Saturday, 13 June 2020

Mercado 44, Spanish takeaway review, Cardiff

Since opening their first Bar 44 in Cowbridge in 2002, the Morgan siblings have helped raise the bar for eating out in South Wales with their menus of modern tapas and chargrilled meat, kick ass booze and excellent service.

And former Bar 44 chefs like Tommy Heaney and Leyli Homayoonfar have gone on to add even more strings to Cardiff’s culinary bow. 

So, one of the first places I'll be beating a path to when it's safe to eat-in will unquestionably be Bar 44. 

Thankfully, to keep me going in the interim, the 44 Group have started a takeaway “Mercado 44” service of booze, snacks, deli items and dishes to finish at home. Orders are placed online during the week and socially-distanced collection takes place on a Saturday at their restaurants in Cardiff, Penarth and Cowbridge.

Having resisted the allure of Galician cider cured salmon, milk fed lamb and duroc pork belly, I settled on enough food for three weekend meals.

Crisp skinned and yielding fleshed confit duck leg (£3.50) warmed up in the oven in no time at all. I paired it with simple homemade smokey beans made with cannellini beans, harissa, stock and tomato puree.

Alex Gooch’s sourdough loaf (£4) was a delight toasted and transformed into vibrant pan con tomate. 

44 bravas sauce (£5) was the linchpin for a number of portions of homemade patatas bravas.

Bar 44’s patatas bravas are acclaimed for good reason - in fact they were named the UK’s best patatas bravas in the Battle of the Bravas 2017. Following the straightforward recipe on Bar 44’s website (Owen has done a number of how to videos during lockdown), the resulting mound of rustling golden potatoes were served with Bar 44's brilliant spicy, smoky, savoury and sweet bravas sauce and my half-arsed aioli (mayo, garlic puree and lemon).

The bravas sauce was also delicious served simply with roasted cauliflower. 

Bar 44’s croquetas (£6) are one of my favourite dishes in the world. The golden panko-crumbed orbs are filled with the silkiest of nutmeg-fragranced béchamels studded with nuggets of jamón.

A lomo bajo (£15) sirloin of ex-dairy cow was a cracking piece of beef. Bronze of crust, well-marbled of fat and super tender, the 500g cut was an ideal portion for two people. 

I of course washed it all down with a bottle of dry, almondy and woody Gonzalez Byass Viña AB Amontillado sherry (£15).

It’s so heartening to see one of Cardiff’s restaurant stalwarts back in action. Whilst I'm waiting for the return of their sit-in restaurants, it's great to be able to get hold of some of their top notch produce. 

The Details:

Address - Bar 44 Cardiff, 15-23 Westgate St, Cardiff CF10 1DD

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