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

 

Culinary Brexit, anyone?

Okay, so it’s time for us self-respecting Brits to take back control of our cuisine. Who would really vote for mandatory imposed quantities of Brussel Sprouts anyway? As for Frankfurters and Sauerkraut flooding our customs union…well!

Whatever happened to the sublimely sweet Marie Rose Prawn Cocktail of 1970’s Britain? Would you seriously prefer French Asperges (Steamed Asparagus with a soft Poached Egg and Hollandaise Sauce)? Well, judging by the following example, that would be a definite ‘yes’…

Asperges starter

So, for the sake of dear old Blighty, let’s just say that was a one-off fluke occurrence.

Who is going to deny themselves the sovereignty of choosing Boiled Beef and Carrots, with a side of tripe? Would you seriously prefer to keep open our borders, so that we may be subject to the invasion of Entrecôte (9oz rib-eye steak) with a side of French Beans and Coated Almond Flakes? Well, perhaps the answer to that one is a resounding ‘yes’ again…

Entrecote rib-eye

There is one consolation to this culinary xenophobia… we do know how to make the best chips! Pomme Frites can happily be repatriated back to their place of origin, once and for all.

In the continuing negotiations, stand firm and say ‘no’ to all of this fanciful European cuisine. We are on the threshold of making a whole new nosh exchange with the world… open up your collective oesophagi to Chicken Kiev… to Chicken Korma… and even to Monkey Brains

On the other hand… seriously people! What do you think you have voted for? I, for one, can definitely recommend an indefinite extension of a customs union with Pierre Le Bistrot in Cardiff’s Brewery Quarter… and, if I’m not mistaken, the following picture suggests by way of Spice Quarter that we might just already have access to worldwide cuisine.

Outside [2]

Until we speak again, why exactly do we need Brexit? [Answers on a postcard… address withheld!]

Death in the Sun

Is it the sun or is it the moon? How am I supposed to know, after all this is Lancaster, and I am merely a cat from Cardiff!

sun-at-night-sign

A view from a different perspective confirms it is the sun, but not as astronomical scholars know it. This is Lancaster, a place of history, sandstone architecture; and it’s cold and dark so time to find out what else this historical place has to offer travelling cats.

sun-at-night-outside-view

What will greet the inquisitive traveller to this promised source of light and heat? Why, death of course!

Dead cow

sirloin-steak

Dead pig

full-english-breakfast

Dead lamb

lamb-steak

Vegetarian deadly options are available, but this being the north of England, a mere southerner cat from Wales would hardly want to invite a scourge of ridicule by even enquiring of such things. This is a place where Lancaster Blondes are apparently smooth and tasty temptations for the unsuspecting weary traveller…

sun-bar-3

 

 

 

 

 

lancaster-blonde

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When daylight dawns there really is an abundance of old sandstone to navigate and cast an architectural eye over.

The good folk of Yorkshire might well lay claim to their county town of York being far better known; but the rival Lancashire has a county town well worth exploring, full of interesting knocks and crannies.

Until we speak again I can fondly remember a couple of ex-cats who would have gratefully ignored any architectural indulgence in favour of exploring death in a bowl! Juno and Bella always wore an indignant look when it came to food choice!

cat-matecall-this-food

Pigs ear of a meal

Juno and Bella both demonstrated a special fondness for a pig. Particularly one that came in morsels! As for a pigs ear, that was more likely a description they would attribute to me, or anything I attempted to do. But they sure would be salivating if they had an opportunity to share a recent experience of The Potted Pig

2. Outside sign

Following the financial crash a few years ago, there are many things that people can think of using an old bank vault for… not the least being a dungeon for locking away greedy bankers! Here in Cardiff we have more creative ideas, like a space where local people (and even a few visitors) can sample a range of pig-based fayre, with a drop of the falling down juice on the side…

3. Bar4. Bank vault

You might even be lucky enough to be placed where the eponymous pig can shun you, in favour of a little rest…

5. The Potted Pig

As for the food, I am pleased to say that this restaurant comes with that special characteristic of a small but perfectly formed menu. No unnecessary elaboration here, this is a place for serious quality at reasonable prices. Though the pursuit of pig clearly features as the centrepiece of our gastronomic quest, your choice of animal will be far from limited. However, I could not resist a starter that offers crispy pigs ears, particularly when it came with succulent black pudding, the smokiest of bacon, topped off with a delightfully poached egg. The pigs ears were pork scratchings of the highest order. My compardre chose a belly pork starter (but that was to be my main course)…

 

6. Starters

This was a breakfast like I had never tasted (particularly at 8.30pm). So now, after a delicate tasting of Rioja, it was onward, dinner beckoned. With ducks, lambs, fish, and even a vegetarian dish on offer, my friend succumbed to the sound of a quack, while I could not avoid the continuation of the snort. Slow cooked free range pork belly had to be the order of the day; even if it did come with something requiring the gastronome’s dictionary… choucroute. Me neither! It turned out to be something akin to sauerkraut, and perfectly adorned the sacrificial pig. They even do great chips here!

9. Both mains

All I can say is, that next time you find yourself on St Mary Street in Cardiff, with that knot of hunger and a desire to assuage the temptation of more vegetables, get your timing right. This is a place that has limited opening hours, and you may need to book, but it is worth it.

Sleeping catAs for Bella, had she been on this particular escaped, it would surely have ended in a cat-like impression of the potted pig itself.

Until we speak again, may your pigs ears be crispy.

The Art of Eating

cardiff-entrance

RestaurantFor most of us culinary cats the whole idea of the artistic nature of food is its appearance on the plate. If it looks really good it just might taste really good. My personal ‘Fanny Craddock’ (apparently you have to be over 55 years old to understood what that means!) pays no notice to all those cookery programmes on the TV, and believe me it shows! But, it seems that first in Bristol, and more recently here in Cardiff, the connection of art and eating has been taken to a new and interesting level.

