Under the radar cuisine

Sometimes it’s the quieter places that can occasionally provide the big surprises. Take Whitchurch in Cardiff… as a teenager I would frequently be saying, yes, just take it; but then I escaped only to re-visit over many years to find that it has a quaintly interesting aura about it.

Never a place to appear in any gastronomic lists, but somewhere that domestic pets needn’t live in the fear of abduction with designs on being turned into heavily disguised nouvelle cuisine! It seems that one quiet little corner is bucking the trend of many years, as The Brook Bistro has had many failed previous incarnations but now seems to be thriving…

Brook Bistro

Well, thriving may not be what comes to mind on entry, but we were visiting very early evening and it was a fully booked little establishment later that same evening…

Restaurant

But, then again, unlike some of the bigger more ferocious members of the cat family, we weren’t here to eat the locals. When it comes to what’s on the plate, this place served up some delightful surprises; with a mushrooms, chorizo and stilton starter leading the tastebud assault…

Mushrooms Chorizo and Stilton

Then it was time for the main event, and a combination of Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb and a Grilled Tuna Steak Salad were delightful sights and mouth-watering tastes…

Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Tuna Steak Salad mains

Until we speak again, discerning cats are currently licking their lips over tasty Argentinian Malbecs!

Cardiff: Old & New

It’s a city felt by many local critics to have neglected so much of its history… bulldoze and re-build anew seems to be the fashion. Maybe the priorities of a few fat cats prevail, but Cardiff is Europe’s youngest capital city, and young needs to look shiny and new… doesn’t it?

Well, the city certainly needs to answer some questionable decisions regarding design and building priorities, and we can start by checking out the very locations where some of those answers may come from. Take the contrast between the domineering sight in the centre of the city located near to the castle, City Hall… Edwardian Baroque architecture opened in 1906, built of Portland Stone…

preferred post [4]

preferred post [3]

Meanwhile, languishing on the banks of the elegantly ignored Bute East Dock lies a compressed pagoda of a structure in the form of the more modern County Hall… opened in 1988 it represents a less imposing style of civic building…

county hall

Until we speak again, Cardiff may be littered with bog-standard corporate design choices, but look a little closer and the gems can still be found amongst the guano!

Booze-free eating?

What… dining out without alcohol? Whatever next?

Take a stroll through Bold Street in Liverpool and you might just happen upon a Lebanese Carrot Juice, with a Grilled Halloumi Salad on the side (at Bakchich Restaurant), where pomegranate seeds make for a great accompaniment to the grilled halloumi…

Then again, walking 10 yards further along the same street you just might find a refreshing Moroccan Lemonade, Fresh Mint & Lime, ideally complemented by a Lamb Tagine (at Kasbah Cafe), where the lamb just falls off the bone…

Meanwhile, across the street, a breakfast cup of Lemongrass and Ginger Rooibos must surely be accompanied by a taster of Asparagus and Poached Egg but don’t forget to add the Bacon and Halloumi options; don’t worry, a smidgen of greenery and tomato provides an illusion of healthy eating (at Leaf Cafe)…

Back in Cardiff, the alcohol-deprived extravaganza may be continued with an Indian Salted Lassi amply supported by Chilli Mushrooms, Channa Batura, and Almond, Jeera & Cinamon Rice (at Vegetarian Food Studio)…

Salted Lassi

With a stroll from Penarth Road to City Road enabling a Lebanese/Turkish combo Mango Lassi to be deliciously interrupted by a Mixed Shish or Chicken Shawarma (at La Shish)…

And, if you are in the mood to search for Persia, return back along City Road, take a left into Newport Road, and a couple hundred yards on the right just off Newport Road you will find Mowlana. Here you must try the house speciality Lemon and Mint Juice… it certainly helps meet the challenge of the shared platter of a Mixed Kebab!

Until we speak again, booze-free eating is just a fabulous reason for going on tour, just so long as Juno was selecting a fine bottle of wine for the return home!

Wine stocks

Student worship

Is it just in Cardiff? If you see any cranes on the horizon these days you can bet somewhere below rises the skeleton of the latest 21st century style of exclusive living… for students!

Cranes over Tindall Street [2]

 

So, how can we make appropriate provisions for these delicate modern day little flowers? A chapel to demonstrate our worship of their every need, including spiritual, maybe? Back in the day it was all about basement dive bars (or perhaps that was just my style of living!). However, here in Cardiff we may just have struck an ideal compromise… why not turn the place of worship into a bar cum restaurant?

Until we speak again, it would seem that most of the students that universities are now trying to attract can afford something a little more upmarket than my good old days of the pub crawl and kebab combination!

What’s in a name?

