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!]

Salt Beef Mountain

New York, Cardiff. So good they named it… no, that doesn’t work. But, if you happen upon the High Street Arcade in Cardiff you’ll find more than just an appealing facade…

High St Arcade entrance 2018

But do remember to afford much more than just a New York Minute” for the New York Deli

Arcade view

For here you find that little piece of New York right in the heart of Cardiff City Centre, complete with a mouth-watering menu…

Menu

Take your time, because the choices are amazing. For me on this first visit it had to be The Ritchie Parks with a cup of cwarfee (that’s New York for coffee to the uninitiated!).

Hoaggie and Coffee

I advise that you don’t have a hearty breakfast before planning on visiting this deli, as the salt beef is both fresh and mountainous, topped with Swiss cheese and garnished with gherkin…

The Ritchie Parks

If you don’t feel like walking afterwards you might even be surprised by the arrival of the next subway train…

Mural

Until we speak again, I guess Juno and Bella would have been more interested in that eagle guarding the stairway…

Downstairs view [2]

Milgi: a vegetarians dream

Rear viewCarnivorous cats have had plenty to salivate over through several posts in this blog. But the vegetarian proclivity is not one often pandered to. So, with a dearth of cat-like influences at present, and a visit from a friend of the veggie-persuasion, it was an apt time to transgress (as Juno and Bella would no doubt see it).

What can Cardiff possibly offer that could satisfy a committed carnivore in the meat-deficiency sector?

Milgi [2]

 

 

 

An award recognised establishment would be a good starting place, particularly in the atmospheric Roath area of the city. City Road is the location and Milgi is the destination.

Milgi [3]

If you are a young bicycle riding vegetarian student type, step in, as this is a place with a welcome for you. If you are an older hunter-gatherer type with a liking for your meal to have had legs and a quaint name in a recent incarnation, step in, as this place will have more than a few surprises for you.The cafe style of decor provides a very informal atmosphere…

Milgi [4]The anxiety-ridden carnivore (as if such a beast exists) need not worry about needing a translator for the menu. It may vary occasionally, but this is a place that wants to provide  small range of high quality options. The three starters are platters of Moroccan, Peruvian and Indian origin. On this occasion we chose the Moroccan & Peruvian to share between us. Beetroot humous, harissa roasted parsnips, hangout chickpeas, cauliflower cos cos, avocado tartare, red quinoa & kale pattie, wheatgrass vinaigrette and omega 3 toasted seeds provided a positive plethora of tastes…

Milgi [5]5 main dishes presented the nicest of problems, choice. On the evidence of the starters this carnivore fancies more of a meze of all 5 options. Previous reports of the excellent chips (thats UK chips not US chips!) influences the final choice, as we both go for the ‘beer battered haloumi, chips and minted garden peas’. These are minted peas, not to mixed up with the carnivores bent for mushy peas. The chips lived up to the reputation, and again the contrasts of tastes complemented each other, taking away any potential drifting of the concentration to visions of animals in search of a grill.

Milgi [6]34660_dia_1425_950_don_julio_mojito_37_$$069A0000001gyNVIAYThe pinot grigio complemented the meal, and not being a dessert fancier, there was a wonderful Mojito to finish off the whole occasion. As so many of the published reviews begin with “I’m not a vegetarian but…” I can add to the list. Rest assured Milgi will not turn you into a vegetarian ion you’re not one already! But, this is a place you will want to come back to.

Until we speak again, may all of your vegetables satisfy.

My Thai

Is it a religion? Is it a form of martial arts? Or is it a flippant reference to the other half? No, it’s time to satisfy that hunger with some exotic cuisine. When you’ve exhausted your mental and physical faculties sitting down and watching a couple of rugby matches in the Millennium Stadium you can really work up an appetite. So, the question is whether you follow the neanderthal hordes to the nearest burger van, or maybe hit Cardiff’s infamous chip alley down Caroline Street?

