Saturday, 26 March 2022

Alium, Barry restaurant review


Alium is undoubtedly one of the most high profile new openings in south Wales so far this year.

Occupying the space in Barry’s imposing Pumphouse building that was previously home to Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, it’s owned by Cardiff chef Antonio Simone, the man behind the highly-regarded Humble Onion in Dinas Powys. There he’s built a reputation for his love of slow-cooking which transforms humble ingredients into something delicious.

Whilst long-cooked cuts of meat such as ox cheek, pork belly and breast of lamb all appear on Alium’s menu alongside dry-aged steaks cooked over charcoal, there’s a scattering of lighter fish and vegetarian options too. Influences are drawn from across the globe with components such as dashi, burrata, harissa, labneh, and orzo all featuring. 

On the Wednesday night we visited its fair to say there was a bit of a frenetic atmosphere in Alium’s stylish dining room as a large group of around 30 people dominated the space. With the guests standing around their tables and queuing to order drinks it gave the feeling of eating in a busy bar rather than a relaxing restaurant.  

However, the quality of the cooking and the friendliness of the serving staff still ensured that we had a delicious meal. 

A bowl of plump and fleshy gordal olives (£4) demonstrated that this is a restaurant which takes care in sourcing quality produce. 

Out of the three white wines by the glass on offer, Mrs G enjoyed a citrusy Pierre Lacasse sauvignon blanc (£5) and was a bit underwhelmed by a Les Lauriers grenache blanc (£6). A half of Sharp’s Atlantic pale ale (£2.75) was the most interesting option from a fairly uninspired selection of draught beers. 

Luxuriously thick and silky celeriac soup (£7) had a huge depth of flavour from its headline earthy root vegetable. Vibrant green sauce, crunchy almonds and batons of cleansing apple all added pops of texture and flavour. 

Stuff on toast is one of my favourite food genres and Alium’s spiced ox cheek ragu (£9) on brioche was a fine example. 

The mound of thick and deeply meaty ragu, which arguably could have taken a bigger punch of spice, was heaped onto soft crumbed toast and topped with a good ooze of tangy cheddar and the lightly acidic crunch of pickled red cabbage. 

Two more slow-cooked meat dishes for mains did not disappoint. 

A rolled piece of tender lamb breast (£20) was paired with a butterbean and carrot cassoulet which thrummed with the chilli heat of ’nduja. A dollop of creamy mint labneh was a clever use of the herb which goes so well with lamb whilst a scattering of nuts and red cabbage provided crunch and zing.

A tranche of top drawer pork belly (£19.50) was served alongside a good shard of crackling and more of that vivid salsa verde. The star of the dish was a mound of golden cider braised cabbage with a great meaty intensity and comfortingly soft texture - the elevation of this humble ingredient was a fine example of the restaurant’s cooking style. 

Sides were just as memorable. 

Rustlingly rugged chips (£4.50) most certainly lived up to their triple-cooked billing.

A slab of deep-fried ox cheek macaroni cheese (£6) could be a street food star in its own right. Its luxuriousness was taken up a notch by the addition of pokey sriracha mayo and a snowdrift of savoury manchego. 

When Mrs G declared she was too full for dessert, I still should have ordered two because it was inevitable that she’d eat half of mine. 

It’s understandable when the wobbly, creamy and salted-caramel flavoured panna cotta (£8) was so damn tasty. I was also rather taken by the scattering of popcorn which added crunch but also provided lightness. 

We had a delicious meal at Alium and its decadent cooking is a more than fitting replacement for the building’s illustrious predecessor... we’ll just have to check there’s no big parties happening the next time we visit. 

The Details:

Address - The Pumphouse, Hood Rd, Barry CF62 5BE
Web - https://aliumrestaurant.co.uk/

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