Saturday, 9 October 2021

Outlaw's New Road, Port Isaac, Cornwall review

For an island nation, it's often said that we're not really a country of fish eaters. Since the closure of Fish at 85 a few years ago, Cardiff no longer even has a dedicated fish restaurant. And it's rare to find anything more exciting on the average UK restaurant menu than salmon, prawns, scallops, tuna or seabass.

Nathan Outlaw's pair of restaurants in quaint Port Isaac are an exception to the rule. Both Michelin-starred, he serves an eclectic range of first rate Cornish seafood and treats it with confident simplicity.

Nathan Outlaw's New Road, which is situated on the outskirts of the village, serves a single no choice menu for the entire table for £80 a head. Whereas some tasting menus take a marathon 4 hours, each service at New Road lasts a well timed couple of hours. Service is also first class - knowledgeable and slick yet warm and friendly.

During dinner, we tucked away excellent wines by the glass including sparkling and still Camel Valley Cornish rosé, decadent oak aged Godello, super drinkable Hungarian MA'D Tokaji fermint and a hellishly good chocolatey Uruguayan dessert wine.

Crisp and buttery pastry sticks were studded with intense sweet and savoury tomato and anchovy whilst treacle twanged soda bread was lush slathered with creamy smoked mackerel paté topped with a cleansing mustard seed flecked cucumber chutney.

A pair of raw fish dishes saw their meaty centrepieces accompanied by contrasting yet equally flavour-packed garnishes.

Discs of cured monkfish were topped with a sweet pea and mint dressing, crunchy sweet peas and blobs of tangy yoghurt. It was a beautifully summery dish.

Slices of raw bass were draped across sweet and fragrant tomato slices dotted with a vibrant and punchy green herb sauce.

A soused fillet of mackerel was cooked beautifully. Served cold it was partly poached and partly cooked in a delicate pickling liquor studded with crisp onions and celery. A thump of red chilli, crunch of walnut, and light garlicky courgette gazpacho all added extra complexity.

Main course was as good a piece of fish cookery as I've had in a long time. A stonkingly good sweet and pert fleshed dover sole teased away from the bone with the merest nudge. It was bathed in toasty brown butter and seasoned with anise twanged fennel seeds, coriander seeds, citrus and thyme.

A bowl of mixed veg always risks boredom in the wrong hands, but not here. Tender spuds and crisp beans and carrots were generously bathed in garlicky butter.

Onto pud, and a classic flavour combination saw a smooth, wobbly and creamy set raspberry custard topped with a dry champagne jelly. It was paired with a tart raspberry sauce, whole berries, vanilla-fragranced creme fraiche and crunchy almond crumb.

Finally, a couple of pieces of smooth, boozy and chocolatey whisky fudge completed the meal.

Outlaw's New Road serves first class produce in a lovely setting and I can't recommend it highly enough. 

After dinner we strolled down the road and watched the sun set too. Bliss. 

The Details:

Address - 6 New Rd, Port Isaac PL29 3SB
Telephone - 01208 880896

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Amo's Cafe, City Road, Persian cafe review

One of the reasons I love City Road is the staggering number of different national cuisines available within a single kilometre.

From Southern Indian and Greek to Lebanese, Omani, Irish and Chinese, City Road has it all.

Amo’s Cafe is a fine example.

This cute little Persian cafe serves dishes such as chicken joojeh kebab (£10) and aasheh resteh (£6), a vegan noodle and herb soup which they only serve on Saturdays. However, if that doesn’t float your boat then they also serve chicken tikka wraps and fried breakfasts.

Whilst the gent on the next table enjoyed a restorative fry-up, we tucked into a lunchtime Middle Eastern feast.

Homemade doogh (£2.50) was a creamy and tangy yoghurt drink with a good hit of salt and waft of dried mint. It certainly straddled the sweet-savoury divide and was a good accompaniment with our main dishes.

Ghorme sabzi (£8.50), a comforting Persian lamb stew, had a lovely green herbal fragrance and punch of spinach. It was packed with tender pieces of slow-cooked lamb and soft kidney beans.

It was lovely spooned down with a massive plate of light grained yet buttery rice.

A long-cooked lamb shank (£12) looked a bit dinky in size but it had plenty of well-flavoured flesh which teased off the bone. It was served alongside excellent dill-fragranced buttery rice which was given a lift by a good squeeze of citrus.

But, the clincher was a bowl of lamb broth which was heady with meaty roasting juices. It was a lovely dip for the rice but equally delicious drank directly from the bowl.

A fresh naan bread (£1) was soft, bubbly and crisp in places. It was nice to see business collaboration in action as it was purchased from the bakery next door shortly after we placed our order.

We had a lovely lunch at Amo’s Cafe. It’s the kind of place which makes City Road so unique and really adds to richness of Cardiff’s food scene.

