Saturday, 22 February 2020

Volare, Caerphilly Italian restaurant review


On a dreary Saturday night in January, Volare feels like the beating heart of Caerphilly town centre.

Alive with chatter, warmth and light, it’s the kind of place which could have been around for decades, especially considering Italy’s intimate ties with the south Wales valleys.

However, Volare has a much more recent history having only opened in 2017 by a pair of friends from Calabria who moved to Wales in 2008 to learn English.


The menu is very much classic Italian pizza-pasta fare with hearty portions and good prices. Prawn cocktail, stuffed mushrooms, meatballs, carbonara and lasagne all put in an appearance.

A Volare fish board (£7.95) is a fine fritto misto. Generous in portion, crisp of crumb and batter, and grease-free it features whitebait, tender calamari and a quintet of sweet king prawns served with a pot of enjoyably garlicky mayo. It’s let down slightly by a serviceable selection of mixed leaves. 

 
It’s the same with a whopper of a beautifully creamy liquid-centred burrata (£6.50) which is accompanied by a pedestrian selection of chopped iceberg, cherry tomatoes and a dusting of oregano. 


A linguini bolognese (£10.50) is a hearty winter warmer - the meaty mix of beef and pork mince is nicely seasoned and deep in flavour, the pasta beautifully al dente and topped with a good scattering of savoury parmesan. 


My pan fried pork fillet in breadcrumbs (£13.95) is quite average in comparison. The flattened pork fillet is a touch dry and its crisp-crumb lacking in seasoning. Accompanying linguine in a light and fruity tomato sauce is delicious. 

 
Desserts get things back on track.

A trio of dinky cannoli (£5.95) are reassuringly crunchy and filled with a smooth and citrusy sweetened cream cheese. 

 
A chocolate cheesecake (£4.75) is light, smooth and delicately tangy with a crisp buttery biscuit base. Fragrant mango coulis and a warm white chocolate sauce add even more interest. 


Overall we had a really fun evening at Volare. The buzzing atmosphere, brisk service and hearty cooking mean that despite a few glitches, it’s a place I’d happily return if I’m ever in Caerphilly.

The Details:

Address - Volare, 87 Cardiff Rd, Caerphilly CF83 1FQ
Telephone - 029 2132 2077

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Corkage, Bath wine bar and restaurant review


With a focus on interesting wines and eclectic small plates, Corkage in Bath has an extensive menu of plonk by the glass which thankfully includes informative descriptions for wine dumbasses like myself. Take for example a Dorset sparkling rose (“Strawberry jam and clotted cream on a scone. This does the same in a glass.”) or a Galician white (“A peach orchard with crushed cantaloupe melons underfoot.”)

Mrs G stuck to an “elegantly floral” (their words) and highly neckable (my words) Austrian Gruner Veltliner (£5) whilst I also drank a light and fruity La Galoche Beaujolais (£6).

 
Everything we ate was delicious.

Ham hock croquettes (£7), laden with shreds of porky goodness and silky bechamel, sat on a pokey kimchi mayonnaise. 


Padron peppers (£5) were nicely blistered and liberally sprinkled with sea salt. 


A crisp crumbed brick of shredded confit duck leg (£7.5) was nicely herbed and flecked with richness balancing greenery (capers, I think). A nutty, vinegary and sweet pickled walnut ketchup was a genius accompaniment. 


A silky babaganoush (£6.50) was topped with smokey and fiery harissa and texture-giving chickpeas. Shards of nigella-seed flecked flatbread were a little too well crisped rendering them on the chewy side. 

 
Fudgy caramelised heritage carrots (£8) were paired with a thick, tangy and creamy chickpea yoghurt, a liberal scattering of spiced mixed seeds and nuts, and a warming chilli oil. 

 
Well-aged complexly beefy bresaola (£7) was topped with shavings of pecorino and deliciously sweet yet sharp petals of baby pickled onion. 


Finally, the surprising star of the whole meal was delicately charred yet beautifully tender hispi cabbage (£7.50) topped with a ridiculous quantity of umami-rich miso butter and a snowdrift of pecorino. I think there may have been more cheese and butter than there was cabbage but I’m not complaining. 

 
We had an excellent lunch at Corkage. It’s exactly the kind of place I’d gladly spend a few hours leisurely working my way through a heap of booze and food.

The Details:

Address - Corkage, 5 Chapel Row, Bath BA1 1HN
Telephone - 01225 423417

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Honest Burgers, Cardiff review


You don’t see many chain restaurants on this blog.

It’s not that I don’t have a soft spot for a McMuffin, a Greggs sausage roll or a KFC bargain bucket.