Those of us with an ounce of forward planning capability realise that restaurants will be full, unless that is you book in advance. And if you book in advance why not go that exotic extra taste bud or two. The Thai House is a well established Cardiff institution, conveniently located close to a range of other unique eating establishments that eschew (that’s a nice word borrowed from the TLF blog!) the chain mentality. If you like your eatery to have a Portuguese flavour then you will have to walk a whole 3 yards to that place below draped with a Welsh flag. If you like your nosh with a touch of the art insulation, or even a religious backdrop, then you will have to muster up the energy to walk a further 20 yards (all of which are reviewed in other posts on this site).

Strangely, this is a Thai restaurant that boasts a Rugby addition to the menu, but this is no time for a theme park trough. Dynamic flowing rugby needs to be followed by something a little more exquisite.

Thai House [1]

The Thai House menu is a navigational challenge in its own right. But after you have spent 10 minutes with the verbal gymnastics, guzzling a Singa Beer for inspiration, you pluck up the courage to order using the Thai wording; only for your ethnic waitress to look at the menu and ask if you mean 4, 9, 21, 22, 51 and 54! The Sate (tender pork and chicken) and Tord Mun (Spicy Thai Fish Medallions) both offer delicately spiced and succulent starters…

Thai House [2]

Then it’s time for something that no burger van or famous fish and chip shop in the world is likely to serve up. The crispy duck comes with an even more crispy kale, to offer contrasting assaults on the taste buds. Then the Emperor prawns deliver an unexpected undressing challenge, to remove the hard shell in order to reveal a juicy sacrifice within; made all the more rewarding when enveloped in a spicy coconut sauce, with lime and mushroom additional flavours…

Thai House [3]

Don’t go here on a busy day expecting rapid service. This is a place you come to to absorb the culinary offerings in a more relaxed mode. Neither Juno or Bella were enamoured with my liking for the prawn. But I’m sure that duck and the earlier fish and meat combinations would have taken some swiping off unguarded plates.

Until we speak again I will be taking a tour of fields way beyond Cardiff, sharing some Cardiff Cool Cat reflections on ‘elsewhere’.

 

Smoky Days

Pretty girl [1]A smoke and fire combination doesn’t have to spell disaster. Though when my ‘resident gastronome’ started eulogising about the taste of smoke I was beginning to contemplate instant evacuation from the joint! Rather than a fire-induced emergency, it seems the reference was more to a recently established addition to an over-full American burger type of market. The smoke in question turns out to be a Kansas influenced method of cooking that uses the b-b-q smoky style that brings out the best of taste in good meats.

The Smoke Haus [1]

Being American in origin, The Smoke Haus leaves little space on the plate. Ramping up the numbers of the obese population doesn’t seem to be a primary concern. Health hazards are just collateral damage when it comes to the pursuit of gastronomic pleasures. On the occasion of this particular visit a New orleans Burger, Kansas Chicken, and Veggie Chilli were complemented with house fries, rice, Guinness, and Anchor Steam beer. These were the relatively small portions, but for those who could eat a horse, or another more likely complete animal for that matter, The Smoke Haus is waiting to prepare the challenge for you!

Smoke Haus [2]

Whatever level of challenge you take on, there is the universal message to all diners… We Salute You! Well, they do get to pocket your hard earned cash, and this isn’t cheap by average burger joint standards…

Smoke Haus [3]

… The old adage is that you get what you pay for, and my ‘surrogate tastebud‘ tells me it is worth paying the upsell for a whole different quality of taste.

X-ray eyesUntil we speak again this Bella recommends the influence of smoke on you palate. A Smoky Day should not just be a melodic tune from Colin Blunstone! What next… how about sampling some fire-eating.

A World Cup Feast

There was a time, or so I am told by people I live with who are simply ‘old’, that the infamous Tiger Bay in Cardiff docklands would have been able to offer representative cuisine of not only the World Cup finalists, but pretty much all of the nations represented in the qualifying rounds. The six blocks around the Loudoun Square of old would no doubt have put on some special barbeque for a final in said square. Then a combination of prejudice, politics and misplaced town planning ideals improved/changed/destroyed the lot of the UK’s very first truely multi-cultural community. The result of so-called progress is that now you will struggle to find representation of the 32 finalists alone across the whole of the city.

