Saturday, 31 October 2020

ChamCham West African street food, Cardiff delivery

ChamCham West African street food has appeared in Cardiff in a number of different formats over the last couple of years. But, I’ve never managed to catch up with them.

In late 2018 they briefly ran the unit on Dumball’s Road which is now occupied by the Caribbean Way.

They’ve also popped up at Llanrumney Hall and Street Food Circus.

Now, during lockdown they’ve started delivering across Cardiff, Newport and the Vale of Glamorgan. So, they can finally come to me instead of me going to them. 

Deliveries take place Wednesday to Saturday with a minimum order of £12 and delivery charges starting at £2.50 (it was £5 to Penylan). Mrs G and I ordered a good cross-section of the menu, which turned out to be just the right amount of food for two greedy people. Our food arrived bang on time and piping hot.

Golden salt fish bites (£4.50) were crisp, soft textured and well-seasoned with the headline ingredient and mixed peppers. 

Goat curry (£7.95) contained a good quantity of tender bone-in meat in a thick well-spiced meaty gravy. 

Fish spinach stew (£6.95) was dotted with big hunks of fish in another thick gravy flecked with a fine dice of sweet onion and iron-rich spinach. 

The standout dish of the evening for me was kelewele (£4.50), a plantain stew laden with pieces of the caramelised sweet-savoury fruit. I could have eaten it by the bowlful.

A couple of pots of Nanu’s pepper sauce (£2) brought fresh, sweet medium-chilli heat to the meal. 

Lastly distinct-grained jollof rice (£5.50) was elevated by the aroma of interesting savoury spice.

Yes, the dishes were a bit on the greasy side. But, with its menu of spice-packed stews, curries, chargrilled meat and fried stuff, ChamCham’s food is just the kind of rib sticking stuff I want to eat on a dreary Autumnal evening.

The Details:

Telephone - 07365 972181

Saturday, 24 October 2020

The Dough Thrower, Victoria Park, Cardiff pizzeria review

Victoria Park’s Dough Thrower has been on my “to eat list” for an embarrassingly long time.

With places like Anatoni’s, the recently opened RomEat and the now sadly departed Da Mara on my doorstep, it’s a rare occasion that I ever leave the CF24 postcode to get my pizza hit.

But, with socially distanced (pre-Fire Break) Friday night drinks arranged at a friend’s Pontcanna garden, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to pay them a visit. It also explains why my photos in this post are particularly shocking. 

Having opened back in 2017, the Dough Thrower’s menu features both Neapolitan and Detroit-style pizzas.

Whilst the leopard spotted soft and floppy Neapolitan-style will be familiar to any Cardiff pizza fan, the Detroit-style might not be. Known for its thick, airy and crisp crust, this rectangular shaped pizza is traditionally topped with a lot of cheese and its toppings first before the tomato sauce is placed on top.

Interesting international flavour combinations appear across the Dough Thrower’s menu - Asian wedges, Southern fried chicken dippers, the El Matador pizza with iberico chorizo, and the Los Pollos with smoked pulled chicken thigh, were all some of the dishes which I had to pass up this time around.

A trio of generous golden-crumbed porcini mushroom croquetas (£6.50) were loaded with thick fungus funked bechamel. 

Tennis ball-sized mac and cheese bites (£5.50) were even better, stuffed with a fairly loose textured mac with a good hit of tangy cheese and herb. 

A Detroit pizza (£17) definitely looked the business having been topped with a fresh and fruity tomato sauce and double Monterey Jack, double mozzarella and double pepperoni. It was a seriously cheesy, fatty and meaty proposition with the golden caramelised cheese edges definitely the highlight as the base become a touch dense towards the centre. 

In fact, it was overshadowed by the pair of excellent Neapolitan pizzas.

Impressively light and airy of crust, with a thin and floppy base, the dough had a delicate sweetness due to the addition of a touch of honey.