But, these guys don’t need the publicity when they already get wall to wall coverage from Wales’s mainstream media.

And, it’s not really that interesting writing about restaurants which you can visit in any other city up and down the UK.

But, I don't mind featuring Honest Burgers, because I enjoyed it so much.


With 36 branches across the UK, this chain has grown a heck of a lot since opening its original branch in Brixton Village in 2011. They’ve also received backing from venture capitalists Active Partners who’ve put dollar into other interesting brands such as Finisterre, Chick N Sours and Northern Monk.

Honest’s ethos very much focuses on quality and local produce; their chips are made in-house daily and they’ve made a point of sourcing local craft beers in each of their restaurants from Gipsy Hill in London to Moor and Good Chemistry in Bristol. 

 
Tiny Rebel Church Street Pale Ale (£5), brewed especially for Honest Burger, was seriously sessionable. Super light and hoppy, I knocked back a pint and a half without it even touching the sides. 

 
A mountainous bowl of onion rings (£4) with crisp and well-seasoned batter (cumin seeds, I think) arrived well before our mains. They made for a lovely starter. 

 
In contrast, a bowl of Buffalo wings (£5) arrived quite a bit after our mains. Tender of flesh and with a good lick of vinegary and fiery Franks red hot sauce, they were let down a little by their crumb which could have been a touch crisper. 

 
Onto mains and we all ordered beef burgers. Made using grass-fed Scottish beef that they butcher themselves, it’s worth highlighting just how good Honest’s patties are. Cooked medium as standard and made using a blend of chuck and rib cap, they’re loosely packed, coarsely chopped instead of ground, ridiculously beefy and seriously juicy. We were all very impressed. 

 
My Tribute (£11.50) saw the cracking patty topped with crisp streaky bacon, an ooze of American cheese, cleansing dill pickles, tangy burger sauce, French’s mustard and token salad. It was all tucked into a ridiculously squishy steamed bun which held together throughout. 

 
Mrs G’s Cardiff (£12.50) saw a tasty combination of nutty Hafod cheddar, crisp candied bacon, mustard mayo and soft sweet leeks cooked in Tiny Rebel Cwtch ale. She didn’t let me have a taste but reported that all of the flavours worked well whilst allowing the beef to come to the fore. 

 
As standard, both burgers were served with rosemary fries. These chips come with the baggage of some serious hype. Golden and salty with the fragrance of rosemary, they were very good chips but not game-changing. In fact, they could have been touch crisper.

However, they were pretty awesome when dredged through a bowl of thick beef and bacon gravy (£2) which delivered on its billing of meat squared. 

 
I really enjoyed Honest Burger and was seriously impressed by their patties. Alongside, Hoof and Nomad Kitchen, they’re knocking out some of the best burgers in Cardiff. They just happen to be a chain.

The Details:

Address - Honest Burgers - Cardiff, 10 Church St, Cardiff CF10 1BG
Web - https://www.honestburgers.co.uk/food/burgers/cardiff/
Telephone - 029 2130 3446

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Saray, Turkish restaurant, City Road, Cardiff review


Despite supposedly having my finger on the pulse of Cardiff’s restaurant scene, the phenomenon that is City Road’s Saray has passed me by.

We've had numerous recommendations for this Turkish restaurant from Mrs G’s work colleagues over the last year or so yet never managed to visit. A final recommendation from friends was the straw which broke the camel’s back and we swiftly booked in for dinner the next weekend.


On the Saturday night we visited the huge dining room was packed to the rafters and people thronged the foyer waiting for tables and takeaways. 

A fully-loaded charcoal grill and a chiller heaped with meat were both very good omens.

 
Saray is booze-free so we ordered a couple of juices. Mango (£3.50) was ice-cold, thick and heady with tropical fruit whilst lemon-mint (£3.50) was enjoyably sour and fragrant with garden herb.

 
Complimentary warm nigella and sesame-studded bread, garlic-twanged yoghurt, olives, and a pokey tomato and red pepper dip were all the starters we needed. But, we fool-heartedly ordered a few plates of meze to share.

 
Smokey, silky aubergine pulp dip (baba ganoush), thick yet smooth hummus and a coarse potato and aubergine patlican soslu were the highlights of a cold mix mezze (£7.50).


Dolma (£3.50) were stuffed with mixed herb spiked rice cooked in good quality olive oil. Serving them warm meant they were lighter in texture than other examples I’ve eaten.


A hot mixed mezze (£9.50) combined fine-textured spicy Turkish sausage (sucuk), decent falafel, golden halloumi pieces and a quartet of light filo-pastry pockets filled with an ooze of tangy feta cheese and parsley.

 
But, this was all filler distracting from the headliner.

