Saturday, 14 September 2019

Nook, Victoria Park, Cardiff restaurant review

In the space of three years, Victoria Park has become one of the most interesting places to eat out in Cardiff.

Pettigrew Bakery started the trend in 2016 and Paysan at Bloc Coffee, the Dough Thrower and Bwydiful have all followed.

Now, four of Cardiff’s busiest entrepreneurs Phill & Deb Lewis (Dusty Knuckle / Warden’s House/ Hoof / Bite) and John & Ceri Cook (Ember / Hoof / Lamb & Flag in Wick) have taken over the former site of Mangla’s Spice of Life and transformed it into an intimate natural wine and small plate restaurant.

I’ve got a lot of time for natural wine. As a big fan of lambic beer and sherry, I like the barnyardy funk and oxidative characteristics which are sometimes present. 

As well as a feature wall of wines by the bottle, Nook serve five natural wines on tap. We drank four of them and they were all delicious, easy drinking introductions to the genre. Bobal de Sanjuan rose (£4.30) had plenty of fresh berries whilst Westwell Ortega (£6), an English white wine, was enjoyably floral. 

As it was a Monday night, Mrs G and I kept it relatively light with our food order.

A mini loaf of warm white bread (£3.50) was crisp of crust and light of crumb. It was excellent slathered with golden, creamy and slightly tangy raw milk cultured butter. 

A beast of a burrata (£6.50) spilled its creamy innards to combine with an intense Middle Eastern spiced dukkah, quality olive oil and a compelling concasse of sweet and fiery fermented chilli. 

Aubergine ragu (£6) was a proper autumnal warmer. The almost meaty and smoky stew was studded with zingy capers and topped with crispy shards of kale which provided welcome textural contrast. 

A first rate piece of rare Welsh Black pichana steak (£11.50) was deep flavoured and crisp of crust with mouth-meltingly good fat. It was served with wilted cavalo nero dotted with the crunch of hazelnuts. The only element which divided opinion was a creamed hazelnut puree which I found too sweet and reminded me of Nutella. Mrs G however thought it was an interesting addition. 

Pressed potatoes (£3.50) saw thin tender layers of lightly truffle fragranced spud deep fried to a serious level of crispness. A big dollop of chive studded sour cream was an indulgent yet light dip. 

Finally, Pav’s carrots (£3) were an example of first rate produce treated simply; sweet, earthy and lightly caramelised, they were unadulterated except for a drizzle of olive oil and scattering of salt. 

Desserts were the standout of the meal for me. Both were superb.

Phill’s pavlova (£5) combined soft centred and slightly chewy meringue with fragrant caramelised apricots, sweet syrup and a big dollop of whipped cream. This was proper comfort food. 

Glossy and smooth milk chocolate mousse (£6) was joined by a heap of thick and rich soft toffee and tangy crème fraîche. The kicker was a light dusting of lime zest which added freshness and zing. 

We had an excellent meal at Nook and it’s a great addition to Cardiff’s dining scene. With its delicious, well-priced food and interesting wines, it’s exactly the kind of neighbourhood restaurant I’d love to have around the corner form my house.

The Details:

Address - Nook, 587 Cowbridge Rd E, Cardiff CF5 1BE
Telephone - N/A (walk-ins only)

Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Greek Kitchen, Cardiff Bay Greek restaurant review

Tucked away in a quiet street near the Senedd, The Greek Kitchen shares a venue with Cardiff Bay’s long-established Cafe R. During the daytime in the week it’s an Italian cafe and in the evenings and on weekends The Greek Kitchen team take over. Much like Paysan and Blue Honey Night Cafe, this kind of clever venue sharing is cost effective and lower risk for businesses looking to get started.

Whenever an interesting independent pops up in the chain-laden Cardiff Bay it's worth taking interest. So, after a leisurely weekend stroll from Penarth across the Cardiff Bay Barrage, Mrs G and I were gasping for a bite to eat.

With its lovely waterside spot and soundtrack of Greek music, we could almost have been on holiday in Greece; if only it was a little bit sunnier.

The Greek Kitchen’s menu follows a formula which will be familiar if you’re a fan of Cardiff’s other Greek restaurants. Starters focus on dips and cheese-based dishes whilst mains focus on grilled meats (plates and wraps) as well as the essential bonus moussaka.

Our first starter was killer. Greek Secret (£5.50) saw a creamy and salty ooze of melted feta cocooned in crackingly crisp filo pastry drizzled with honey vinaigrette and sesame seeds. Whilst it all could have been a bit rich, an acidic note from the vinaigrette brought balance to the dish. 

The Great Alexandria (£4.50) comprised of a half grilled aubergine loaded with a month’s recommended intake of garlic, crumbled feta, chopped tomatoes, briny capers and parsley. It was a lovely combination of flavours but the aubergine would have benefited from being a touch softer. 

I always find it hard to resist a pile of meat and the Greek Kitchen’s Greek Mythology Platter (£21) was the size of Mount Olympus.

It was mostly very tasty. The highlights included a pair of beef patties (bifteki) twanged with fresh mint and a snappy pair of coarse-textured and herb-laden village style sausages. 

Pork and chicken souvlaki were pleasingly tender and pork gyros commendably crisp but they all could have done with a much bigger oomph of seasoning.

Deliciously squidgy pitta bread was an ideal mop for any stray meat juices whilst fresh tomato and onion salad and creamy and garlicky tzatziki added freshness to the dish. 

A generous side of fries were nicely dusted with oregano. 

We had a tasty lunch at The Greek Kitchen. Not everything blew us away but it’s a solid independent option if you find yourself down the Bay. It sounds like they’re popular too as they’re already considering expanding into different premises.

The Details:

Address - The Greek Kitchen, Discovery House Ground Floor CF10 4PJ
Web -
Telephone - 07306 612244