A Calabria (£13) was well-topped with a good quantity of fiery and fatty 'nduja and a drizzle of basil oil.

The Flaming Goat (£13) meanwhile was topped with creamy and funky goats cheese, sweet and spicy roquito peppers and a drizzle of chilli honey. 

I was really impressed by the Neapolitan pizzas at the Dough Thrower and they certainly belong in Cardiff's pizza premier league. I hope it doesn’t take me so long to have another one.

The Details:

Address - The Dough Thrower, 591 Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff CF5 1BE 
Telephone - 029 20307295

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Haar, St Andrews restaurant review

Masterchef Professionals 2018 finalist Dean Banks' intricate cooking certainly made a big impression on me. In fact, I was utterly convinced he'd won the competition until Google told me otherwise. 

Hailing from Arbroath, the former private chef has a wealth of top level kitchen experience across the globe and opened his first restaurant Haar in the five star Kinnettles Hotel in St Andrews in April 2019.

With a focus on Scottish seafood, globally-influenced flavour combinations and dainty presentation, Haar serves a both a non-vegan (£65) and vegan (£60) five course tasting menu with the option of a couple of supplementary courses.

A generous, warm and crusty corn loaf was soft of crumb and well-studded and fragranced with the sweet grain. A quenelle of addictively complex savoury miso butter was a Heaney’s marmite butter rival; it was the absolute shizz.

A trio of snacks were a low key introduction to the meal proper - a lobster wonton containing a morsel of sweet flesh was slightly thick of casing; a plump and briny oyster was very delicately fragranced with tom yum seasoning; and a chilli-fragranced olive was filled with a gel which I think was flavoured with basil.

A finely diced nicely beefy tartare was topped with a luxuriously silky confit egg yolk and intense sweet and savoury black garlic puree which slightly dominated. 

Uber thin and crisp crackers seasoned with the warmth of urfa pepper were a lovely shovel for the tartare.

Things moved up a gear with the next course. A beautifully flaky piece of cod was bathed in a fragrant coconut broth and topped with a crunchy potato leaf and an intensely aromatic green curry crumb. A dinky fishtail of sweet carrot was pretty as a picture but so small in size that it was a little bit lost. 

A whopper of a golden crusted Hebridean hand-dived scallop (£15 supplement) was served rare. Tender and sweet, it was bathed in a buttery and savoury dulse broth studded with finely diced vegetables, including tomatoes and romanesco, and topped with a crisp tuile big on smoky paprika.

Smoked lobster (£25 supplement), Dean's signature dish, was probably the best lobster I've ever eaten. Compellingly sweet, tender and smokey, it was bathed in a beurre blanc flecked with seaweed and elevated by the sweet acidity of mirin. It was absolutely epic and I wish we’d ordered more than one plate to share. 

Duck breast, supremely tender, crisp-skinned, well-rendered of fat and seasoned with sesame and enoki, was another belter of a dish. It was joined by a light and fruity elderberry sauce, meaty king oyster mushroom, smoky cep tuile, pickled carrot and kohlrabi and smooth cauliflower puree. 

Dessert was a lovely strawberry showcase. A light, creamy parfait was well-flavoured with strawberry and tonka bean and joined by fresh strawbs, delicately acidic fermented strawberries, airy strawberry foam, a buttery white chocolate crumb flecked with popping candy, and a white chocolate orb filled with boozy white chocolate liqueur.

We had a really good dinner at Haar and it's well worth a visit if you’re looking for a special meal in St Andrews.

However, if you want to experience Dean's cooking without leaving the comfort of your own home then he's currently offering a range of Haar at Home kits - one of them features lobster with that magical mirin butter sauce...

The Details:

Address - Haar, 127 North St, St Andrews KY16 9AG
Telephone - 01334 845750

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Pasture, Cardiff city centre steakhouse review

For me, no trip to the US of A is ever complete without a visit to a steakhouse. These opulent temples of beef, with their menus of cheese and bacon loaded side dishes, big booze lists, and cream heavy puddings, never fail to deliver a meal which has me waddling out the door.

