Saturday, 16 July 2022

Milkwood, Pontcanna restaurant review

Madonna. Sideshow Bob. Javier Mascherano. Mr Benn. Milkwood.

All of them are masters of reinvention.   

Having already successfully transformed from one of Cardiff’s best high end restaurants into a cafe serving epic brunches, Milkwood has once again started opening again on Friday and Saturday nights when they serve a menu of refined small plates.

It provides an opportunity for head chef Cornel Uys to flex his creative muscles with a menu of Asian influenced modern British cooking. 

Originally hailing from South Africa, Cornel joined the Milkwood team in 2021 and previously headed up the kitchens at 3 AA Rosette country hotels like Ardanaiseig Hotel in Scotland and Castell Malgwyn in Pembrokeshire.

His menu reads very well. In fact, I'd have gladly ordered everything on it.

A pair of good margaritas (£9) were big on booze, citrus and sweetness. They were just the ticket on a scorching summer’s night.

Out of our two snacks, crisped cubes of earthy Mangalitza black pudding (£6) were the star of the show. Their accompaniments of a golden runny egg yolk, the vital sweet acidity of pickled walnut puree, and an onion puree with a lovely caramelised complexity, were all bob on.

A crumpet (£6) was generously topped with excellent smoked salmon and white crab meat mayonnaise but it was let down by the slightly stodgy carb component.

Our solitary vegetable dish of the meal was nicely charred little gem (£6) that was layered with bags of flavour - a creamy coconut dressing, delicately acidic confit lime with no mouth puckering qualities, and lightly pickled cucumber.

A precisely cooked fillet of flaky miso cod (£13) demonstrated why it’s such a good flavour combination. The deeply savoury and slightly sweet piece of fish was elevated by a silky and buttery brocoli puree, earthy shiitake mushrooms, a savoury dashi and salty pearls of lumpfish roe.

A few elements began to repeat themselves in different dishes as the meal progressed but it’s hard to grumble really when they were all so tasty. This time, a long-cooked piece of beef short rib (£12) and a deep flavoured beef dashi were joined by more of that excellent onion puree, shiitake mushrooms, lumpfish roe and crispy onion rings.

A sticky caramelised chicken thigh skewer (£9) teased apart into pieces easily and was lovely stuffed into a soft flatbread with a light, crisp, and gingery kimchi and a spring onion mayonnaise with the lightest whiff of alium.

Having regretted not ordering the char sui pork belly (£9) straight out the gate, I ordered a portion as a pre-dessert and I was very glad I did. It was the star of the meal. 

The gloriously tender char-licked slices of sweet and savoury barbecue pork were exceptionally well-rendered of fat, making the wobbly stuff equally as enjoyable as the meat itself. More of that caramelised onion puree and a fresh cucumber and fennel slaw with a good thrum of chilli were very good garnishes.

Dessert was almost an unmitigated success - an aerated mango mousse (£6) with bags of flavour and a sweet yet refreshing pineapple and mint compote were both great but a warm white chocolate custard was a little overset and eggy rather than silky and chocolatey.

With their delicious, well-priced and ambitious small plates and lovely service, we had a really good meal at Milkwood. Of course, it was inevitable their latest reinvention would be another success.  

The details:

Address - Milkwood, 83 Pontcanna Street, Pontcanna Cardiff CF11 9HS
Telephone - 02920 232226

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