Strolling down Cardiff’s infamous Caroline Street (aka chip alley) it is easy to see how we can become accustomed to a familiar name when treating ourselves to that special dining out experience. Tony’s may have been around for some time, but for truly satisfying ‘chips and chicken curry off the bone‘ then it has to be Dorothy’s, serving Cardiff’s late night inebriates since 1953.

Caroline Street at night

With many other neighbouring establishments churning out British and faux Mediterranean nosh at speed, there is clearly no room here for Marco and his comfortably relaxed approach to cuisine. No, for Marco Pierre White another run down part of the city centre would need to upgrade in order to accommodate an altogether different way of dining.

The once dilapidated Dominions Arcade has had a makeover, with Dominions House recently accommodating the Indigo Hotel

On entering the old entrance to the arcade bypass the hotel reception and take the lift to the 6th Floor, because you don’t have to be a hotel resident to partake of the roof terrace restaurant that landed in November 2017…

Indigo Hotel entrance

Checking out the menu provides plenty of good reasons for making the elevated journey, with Rillettes of Pork and Armangnac Soaked Prunes providing a starter never to be found on Caroline Street! They only provided two of the prunes over a pate of pork, as no doubt a bowl full of the devils would seriously impede your subsequent ability to walk (though it would be a delightful anatomical challenge!)…

Prunes starter

As this was an occasion for two guys to celebrate Christmas 2017 in August 2018 (if you don’t understand that one, don’t ask), the interesting vegetarian options on the menu were comfortably placed in the ‘not to be disturbed’ section of the culinary brain. Tempting as the steaks were we were both a bit filleted out of late. So, it was time to distribute patronage more liberally around the animal kingdom… sheep and pigs were put on high alert to do what they do best!

For me the temptation of Roast Rump of Lamb A La Dijonnaise was irresistible. And a side of French Beans with Toasted Almonds was a personal nod to the possible delights that the world of vegetables can offer to us dedicated carnivores…

Rump of Lamb

As for my visiting companion, only a porcine assault in the form of The Pig Mixed Grill with Triple Cooked Chips would satisfy… something that the sausage and chips down Caroline Street would never be able to compete with!

Pig feast

Until we speak again, Juno would only have agreed to put her name to this blog if it was going to be a true reflection of her views and experiences of Cardiff and elsewhere. As for Marco Pierre White, it seems he is so confident in his name he even includes it on a specially created bottle of wine (though the water was pure Welsh!).

Wine and Water

 

Perverse principles

With the advent of a Premier League season involving the locals just a matter of weeks away, I was struck by the all-important question…

What do you stand for?

Just what is my local city all about? What do we have to offer to the visiting hordes of demented football fans over the next 9 months? Everyone should be aware of the excellent shopping and nightlife, but what about sampling some unique street food?

Street Food seagull

Then there is our stylish way of preserving historic buildings…

Preservation What's left of the docks?

Our principled way of looking after endanger species doesn’t present any conflict with the pursuit of commerce…

Bear shop [2]

This is a place where you can get sea-sick just by standing still and looking at some of the buildings…

Car park [2]

But, we are proud of the fact that our great historical heritage stands tall (well, tall-ish) in the face of the advance of bland modernity…

Insurance [4]

Until we speak again, don’t let the dark gloomy clouds of potential defeat obscure the important decisions…

Bay & City Centre post

Hot air

It’s an uncharacteristically prolonged heatwave that blankets the UK in the summer of 2018, but where is it coming from? Meteorologists convey the simple message that high pressure dominates the scene, allowing stable and hot continental and tropical influences from the south to bathe the country in persistent warmth. But, those of us in the know have a different theory about the derivation of so much hot air… in England the source can be found in the Westminster area of London; but in Wales it is to be found in Cardiff Bay going under the pseudonym of the Senedd.

To some aficionados of architectural shenanigans it may simply be a giant beached manta ray, with its route back to the sea seemingly blocked by nothing more than a solitary lamppost!

Senedd 1

Propped up on a cushion of glass, it seemingly projects its message to all before it, through a menacingly oval aperture…

Senedd 2

For this is where Welsh politicians meet and pontificate in the bowels of the beast. The hot air produced is conveyed upwards to an unsuspecting world… through a sinister mushroom cloud, only it’s about as wooden as the occupants, and possesses none of the commensurate devastation usually associated with such a vision.

Senedd [8]

And, to the unsuspecting masses going about their daily business, the impact of the output is a slow burner… like a deadman’s handshake it is never seen but quietly stifles any ambition laid out before it.

Senedd [4]

Until we speak again, enjoy the hot air of the summer, as the politicians will largely be in recess!