Saturday, 28 March 2020

Keyif, Penarth Turkish restaurant review

Last year someone spotted a shish-shaped gap in the market in Penarth and opened Keyif, a Turkish restaurant. The Penarthians have clearly had a good time there over the last twelve months as the restaurant’s walls are adorned with countless pictures of happy customers.

The menu is full of familiar faces from Middle Eastern cuisine - cold and hot mezze, grilled meats and fish, and vegetable stews. It’s worth noting there’s a Penarth premium on the prices of at least a couple of quid per dish.

Ice cold Efes Pilsner (£3.95) was enjoyably malty and seriously gluggable. 

Warm bread was super fresh and soft of crumb. 

A hot mezze for two (£12) delivered a good bang for our buck. Panko-esque crumbed calamari were pleasingly tender; uber crisp falafel were sat on a slick of coarse hummus; golden crusted fritters (mucver) were filled with soft shreds of carrot, courgette and onion; grilled Turkish sausage was nicely fatty and spicy; salty halloumi could have been melted a bit more; and semolina-studded borek parcels were light of pastry and filled with a tangy, parsley-fragranced ooze of feta. 

For main, like the starter, I put the menu through its paces with a single dish, the Keyif mixed grill (£18.50). Lamb and chicken shish were both tender and well seasoned; patty shaped lamb and chicken kofte were nicely herbed; wings were crisp and juicy; and lamb ribs and chops were both properly rendered of fat. Orzo flecked buttery rice and a run of the mill mixed salad completed the delicious dish. 

A shout also goes to the fresh, assertively spiced chilli sauce.

I really enjoyed Keyif and it definitely adds an extra dimension to Penarth’s restaurant scene.

Whilst you can't eat in at the moment, they're offering both delivery and takeaway. You can order online or by calling 029 2070 2429.

The Details:

Address - Keyif, 21 Glebe St, Penarth CF64 1EE
Telephone - 029 2070 2429

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Ember, pop-up restaurant review, Cardiff

Eating in is the new eating out. 

With social distancing in mind, Mrs G and I made a last minute request to John and Ceri Cook for a takeaway option from their Ember supper club at Cocorico last weekend.

Having looked forward to it for months and never been to Ember, I really didn’t want to miss out and they very kindly accommodated.

With our four courses (£40 a head) bagged up to take up home, it was down to us to heat everything through (except for the steak which we cooked from scratch) and plate up.

It was all absolutely lush. And I don’t think my plating skills were too bad...

A thick, velvety and creamy celeriac soup was dotted with salty shards of smoked bacon and the sweet acidic lift of leek jam. A crunchy sourdough crouton was capped with golden tangy cheddar. 

A deep, sweet and smokey coarse chorizo ragu was accompanied by al dente pipe rigate pasta which cosseted the coarse sauce. 

With produce as good as Martin Player’s Himalayan salt-aged sirloin steak you’re already onto a winner. 

Super-tender and golden of fat with a properly beefy flavour, it was elevated further by it’s excellent accompaniments - a hugely umami and rich cauliflower puree; buttery, funky and caramelised truffled potatoes; and light and verdant greens. 

Finally, a brilliantly crisp and golden pastry case was filled with a soft frangipane and accompanied by tangy, richness balancing apple compote, barley fragranced silky custard and salted caramel.

This was an excellent meal from one of Cardiff’s most talented chefs and I look forward to eating John Cook's food again soon. 

In the coming months, Wales’ independent food outlets are going to have to come up with increasingly creative ways to make ends meet. This article from Find My Dine provides a useful guide to independent restaurants in South Wales which are now offering food to go. I'll be supporting them as best I can by eating as many takeaways as possible.

The Details:

Address - My house

Saturday, 14 March 2020

3B's Cafe (Bwyta Bwyd Bombai), Cardiff City Centre, Indian restaurant review

Located almost opposite the Potted Pig on St Mary’s Street, Bwyta Bwyd Bombai (aka 3B’s Cafe) relocated from their original home in the High Street Arcade in the middle of 2019.

I’ve always really enjoyed their menu of spice-packed Indian street food featuring dishes such as pav bhaji, dum biryani and paratha rolls. It’s still the same shtick in their new venue but there have been some price increases since my last visit; for example, the mixed bhaji was £3.50 but is now £5.95 and their thali was £9.50 but is now £14.95.

The dining space is homely, unique and intimate. It’s a far cry from the glut of slick cookie cutter chains which have arrived in Cardiff city centre of late. 

Pints of Cobra (£3.95) were cold and not too fizzy; the ideal curry foil. 

We shared a selection of starters.

Golden, crisp mixed bhaji (£5.95) were served with a vibrant coriander and mint chutney. Verdant spinach leaves, tender disks of potato and soft shreds of onion were all on the mark. 

Paneer tikka (£6.25) pieces were creamy, squidgy and golden crusted. They were cleverly split down the middle and stuffed with a whopping flavoured mint and garlic marinade. 

Dahi puri (£5.99) delivered megaton payloads of flavour and texture. The crispy puffed puri were filled with soft potato, sweet minty yoghurt and tangy tamarind and topped with vermicelli fronds. 

Mains were even more multi-dimensional in their spicing.

