Saturday, 29 June 2019

Wilson's, Redland, Bristol restaurant review


It’s really hard to write about brilliant cooking in a way which does it justice.

It’s even harder when you’re a half-arsed blogger like me who doesn’t take any notes and gets quietly sozzled whilst “researching” the wine list.

Which brings me to Wilson's in Bristol’s Redland. This fiercely seasonal British restaurant serves beautiful food cooked by chef-owner Jan Ostle using a number of ingredients grown by partner Mary Wilson in their own organic smallholding.

 
Jay Rayner, Tim Hayward and Tom Parker-Bowles have all raved about the place. And a prolific Bristol food twitterer reckons it's the best cooking in a city of many Michelin stars.

As it was my birthday lunch, Mrs G and I opted for the tasting menu. £50 delivered us 12 courses; there really aren’t many places where you could have food this accomplished for such good value. Alternatively, there's a compact chalkboard menu featuring three starters, three mains and three puds. 


To accompany lunch, we knocked back a couple of carafes of delicious and interesting wine. A Slovenian Simcic sauvignonasse (£13) had a slightly oxidative character and funk whilst a M&A Andorffer Gruner Veltlinner (£14.25) reminded us of cloudy apple juice. 


Snacks all seriously impressed.

The finest of pastry cases was filled with sweet and earthy raw spider crab adorned with a miniature bouquet of edible flowers. If you'd told me this crustacean was cooked I'd have been none the wiser. 


Oversized cleansing and peppery radishes (which would normally be rejected in the food supply chain) were lovely with salty and smokey whipped cod roe topped with umami rich scallop roe powder. 


A cup of asparagus velouté wasn't overly rich and creamy as they so often are. Instead, it was given a vibrant herbal hit from fresh mint. 


Warm bread had a brilliantly brittle crust and was dotted with a mix of interesting seeds. 


The star of the snack lineup was nuggets of unfeasibly tender buttermilk fried rabbit with a lightly spiced crumb and a whopping flavoured tarragon mayo. 


Our first course proper was up next.

Isle of Wight tomatoes, sweeter because of the extra sunlight they receive, were served in a fresh as you like raw tomato broth with a background floral note of rose. Creamy Westcombe ricotta sourced from down the road gave the dish a luxury dimension whilst chive oil delivered a herbal hit of allium. 


One of the biggest flavoured lobster bisques we’ve ever eaten was dialled up even further by intense dill oil. It could have all been too much but it was balanced by an al dente hispi cabbage leaf filled with light and sweet set scallop mousse studded with meaty lobster pieces. 


A sweetbread dish was the only plate which didn’t 100% hit the mark. The meaty sweetbreads were coated in an uber-crisp and flavoursome tapioca and onion crumb. But a jersey royal puree, although very nicely flavoured, had a slightly gummy quality, a bit like overworked mashed potato. 


A light but flavoured-packed cod dish followed; the delicately cooked fillet of fish sat in a cod bone broth of intense savouriness. More of that punchy dill oil, crispy briny capers, al dente broad beans and punchy buttery turnip pieces completed the dish. 


A side of breaded cod head was a nod to the fish and chip shop. The meaty fish was joined by more of that excellent tarragon mayonnaise which appeared earlier in the meal. 


The final savoury course of suckling pig converted even Mrs G who usually finds it too rich. A super juicy and tender piece of leg, which tasted as much of pig as you can get, was joined by a spoonably rich piece of slow cooked shoulder. Zingy pickled mooli, buttery celeriac puree and a light yet intensely meaty and slightly sweet pork sauce were all first rate accompaniments. 


A palate cleanser 100% fulfilled its purpose. A pink peppercorn and lemonade foam danced in the mouth with fresh citrus and warming notes whilst a floral elderflower granita perked up the palate even further. 

 
I'm predisposed to loving a soufflé and Wilson’s rhubarb effort was a right bobby dazzler. Light and airy with a sweet fruit note, it was joined by tart and fragrant rhubarb sorbet which brought lightness to the dish. It was a nice change to ice cream which has the opposite effect. 


Mrs G and I loved our lunch at Wilson’s. Their big-flavoured and technically-accomplished seasonal cooking is delicious, well-priced and served by a charming front of house team. I heartily recommend it.

The Details:

Address - Wilson's Restaurant, 24 Chandos Rd, Bristol BS6 6PF
Telephone - 0117 973 4157

Saturday, 22 June 2019

Uisce by Heaney's, Pontcanna, Cardiff cafe and wine bar review


Uisce (pronunciation: Ishka, meaning: water in Irish) is Tommy Heaney’s new no-reservations cafe and wine bar located next door to his eponymous restaurant in Pontcanna.

The name may be hard to get your mouth around but their food certainly isn’t.


Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, their evening menu consists of a mix of charcuterie and small plates. Whilst some plates have traditional Spanish influences, other modern British dishes wouldn’t feel out of place next door at Heaney’s. 

 
We did some damage to an extensive list of nearly 40 wines by the glass. 


I knocked back glasses of dry and oxidative Manzanilla Barbiana (£4.50) and lightly effervescent Vinho Verde (£4.80). Mrs G meanwhile necked multiple glasses including a fresh and fruity Argentinian Gruner Veltliner (£6) and a decadent Monteagudo Pedro Ximinez (£5.60). 


Up first was Galician beef cecina (£5) of supreme tenderness and intense beefiness with complex savoury notes from its ageing. 


A Kick in the Head was literally that (£4). All manner of pig's head meat included tender flesh, soft fat and melting jelly with a massive hit of warming black pepper. 


Tomato sourdough aka pan con tomate (£3) was a textbook example. Crusty toast was topped with a fresh, light and sweet tomato pulp with a good honk of garlic and a generous drizzle of grassy olive oil. 


Croquetas (£5), silky of bechamel and crisp of crumb, were studded with smoky duck ham and topped with a sweet and raisiny Pedro Ximinez puree. 


Fabada (£6), a hearty Spanish stew, combined wobbly-fatted pancetta, spoonably soft black pudding, smoky chorizo and white beans (with just the right amount of bite) bathed in a broth which had taken on the character of its meaty occupants. 


A textbook tortilla (£6) featured soft potatoes, golden sweet onions, a rich gooey ooze of egg and a blob of potent aioli. 


A brilliant duck crumpet (£8) was the first stand out of the night. The squidgiest of crumpets was heaped with a mountain of long cooked yielding duck, light and crunchy kimchi, a savoury and silky miso emulsion and a glossy meat sauce flecked with the herby complexity of salsa verde. I’d gladly eat this seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

 
The other star of the show was a fish pie (£6) like no other. Flaky white fish, sweet giant prawns, smoked salmon and sweet peas were bound together in a herby and ridiculously buttery sauce. A potato espuma topping kept dish the light but also very much in fish pie territory.

 
When dishes say they taste of something I want them to do just that. A creamy espresso panna cotta (£5) was heady with intense coffee. Chocolate crumb and gooey nut studded brownies ensured there were all kinds of textures and flavours going on this dessert. 


We had an awesome meal at Uisce. Their food is great and well-priced, the atmosphere is chilled, there's a ton of interesting wine, and the service is excellent. Tommy Heaney has hit the mark once again yet it feels distinctly different from his restaurant next door.

The Details:

Telephone - 029 2034 1264 (no reservations)
Address - Uisce by Heaney's, 4 Romilly Crescent, Pontcanna CF11 9NR

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Leyli Joon & Co, Persian supper club, Cardiff review


Burgers. Pizzas. Kebabs. Curry.

Don’t get me wrong, I live for all these foods.

But, when something different (and good) arrives in Cardiff, it’s a genuine cause for celebration; something which makes the city’s dining out scene that little bit more diverse.

Leyli Joon & Co is a Persian-influenced catering and events company which is owned by Welsh chef Leyli Homayoonfar. With a Persian-Welsh background, Homayoonfar’s career has taken her from sous chef at Bar 44 to head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Cooking School (RIP), before opening her own company which caters for pop-ups, weddings and corporate events.


Tramshed Tech in Cardiff’s Grangetown was the venue for the pop-up we visited. The massive open plan office space was transformed into a buzzing restaurant with intimate lighting and Instagram friendly ivy table runners. I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the coolest dining spaces I’ve eaten at in Cardiff. 

 
£45 bought us an intricate five course menu - an impressive feat when catering for over 70 people in a kitchen without any permanent hobs or ovens. 

 
The bonus of the night was bring your own booze without any corkage. We of course demolished a six pack of phenomenal hazy hoppy and sour beers from Cheltenham’s finest, Deya. 

 
One of the key threads of Leyli Joon’s cooking is their superb use of spice - all the dishes we ate were complex with multiple layers of flavour.

Double cheese is a good way to kick off any meal as far as I’m concerned. A pile of soft and creamy Welsh burrata was topped with salty samphire, soft and sweet cherry tomatoes and pul biber (warming chilli flakes and not Justin’s cousin). Even more fun was to be had on the other side of the plate - super-crisp shredded wheat style pastry cocooned an oozy and stringy ball of melted cheese which was pepped up by vivid herb oil. 

 
A pair of tacos were served on lavash bread rather than corn tortillas. Tender king prawns, fiery harissa sauce, sweet and zingy pickled pineapple salsa and avocado made for a deliciously Middle Eastern take on this dish. 