With the arrival of Pasture in Cardiff, the city now has its closest approximation to the steakhouses of the states; a role which London’s excellent Hawksmoor fulfilled when I lived in the Big Smoke. 

The opening of this Bristol export’s second branch is a canny move to a city which has a curious obsession with the mediocre chain Miller and Carter.

Pasture is an unquestionable upgrade.

For a start, they only serve grass fed British beef which has been dry aged for at least 35 days and is butchered in house. 

Secondly, their extensive selection of snacks, starters and sides, which includes dishes like coal roast scallops, crispy chicken wings with soy & bourbon glaze, caramel pork belly with competition bbq sauce and spinach & leek gratin, is a serious crowd pleaser. Trying to whittle our selection down to a meagre five dishes took a serious feat of discipline. 

Finally, Pasture has a decent craft beer selection featuring localish breweries like Lost & Grounded and Tiny Rebel and a proper cocktail menu too (a mixologist was busily shaking away throughout our meal).

In summary, it’s the kind of place where you can go “out out” and make a night of it. 

A quartet of short rib croquettes (£5) were the clear standout of the starters and snacks. A tangle of tender beef shreds bathed in thick meaty gravy were coated in a golden crumb and sat on gochujang aioli with an addictive whallop of chilli. 

Roasted padrons (£4) were big ol’ beasts. The portly peppers were beautifully charred and accompanied by spicy and citrusy shichimi spice and a thick, creamy and nutty cashew puree. 

Lobster toast (£9.50) was a clever riff on the Chinese takeaway classic. The crisp black and white sesame studded toast was stuffed with sweet minced crustacean and sat on a pool of rich and buttery sauce fragranced with tarragon and dulce. 

Onto the main event and Pasture make a big deal of their house sharing cuts (chateaubriand, tomahawk and porterhouse) which take pride of place in the restaurant’s ageing cabinet.

With the ever virtuous Mrs G set on a fillet steak (£26.96), I opted for sirloin (£18.50) as I wasn’t 100% convinced of my ability to solo takedown a 700g tomahawk. 

Both bits of meat were cooked absolutely bob on; bronze crusted from the charcoal grill, nicely seasoned and well rested. They had a good flavour too but arguably less of a distinct beefiness in comparison to equivalent examples I’ve eaten at Asador 44 and Hawksmoor. 

A very tender rare fillet steak was accompanied by chimichurri sauce with bags of green herb and balancing acidity.

The medium rare sirloin had a nice level of chew and and was joined by an exemplary brown butter bearnaise. 

The star of a trio of sides was without doubt a cheese crusted pot of mac and cheese (£3.95) with a chive and bacon crumb. 

Seriously oozy and cheesy (parmesan, gouda and mozzarella all featured according to our server), its the kind of dish which would be worth a visit to Pasture for alone. 

Tender hispi cabbage (£3.95) had a lovely lick of char and was topped with bacon butter which veered slightly towards mustardy acidity rather than porky butteriness. 

Sweet and earthy roast beets (£3.95) were dusted with spiced nut dukkah and more of that excellent cashew yoghurt which appeared with the padrons earlier in the meal.

Pretty stuffed, we shared just the one dessert.

A wedge of smoked cheesecake (£6.95) divided the crowd; I was a fan whilst Mrs G wasn’t fully sold.

Thick, creamy, lightly charred, slightly sweet, savoury and salty, it delivered an unmistakeable smoked cheese note reminiscent of the Bavarian smoked cheese logs which my grandma used to eat. Spritzed with a pear vinegar mist and accompanied by a scoop of milky ice cream, the dish was half cheese course and half pud. If you’re a classic baked cheesecake purist then I’d probably give it a miss.

