Up market dining

Strolling around the tranquil Penarth Marina, on the far side of Cardiff Bay, only served to tempt thoughts of the sea, of fish… of a time to eat. But, the restaurant chains of Mermaid Quay were a distance away and just not stimulating the gastronomic needs of a discerning cat.Penarth Marina [1]

This was a stroll with intent… to enthuse a visiting stroller from outside of Cardiff to what the city has to offer. But, where would match up to the beauty of the wider setting? Step up to the plate The Custom House building near to the Cardiff Bay barrage; a remnant of the former grandeur of the Penarth side of the old docks, built in a Renaissance style in 1865, and converted from dereliction into a fine restaurant in the 1980’s…

Custom House building

This fine building now houses the El Puerto restaurant. Forget menus at your table, this is the marketplace brought into a restaurant…

El puerto [1]

Order your drinks at the table then step up to the main counter for up close inspection of the produce on offer, and place your order…

El puerto [2]

The returning visit of the previously identified ‘delightful company‘ was a situation requiring delicate and refined taste. Hake for the lady and Swordfish for me would complement the aquatic excursion of the previous hour…

El Puerto [3]

Until we speak again, for the vegetarian critics amongst you dear readers, here is a special moment just for you…

Who needs William anyway?

When you can have Bill’s!

Outside [2]

So, what to do when you find your ship has run aground down the Bay?

Ship on roof

When you wish to play the welcoming host with a promise of a trusted restaurant, only to find your number one choice (Bayside Brasserie) has closed down and deserted you? And just when you’re on a mission to satisfy that late Sunday afternoon hunger? Bill’s comes to the rescue.

For starters we both settled on the Crispy Calamari with Red Chilli and Lime Aioli. What is it with this fashion for serving food straight from the cooking utensils? Saving on the washing up, maybe. But hang on, it could just be that my delightful company has seen the red chilli’s lurking with intent, and is grabbing her bag to make a quick getaway…

As for the main event, my thoughtful companion surveyed the menu for interesting tastes, opting for a healthy sounding Warm Chicken, Avocado and Parmesan Salad. As for me, well another cow just had to lose some weight in the Sirloin region, and a side of foliage will surely temper the overall threat of arterial assault…

Until we speak again, if your looking for posh and formal this is not the place. But for serviceable food in a relaxed setting it fits the Bill (yes, I hear the groans at that one). And the staff will simply be queuing up to serve you… possibly!

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Keep it, change it

If there is one thing that exercises the bureaucratic brain cells of Town Planners it is ‘change of use’. After all, it might just disrupt the delicate equilibrium that only they can divine from a mountain of procedures and committee-based decision-making.

Spoiler alert for all planners… when places first emerge, anywhere on the planet, they tended to aggregate around a few houses, a church, a pub and a some commerce-based building. What they never thought they needed to get the whole affair up and running was an office full of planners and councillors to pontificate on and guide the great new adventure. If they did I would offer a suggestion for its shape, size and sense of relative importance (with a clear and present indication deep down in Cardiff Docks)…

What's left of the docks?

Which brings me to a lovely example of ‘change of use’ a mere few steps away from the above luxury office space. Way back in 1868 a Norwegian Church was constructed between the old Bute East and West Docks, as a place of cultural and spiritual solace initially for sailors of the Norwegian Fleet that frequently used Cardiff as a port of call.

It was originally clad in iron, being known as the Norwegian Iron Church, with a forward-thinking design that would allow it to be dismantled and moved as needed. For obvious reasons when viewed today, it later became known as the Little White Church, and now occupies pride of place overlooking Cardiff Bay, some half a mile from its original location.

Norwegian Church

So, the original design came to be tested in order that it could find a new berth. However,  the demise of a religious need over time also resulted in the very same building undergoing a successful transformation (or ‘change of use’ as the bureaucrats would have it). Who said there are too many coffee shops in the world these days?

Norwegian Church [3]

The old building has a strong link with a great son of Llandaff, and descendant of Norwegian stock, as Roald Dahl was baptised in the very building back in its original location, worshipped there as a child, and returned to sponsor its preservation in the newly emerging Cardiff Bay world of pleasure.

Norwegian Church [2]

Until we speak again, spare a thought for the Little White Church, and how the world has transformed from fire and brimstone to latte and cappuccino!

Anyone for Coffi?

Now that the sunshine has arrived, fancy a seasonal Turkish meal at Bosphorus down Cardiff Bay? Tough… it’s gone! And, just when Cardiff is beginning to drown under the tide of coffee shops, it’s been replaced by… you guessed it…

Outside [1]

Outside sign [1]

At least it is a local confection, not just another national chain (though I still pledge my allegiance to Coffee#1). Stepping inside, this does happen to capitalise on its location, with a light and airy feel, as well as seats outside…

Inside [1]

And, if you are prepared to part with something approaching London style prices, there are some interesting twists on the coffee menu…

Menu sign [2]

The Gingerbread Cappuccino and Hazelnut Bueno Latte were certainly two temptations worthy of taking out a mortgage on…

With occasional live music (currently only on Bank Holidays) for those needing to be entertained, and the offer of giant pasties for the peckish, this looks like a worthy addition to the Mermaid Quay pleasure emporium.

Inside looking out

Or, if you are a bit strapped for cash, there is always a timely reminder of other ways to satisfy some of your needs…

Inside wall mural

Until we speak again, any clue as to where I am going to get a proper Turkish Kofte Kebab these days?

 

And the Oscar goes to…

Cardiff, for the Shape of Water! Starring:

  1. Roath Park Lake

Roath park lake [3]

2. The River Taff

Millenium Stadium 3

3. The Dock Feeder Canals

Roxby by water

4. The Bute East Dock

Bute East Dock [2]

5. Cardiff Bay

Penarth Head

6. The Mud Flats out into the channel…

Flatholme and Steepholme [3]

Until we speak again, if asked, a non-plused Bella would probably say the shape of water is rather ‘fluid’!

Water [2]

 

 

 

Quite white!

Cardiff doesn’t do snow… does it? Quite white… it’s better known as the rain capital of the UK (Seattle with history!). So, I must be safe from all the news-based armageddon messages. Quite white too

Roxby and Bridge

It’s a Friday lunch time, when the city is at its busiest, so lunch might be a stressed event, where bottle-neck traffic needs to be negotiated…

City Centre rail bridge

Where blinkered, single-minded, aggressively determined shoppers will obliviously cross your path, engaged only in the modern day irritation of walking with eyes glued to mobile screens…

John Lewis

Where the tourist masses flock to see a historic castle…

Castle

And office workers escape the 9-5 drudgery, by flooding to the central restaurants and bars, in order to start the weekend a few hours early…

Library frontage

Alas, I might just have to wait my turn, just in case all those in the know have reserved their tables in advance…

Coffee#1

As John Batchelor once said: “It looks like snow… unless that damned Cardiff seagull has had a curry induced mega dump!”

Hayes statue

Until we speak again, just once in a decade Cardiff can be Quite White!