Saturday, 17 April 2021

A few of the best sandwiches in Cardiff

With 31% of working adults in Great Britain doing their jobs from home, it’s understandable that sandwich shops are having a hard time of it. No longer are office workers queuing in their droves for a jambon beurre baguette or a steak bake whilst on their lunch break. Instead they’ve been usurped by a homemade sarnie and an episode of Bargain Hunt (at least in our house).

In solidarity with Cardiff’s independent sandwich makers, I’ve spent the past few weeks working my way around some of the city’s finest. A few are mainstays of Cardiff’s sandwich scene whilst others are more recent additions.

It would be remiss of me to not mention Fresh Baguette, arguably Cardiff’s finest sandwich maker, which is currently on hiatus. This tiny shop in the Royal Arcade serves up some awesome specials including sweet and spicy crisp-crumbed General Tso’s chicken and their iconic Indian spiced chicken baguette with mango mayo, onion bhajis and toasted cumin seeds.

Meanwhile New York Deli, peddlers of mahoosive hoagies, are still open for takeaway and delivery across Cardiff. Hanoi 1991 have also just reopened their doors to serve their fragrant and spicy Vietnamese banh mi. 

However, here are the places I’ve checked out recently:

La Mina, Albany Road, Roath

Whenever I visit Mina’s on Albany Road there’s always an eclectic queue of families, workers and very hungover people. Its hard to go wrong with a Mina baguette; they’re always warm out of the oven, laden with filling and good value for money.

Our perennial orders are coronation chicken (£3), which is well-coated with curry spiced mayo.

And minted lamb (£4.90), which is packed with shreds of meat in a punchy mint sauce twanged mayo.

The Bagel Place, Senghennydd Road, Cathays

The Bagel Place in Cardiff University Student Union is apparently the only place in Cardiff which bakes their own bagels. Made fresh throughout the week, they’ve got a range of flavours (including poppy seed, sesame and plain) and fillings as well as a couple of cute resident dogs.

The bagels are tasty with a decent chew and they’re good value too. An everything bagel with butter (£1.79) was laden with sesame, poppy and onion flakes.

A spring salmon special (£4.59) was generously topped with smoked salmon and a good schmear of cream cheese. Balance was provided in the form of punchy capers, red onion slices and a good squeeze of lemon.

Inma’s Continental Stores, Penarth Road, Grangetown

The old skool Inma’s Continental Stores in Grangetown sells a compact range of sandwiches alongside Spanish and Italian meals such as paella, tortilla, lasagne and meatballs. But there’s one thing for which they’re well known - their garlic chicken baguette.

For a very reasonable £3.30, you receive a crisp white baguette stuffed to overflowing with hot crisp crumbed chicken, mayo and fresh salad. I could barely detect any garlic but it still hit the spot.

Cegin Oriel, Cathedral Road, Pontcanna

If you’re looking for a carvery sandwich then it’s probably a good idea to head to someone with the credentials of Oriel Jones butchers. 

Cegin Oriel is the cooked food offshoot of Oriel Jones and it sells a range of sandwiches, pies, sausage rolls and traditional puds such as sticky toffee pudding and bread and butter pudding.

But, it’s their breakfast and carvery sandwiches which get people queueing.

A blushing pink roast beef bap (£6) was tender of flesh and topped with a good dollop of decadent and warming peppercorn sauce.

Yielding roast pork (£6) combined well with soft paxo-esque stuffing and chunky apple sauce. It was just the ticket before a three hour yonk along the Taff Trail.

Gathering Ground, Wedal Road, Roath

I would never have ventured into Gathering Ground on Wedal Road if it wasn’t for a recommendation from a trusted source.

This dog friendly cafe has a rather appealing takeaway menu featuring sandwiches such as fish finger with tartare sauce and glamorgan sausage with chilli jam as well as soups and all day breakfasts.

A club sandwich (£6.50) was a textbook example and probably the finest of its type I’ve had in Cardiff.

Soft toasted white bread was filled with tender char-licked chicken breast, thick cut bacon (the fat could have been a little crisper), mayo and fresh salad. It was a hefty number and lovely eaten in the nearby sunshine of Roath Park Rose Garden.

Triple cooked chips (£3) were very good too - golden, crisp, fluffy rustlers they were accompanied by a generous dollop of mayo.

There’s a lot to love about Cardiff’s sandwich roster from the old to the new. If you’re working from home then get out and show them some love.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Cafe Portugal, Cathays, Cardiff review

I’ve got a lot of love for piri-piri chicken, having enjoyed this fiery Mozambican-Portuguese speciality on trips to both Lisbon and Faro. A plate of barbecued chicken and chips with an ice-cold cerveja in the sunshine really is a match made in heaven.