Steak of the Art is definitely a place that will have you wondering what on earth is going on (in a good way) as you enter. Everywhere you look your eyes will challenge your brain to work out what you’re looking at. A variety of art installations decorate booths and pods in all directions, with Daleks, rugby, and Roald Dahl some of the most obvious sources of inspiration…

SOTA[1]

SOTA[4]

SOTA[3]

The whole restaurant is an artistic adventure in its own right…

SOTA[2]

But what about the food you hungry cool cats ask? Followers of my eating preferences will remember I can’t help but instruct my ‘walking taste bud’ to go check out the finest end of the cow… where would Steak of the Art’s menu of finest fillet rank in the Cardiff Fillet League Table? It seems that ‘taste buds senior and junior’ decided to go a little off message initially, as a starter of a Shared B-B-Q Platter was ordered. All well and good, but with this monster feast arriving where is the space going to be made for the fillet steaks??

FOOD[2]My trepidatious delay was soon to be satisfied, as the bovine delicacy made its entrance. And what’s with those chips!

FOOD[4]

If it’s medium rare you like, the report back suggested this is as good as it gets locally; and this self-respecting cat has lost all sense of decorum as I salivate over my galloping imagination…

FOOD[5]

It seems that a new league leader has been found in the Art of the Fillet Steak; but there seems to be more about the Art-thing than initially meets the eye. Why not make best use of every space… a secluded staircase provides the perfect canvas for an art exhibition.

ART[1]

If you have spare cash at the end of your visit to this very reasonably priced food emporium you can always purchase a picture for your mantlepiece! Call this food!Yes that is the Millennium Stadium (re-branded for commercial purposes in real life a few hundred metres away). As for the art of eating, this Bella has to once again face the disappointment of what could be, if only I can plan my escape from this place of rocks & water cat diet!

 

Food history

Call this food!So, what are my credentials for talking to you about the history of food? After all, as a true cat I appoint others to do the hard graft for me!

Blue Anchor [9]

 

 

The President of my predecessor’s (Juno) fan club was recently celebrating a birthday, the number of which sounds to me like like something out of history. It’s one of those numbers where you people can easily tend to get lost; who knows where she is going here? Are the loos down there? Or is this a subterranean dining experience going on?

Blue Anchor [1]I digress, the thing here is about how history and food came together… at least in my mind anyway. This train of thought came together when my ‘appointed food taster’ said they were off to a Blue Anchor, or somewhere nautical that is actually miles from the sea (strange ideas happen when it comes to naming pubs, inns, restaurants).

Blue Anchor [2]

 

 

 

But this one is old, very old, 1380 old! And it seems from reading a brief history about the place like it has always been an inn, always into the beer and food groove. So I guess they must have learned to do some things right by now. It’s a cold and bleak winter’s day, so you need something to take the chill away, and this place certainly oozes that cozy old inn vibe…

Blue Anchor [3]

Blue Anchor [4]

Apparently the Blue Anchor is well known amongst the beer aficionados for its small but well-kept range of the amber and pale nectar. And I’m told the lotion more than adequately complemented the nosh. As for the eating, where do you start? Ham Hock sounded like some ancient vittles, but I’m informed it was a thick and tasty starter, though who knows what the green stuff was up to hiding under the

Blue Anchor [5]

This being a Sunday, my instructions were to go for the traditional roasts, and my compliant diners duly obliged…

Blue Anchor [6]

Whilst these Yorkshire puddings take up space the beef (and those going for lamb) reported a very tasty meal. The real test is the vegetables, and they came through as lightly cooked and crunchy… “just right” I said. So my local fans have found another place well worth re-visiting; and being around since 1380 this place isn’t going away anytime soon. The place is East Aberthaw in the Vale of Glamorgan, and until we speak again I’m Bella, and my advice is ignore history, go now!

Chilling with the yocals

As the festive season draws to a close this cat reflects back on a pre-christmas trip to the depths of rural Devon. My ‘in-house DJ‘ likes to taunt me occasionally by playing Animals by Muse on the music system; a band that hails from Teignmouth on the fabulous Devon coast. So when a work trip to Bishopsteignton (just outside of Teignmouth) emerged it was time to see where all of the inspiration comes from. The Cockhaven Manor Hotel was initially an un-presupposing venue nestling into this quiet rural hamlet up on a hill overlooking the Teign valley…

Cockhaven Manor [1]

Cockhaven Manor [2]

Cockhaven Manor [3]But early appearances can deceive, as the interior of this 16th century inn provides an uplifting welcome after the trials of a lengthy train journey on a cramped train.

Cockhaven Manor [4]

 

 

 

 

 

The unseasonal lack of December cold was further repelled by the roaring coal fire! More for the needs of aged locals than for intrepid touring cats…

Cockhaven Manor [7]

All that was needed was some hearty old local vittles, and the Cockhaven Manor certainly excelled. With some local ales on offer the enticement of a Spanish Rioja proved too strong. It might be good weather for ducks across much of the UK in recent months, but on a relaxing evening it proved to be good duck for cats!

Cockhaven Manor [8]

And if that wasn’t enough, a peaceful night’s sleep was delightfully topped off with a made-to-order breakfast that set the day up…

Cockhaven Manor [9]

Chilling in the sun

As for work, I’m going to leave that to others after my brief foray into the tasty south Devon countryside.

Until we speak again this Bella gives a paws up to the Cockhaven Manor.

The band members of Muse might well have migrated here from other parts of the UK, as kids, but I recommend a visit to the locality to see the source of inspiration for yourself!

[Acknowledgements to Muse for their You Tube video linked in this post].