The Details:

Address - Amo's Cafe, 141 City Rd, Cardiff CF24 3BQ
Telephone - 07745 906846

Sunday, 26 September 2021

The Mariners, Rock, Cornwall, Paul Ainsworth pub

Fashion designers' diffusion collections often bring a taste of high end luxury to a more mainstream audience at a more affordable price than their haute couture ranges. 

Furthermore, whilst haute couture ranges often feature PVC oompa loompa suits and horse hair scuba masks that you might wear to a gala dinner once, diffusion collections generally contain the kind of thing you’d happy to be seen wearing in the pub. 

It's much the same with Michelin-starred chefs. Their offshoot restaurants often end up delivering a more crowd-friendly, affordable and yet still brilliant quality product in comparison to their flagship temples of high gastronomy.

Take Paul Ainsworth's pub, The Mariners in Rock.

It's as good an example of a gastropub as I've encountered, with Michelin-starred technique deployed to knock out pitch perfect pub classics at a relatively affordable price.

With panoramic views over the Camel Estuary, it's a pretty dreamy setting for a restaurant. Their starter selection is pretty dreamy too; I wanted to order everything from crispy baby squid and Welsh rarebit to buttermilk chicken and marmalade glazed sausages.

A scotch egg (£10) was as good as I've had - golden yolked with a little bit of run and ooze; laden with loosely packed, juicy, sage-fragranced sausage meat; and coated in a crisp crumb. Piccalilli with crunchy veg, a good acidity and warmth of mustard was a lovely foil.

A big pot of creamy and smokey taramasalata (£9) was a treat dolloped onto nicely charred toast with a good drizzle of olive oil.

Shepherds pie (£21) was as far removed from the pedestrian stodge it so easily ends up as. Gorgeously meaty slow-cooked lamb ragu was packed with generous hunks of meat bathed in a gravy with the added savoury complexity of seaweed. If that wasn’t enough, it was topped with silky celeriac mash, golden cheese, crispy nuggets of lamb and puffs of skin and accompanied by a zingy mint salsa verde which thrummed with the savoury depth of anchovy.

When your fish and chips (£19.50) are served with a trio of killer condiments you know you're going to be in for a treat. Fruity curry sauce, tangy caper and gherkin-packed tartare and clever cold mushy sweet peas were all bang on. 

So too was a whopper of a meaty, crisp-battered piece of cod that was topped with heaps of scraps/scrumps/scanners (delete as appropriate). Golden fluffy chips were lovely but didn't quite deliver on the hyper-crispness I'd associate with their triple-cooked billing.

A massive wodge of hispi cabbage (£6) was delightfully tender, licked with smoke and slathered with a warming tangy mustard dressing and a flurry of savoury cheese.

Ignore the 'roly poly' billing (£8.50) associated with my dessert and what I had was a deliciously light, moist and toasty brown butter steamed sponge topped with sweet yet tart strawberry jam and vanilla-packed custard.

Mariner's trifle (£10) was a work of art. Lime-thwacked whipped cream, toasted almonds, more of that excellent cold custard, and raspberry jelly studded with sherry-soaked sponge and fresh raspberries all combined to make a cracker of a pud.

With its outstanding pub classics, first class service and a lovely setting, you'd struggle to find anyone who isn't impressed by the Mariner's in Rock.

The Details:

Telephone - 01841 532093
Address - The Mariners, The Slipway, Rock, Wadebridge PL27 6LD

Saturday, 11 September 2021

Bacareto, Venetian bar and restaurant, Cardiff city centre

There's almost nowhere in Cardiff which oozes effortless cool like the recently opened Bacareto.

Based on Church Street on the former site of a gambling shop and the New China restaurant, the venue has been taken over by the team from Spit and Sawdust skate park and overhauled into a Venetian bar, cafe and restaurant. They also share the building with the new headquarters for Cardiff Skate Club.

The refurbishment has been done beautifully with a sweeping wood-panelled bar, terrazzo tiling, canary yellow banquette seating, roof terrace and wall-mounted planters.

If that wasn’t lush enough, they've also got the hugely-talented Grady Atkins, at the helm of the kitchen serving a menu of Venetian small plates (cicchetti) downstairs as well as a menu of more substantial rustic Italian cooking upstairs.

I visited with the downstairs bar with mates after a clutch of craft beers at Bubs a few doors down. Bacareto’s booze menu is impressive in its own right - a fully Italian wine list includes house red served in traditional 100ml ombre glasses, craft beers include Lost and Grounded helles and Bristol Beer Factory’s milk stout, and a spritz menu has eight different options.

I knocked back a really good citrus and bergamot fragranced Italicus spritz (£5.50) as well as a classic bitter Campari spritz (£5.50).

Cicchetti are ordered at the bar so you can work your way through a load as you order your drinks. They’re brought on sharing plates as and when they’re ready.

Bacala (£2.70) saw brown bread loaded with addictively soft-textured, savoury and slightly fishy mashed salt pollock.

