Saturday, 19 October 2019

A few great places to eat and drink in Glasgow


It’s been over a decade since my last visit to Glasgow and I’m still smitten with the city’s trendy West End, handsome museums and Mackintosh’s art nouveau influences.

This time I was tagging along with Mrs G whilst she was at a conference. We spent an awesome few days eating and drinking around the city. Here’s my highlights:


El Perro Negro

This Finnieston burger shop won Best Burger of the year 2019 at the National Burger Awards for their Top Dog (£10.50). It didn't disappoint.

A robust challah style bun was loaded with a blushing pink patty with a big big beefy flavour, streaky bacon, sweet golden caramelised onions and a lightly fragranced truffle mayo. A salty, meaty and savoury slick of roquefort and bone marrow butter brought everything together. 

 
Confit wings (£4.50) were also excellent. Uber crisp of crumb and juicy of flesh, they were coated in a delicately fiery Korean gochujang glaze and topped with crispy and spring onions. 


Mother India's Cafe

We had a twenty minute wait for a table at this small plates offshoot of Glasgow's legendary Mother India. But, once we were seated the service was super quick and the food excellent. 

 
The spicing was perfect on every dish from Southern Indian lamb curry heady with ginger (£6.50), garlic twanged chicken karahi on the bone (£5.50) and an aubergine and green bean curry (£4.75) which was as well smoked as a Hang Fire rack of ribs. Best of all, our bill for two with heaps of delicious food came to £35. 


Eusebi Deli

This West End Italian restaurant and deli is far more than your average pizza pasta joint. I was here because Marina O'Loughlin named it in her top 50 restaurants in the UK.

Fresh whipped ricotta (£9) was served with sweet marsala poached figs and the crunch of mixed nuts whilst a freshly baked olive oil and rosemary garnished focaccia (£6) was a lovely vehicle for that creamy goodness. Deep fried ravioli (£5) were filled with a guanciale studded molten cheesy carbonara filling. 


Bone-in yielding pieces of veal shin (£22) were perched in a grassy loose textured parsley risotto. 


Rich, 12-hour cooked goat, carrot, onion and celery ragu (£18) cloaked golden homemade papperdelle. 

 
Grunting Growler

This craft beer shop has a great selection of cans and bottles as well as a handful of beers on tap. A Wizard raspberry and blackberry Berliner weisse was tart and as thick as a fruit juice. Horal Oude Geuze Megablend was a very well balanced lambic - creamy, citrusy, fizzy, sharp and a little bit funky. 


Hanoi Bike Shop 

I haven't been to Vietnam but I'm still happy to ignorantly declare that sitting on a stool outside this canteen is like being transported to the other side of the world. 


A light lunch was packed full of hot, sour, fragrant, sweet and savoury spicing. Summer rolls (£6.65) were stuffed with fresh prawns, soft omelette and plenty of fresh herbs.

Crisp crumbed salt and pepper squid (£7.75) was served on a perky salad of watermelon, al dente green beans and sesame. 


Alchemilla

We almost had an incredible meal at Alchemilla, a small plates and natural wine restaurant in Finnieston; if only we hadn't ordered a couple of dishes from the specials menu.

Focaccia (£3.50) was perhaps the best I've ever eaten - phenomenally soft and crisp with a delicate chew, it was liberally drenched in the finest olive oil. 


Octopus pieces (£11.50) were super tender yet crisp and cleverly paired with a citrusy green sauce and butter beans. A creamy taramasalata (£8.50) was also matched brilliantly with the crunch of toasted hazelnut, bitterness of endive and zing of pickled beets. 


But, a pair of specials slightly disappointed. Earthy girolles (£8.50) and manchego shavings with a runny yolked egg were oddly paired with a citrus note of lemon thyme. Perfectly pink and tender pigeon (£12.50) breast meanwhile was cleverly paired with smoky charred endive. However, a puree of fig was a sledgehammer of acid and mustard which threw the dish off balance. 

 
Dessert brought things back on track with a magnificently light, creamy and caramelised Basque cheesecake (£7.50) with a drizzle of raisiny PX sherry. 


Tantrum Doughnuts

Tantrum Doughnuts make brioche doughnuts in innovative flavours such as pistachio & hibiscus, salted honey and cherry cheesecake. 

 
Their signature Creme Brûlée (£2.30) saw soft dough stuffed with vanilla flecked thick custard topped with a burnished crisp sugar crust. Delicious. 


University Cafe

This West End institution has been serving greasy spoon fry ups and Italian ice cream since it opened in 1918. Anthony Bourdain visited in an episode of Parts Unknown so I thought I'd better check them out too. 


I indulged in a light mid-afternoon snack of a well-crusted and soft-crumbed breakfast roll (£3.50) stuffed with coarse textured breakfast sausage, squidgy potato pancake, runny yolked fried egg and tangy brown sauce. This isn’t high-end stuff but it would be ideal for soaking up some booze. 

 
Mackintosh at the Willow

I can't really comment on the food at Mackintosh at The Willow (except for a tasty bit of shortbread). 


But, the lovingly restored art nouveau decor at this Charles Rennie Mackintosh designed cafe is an absolute masterpiece. 


Papercup Coffee Company

A Glasgow insider informed me that this enjoyably higgledy-piggledy cafe serves the best coffee in the City. They've also got a roastery just around the corner. 


An Ethiopian filter coffee (£2) was light with plenty of fresh blueberry notes. 


Inn Deep

This pub, which is situated in a series of atmospheric riverside arches, has a good selection of craft on tap from Northern Monk to Donzoko and The Kernel.   

Another solid craft beer tip is Koelschip Yard in Glasgow’s South Side, which has a great range of lambic and sour beers.


