten - a compelling herbal hit (cardamon?) was the source of its uniqueness. In amongst the gravy bobbed slippery al dente noodles, smoky bits of yielding burnt ends, spring onion and cabbage. Deep fried noodles on the surface provided crunch. 

Breakfast at Smoking Goat was totally different and delicious. If you want a change from smashed avocado on toast then go get involved. 

The Details:

Address - Smoking Goat, 64 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Llanerch Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan restaurant review

Over the last few years Welsh wine has been getting more and more airtime. Earlier this year, a feature on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch sang the praises of wines from Glyndwr, White Castle and Ancre Hill. 

Llanerch Vineyard is another of Wales’s best known wine producers. Located in Hensol in the Vale of Glamorgan, the vineyard also comprises a wedding venue, cookery school and the Cariad bistro and restaurant.

The restaurant has a lovely view out over the vineyard and Ely Valley beyond. 

Both wines that I drank surpassed expectations; they were excellent. A Cariad sparkling brut (£7.50) had plenty of citrus fruit and a smooth fizz. Even better was the Cariad medium dry white (£4.65) with floral notes and a delicate sweetness. 

The menu reads exceptionally well. Eye catchers include snacks of chicken crackling with pancetta salt and black pudding bonbons with truffle mayonnaise as well as a main of lamb neck fillet with sweetbread and apricot faggots.

A pair of nibbles kicked things off on a very good note.

Whitebait (£3) coated in golden batter sat on top of a chunky tartare sauce packed with capers and gherkins. 

Pieces of uber-creamy and soft buffalo mozzarella (£3) were bathed in a refreshing tomato essence and topped with a crisp fragrant sage leaf. 

Things took a dip with the starters.

Thinly sliced butternut squash carpaccio (£7) was marinated in a vinegar dressing which overwhelmed everything else on the plate - tangy cubes of feta, lovage oil and a punchy harissa mayonnaise. 

A pressed ham hock terrine (£8) looked the part but was dense and a touch dry. A quail scotch egg was also on the dry-side; a shame as the egg was perfectly runny and the crumb delightfully crunchy. Accompaniments of crisp chicken skin and a mild mustard sauce were on the mark. 

Things picked up again with the mains.

Tender and meaty monkfish goujons (£19) were coated in a fine crumb and served with top drawer polenta fries and delicately fragranced wild garlic mayonnaise. 

A pair of dainty duck fillets (£21) were cooked a precise pink and served with a deeply spiced bhaji of shredded duck. Buttery potato galette, smooth spiced carrot puree and richness balancing poached rhubarb were all good accompaniments but a piece of chewy and flavourless duck jerky had no place on the plate nor did a greasy bit of duck crackling. 

Desserts were both pretty good.

An enjoyably wobbly buttermilk panna cotta (£7.50) was creamy, not too sweet and twanged with vanilla. Slightly tart poached rhubarb and a warming crystallised ginger crumb were nice accompaniments. However, pea shoots, fresh berries, berry coulis and a sweet citrusy kumquat pate de fruit were a few elements too many. 

A Welsh cheese selection (£8.50) comprised a tasty yet dainty selection of Perl Las, Perl Wen and Welsh cheddar. It was joined by quince jelly, nifty dehydrated grapes on the vine, quality crackers, blobs of beetroot puree and chutney that was a bit heavy on the chilli.

Our dinner at Llanerch Vineyard was a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst there was some very good cooking, a few dishes disappointed and some ingredients baffled. But, the lovely wine and excellent service meant we still had an enjoyable evening.

The Details:

Address - Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan CF72 8GG
Web -
Telephone - 01443 222716

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Purslane, Cheltenham restaurant review

A good friend of mine reckons it’s much better to go to a restaurant for lunch rather than dinner.

His argument is based on the availability of great value set menus (see Cardiff's Asador 44, Arbennig and Milkwood, all of which offer 3 courses for £20 or less) and the fact there are normally fewer dishes available to mess-up.

With this theory in mind, Mrs G and I visited Purslane in Cheltenham, the kind of high end neighbourhood bistro I wish was located around the corner from my house.

Whilst they have an a la carte menu available with starters weighing in at £10, mains £22 and desserts £9, their concise working lunch menu offers three courses for a fantastic £18. 

It’s rare that the accompaniments show up the bread (£4) but a light and smokey taramasalata topped with crisp puffed rice and whipped butter sprinkled with seaweed powder were both absolutely belting. In contrast, slices of crisp wholemeal bread and fennel seed dotted rolls were good but a mini soda bread loaf was dense and dry. 

To start, a supremely creamy bowl of white asparagus veloute was joined by a picturesque linseed cracker topped with light cod brandade and pearls of salty caviar. 

