What do you think when I suggest ‘Portugal‘ to you? Sunshine, Atlantic breezes, seafood, Lisbon, Porto, fine wines and ports? Am I the only one that thinks ‘Cardiff‘? A bit of lateral thinking maybe, but come on people, get with the programme. I might have travelled here at the behest of my resident fur-ball from my familiar home in London, but at least I am making an effort to acclimatise to their triumphant homecoming. Azure blue skies, white walls bathed in sunshine, and the prospect of mouth-watering Portuguese dining… it can only be Cardiff.
Here is a pub quiz question for you… where is Madeira? An archipelago located off the Portuguese Atlantic coast you geographical geniuses recite, with the confidence of the world traveller informing the majority of Americans who are busy searching their world atlases that only stretch from Washington State to Florida, and Maine to California. Well, my eccentric informant tells me it is to be found on Guildford Crescent in downtown Cardiff somewhere close to the archaeological site of a local swimming pool best known for its indoor version of lido style changing rooms facing directly onto the poolside.
In the case of the Madiera Ristorante, the adjacent Masonic Hall and Thai House provide the wider urban vista in place of the more usually expected Atlantic panorama. But don’t simply turn up at this place. Since 1998 it has built a reputation for a relaxing atmosphere, fine dining, and the sight of your food dripping from the ceiling! This is somewhere that definitely needs a booking, and it is popular for all sorts of groupings. If you are an intimate pair of cats with designs on mutual purring over dinner be prepared to unashamedly shout your sweet nothings back and forth… as you could easily find yourself located in a darkly lit corner only to be joined by large and small groups of contestants practicing for a foghorn blowing competition…
The menu reads like your holiday memories from those lovingly remembered trips to the Algarve… plenty of the swimmy flappy things that us cats so love to play with eat raw (a bit like the Japanese in that sense). Caranguejo (crab), lulas (squid) and Gambas (prawns) are to be found in shoals. But, if you like to put plenty of meat on to your fury rump there is no shortage of Carne dishes, both of the conventional (steaks) and adventurous (portuguese twists to familiar favourites). Then there is the creative use of space… why have your skewered delights laid out across your plate when you can simply hang it from the ceiling over your table?
Espetadas are a Madeira speciality that come in pork, beef, lamb, chicken, monkfish or combinations; and are simply deliciously cooked kebabs hung from hooks above your table, with the option of garlic dripping down through the whole skewer. However, if you are a vegetarian, try being one of the fish eating variety, or else your range will be limited to what you normally buy in the supermarket!
Once again, I have had to stay at home guarding the ancestral pile, while those who don’t know how to wrestle a fish around the floor, pawing its head against a handy skirting board, are enjoying gastronomic delicacies and delights. Until we speak again this Juno will be planning to hideout in the bin store behind the Madeira Ristorante… just perfecting the right pose to catch any falling fish.