The Details:

We stayed at The Derby Suite in the heart of trendy Finnieston (£90 a night). We flew with Easyjet from Bristol to Glasgow.


Saturday, 12 October 2019

Bar 44, Cardiff, Sunday roast review


“I don’t eat roast dinners out very often because I can knock one up pretty well myself at home.”

This was the kind of thing I used to say a few weeks ago before I’d ever had a Sunday roast at Bar 44 Cardiff.

Now I’ve eaten their Spanish-influenced version, I’ll refrain from such smug language ever again. My Sunday roast is an embarrassment compared to theirs.

I wouldn’t expect anything less from a team who’ve done so much to raise the standard of Cardiff’s independent dining scene. Every element of their roast has been improved through a Spanish tweak; there’s nothing unnecessary - everything tastes fabulous.


Available on a first come first serve basis, Bar 44 had sold their last roast by 1.20pm on the dreary Sunday we visited. I’d highly recommend reserving one in advance. 

At £38 for two, you get a really generous amount of food to share. I was glad we gave starters a miss as our roast dinner pretty much covered our entire table. 

Whilst we waited for the main event we inhaled a bowl of plump, meaty and citrusy Gordal olives (£3.80) and glasses of dry, saline and super refreshing Micaela Manzanilla (£4.20) and a fruity and floral Finca Verdejo. 


Properly beefy, reassuringly pink and soft-fatted 40-day aged sirloin of Hereford beef was clearly cooked to order. It was a welcome change from depressingly grey slices of meat which have been stewing under a heat lamp for too long. As an added bonus, they were sat on a decadently rich and smooth celeriac puree.

 
Whopping Yorkshire puddings were crisp-crusted, soft-interiored (is that a word?) and cleverly spiked with piquant chorizo oil. It’s the kind of thing which shouldn’t work but it really does. 


Cauliflower cheese, delicately fragranced with truffle, was thick of sauce with a golden and gooey manchego crust. 

 
Roasties were served by the groaning bowlful. It’s the kind of generosity which makes for repeat custom. Triple cooked I suspect, they were rustlingly crunchy on the outside with a compelling rosemary, garlic and meaty note due to them being cooked in iberico pork fat. 

 
Hispi cabbage wedges, nicely crisp and charred in places and with just the right amount of bite, were slathered in a salty, porky and creamy jamon paste. 

 
Finally a jug of thick gravy was glossy and meaty with added depth from a good glug of red wine.


Absolutely stuffed, I still ordered dessert for meal completeness.

Thick, rich and smooth chocolate ice cream (£2.50) was drizzled with boozy and raisiny PX sherry. The cracking combination reminded me of the winter spicing of Christmas pudding - perhaps there was some spice in there or perhaps my palate was just shot after all that rich food. 

 
We had a fantastic Sunday roast at Bar 44 in Cardiff. In fact, it’s one of the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere.

The Details:

Address - Bar 44, 15-23 Westgate St, Cardiff CF10 1DD
Web - bar44.co.uk
Telephone - 0333 344 4049

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Nomad Kitchen, Kongs, Cardiff pan-Asian review


I’d normally give restaurants which serve food of multiple nationalities a wide berth - jack of all trades master of none is a well-worn cliche for a reason.

However, when it comes to the pan-Asian cooking of Nomad Kitchen, I’m delighted to to discover there’s an exception to the rule.

 
Nomad Kitchen is the new resident kitchen at Kongs Bar on St Mary’s Street. A collaboration between Keralan Karavan and Monday Club, Nomad’s Indian, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese-influenced menu makes a lot more sense on paper than it does in theory. Divided into dumplings, burgers, bowls and sides, the disparate Asian influences are unified through the use of spice. 

 
Kong’s have seriously raised their beer game since my last visit (it’s been a while). 


With a beer board featuring A-list breweries like Buxton, Amundsen, Omnipollo and Deya, we settled on a citrusy and easy drinking Wylam Hickey the Rake limonata pale ale and a Chorlton Saison Brett with a well-balanced fragrant and funky sourness. 

 
Both sets of dumplings we ordered to start were lovely.

Japanese gyoza (£5) were the winner with their thin and crisp cases, light vegetable filling and ginger-fragranced dipping sauce. 

 
Chicken and bamboo shoot pot sticker dumplings (£5) could have been more assertively seasoned but they were a good combination of crisp and soft textures. 


A pair of burgers were both belters.

The Korean fried chicken burger (£12) combined tender meat coated in a next-level crispy panko crumb drizzled with a sticky, spicy and savoury soy-based glaze. A robust yet squidgy bun, punchy kimchi and huge spiced masala skin-on fries completed the picture. 

 
My mate described his Bolly Sholly burger (£12) as a burger x curry Power Rangers Megazord (ok, I’m paraphrasing). But, this Indian spiced cheeseburger was deftly accomplished - the juicy beef patty and oozy American-style cheese combining well with the tang of tamarind, crunch of onion bhaji and fragrance of mint and coriander chutneys. 


My Keralan Karavan curry bowl (£10) is a dish that needs no introduction. Brilliantly complex of spice, the tender chicken curry was heady with pepper, chilli and curry leaf amongst many other things my palate was too ignorant to detect. Fluffy pilau rice and rainbow poppadoms (seasoned with salt and vinegar, I think) completed the excellent dish. 


We really liked Nomad Kitchen and it’s great to have another good indie in Cardiff city centre. Our friend who was lamenting the loss of Burger Theory is delighted to still have somewhere to go for his burger and craft beer fix on match days.

The Details:

Address - Kongs Cardiff, Hodge House, 114-116 St Mary St, Cardiff CF10 1DY
Web - https://twitter.com/NomadKitchenCDF