Sunday, 12 December 2021

The Stackpole Inn, Pembrokeshire pub review

With the imminent arrival of Storm Arwen, I didn't hold out much hope for our weekend in Pembrokeshire.

Thankfully, we managed beautiful yet blustery walks along Broad Haven South and Barafundle Bay and sought shelter by the fireplace of The Stackpole Inn, a restaurant with rooms which has previously been named the best pub in England and Wales by Alasdair Sawday.

Heading up the kitchen is Matt Waldron, a chef with a seriously impressive CV. He’s been sous chef at Restaurant James Sommerin and Ynyshir and also worked as a chef de partie at Helene Darroze in London.

Matt has channeled his classical technique into a menu of hearty fish-focused cooking. Multiple dishes on the menu grabbed my attention including black tiger prawns roasted in garlic butter, Pembrokeshire duck leg with mash and Llandeilo venison haunch with pappardelle.

To start, a round of coarse meat-packed ham hock terrine (£6.50) was served with crisp and mustardy celeriac remoulade, toasted focaccia and the richness balancing tang of a savoury mushroom ketchup. It went down a treat with a half of smooth Tenby Harbour Brewing MV Enterprise pale ale.

I love sardines and they're an essential order whenever I see them. At £6 they were pretty much being given away. Here they were treated with the respect they deserve with lightly charred skin and tender oily flesh. A smoky paprika mayo and well dressed leaves completed the dish.

Smoked salmon (£7.50), so often disappointingly slimy and thinly sliced. was served in excellent thick meaty tranches. Sweet white Solva crab, rich avocado puree and clean apple slices were all bang on too.

Onto mains and an absolute monster of a soft-fleshed skate wing (£25) was loaded with sweet shrimp, briny capers and salty samphire. It probably would have fed a small family.

Beer battered fish and chips (£17) hit the mark on all fronts with its golden grease-free coating, flaky flesh, sweet and salty mushy peas and ridiculously crisp and fluffy double cooked chips.

A Fred Flinstone-esque pork chop (£20) was coated in a compellingly sweet and savoury honey paprika honey glaze and was impressively juicy of flesh. Silky butternut squash puree with toasted seeds and zingy aniseed-twanged pickled fennel brought together this refined yet hearty plate.

Triple cooked chips were golden and crisp but curiously lacked the extreme crunch of the double cooked ones across the table.

Onto dessert and the only average element of the meal was a slightly soft-crusted salted caramel tart (£7) which lacked intensity and a hit of salt.

A fine example of an affogato (£5) hit the spot with its hot roasty espresso and cold smooth milk ice cream. Plus the mini coffee pot was too cute.

We had an excellent lunch at the Stackpole Inn. With his hearty technique packed cooking, it's fair to say Matt Waldron is cooking up a storm in Pembrokeshire. 

The Details:

Address -  The Stackpole Inn, Jasons Corner, Stackpole, Pembroke SA71 5DF
Telephone - 01646 672324

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Outlaw's Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac

The most common piece of feedback I receive when I write about Michelin-starred restaurants is that the commenter would require a kebab after the meal due to the poxy portion sizes.

It's most certainly not an accusation which could be levelled at Nathan Outlaw's Fish Kitchen.

Located on the Port Isaac harbourside in a teeny higgledy-piggledy fisherman’s cottage which dates back to the 15th Century, the restaurant serves a no choice tasting menu for £80 a head.  

It's of a similar ilk to its sibling restaurant, Outlaw’s New Road, which is located up the road. But, there were seemingly more global influences on the menu at the Fish Kitchen.

Excellent deep fried stuff started off the meal. A breadcrumbed oily Cornish sardine and a plump piece of pepper-dusted and batter-coated ling were both lush dredged through a piquant smoked paprika mayo.

A pair of cold dishes were up next.

Meaty cured monkfish slices were bathed in a dressing with a big thrum of ginger, assertive acidity and crisp slices of fennel and spring onion.

A neighbouring cured brill dish was a bigger triumph, bathed in a fresh sweet tomato dressing, and accompanied by blobs of creme fraiche and crunchy sweet cherry tomatoes.

A fillet of crisp skinned, meaty John Dory was cannily spiced with earthy curry masala. Coriander twanged creamy yoghurt and a super fresh and slightly sweet salad of spiralised courgette, pickled red onions and cashews were an absolutely belting combination.

The nicest piece of line caught bass I've ever eaten followed. We overheard that the restaurant buys the entire catch from a Newquay fisherman. 

Juicy of flesh and well-basted in green herbs, it was accompanied by fluffy herb buttered spuds and a silky, buttery and citrusy smoked hollandaise which brought an addictive chargrilled note to everything it touched.

A light vanilla-fragranced baked cheesecake with sweet and delicately acidic strawberries and raspberries was a really tasty yet understated pudding.

Finally, a piece of super creamy milk chocolate fudge with a crucial dusting of sea salt ensured we stayed full on our mammoth drive back to Cardiff.

With its flavour-packed, generous and confident fish cooking and first class service, Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen is one hell of a restaurant.

The Details: 

Address - Outlaw's Fish Kitchen, 1 Middle St, Port Isaac PL29 3RH
Telephone - 01208 881 183

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