Saturday, 1 August 2020

Milkwood, Pontcanna, Cardiff review 2020

When the world eventually returns to normality, Pontcanna’s Milkwood is going to find itself in a bit of a quandary.

This restaurant, which serves some of the most technically accomplished high end food in the city, has pivoted (PIVOOOT) towards a more takeaway friendly menu of burgers, sandwiches and pizzas.

As a result, they now also happen to serve one of the city’s best burgers and sandwiches, both of which can’t possibly be taken off the menu. 

Open Thursdays to Saturdays for takeaways and outdoor dining, Milkwood’s menu of small plates, pizzas and sandwiches is a compelling prospect. I was gutted my elasticated waistband didn’t have enough stretch to accommodate the ribs with slaw, ox cheek fries, buttermilk fried chicken parm and French dip. 

Mrs G and I sat in the cosy courtyard garden at the back of the restaurant with just a trio of socially distanced tables. We had the place to ourselves as we ate at our customary toddlers’ teatime of 5.30pm. 

A glass of fruity house white (£4) and a Warsteiner lager (£3.50) were both knocked back in a few gulps. 

Golden, super crisp and super fluffy salt cod fritters (£5) were well-flecked with salted fish. Serious aioli certainly lived up to its billing; it’s still lingering on the palate as I write this blog post. 

A Caesar salad (£6) was a fine example of its type. Fresh Romaine lettuce leaves were coated in the classic pokey dressing and topped with a snowdrift of funky pecorino and plump salty anchovies. 

Charred and blistered padrons (£4) were drizzled with a creamy and tangy buttermilk dressing and a good scattering of sea salt. 

Both our mains were absolute belters.

Their Cubano (£8) is an essential Cardiff sandwich. A crisp pressed soft-crumbed loaf was stuffed with fall apart tender hunks of pork belly and sliced ham and a good ooze of melted Swiss cheese. Cleansing pickles and warming American mustard provided vital balance.

The lynchpin of a house burger (£8) was a big-flavoured, seriously juicy and slightly pink dry aged Carmarthenshire beef patty. It was stuffed into a sturdy yet light potato roll and accompanied by shredded lettuce and red onion, cleansing pickle, a slick of American cheese and a secret sauce which tasted remarkably like that found in a Big Mac (I’d like the recipe please). 

This burger is instantly one of the city’s finest. 

A notable mention should also go to Milkwood’s double-cooked chips which are proper golden and crisp rustlers. 

Stuffed, I couldn’t possibly pass up on one of the house doughnuts (£3). Beautifully light and squidgy, a blackberry ripple was stuffed to the brim with berry-fragranced whipped cream. 

Mrs G and I had a cracking dinner at Milkwood and it was a lovely and relaxed first experience of eating out post lockdown. I’m already planning on working my way through the rest of those sandwiches.

Address - Milkwood, 83 Pontcanna Street, Pontcanna Cardiff CF11 9HS
Telephone - 02920 232226

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Des Pardes, Pakistani restaurant and takeaway, Roath, Cardiff review

Early 2020 probably wasn't one of the best times to open a new restaurant.

Pretty soon after Des Pardes opened their shutters on Albany Road they had to close them again due to lockdown.

This Pakistani restaurant, located on the former site of Canaima, reopened in the middle of June for takeaway. Hopefully they now have the chance to build up a loyal customer base to help them through this most challenging of times. Based on what we tried, they’re a more than welcome addition to Roath.

Their menu has pleasing similarities to East London favourites of mine such as Tayyabs and Lahore Kebab House - groaning platters of big-spiced bbq meats and masala fish, curries on the bone and weekend specials all feature. 

A Des Pardes tawa for two was an absolute beast of a spread. It would have been cracking value for £19.99 but with a 15% collection discount it was only £16.99. 

The main event saw a heaving dish of fluffy rice and slightly soggy chips topped with tender mild-spiced tandoori chicken on the bone, juicy and nicely char-licked chicken boti and succulent lamb seekh with a big whallop of chilli. It was a delicious dish which I’m sure would be even better served in the restaurant.

A fragrant biryani filled the room with its aroma of cardamom, garlic and cinnamon. The multicoloured grains of rice were flecked with pieces of spice-twanged chicken.

A pair of naans were enjoyably squishy with crispy charred bits around the edges.

Chutneys all brought flavour to the party - a mouth-puckering lime, a tangy and spicy plum chutney (alboukhara), sweet mango and fragrant creamy mint.

Tender channa (chickpeas) were bathed in a well-spiced sauce with an almost meaty complexity.

