Apologies in advance, but this blog is going to feel like history is repeating itself for the next few months.
You see, now that hospitality has fully reopened, the places I really want to visit aren’t the newest kids on the block but rather my favourite restaurants in south Wales which I’ve already blogged about at least once. These are the restaurants where I’m guaranteed a good time and which I feel the greatest need get out and support.
So, on my birthday weekend, lunch at the Heathcock was very much top of my list. This Llandaff pub, which is a sister to Aberthin’s Hare and Hounds, is currently offering small plates at lunch time (and I think a la carte in the evening). Dishes average around £8 and we found three each made for a good sized meal.
A thick tranche of duck liver and pork terrine (£7.80) was soft textured with a good offaly twang. A robe of smoky bacon and jewels of sweet prune and nutty pistachio took it to the next level.
A mountain of lamb sweetbreads (£8.20) were golden of crust and tender and buttery of interior. A glossy meaty gravy flecked with nuggets of smoked bacon, finely diced asparagus and fragrant mint completed this luxury riff on the flavours a Sunday roast.
Al dente ribbons of pappardelle (£11) were bathed in a deeply savoury sauce heady with brown crab that was balanced by a note of citrus. A dusting of sweet white crab meat finished the plate. I’d have gladly eaten three bowlfuls and called it a day.
A fine summery salad (£8.40) combined smoke-licked tender squid, crisp fennel shavings, sweet orange segments, fennel-twanged salami and salty samphire. It all balanced really nicely.
Blistered skinned oily mackerel (£7.90) was paired with a blob of silky ozonic oyster mayo and the acidic cut through of pickled cabbage flecked with capers and brown shrimp. It was a good combination of flavours but we found it a bit heavy on the salt.
A pair of golden crusted sweet scallops (£14) were bathed in a compelling savoury sea lettuce butter sauce and topped with salty samphire and cleansing apple sticks.
Soft crumbed house bread was essential for mopping up all those excellent sauces.
For dessert, a set buttermilk pudding (£7.80) with a good wobble combined creaminess and gentle lactic acidity. Accompanied by toasty pieces of cinder toffee and fragrant strawberry, it was a very successful sum of its parts.
A slice of lemon tart (£8) was let down slightly by a pastry base which could have been a little thinner and crisper. But its silky lemony filling, thin brûléed top and accompanying scoop of cleansing yoghurt sorbet were absolutely bang on.
We had a delicious lunch at the Heathcock. Its flavour-packed seasonal cooking is right up my street and their slick serving team make it a safe and comfortable place to spend time in.
The Hare and Hounds Bakery, Cowbridge
A few weeks before our visit to the Heathcock, we checked out the recently opened Hare and Hounds Bakery in Cowbridge. Located in a arched roofed building with a chalk board menu outside, it reminded me more than a little of the St John bakery in Bermondsey. These parallels make sense considering Tom Watts-Jones, owner of the Hare and Hounds, trained at St John.
Open Wednesday to Sunday from 8.30am to 3.30pm, a number of the bakery’s daily treats, including sausage rolls, lemon meringue cruffins and strawberry marshmallow doughnuts, had sold out by the time we arrived.
A really crusty baguette (£6) was stuffed with heaps of blushing pink and tender cold roast beef with a pokey horseradish sauce.
And for pud, a hazelnut pain au chocolat (£3.50) was filled with plenty of chocolate and nut paste.
A loaf of soft crumbed malted rye grain sourdough (£4.50) was delicious slathered with peanut butter and marmite over the rest of the weekend.
I’m looking forward to trying out the rest of the goodies from the Hare and Hounds Bakery - I’ll just arrive a little bit earlier next time!
Address - The Heathcock, 58-60 Bridge St, Cardiff CF5 2EN
Telephone - 029 2115 2290
Address - The Hare and Hounds Bakery, North Road, Cowbridge CF71 7DF
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org