A cylinder of yielding and deeply meaty slow-cooked hogget shoulder was joined by cleverly crisp roast heritage carrots, a good dollop of buttery chive mash, charred leaves of hispi cabbage, sweet carrot puree and a first rate glossy sauce. This was cooking of the highest calibre. 

Across the table, Mrs G had a stonking plate of fish and chips. A flaky cornish ling fillet coated in airy and crisp beer batter sat atop a mound of mint twanged crushed peas. 

Triple cooked chips were exemplary - extremely crisp on the outside with fluffy interiors. Richness balancing tartare sauce was loaded with citrus, capers and parsley. 

Creamed spinach (£4) saw lightly wilted leaves bathed in a liberal amount of dairy and topped with a crunchy and hyper-meaty bone marrow crumb. 

The only dessert on offer, sticky toffee pudding was a perfect example.   

Super soft and moist, every pore of the pudding was infused with rich toffee sauce. A not-too-sweet and slightly bitter Guinness ice cream was the perfect foil.

We had a fantastically tasty and good value lunch at Purslane. I think I might have joined Team Lunch.

The Details:

Address - Purslane, 16 Rodney Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL50 1JJ
Telephone - 01242 321639

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Canaima Coffee, Cardiff Venezuealan cafe review

Some of the places which I’ve written about that linger longest in the memory are the international cafes and restaurants which have added colour to Cardiff’s dining out scene.

Kimchi’s Korean food, the Brazilian and Portuguese cooking at Amazonas, the Malaysian nosh at Wok-ker Shaker and the Middle Eastern cooking at Falafel Kitchen all spring to mind.

Canaima Coffee on Roath’s Albany Road is Cardiff’s first Venezuelan cafe. Of course, we’ve already got the street food of The Queen Pepiada, but I’m talking bricks and mortar.

Canaima is a cute little space with bright and modern decor. The menu consists of Venezuelan specialities including arepas, empenadas and sweet pastries. 

A chicken empenada (£4.50) saw an enjoyably corn-twanged deep-fried pocket filled with tender shredded chicken with a touch of tomato. The lack of crispness in the exterior was a slight drawback. 

A Pabellon arepa (£6.95) saw a grilled crisp and squidgy maize bread filled with shreds of tender beef, soft black beans, sweet and starchy fried plantain and crumbled tangy cheese. This was a very tasty combination of flavours and textures. But, considering the price a bit of side salad would have made it a more substantial meal. 

From the pastry selection we ordered a milhojas (£1.99), a delicious Venezuelan take on a mille-feuille. Thin and crunchy layers of puff pastry were sandwiched with rich custard and sweet dulce de leche.

Drinks were just as unique as the food - a papelon con limon (£2.50) saw sweet sugar cane juice balanced by the acidity of lemon juice.

Chicha (£2.95) was essentially a rice pudding milkshake. It was creamy, not too sweet, a little nutty from the rice and sprinkled with cinnamon.

Canaima is a welcome addition to Roath's dining scene. If you fancy a change from your usual ham sandwich and chocolate muffin then go check it out.

The Details:

Address - Canaima Coffee, 131C Albany Road, Cardiff CF24 3NS
Web -
Telephone - 02920 488655

Saturday, 5 May 2018

The Lansdowne, Canton, Cardiff Sunday roast review

The Lansdowne’s Sunday lunch has a reputation which precedes itself.

Time and time again I’ve heard great things about the roast dinners at this Canton pub that’s owned by the same team as the excellent Milkwood and The Grange pub.

When we pitched up at 1pm the place was packed to the rafters but service remained impressively swift throughout.

Six different roasts were available on our visit including veggie and vegan options. All weigh in at £11.95 for an adult portion and £6 for a kids portion. A few other mains were available for those who aren’t partial to a roast (weirdos).


The roast dinners lived up to expectations. They were very good indeed.

My rolled breast of slow roast salt marsh lamb was tender as heck and filled with a herby and meaty stuffing. 

Mrs G’s roast topside of beef was a perfect pink and also nicely tender. 

They were both served with flavour-packed gravy that was neither too thick nor too thin, perky cabbage, al dente carrots and a crisp yet squidgy Yorkshire pudding.

Roasties were the only element that weren’t excellent - they were perfectly decent but a touch dense and a little lacking in crispness. 

A generous bowl of cheesy and creamy cauliflower cheese was a delicious extra treat.

Desserts were very tasty but not quite at the same level.

A chocolate brownie (£4.50) was more spongey than gooey but it was very nice. Moist and not too sweet, it was served with a pot of single cream. 

Sticky toffee pudding (£4.50) had a good twang of dark sugar but was a little bouncy. It was served with Ambrosia-esque custard. 

Sunday lunch at The Lansdowne is lovely and well-priced. Their reputation is well deserved.

The Details:

Address - The Lansdowne, 71 Beda Road, Cardiff CF5 1LX
Telephone - 029 2022 1312