A complimentary bonus bowl of halwa, a semolina-based dessert studded with sultanas, was comfortingly sweet if a little bland.

On another occasion, I ordered from their nashta (breakfast) menu which is served on Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 4pm (update - apparently you can order it anytime). Once again, I had a massive spread and it came to only £12.32 with collection discount.

The unquestionable star of the show was a fall apart tender nehari (£7.99). Overnight cooked lamb on the bone was bathed in a huge flavoured thick, meaty and spicy gravy. This is the type of dish that warrants multiple repeat orders. 

Little pots of astringent lime pickle, fresh ginger, and green chilli provided welcome freshness and balance. 

A well-spiced onion, tomato and chilli-flecked golden omelette (£4) was lovely combined with a soft naan (£1). With the optional addition of cheese or keema, consider it a potential McMuffin killer. 

Lastly, a fragrant and tangy fruit-packed mango lassi (£1.50) provided a much needed balm for all that spice. 

We really enjoyed both our great value meals from Des Pardes - breakfast, lunch and dinner they offer options to sate you spice cravings any time of day. 

The Details:

Address - 131c Albany Road, Roath, Cardiff CF24 3NS
Telephone - 02920 490094

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Family Choice, Cathays, Cardiff Sri Lankan takeaway review

It’s difficult to go above and beyond with customer service when it comes to takeaways - it’s that much harder for a business to make an impression without the face to face interaction between front of house and customer.

But, Salisbury Road’s recently opened Family Choice Sri Lankan takeaway more than surpassed our expectations. It was only when we’d got to the end of our delicious meal that we noticed one of our side dishes was missing. Unprompted, a few minutes later, there was a knock at the door with an apologetic delivery driver with our missing dish and a complimentary bottle of Coke. This is the kind of service which drives loyalty.

Family Choice is a curious hybrid of a business - at the front it’s a Cathays convenience store and Asian supermarket whilst at the back they’re a Sri Lankan takeaway available via Just East and telephone. With a non-existent social media profile, I was alerted to their existence by fellow Cardiff food blogger Tummy Says Yum, who gave them a positive write-up. 

Their menu of curry leaf and coconut-packed Sri Lankan food is enjoyably different to other options in the city (with only a few overlaps between Ponnuswamy and The Coconut Tree). Koththus, rolls, vadai, devils, fries and string hoppers are just some of the areas of the menu to work your way through.

We ordered a broad cross section.

A parcel of light-textured and neutral tasting rice noodle string hoppers (£4.99) ...

were pepped up no end by an accompanying pot of spicy and oniony grated coconut sambol…

and a flavoursome yet mild sothi curry sauce studded with soft potato.

Crisp crumbed mutton rolls (£2.50) were stuffed with chilli and spice laced pieces of meat and soft potato. 

Mini Cornish pasty-esque fish patties (£2) were uncompromisingly fishy. Thin and grease free of case, they were stuffed with an earthy, well-spiced flaked mackerel and potato mix. A pot of sweet chilli sauce added zip and zing. 

Chicken fry (£5.50) saw thin slices of golden chicken, which were a touch dry, judiciously seasoned with pepper and muddled with soft red onions and medium-spiced green chillies. 

Egg koththu (£5) was a good example of its type - a generous tub of soft-textured, comforting shredded roti was flecked with egg, curry leaf and onions. It was a lovely accompaniment to other bigger flavoured dishes. 

Paneer devil (£5.50) saw golden cubes of slightly chewy cheese and crisp peppers and onions bathed in a sweet, savoury and slightly spicy sauce.

Lastly, Ceylon fish curry (£7.50) combined big bone-in meaty pieces of kingfish (a type of mackerel) in a decadent and spice-laden thick coconut-based curry sauce. 

We really enjoyed our takeaway from Family Choice. We had an absolute feast for just over £30 and enough leftovers for another meal. If you’re looking for a different takeaway in Cardiff then it’s definitely worth checking out.

The Details:

Address - Family Choice, 96 Salisbury Road, Cardiff CF24 4AE
Telephone - 078 3434 0000 / 029 2022 0522

Saturday, 11 July 2020

Sommerins at Home, Penarth Michelin-starred restaurant takeaway

Since lockdown, I’ve developed a new found appreciation for how difficult it is to make a plate of food look half decent.

It’s all well and good trying to make a groaning kebab or behemothic burger look “Insta-friendly”. But, when you’re serving dainty dishes from a Michelin-starred chef there’s an extra weight of responsibility; especially when I own neither a pair of tweezers nor a piece of crockery which is less than ten years old.