A platter for four (£58.50) was a beautiful behemoth which could have comfortably fed six. This looker of a dish more than delivered in flavour - beautifully licked with smoke, this was some of the best chargrilled meat I’ve eaten in Cardiff.

Impeccably juicy chicken and lamb shish pieces, tender fat-laced lamb ribs, soft-textured shavings of lamb and chicken shawarma and herb fragranced chicken kofta were all bang on the money. It was only the lamb kofte which could have been a touch more juicy. 

 
They were perched on a lovely bed of ’alf and ’alf, crisp workmanlike fries and buttery, meat juice-soaked orzo-flecked rice. We admitted defeat and packaged up three boxes of leftovers to take home (editor’s note - I’m eating a box whilst I write this).

A bowl of well-dressed leaves were the archetypal token effort. They remained barely touched.

 
Stuffed, we ordered dessert. Again we really didn’t need to bother as we were brought complimentary pieces of baklava. An excellent example of their type, the layers of crisp filo stuffed with nuts and soaked in sugar syrup were light and not at all dense or claggy.

 
Cups of free mint tea were also provided.


I’ve always wanted to try kunefe (£5.50) so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity even though I could barely muster more than a couple of mouthfuls. A piping hot metal dish nestled a freshly-baked sandwich of golden crisp butter-soaked shredded wheat-like pastry topped with ground pistachios and filled with a stringy ooze of sweetened creamy mozzarella-esque cheese.

 
I wasn’t fully sold on this sweet-savoury hybrid of a dessert but a friend across the table thought it was the bee’s knees, reminding her of trips to the Middle East. Perhaps it's a grower?


We all had a delicious meal at Saray. Service was friendly and super-swift, the atmosphere is buzzing and the grilled meats are cracking. Next time I’ll skip the starters and desserts and just go for the main event.

The Details:

Address - Saray, 164-166 City Rd, Cardiff CF24 3JE
Web - https://www.sarayturkishcuisine.co.uk/
Telephone - 029 2025 2350

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Bauhaus Jamaican cafe and Who Cult doughnuts, Bridgend review


I honestly don’t care if your aesthetic is on fleek or if your gaff looks a little rough around the edges as long as your food is delicious.

Take this week’s reviews for example. Both Bauhaus Cafe and Who Cult in Bridgend are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of kerb appeal.


Located in the middle of Bridgend, Bauhaus is a typical old fashioned highstreet cafe with a menu of panini, cooked breakfasts, jacket potatoes and filled baguettes. But, the owner Devon, who hails from the Caribbean, also serves a few Jamaican specials each day.


When we visited, they were curry chicken, curry goat and stew chicken. On other occasions they serve jerk chicken and oxtail.


Both dishes we ordered were cracking.

Curry chicken (£8.50 approx) saw a bowlful of yielding on the bone chicken thigh and soft potatoes bathed in a mild gravy with bags of complex spice. It was joined by distinct-grained coconut-fragranced rice and peas, sweet and golden-crusted fried plantain, a fresh dressed mixed salad and creamy coleslaw with plenty of bite.


Even better was a goat curry (£8.50 approx). Fall-apart tender bone-in meat bobbed in a seriously meaty sauce with a lovely hit of warming spice.


For dessert, Mrs G and I moseyed on over to Who Cult on Bridgend Industrial Estate. With a distinctly Los Angeles vibe, this vegan doughnut maker, coffee shop and clothing company is highly reminiscent of Temple Coffee and Donuts in Leeds, which I visited last year.


From their grungy graphic t-shirts and eye-catching graphics to their day-glo doughnuts, everything at Who Cult is ridiculously Instagram friendly. Crucially, their food and drink is delicious too.


A Homer (£3) was straight out of the Simpsons. The golden, light, airy and squidgy doughnut was topped with tangy berry frosting and a kaleidoscope of hundreds and thousands.


A Biscoff (£3) was topped with gooey caramel icing and frosting and a generous dusting of spicy Lotus biscuit powder.


A good flat white (£2.50) was needed to wash them both down.


Mrs G and I loved both Bauhaus and Who Cult. Despite their differences in aesthetic appeal they both serve equally delicious food. We plan to return to both whenever we next go for a stroll on Dunraven Bay.


The Details:

Bauhaus
Address - Bauhaus, 9 Wyndham St, Bridgend CF31 1ED
Web - https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Coffee-Shop/Bauhaus-203256006356843/
Telephone - 01656 667333

Who Cult
Address - Unit 1D, Kingsway Bldg, Kingsway, Bridgend CF31 3YH
Web - https://www.facebook.com/WHOCULT/
Telephone - 01656 750349