So, with summer temporarily putting in an appearance on Easter bank holiday weekend, it felt like an opportune time to visit Cafe Portugal, one of Cardiff’s newest openings. Portuguese owned and run, Cafe Portugal's head chef has cooked in a number of restaurants across Portugal. 

Located in the student stronghold of Cathays, Cafe Portugal’s concise menu features peri-peri chicken as a mainstay alongside a roster of daily specials such as octopus with potatoes, duck rice, caldo verde and espetadas. Everything’s well-priced with mains weighing in around the £7.50 - £10 mark and sides £2.50 (or £2 when ordered with piri-piri chicken).

Having pre-ordered in advance, I was pleased to see the chicken being cooked over charcoal when I arrived to collect my order. 

Our whole peri-peri chicken (£12) really looked the business. Nicely licked with char, it was well-basted with spicy, zingy, garlicky piri-piri oil. The thighs, wings and drumsticks were impeccably juicy but the breast was a bit dry in parts. Overall, it was still very tasty. 

Hand cut chips (£2) had a light crispness - they reminded me of a french fry crossed with a chip shop chip.

Bean rice (£2) had more than an air of Jamaican rice and peas about it. Distinct grained rice was seasoned with flavour-packed savoury stock and flecked with tender kidney beans.

Migas (£2) was enjoyably different, comprising of a mix of cabbage, bacon pieces, black-eyed beans and soft soaked breadcrumbs. The whole thing tasted rather porky and so was my kind of vegetable dish.

Mixed salad was perfectly fresh (£2) but fairly run of the mill.

For dessert, it would have been rude not to order one of Cafe Portugal’s pastéis de nata (£1.70). It was a fine example, combining crisp puff pastry, egg rich wobbly custard and a lightly charred top.

Hearty, comforting and good value, we enjoyed Cafe Portugal - if you’re looking for sunny Portuguese food then it’s worth giving this Cardiff indie a go.

The Details:

Address - Cafe Portugal, 99 Wyeverne Rd, Cathays, Cardiff CF24 4BG
Telephone - 02921 324431

Sunday, 4 April 2021

The Plate home supper club, Oasis Cardiff, Splott review

Guzzling tasty food is pretty much my favourite thing to do in the world. It’s trumped only by guzzling tasty food in support of a good cause.

The Splott-based Oasis Cardiff works with refugees and asylum seekers to help them integrate into the local community. From their centre, they run a range of activities including English language classes, advisory sessions, advocacy groups and cultural trips and have clients from around the globe including Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan and El Salvador.

For much of the last year, Oasis has run The Plate home supper club with a different dish from around the world available each week, many introduced to Oasis by their clients. There’s been savoury pies from Bolivia and Algeria, Nigerian stews, and Ethiopian platters amongst others. Most of these national cuisines are only available in Cardiff from Oasis.

Each week there’s a vegan main (£11), meat main (£12) and dessert (£3) available for pre-order through Oasis’s website with collection taking place from the centre on Fridays between 6 and 8pm. Collection is quick and efficient and everything is piping hot and ready to eat.

The week I visit, Egyptian cuisine is on the menu.

I’ve been yearning to try koshari, Egypt’s national dish, for a long time. A triple carbohydrate joy, it combines fluffy rice, lentils with a little bite, caramelised angel hair pasta and macaroni.

Topped with a really fresh and fruity tomato sauce with a delicate thrum of chilli and crispy onions, it’s a comforting as heck combination.

A tender bone-in chicken thigh and leg is delicately fragranced with seed-studded dukkah. I’d perhaps like a bigger spice hit.

Acidic cut through is provided by decent earthy pickled beetroot.

Dessert is Umm ali, a top drawer Egyptian bread and butter pudding. Puff pastry soaked in thick vanilla fragranced custard retains a good crispness and flakiness on top. Juicy raisins and the crunch of pistachios, coconut and almonds add extra interest.

Umm ali

I really enjoyed dinner from The Plate and I’m looking forward to exploring more national cuisines through their excellent initiative. If you’re ever over in Pontcanna then they’re also currently collaborating with Kemi’s on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to run a pop-up world food takeaway cafe with dishes from countries including Iran, Ethiopia and Gambia; it also looks like a must visit.

The Details:

Address - Oasis Cardiff, 69b Splott Rd, Splott, Cardiff CF24 2BW

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Meat Matters, Online butcher delivery, Wales review

Nothing makes something more desirable than seeing the words “limited release” attached to it.

The latest Nike Dunks.

The newest release from wild brewing maestros Mills.

And the home delivery delights from Hills Brecon, Kapow Ribs, St John and Ty Melin, all of which have been challenging to get hold at various points over the last twelve months.

In recent months I’ve coveted the beautifully marbled beef from Gower-based online butchery Meat Matters. Every Thursday there’s a new beef drop and the most popular items are reported to sell out pretty swiftly. By the time I got my arse into gear to place an order on the Sunday, I’d missed out on beef short ribs and bone in rib-eye.