So, I decided, based on very little empirical research and a huge amount of unapologetic bias, to relocate the whole of the 2014 World Cup tournament from Brazil to Cardiff, and to play it by culinary rules that make no sense to me… after all, how else is Wales going to have any representation on this world stage? If FIFA continue to be happy with their decision-making regarding Qatar and Russia, I am perfectly happy to run the whole tournament on the basis where you can eat something, so good luck to you if you understand any of the following nonsense!

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.

Viva Brazil [1]With the wealth of Croatian and Cameroonian delicacies securely hidden from sight in Cardiff, this group becomes a straight Latin American bun fight. Viva Brazil takes on the longer established MexicoChiquito for a place in the last eight.

 

For prominence of location at the top end of St. Mary’s Street this is a simple win for Brazil. Mexico opting for a subterranean location in the Brewery Quarter only makes itself immediately visible to people more attracted by the ‘Brewery’ connotation.

Group B: Spain, Holland, Chile and Australia.

SpainNotwithstanding the abject humiliation experienced by Spain at the hands of Holland in their true World Cup opening game, in my version there is a reversal of fortunes. At least Spain can muster up a restaurant in the form of La Tasca, Hollandwhereas Holland merely offer what this cat can only describe as a wafer thin snack in the form of a Pancake House.

Chile rely on a dish similar in name with a base of hot beans available at low cost in numerous outlets; while Australia rely on a national cliche of a capacity to drink copious tinnies rather than eat muchAustralia, in the solitary hope that progression to the next round might pitch them against kindred spirits in England. Such misguided planning results in Australia going truly Walkabout, as Spain progress to the last eight.

Group C: Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan and Greece.

Whilst Colombia start out as group favourites, a dependence on coffee presents a setback for this culinary cat. ColombiaBeware if you are asked “one shot or two”, particularly as this passionate football nation managed to shoot a previous returning captain for the failure of the team in the World Cup tournament.

 

Japan

 

With Ivory Coast failing to offer much of a dining experience in downtown Cardiff, this group becomes a penalty shootout between the Wagamama chain representing Japan, and Pipi’s Restaurant representing Greece.Greece

With an attempt to broaden the appeal, Pipi’s tries to advertise the distinctly un-Greek panini and baguette, with the result that Japan go through to the last eight on simple honesty alone.

 

Group D: Uruguay, Italy, England and Costa Rica.

This is the group where normal expectationsCaroline Street would be sky-rocketing for a certain country that claims to have invented the ugly game, before others (notably Brazil) made it beautiful. But this tournament is taking place in Wales, so England might even struggle against Costa Rica! The customary line-up of 
fish and chip shops with a side of WetherspoonsWetherspoons puts England at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to a game requiring fitness, stamina and skill.

Costa Rica and Uruguay struggle to find a foothold in the Welsh capital, out-coffee’d and out-beaf’d by illustrious geographical neighbours.

Italy

 

So, it is left to Italy in the shape of Giovanni’s to take the group by storm and progress to a relatively easy birth in the last eight.

 

 

 

Group E: Switzerland, France, Ecuador and Honduras.

FranceWho needs the customary culinary arrogance when your group is nothing more than a stroll in the park? The Swiss offer nothing more than a cheesy performance; while Ecuador and Honduras fail to adapt to the Welsh culinary climate. This leaves France to Bistro their way into the last eight c/o Pierre, but will the ease of their progression result in previously witnessed complacency on their part?

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia-Herzogovenia, Nigeria and Iran.

Rumour has it that if you can sweet talk Miss Bosnia-Herzogovenia (Cardiff Branch) you might get an invite to her mother’s Sunday lunch; so the chances of a culinary sweep of this group fade as quickly as a 1970’s chat-up line. Iran employ National Guard type tactics, so nothing tasty there; and Nigeria suffers from the downbeat reports of Tribe Tribe and other African cafe restaurants around Cardiff. The door is wide open for Argentina to sweep through the group, but theirs is a hesitant progression, as they have to rely on Viva Brazil as an introduction… otherwise any steak that is not Welsh or Scottish, but is expensive just might be Argentinian! Argentina limp meekly into the last eight of the tournament, with very little of taste to suggest they could go further.

Group G: Germany, Portugal, USA and Ghana.

