When I started my blog as a New Year’s resolution ten years ago, I never would have imagined I’d have kept it going for this long, racking up over 600 blog posts.
Over the last ten years, Cardiff and South Wales’s food scene has changed immeasurably. Good restaurants were a lot thinner on the ground back then and Cardiff’s street food scene didn’t extend far beyond chips and chicken curry off the bone on a Saturday night on Caroline Street.
So, I thought I’d take a look back over the last decade of my blog, picking out notable restaurant openings (and closures) as well as some other iconic Cardiff restaurants.
My first ever blog post was a drunken and slightly obnoxious look at Wellfield Road’s old skool New Himalaya curry house. Other places I visited during my busy first year included a dim sum banquet at Canton’s Happy Gathering, Grangetown’s historic Clark’s Pies, the groaning sandwiches of New York Deli and Cardiff’s first third wave coffee shop, The Plan. I also declared my love for the doner kebabs at KBS.
My first blog post to gain traction was The Crown Social at the Parc Hotel, a short lived offshoot of the Crown at Whitebrook, headed up by the highly regarded Martin Blunos.
I also enjoyed a takeaway from Punitha’s, Albany Road’s much missed Southern Indian restaurant, and met other Cardiff bloggers at a Chinese banquet at City Road’s .CN. Finally, I visited Yakiniku, a hidden gem of a South Korean restaurant located in the Cardiff Newport hinterland.
In 2012 I visited a number of places which have made a lasting impression on Cardiff’s restaurant scene. Anand George's Purple Poppadom and his high end take on Southern Indian cooking have influenced numerous businesses across the city.
I also visited Bar 44 Cowbridge when it was the only restaurant in the 44 stable and the Potted Pig when it was the hottest ticket in the city with Gwyn Myring and Tom Furlong at the helm. David Le Masurier changed direction in life by opening Pettigrew Tea Rooms and Casanova’s refined Italian cooking and Fish at 85’s delightful fish dishes were other highlights.
But, the two things which stick in my memory longest are stupidly (and successfully) taking on a Man v Food challenge at the North Star and winning the 2012 Wales Blog Award for best food and drink blog.
2013 was notable as the year which Hang Fire burst onto Cardiff’s food scene. I visited them on their second week of trading at Splott’s Canadian pub and our superb meal was the sign of things to come.
It was also the year of the emergence of Cardiff’s gourmet burger. The burgers from Got Beef’s pop up at the Mackintosh Sports Club in Roath and the Grazing Shed’s first branch on Barrack Lane were game-changing.
Tony Frawley’s superb Neapolitan style pizzas are my favourite in the city and in 2014 I visited Anatoni’s in their original Cyncoed location.
Restaurant James Sommerin opened its doors on Penarth seafront after months of delays in its construction process; its closure this year was one of the most high profile losses of 2020.
Other notable meals included delicious Korean BBQ from Canton’s Kimchi and the superb joojeh kebab from Adamsdown’s Mowlana. I also had numerous falafel sandwiches from Crwys Road’s Falafel Kitchen - if you had one before they closed in 2018 then I’m sure you’ll remember them as fondly as I do.
2015 saw the opening of the Hare and Hounds in Aberthin under the stewardship of Tom Watts-Jones; a seasonal tasting menu I ate was one of the best meals I’d ever had in South Wales.
Tommy Heaney, another chef who’s had a considerable impact on the South Wales food scene, began to flex his muscles at Leicester’s at the Great House in Bridgend. It was also the year in which Bar 44 finally arrived in Cardiff; this opening heralded a huge leap in the quality of Cardiff’s restaurants.
That year I had a brilliant burger at the much maligned Burger & Lobster; I still rate it as one of Cardiff’s best ever. The fresh pasta at Roath’s Il Pastificio impressed diners from across the city; its over-expansion and demise was yet to come. I also re-evaluated the patisserie from Whitchurch Road’s Cocorico and was blown away.
In 2016, Ceri Johnston opened the Early Bird on Woodville Road and introduced the city to her brilliant brunches and baked goods.
Curado Bar opened on Westgate Street, bringing their Spanish holiday vibes, epic Spanish booze selection and hearty Spanish cooking to Cardiff.
I was also impressed by the Malaysian street food from the understated Wok-ker Shaker in Riverside, devoured a Chinese feast at Woodville Road’s Zi’s Cafe, and had my first killer croque madame from Le Cafe du Chat Noir on Wellfield Road.
Clifton Street’s Amazonas brought something very different to the city with their Brazilian and Portuguese street food; it’s another missed part of Cardiff’s world food scene.
A trio of now closed businesses left their mark on the city - Small Bar kicked Cardiff’s craft beer scene up a gear, Burger Theory's residency at Kongs rustled up some top drawer fried chicken burgers, and Caban’s great value BYOB vegetarian and vegan cooking was perhaps ahead of its time. I also had the first of many addictive portions of lamb kothu parotta from City Road's Ponnuswamy.
Finally, I told the story of Abel Magneron, perhaps Cardiff’s greatest ever chef.
2018 was another big year for the city as The Heathcock opened their doors in Llandaff, Tommy Heaney initially popped-up and then opened permanently in Pontcanna, and the prolific John and Ceri Cook set up Dirt vegetarian supper club following the closure of Arbennig.
Other highlights included a visit to Cardiff Indian institution Madhav’s in Riverside, the bargainous paneer rolls and pani puri from Albany Road's Pooja, and Keralan Karavan’s modern take on Indian street food.
Simon Wright made a foray into Cardiff’s food and drink scene with the opening of the teeny Wright’s Wines in Castle Arcade. And Tony Frawley split from Da Mara and reopened Anatoni’s on Roath’s Wellfield Road.
We’re now pretty much up to date but a few places which arrived in 2019 have further bolstered Cardiff’s food scene.
Grady Atkins, a former head chef at the legendary Le Gallois, re-cemented his reputation with the opening of Paysan pop-up French restaurant at Bloc Coffee. Tommy Heaney opened Uisce, his more informal offshoot of Heaney’s and Leyli Joon introduced Cardiff to her spice-layered cooking.
Hard Lines also found a permanent home for their excellent coffee; Longa’s Turkish breakfasts set Instagram alight; Salkaara raised the bar for Indian food in North Cardiff; and Nook’s no-reservations seasonal small plates were bang on trend.
The less I probably say about 2020 the better. But there’s no doubt it’s been the year of the pivot. In order to survive COVID-19 many of Cardiff’s restaurants have adapted to takeaway and delivery models. Places like Matsudai Ramen, Kapow Ribs, Ty Melin Bakery, Mercado 44 and Milkwood’s gourmet sandwiches will no doubt define this annus horribilis.
I really hope the next ten years are nothing like 2020 and Cardiff’s restaurant scene continues to flourish. Fingers crossed I’ll be checking in with you in 2030 to discuss the arrival of Cardiff’s first augmented reality badger cafe and Cardiff Market will be well established as one of the UK’s best indoor street food markets.