We had an excellent meal at Pasture and it certainly fits comfortably in Cardiff’s top tier of restaurants. Having eyed up their mahoosive burger leaving the kitchen, I’m already plotting another visit.

The Details:

Address - Pasture, 8 - 10 High Street, Cardiff CF10 1BB
Telephone - 07511 217422

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Wellie Wednesday, Thomas by Tom Simmons, Pontcanna restaurant review

I love a retro classic - black forest gateaux, prawn cocktail, steak and kidney pudding, chicken kiev, sherry trifle.

They may be a bit naff but they’re the kind of big flavoured dishes which really float my boat.

Arguably though it’s beef Wellington which is the king amongst them. All those layers of flavour, the level of technique required to pull one off and its grandeur, make it an all time classic.

Mrs G decided she wanted a Wellington to celebrate her birthday and I was more than happy to oblige. Thankfully, Restaurant Thomas in Pontcanna have their very own Wellie Wednesday so I didn't even need to dust off my apron. 

Owned by chef Tom Simmons, a former Master Chef The Professionals quarter-finalist who hails from Pembrokeshire, he opened his Pontcanna restaurant on the former site of the Cameo Club just before lockdown in early 2020. Simmons also has a London restaurant, Tom Simmons Tower Bridge, which is still currently shuttered.

With its sweeping bar, dark green colour scheme, banquettes and parquet floor, Thomas has a classy speakeasy vibe going on. It’s a lovely place to spend an evening. 

Simmons' cooking is big on French technique and Welsh ingredients but on a Wednesday his focus is solely on beef Wellington. With a handful of snacks, a choice of two Wellies (meat or veggie) and a single dessert, it’s exactly the kind of concise and confident menu I like to see.

A stack of golden crumbed croquetas (£5), buried under a flurry of parmesan, were filled with intensely ’shroomy bechamel and joined by allium fragranced chive mayo. 

Juicy morsels of fried chicken (£6) were drizzled with lime mayo with a perky smack of citrus. Apparently they’d been brined in tea but it’s not something I picked up on; they were no worse off for their lack of PG tips. 

Whipped cods roe (£5) had a lovely silky and airy texture but could perhaps have taken a bigger oomph of fish. Salty salmon roe pearls and verdant basil oil thankfully delivered an extra punch of flavour.

Uber-thin sourdough crisps dotted with fennel seeds were a lovely vehicle to get that dip into my gob.

Light and crisp hunks of One Mile Bakery sourdough (4.50) were served with a stonking pair of spreads; deeply meaty and savoury beef dripping with marmite and whipped cultured butter with a beguiling funk of truffle. 

The snacks were all great but we were really only here for one thing and thankfully it didn’t disappoint. A generous tranche of ruby red beef fillet was the focal point of a handsome slice of Wellington (£28 including sides).

The ludicrously tender, well-flavoured beef was surrounded by meaty mushroom-studded chicken mousse and golden pastry. It was a lovely thing indeed and its accompaniments elevated it even further.

Robuchon-esque potato puree was probably more butter than spud. A delicate aroma of truffle added further decadence. 

Tender hispi cabbage had a compelling note of smokey char. 

A jug of beef and red wine jus delivered a further bovine hit. 

Warm chocolate mousse (£8.50) was everything I look for in a pud. Rich, slightly bitter, airy and topped with a crunchy crumb, it reminded me of a chocolate fondant in mousse format. Accompanied by silky, fragrant and slightly tart blackberry sorbet, it was a lovely contrast of hot and cold. 

We had a great meal at Thomas. If you’re looking for a decadent bit of beef then I highly recommend Wellie Wednesday. However, I'm sure you'd be in for a treat any night of the week though as Tom Simmons really knows how to cook. 

The Details:

Address - Thomas by Tom Simmons, 3 & 5 Pontcanna St, Pontcanna, Cardiff CF11 9HQ
Telephone - 029 2116 7800