A cube of summery watermelon (£1.50) was topped with a leaf of fragrant fresh mint and a piece of firm and salty vegan Trimma cheese, which bore an uncannily good likeness to feta.

A retro devilled egg (£1) was dialled up to 11 on the flavour scale, the yolk seasoned with a big thump of mustard and topped with a pile of salty anchovies. It perhaps would have benefited from being reigned in slightly but it certainly had me reaching for my drink.

Nutty rye bread (£3) was topped with a creamy funk of gorgonzola, sweet honey and crunchy hazelnuts. This simple yet killer flavour combination was my pick of the night.

A crisp arancino (£3), fresh out of the fryer, was loaded with distinct grained risotto and a creamy salty ooze of taleggio. This was quality deep-fried booze food.

Across the table, friends enjoyed slices of soft brown bread loaded with delicate salami (£2.50) and various dried tomatoes of different intensities and sweetness.

Finally a massive wodge of creamy melted and stringy buffalo mozzarella (£3) was coated in a crisp herb crumb. Mozzarella sticks can get in the sea compared to this.

For dessert, two scoops of pistachio gelato (£3) were milky, smooth and well-flavoured with their billed ingredient.

Bacareto is exactly the kind of place I could spend many an evening - they serve lovely bites to eat and booze in a cool setting and it’s great value to boot. I’ll certainly be back soon to explore their upstairs menu.

The Details:

Address - Bacareto, 13 Church St, Cardiff CF10 1BG
Email -

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Kindle, Cardiff city centre restaurant review

Small plates. Natural wines. Open-flame cooking. Sustainability-focused.

Kindle, Cardiff’s newest restaurant opening in the old Warden’s House of Sophia Gardens, ticks all the boxes on the trendy restaurant checklist.

Owned by husband and wife team Phill and Deb Lewis, who also own Dusty’s Pizza and Nook, Kindle has been a long time in the making.

A successful crowdfunding campaign back in 2019 saw the couple raise funds towards renovation costs. But delays in the project occurred due to the pandemic and other unforeseen hurdles.

Now, in September 2021, Kindle has opened its gates.

The first phase of the project sees the restaurant set up for outdoor dining whilst phase two, which may take up to a couple of years, will see the building renovated with indoor seating and a shiny glass extension.

Leading the kitchen team is Tom Powell, a former head chef at the Michelin-starred Walnut Tree in Abergavenny. He’s pulled together a menu which balances its focus on vegetables, meat and fish, and international influences including Southern India, Korea and Iran.

We visited Kindle on a humid midweek night and welcomed the fresh air in the sheltered outdoor dining room. As the Welsh weather inevitably turns colder, Kindle plan to offer blankets and hot water bottles and curtain off the seating area to provide respite from the elements.

During the meal we knocked back some delicious glasses of natural wine - peachy Naturlich pet nat (£6), a fragrant In a Gadda da Vida orange wine (£8) and honey-like Monbazar dessert wine (£6).

A complimentary snack saw a slice of sweet tomato coated in breadcrumbs and topped with a flurry of rich and salty provolone cheese. 

We ordered six small plates between us as recommended by our friendly server and it made for a good sized meal.

Highlights included a super-crisp crumbed piece of bone-in quail (£11) sat in a silky and buttery champ and glossy meaty gravy. Fried chicken, mash and gravy is a classic combination and here it was elevated excellently.

It was cracking served alongside a bowl of lightly bitter and slightly smoky collared greens (£5) tangled with soft and sweet caramelised onions and topped with crispy onions.

Crispy potatoes (£5) lived up to their billing. With their soft interior and drizzled with rich confit egg yolk and burnt onion salt, it was a high-end take on hash browns and dippy egg.

Sweet and tender leeks (£6) with a nice bite and shavings of raw leek were bathed in an oniony, nutty and slightly sweet brown butter sauce with a great depth of flavour. I mopped up every last drop.

Delicate white crab (£11) was tumbled together with crisp white radish and sat in a pool of romesco sauce with a good thwack of earthy brown crab meat. Whilst it was very tasty plate, the wateriness of the radish somewhat washed away the flavour of the sweet white flesh.

Lastly, crisp sangak flatbread (£4) with a good chew was topped with soft aubergine with a delicate lick of char.

Two puds were on offer and we of course ordered both of them.

A crisp cannoli (£6) was loaded with rich dark chocolate ganache and a smooth sweet custard.

A moist and nutty oaty cake (£5), not to be confused with the oat cake found on a cheeseboard, was served with a caramelised roast apple piece with a delicate fragrance of rosemary and a good dollop of cream.

We were really impressed by the open-fired seasonal small plates and natural wines at Kindle. There’s most certainly substance to back up the buzzwords and it's a great addition to Cardiff's restaurant scene.

The Details:

Address - Kindle,  Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, CF11 9SZ