This was the situation I found myself in last Saturday night when trying to do justice to James Sommerin’s cooking. 

With next week's reopening of outdoor hospitality not viable for a sizeable proportion of restaurants, takeaways and collections are going to be a part of the furniture for the foreseeable future. Even when socially distanced indoor dining is back in action at the start of August, I suspect many restaurants will continue to try and make the numbers add up with eat at home options. 

A few weeks back, James Sommerin relaunched his takeaway service, Sommerins at Home. Offering three (£22) and five (£32) course non-vegetarian and vegetarian tasting menus every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, collections take place from a low key interior design studio in Penarth town centre.

Everything is neatly packaged with clear instructions for reheating (nothing took longer than six minutes).

A tumble of spiralised, sliced and cubed beetroot - earthy, sweet and acidic in places - was flecked with pieces of tangy feta and topped with a fragrant mint dressing. It was an understated yet delicious start to the meal - the kind of thing I could have eaten a bowlful of and called it a day.

A big flavoured boullabaisse with good complexity of seasoning was laden with pieces of white fish and salmon.

A daintily cased raviolo was stuffed with a meaty cornfed chicken mince flecked with herbs and smoked bacon, and lightly fragranced with truffle. It was bathed in a rich, buttery and meaty sauce studded with sweet peas and leeks and wilted greens. 

The next two courses took things up a level - in fact the cheese course was one of the best things I’ve eaten in lockdown. Salty, sweet, crunchy, soft, creamy and acidic, this dish had it all and in perfect balance. 

Salty, creamy and funky Perl Las was joined by sweet caramelised crunchy walnuts and a finely textured fragrant, sweet and slightly tart apple terrine. It reminded me of a tarte tatin but with added interest. 

Last up, a creamy, herbal and citrusy kaffir lime panna cotta had a lovely wobble to it. It was harmonised beautifully by a crisp, warming ginger tuille, thick, sweet and creamy coconut ice cream and a tart and aromatic mango sorbet. 

We were impressed by our dinner from Sommerins at Home and it felt like a really special meal. The portions are on the dinkier end of the spectrum but they’re exactly the kind of size you’d expect to find in James’s eponymous restaurant. However, at £32.50 for five courses, it’s pretty darn good value when it comes to technically accomplished, flavour-packed cooking from a Michelin-starred chef.

The Details:

Address - Project One Shop, Royal Buildings, 12 Stanwell Road, Penarth CF64 1ED
Web -

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Sen Bakery, Roath, Cardiff Turkish bakery review

One thing I’ve discovered during lockdown is how popular Sen BBQ is amongst West Cardiffians. 

When it closed for a period of time at the peak of the pandemic, Cantonians railed on social media at the loss of their favourite Turkish grilled meat purveyor. 

In contrast, Roath and Penylan’s loyalties are less singular when it comes to shish and shawarma - Troy, Saray, Shawarma Laziz, Shaam Nights and KBS are just a few of the standouts which vie for East Cardiffians’ affections.

So, it’s interesting to see that the Sen Brothers have come over to the East side.

However, instead of bringing grilled meat, they’ve bought freshly baked treats.

With a handsome window display of fresh carbs, Sen Bakery offers an array of well-priced Middle Eastern baked goods. 

A light and airy crumbed bohca (£1.50) bread roll contained a thin seam of tangy feta and fragrant parsley. 

A sweet crumbed simit bagel (£1), dotted with sesame seeds, was lovely stuffed with with serrano ham and salad. 

A fresh and big-flavoured sucuk pide (£4) warmed up a treat in the oven. The crisp-crusted Turkish pizza was loaded with salty cheese, spicy beef sausage, fresh peppers, onion, tomatoes and oregano. 

A mixed seed topped loaf (£1.20) had a lovely soft crumb. 

It was delicious filled with well-herbed lamb kofte purchased from Chop Shop, a recently opened halal butchers on Albany Road. 

A beaut of a borek (£4) was stuffed with tangy feta, fresh tomatoes, and fragrant parsley and oregano. It's thin bready case was a nice change to the filo pastry I've encountered before. 

A pair of baklava pieces (£2) were gorgeously crisp and flaky of pastry, well-soaked in sweet syrup and stuffed with chop nuts. 

We really enjoyed all of our baked goods from Sen. Whilst Cardiff is increasingly well served with quality craft bakers, Sen Bakery’s well-priced wares are enjoyably different. 

The Details:

Address - Sen Bakery, 28 Albany Road, Cardiff CF24 3RQ
Telephone - 029 2049 9991