Saturday, 28 September 2019

Chaiiwala, Roath, Cardiff cafe review

City Road’s Chaiiwala is a franchise of a 21-strong chain of Indian tea shops with its origins in Leicester.

Their menu focuses on karak chai and other hot and cold drinks as well as a range of all day breakfasts, filled rotis, desserts and Indian street food. They’re open from 7.30am on weekdays and close at 11.30pm every night; handy for shift workers and those who fancy a late night breakfast.

On the Sunday lunch I visited, I bagged the last seat in the house with the majority of diners tucking away Chaiiwala’s all-day breakfasts.

not the Sunday I visited
I ordered a selection of street food and rotis.

A signature karak chaii was delicious (£1.70) - sweet, spicy and creamy it was a decadent cupful.

A cone of chilli paneer (£4.50) saw golden cubes of cheese coated in a sticky, mild yet spice-rich and soy-twanged sauce flecked with soft onions and peppers. It was good value for the mammoth portion making it an ideal side for two to share. But, I do like a bit more heat in my chilli paneer.

A pair of rolls were reminiscent of those on offer from the sadly departed Gina’s opposite Cardiff Castle. Dinky in size and cost, I think they were reasonable value for money.

A kebab roll (£3) comprised of a crisp and flaky paratha filled with a juicy chicken sheekh kebab and a tangy mint raitha.

A daal kati roll (£2) contained a thin layer of well-spiced and soft textured lentil curry.

In contrast, there’s no questioning the excellent value of Chaiiwala’s desi breakfasts which we ordered on a return visit. £5.50 buys you a masala omelette served with either masala beans, daal or chana and two rotis, parathas or pieces of toast. And you get a cup of karak chai thrown in too.

I plumped for the thick and spice-rich daal as well as a pair of soft textured rotis. A thin and crispy omelette was pretty good if a little spongy in texture.

Mrs G’s chana (chickpeas) was also on the money but not quite as good as the daal. A pair of parathas were enjoyably crisp and flaky.

I’ve got a lot of time for Chaiiwala’s great value breakfasts and their karak chaii is a hug in a mug. I don’t think their other lunch options are quite as well-priced or tasty but they’re still worth a look.

The Details:

Address - Chaiiwala, 192 City Rd, Cardiff CF24 3JF
Web -
Telephone - 029 2199 9786

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Black Swan at Oldstead, Yorkshire, Michelin-starred restaurant review

At the Black Swan at Oldstead in Yorkshire they really take the concept of sourcing locally to heart. In fact, almost all of their fruit and vegetables are grown in a two-and-a-half acre kitchen garden behind the restaurant, foraged from the surrounding countryside or at a push shipped in from the family farm down the road.

It makes for food which has a sense of place like few others I’ve visited in the UK.

The Black Swan is owned and run by The Banks Family. Son Tommy, the head chef, is a familiar face from his multiple banquet winning dishes on Great British Menu. He was also Britain’s youngest Michelin-starred chef at the age of 24 and the restaurant was named Tripadvisor’s ‘Best Fine Dining Restaurant in the World’ in 2017 (I can’t decide if that’s a good or a bad thing).

The Black Swan offers just one tasting menu. It’s £98 to £125 depending on the night of the week you visit (£110 on the Sunday night we went) and you pay for your dinner upfront via a website called Tock. I’m all in favour of this kind of system - you wouldn’t expect to pay for a ticket to a football match or a concert at the end of the night.

Spruce Kiss (£6), a collaboration beer with Huddersfield’s Magic Rock, was a light, citrusy, sour and slightly salty gose fragranced with Oldstead Grand Fir. Mrs G necked a brilliantly named Goose Willis (£15), a fresh and herby mix of sparkling wine, gooseberry and woodruff.

A fine cep-infused pastry case was loaded with earthy pickled hen of the woods mushrooms and an intensely cheesy and airy Lincolnshire Poacher custard. Thanks to a mistimed breath out, I managed to spray half of the dusting of savoury and smokey dehydrated scallop roe across the table!

White crab meat bathed in delicately warming horseradish buttermilk was accompanied by sweet peas and pea puree and topped with airy hollandaise rich with brown crab meat. Served cold it was a lovely light start to the meal.

Next up was a unique take on a familiar flavour pairing. Salt baked beetroot pieces had been dehydrated and then rehydrated in beetroot juice to give them a bonkers wine gum like texture. They were paired with the tart zing of redcurrant and blackberry juice and a creamy ice cold goats cheese granita.

Sourdough bread, brittle and burnished of crust, was joined by cultured butter with a compelling slightly sour and almost cheesy complexity.

Pieces of Oldstead deer had been lightly smoked and coated in a gently spiced homemade fermented chilli sauce. Topped with the crunch of a rye cracker, acidity of baby pickled onions and herbal hit of wood sorrel this was a next level tartare.

This dish was paired with a collaboration beer made especially to go with the raw venison, a smooth and slightly sweet Slocken Hefeweizen from Bad Seed Brewery.

A king scallop was the best I’ve ever eaten. The golden-crusted and sweet-fleshed behemoth was sat atop fragrant yet tart green strawberries, a rich spruce butter sauce, salty samphire and balancing pickled turnip puree.

A delicately steamed fillet of turbot was sweet of flesh but a little tense in texture. It was shown up by its accompaniments, a whopping flavoured shellfish broth, tart pickled gooseberries and onion petals with a beguiling hit of smoke due to a good charring of the allium’s exterior.

A tender spud with a smoky barbecue note was heaped with an indulgent dollop of caviar and sat in sour fermented celeriac juice which was cleverly tempered by the richness of cream and the potent herbal hit of dill oil.

Lovely flavoured but not the most tender lamb rack was accompanied by a killer sweetbread coated in a crisp crumb twanged with garlic and onion. It was joined by top drawer silky courgette puree, more of those lovely sweet peas, girolles and a mint gel.

I’ve got all the time in the world for an ice cream sandwich (especially Maxibon) and the Black Swan’s is as good as it gets. Fragrant raspberry parfait and clotted cream rich elderflower parfait were sandwiched between a super crisp buckwheat praline brittle. A clever yet delicious herbal hit was delivered by sweet cicely creme patisserie and leaves.

Next up a vanilla-ey, almondy, grassy woodruff mousse was studded with shards of woodruff meringue, sweet macerated strawberries, intense fresh strawbs and an ice cold strawberry granita.

There’s nothing to see here, just coffee, caramel, crumble and custard. In fact this dish was way more wacky than its decadent flavour combination suggested. “Chicory and Potato” combined chicory crumble, coffee-like chicory ice cream, chicory caramel with a lovely bitter note, and a light potato custard with no hint of spud, the thickening properties of the potato’s starch taking the place of egg.

The final dish of “root vegetable toast” sounded equally savoury and odd. It really wasn’t; it was frigging lush. Dehydrated carrot, celeriac and beetroot had been rehydrated with rum and baked into a light panettone style bread before being soaked in apricot schnapps custard, coated in sugar and brûléed. Served with tangy crème fraîche, this was the best French toast ever; the root vegetables providing an extra note of complexity.

We had a smashing dinner at The Black Swan at Oldstead. With its first class fruit and vegetables, comforting flavours and innovative techniques, I can see why it’s lauded so highly.

The Details:

Address - The Black Swan at Oldstead, Oldstead, York YO61 4BL
Web -
Telephone - 01347 868387

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