So, I had to settle for bone-in rib, aged beef mince, shin and bone marrow. It’s a hard life.

Our meat arrived the following Thursday, neatly vac-packed and well-chilled.

A bone-in rib of aged Pembrokeshire ex-dairy cow (£45.90) was an absolute beauty of a piece of meat. Holstein-based in breed, its flesh was a deep ruby red and very well marbled. Over 1.8kg in weight, it was a double rib so we were able to split it in two and freeze half for a later date.

With beef of this calibre, I really wanted to do it justice by cooking it properly. So, I contacted Oliver Woolnough, owner of Meat Matters, who was only too happy to chat me though a suggested method.

A ferocious sear on the hob, an oven cook until the interior temp reached 54 degrees, and a 20 minute rest later and the result was a gorgeous medium rare with a bronze crusted exterior.

It was an absolutely class piece of meat, tender, deeply beefy in flavour and juicy with an addictive seam of crisp yellow fat. Served with hispi cabbage, fries and bearnaise sauce, it made for a top notch Friday night dinner.

A 1kg bag of aged beef mince (£9) transformed into delicious burgers. With a lovely intensity of flavour and a good crust, I heaped our double pattied burgers alongside melted American cheese, tangy burger sauce and pickles into toasted Friends in Knead brioche buns.

A trio of Fred Flintstone-esque bone marrow canoes (£4) were used to make St John’s iconic bone marrow on toast. It was a ridiculously easy recipe and seriously delicious.

Toasted Ty Melin seeded sourdough was loaded with beefy, fatty, wobbly marrow and a punchy flat leaf parsley salad with plenty of cutting citrus, caper and shallot.

Behemothic bone-in pieces of beef shin were given the low and slow treatment. After three hours of braising and subsequent sauce reduction, the result was a pot of spoonably soft meat in an aromatic bone marrow-flecked gravy. It certainly wasn’t a looker but it made up for it in flavour.

We used a Nigella Lawson recipe as a starting point and stuffed the pieces of shin into pillowy bao buns alongside a zingy Asian-influenced salad.

The produce from Meat Matters is first class and a showcase of the best that Wales has to offer. With around 14 generous portions for just over £80 including delivery, it’s good value for the quality too. Whether you're a dab hand cooking over open flame or an enthusiastic incompetent in the kitchen like myself, I heartily recommend checking them out. 

The Details:

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Som Saa, Thai nationwide delivery meal kit review

Another Zoom family meal called for another nationwide meal delivery kit. It’s been pretty much the only upshot of not being able to see my relatives or visit the North East for over a year. 

With Thai food being my sister-in-law’s favourite, Shoreditch’s Som Saa was the clear front runner for our meal kit of choice this time around. Their acclaimed regional Thai cooking has been on my hit list for years and they’ve recently started offering nationwide deliveries via the Dishpatch (much like our very successful delivery from St John).

A three course Thai red curry feast for two costs £55 plus £5.50 delivery and as expected everything is packaged up precisely with individually numbered pots and clear instructions - the most complicated element was cooking the rice.

Crisp little rice crackers (a major upgrade on Snack a Jacks) were a neutral base which played host to chicken mince heady with coconut, peanut and familiar Thai spicing - lemongrass, kaffir lime, and chilli. Slices of pickled ginger added sweetness and clarity.

Coarse chilli whoomphed slices of Thai sausage were accompanied by a lightly smoky aubergine relish topped with the addictive and slightly bittering crunch of crispy garlic.

Green papaya salad combined crisp fruit, green beans, sweet tomatoes and the crunch of fried shrimps and peanuts with a potent dressing of sharp citrus, ferocious chilli and balancing sweetness. It was the spiciest dish of the meal yet looked so harmless.

An absolutely first rate piece of 35 day aged HG Walter sirloin was the focal point of a belter of a Thai red curry. 

The red curry sauce had layers and layers of spice and creamy coconut. And a last minute addition of Thai basil added even more fragrance to the dish.

A massive bowl of sticky fragrant jasmine rice was accompanied by bang-on cooking instructions which I’ll certainly use in future. There was no risk of going hungry with all those carbs.

For pud, Thai sweets were tasty but not quite at the same level of the rest of the meal. Squidgy and sticky of texture, one combined mango, coconut and caramel whilst the other was more of a dark treacly sesame affair.

They were lovely washed down with a cup of sticky-rice toasted oolong tea which tasted uncannily like its namesake. Apparently the tea is blended with a Chinese herb called Nuo Mi Xiang which naturally tastes like sticky rice. 

We had an excellent dinner from Som Saa and my sister-in-law declared it her best meal of lockdown. Their complex spiced Thai food is definitely worth checking out. 

The Details:

Address - Som Saa, 43A Commercial St, Shoreditch, London E1 6BD
Web -
Telephone - 020 7324 7790