 
A boulder of long-cooked shreds of tender lamb was coated in a well-spiced crumb. KiIler accompaniments balanced the meat’s richness - a smooth and smoky baba ganoush, a bold flavoured wild garlic and green chilli sauce, and creamy yoghurt. 

 
Corn ribs with a smoky and salty taramasalata and spicy mixed nuts and seeds was a great idea in principle. However, the dish’s slightly tepid temperature meant it didn’t deliver the full impact - an issue with a couple of dishes as we were one of the last tables to be served. 


The final savoury course saw a perfectly tender piece of pork belly (with sadly semi-crisp crackling) served with epic gravy made with sweet and tangy pomegranate molasses, a caramelised wedge of celeriac shawarma, smooth celeriac puree and juicy pearls of pomegranate. 

 
Beautifully fluffy rice dotted with pistachios, barberries and roast butternut squash was a lovely side-carb. 


The texture and flavour combinations of dessert were genius. A gloriously smooth and creamy white chocolate cremeux had a very slight chew inspired by the texture of Turkish ice cream. With the added sweetness of candied pistachios and cotton candy, vital acidity was provided by tart and juicy grapefruit segments and gel. 


Leyli Joon & Co cooked us a delicious meal in a buzzing relaxed space. Their wonderfully spiced food brings something unique to south Wales and I can't wait to see what they do next.

The Details:

Leyli Joon & Co

Tramshed Tech
Address - Tramshed Tech, Unit D, Pendyris St, Cardiff CF11 6BH
Telephone - 029 2010 3090

Saturday, 8 June 2019

The Bearded Taco, Cardiff Mexican street food review


Fusion food. At its best it’s a melding of different cultures from across the world to make killer flavour combinations like cauliflower Manchurian, chicken katsu curry and California rolls.

At its worst, it results in abominations like chocolate orange chicken tikka and spaghetti burritos which should never ever see the light of day.

When it comes to fusion cooking, Bearded Taco have nailed it.


This Mexican street food truck, which pops up at events, markets and festivals across south Wales, has global influences across its menu from Morocco, to Korea and the USA. Their owners are even a fusion cultures with one hailing from Cardiff and the other from California.

We visited Contessa, the affectionate name for their converted Ford Transit van, at a pop-up at St Canna’s in Canton. This cosy micropub hosts street food Thursdays every week with a changing roster that includes Keralan Karavan, Bwydiful and Pregos.


Perched at the bar, we ordered a few beers from St Canna’s mostly Welsh selection which focuses on cask rather than keg. A can of Polly’s Brew Co Ekuanot Mosaic Pale Ale was a delicious tropical hop showcase from my favourite Welsh brewery. I was less sold on an Ilkley x Tiny Rebel milkshake pale ale collaboration but that’s probably down to my lukewarm relationship with cask beer. 


Whilst the Bearded Taco’s compact menu includes starters such as corn on the cob with chilli, parmesan and lime, and tortilla chips and salsa, Mrs G and I skipped ahead to mains and ordered all three of their different varieties of taco. 

 
Each pair were served on handmade corn tortillas with a pleasing corny note and slightly firmer texture than the unpleasantly pappy wheat flour tortillas you find in the supermarket.

All of them were delicious.

The standout was a ridiculously good Better Call Seoul (£6) which combined tender shreds of pork bathed in a Korean BBQ sauce combining sweetness and savoury soy topped with a richness busting spicy kimchi and sesame twanged aioli. Mrs G and I both agreed we’d happily eat a bucket full of them.   


The Rage Against the Tagine (£6) saw tender Moroccan-style chicken coated a sauce spiced with a myriad of warming spices and topped with a light slaw of shredded carrot, crunchy flaked almonds, chickpeas, slightly tart cranberries and a good a dollop of yoghurt subtly flavoured with pokey harissa. 

 
Let’s Avo Cwtch (£6) was the kind of indulgent vegan food that is right up my street. A generous piece of perfectly ripe avocado was coated in a super light and crisp gin and tonic tempura batter and garnished with citrusy red cabbage slaw and creamy aioli.


The one pud on offer was a cracker. A warm brownie (£4) was mega-chocolatey and perfectly gooey with a delicate chilli heat. Clotted cream ice cream and a couple of token berries helped balance out a bit of the richness. 


I’ve got a lot of love for the Bearded Taco. For the second time their Better Call Seoul has left me hankering for more. I highly recommend you check them out the next time their van pulls up nearby.

The Details:

The Bearded Taco
Website - https://www.thebeardedtaco.co.uk/
Telephone - 07856 678694

St Canna's
Address - St Canna's, 42 Llandaff Rd, Cardiff CF11 9NJ
Website - https://www.facebook.com/stcannas/
Telephone - 07890 106449