A good sized thali (£14.95) didn’t have a weak link. From curry leaf-laced tender lamb curry to a hot and sour potato curry and silky mustard seed spiced dhal, everything was delicious. Fluffy rice, mouth-puckering lime pickle, flaky paratha, potato bhaji, creamy mint raitha and a poppadom completed the dish. 

Mrs G’s masala dosa (£5.99) was another massive winner. The rolled up newspaper sized thin and crisp pancake was filled with a comforting spiced potato mix and joined by more of that delicious dhal and a spicy chutney. A bowl of chicken curry (£7.95) was decadently creamy and coconutty whilst delivering a huge level of fragrant spice. 

At this stage, it’s worth flagging a few issues we had with service. It took a few prompts to receive menus, have our order taken and ask for more drinks. Mrs G’s main dish also arrived a fair bit after everyone else’s. But, I’ll let Three B’s off because there’s no doubt they’re serving some of the best Indian food in Cardiff city centre. And because I’m sure their friendly serving team can rectify all of these problems.

The Details:

Address - 3B's Cafe, 12 High St, Cardiff CF10 1AX
Telephone - 029 2037 2352

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Yukiyan, Cathays, Cardiff Japanese restaurant review

Located on the former site of Woodville Road’s Jalan Malaysia, Yukiyan Sushi's cartoon adorned walls give the place a fun, modern vibe. 

Their menu is certainly comprehensive, scarily so in fact. Running to five small-fonted pages, it includes a range of sushi, tempura, teriyaki, fried noodles, ramen and rice bowls. With so many dishes available, I was worried it might be a case of “Jack of all trades”. 

Mrs G slammed a couple of bottles of Sapporo (£3.75) whilst I remained designated driver for the night. 

Yasai tempura (£6.25) were gorgeously light and bubbly of batter and generous of portion. The tender mixed vegetables included green peppers, aubergines, enoki mushrooms, carrot and squash. 

Agedashi tofu (£5.85) was also enjoyably crunchy of coating. The soft, creamy and wobbly tofu pieces were bathed in a warm savoury broth. I quickly gave up on chopsticks, resorted to a spoon and then picked up the bowl to drink the leftovers. 

Inari sushi (£3.15), Mrs G’s perennial favourite, were given the thumbs up. The sweet soy-sauce simmered tofu pouches were stuffed with sushi rice with a nice bite. 

Spider maki (£8.55) were generously stuffed with crisp battered soft shell crab, saline pearls of flying fish roe, cucumber and avocado. 

California rolls (£6.25), stuffed with that familiar guilty pleasure of crab stick and mayonnaise, were the most average dish we ate but they were still good.

Finally, a big piece of soft, fatty and meaty grilled eel (£8.85) was bathed in a sweet, sticky and savoury teriyaki sauce. It was sat on a green salad laced with finely shredded omelette. 

We had a really tasty meal at Yukiyan. It’s another lovely Japanese restaurant in Cardiff which I’d gladly go back to anytime.

The Details:

Address - Yukiyan, 101 Woodville Rd, Cardiff CF24 4DY
Telephone - 029 2132 8992

Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Manteca, London pasta and nose to tail restaurant review

David Carter, the guy who founded London’s brilliant barbecue joint Smokestak, has teamed up with Chris Leach (formerly of Pitt Cue and Kitty Fisher’s) to open Manteca, a nose to tail meat and hand-rolled pasta restaurant in Soho.

If all of these things sounds like your kind of restaurant, then I can guarantee you this will be your kind of restaurant.

Their buzzy dining room is packed with tables cheek to cheek. Whilst there are no labels on the menu of starters, mains and puds, you can still fashion yourselves a traditional three course dinner. 

Focaccia (£2.50) was crisp, beautifully soft, slightly elastic and rich with olive oil, salt and rosemary.

House made mortadella (£5.50) cleverly straddled the pate-sausage divide. Light and soft, it melted in the mouth with a porky, garlicky, peppery twang. 

A coarse snappy skinned pork sausage (£7) was fragranced with fennel and accompanied by sweet, tangy and warming stewed grapes with mustard. 

"Pink fir potatoes" (£7.50) were so much more than their menu description. Rugged and super-crisp of skin and tender of interior, they were essentially deep-fried smashed new potatoes. They were accompanied by a light, creamy, smokey, fishy and salty whipped cods roe. 

Dinner was already brilliant but things went up another notch with our mains.

Thin-cased yet al dente agnolloti (£9) were stuffed with sausage meat and bathed in a deceptively rich sauce of butter, parmesan and toasted hazelnuts. Mrs G declared it one of the best pastas she'd ever eaten. 

I thought my dish was even better. Slippery tonarelli fronds (£8.50) were bathed an a silky, peppery, cheesy sauce with a gorgeous note of rich brown crab. 

Dessert was rather reminiscent of a superb pudding we ate at Smokestak. A ludicrously soft and squidgy yet still light date and prune pudding (£6) was bathed in salted caramel sauce. An airy, milky and potently gingery gelato did an admirable job of balancing the dish's richness. 

We had a fabulous meal at Manteca. This is exactly the kind of comfort food I love to eat and our bill for two including service and sans booze was £50. Its a reminder that you can have some top drawer cheap eats in the Big Smoke.

The Details:

Address - Manteca, 58-59 Great Marlborough St, Soho, London W1F 7JY
Web -
Telephone - 020 3827 9740