Ghana suffer from the poor culinary representation of all African nations in Cardiff. However, this is not so for ‘Obesity Central’ (USA) whose mother ship has definitely landed with widespread representation in the form of ‘King Mac of Kentucky’ franchises blotting most culinary sensibilities. On volume of supply USA would surely be going through from this group, but their all-round reduction of the beautiful game to a waddling spectacle undermines any claim to quality.Germany

The decisive challenge comes from a straight European match-up of culinary contrasts. The German offer suffers from an unusual unobtrusiveness… apart from a full-on christmas market for a small part of the year you have to find an upstairs location in Wally’s Delicatessen for your intake of bratwurst.

Madiera [1]

 

 

 

By contrast, Portugal are prominently represented by the perennial sunny outlook of the Madiera restaurant at the bottom of Churchill Way. So, Portugal go through to the last eight.

Group H: Belgium, Russia, South Korea and Algeria.

This is the quintessential ‘group of death’, not in usual football terms of many teams having an equal chance of progression… more because you are likely to die of starvation before you find any relevant sustenance. If you are looking for something distinctly authentic from any of these teams you should probably visit a suburb of Cardiff known as London. As most of these games are likely to result in a stalemate it falls to a number of female supporters to call it… the importance of chocolate ultimately tips the group in favour of Belgium, as they progress unconvincingly to the last eight.

Quarter Finals

1. Brazil v Spain… Las Iguanas

A late Brazilian substitution, bringing in parts of the Las Iguanas menu, fails to find any response from Spain. The competition favourites progress to the semi-finals.

2. Japan v Italy…

Japan provide a strong contest through the introduction of Yakitori#1 at Mermaid Quay to take an early lead.

But the wily Italians have been here before, and feel very comfortable adding to their range of usual chain offerings (Pizza Express, Zizzi’s, Carluccios and Bellini’s) with Cafe Citta as one of the most widely rated top restaurants in the city.

Mixed starter<br />

Italy go through to the semi-finals with the help of the depth of their squad.

3. France v Argentina… France take an early lead through the introduction of a tried and tested chain favourite (though not in this household apparently).French restaurant in Cardiff Mermaid Quay

Argentina had struggled to reach this part of the competition, and with nothing in reserve they meekly succumb as the French stroll through to the last four.

4. Portugal v Belgium…

Belgium offer little threat of any culinary extravagance on the Cardiff stage, so Portugal are able to achieve a straight forward victory by their judicious use of Nando’s to appeal to the masses.

Semi-Finals

1. Brazil v Italy…

A longstanding great football rivalry comes to a head in this semi-final. The Italians suffer from a lack of creativity, as what you get in one seems to be pretty much what you get in them all. A ‘pizzeria’ leaves little to the 21st century Cardiff imagination. Brazil dazzle the locals with the mesmerising challenge of the ‘churrascaria’ and the fusion with other Latin American countries cuisine in their own restaurant and the broader Las Iguanas offer. Brazil go through to the culinary World Cup final as a result of their greater creativity and sense of the unknown.

2. France v Portugal…

An all-Eurpean semi-final sets Mediterrean v Atlantic cuisine on collision course. The French rely too heavily on their usual fare and expectation of superiority, while the Portuguese are continually looking to mix things up with their blend of flagship Madiera restaurant, Nando’s chain, and then drawing on another cafe style restaurant, Almada in Canton, and the Benedito’s deli in Splott. The match goes into extra-time, but the strength and depth of the Portuguese sees them through to the final.

2014 Culinary World Cup Final: Brazil v Portugal

Linguistically at least, it is an all-Portuguese final. The menus for Viva Brazil v Madiera line up for a quality contest deserving of a final. On my personal gastronomes number of visits it appears that Viva Brazil takes a lead (2-1); but this is also based on the Madiera being more difficult to book at certain peak times of the week, with 3 previously unsuccessful attempts; so Portugal equalise the ear;ly lead established by Brazil. Then on ‘Trip Advisor’ ranking for Cardiff restaurants the Madiera takes the lead (55th > 93rd). Madiera [3]

But, is this to be the battle of the skewers? The Madiera goes for an audacious hanging skewers from the ceiling above the table; but Viva Brazil storms back to equalise with no less than a range of 9 different skewers brought to your table for personal carving of as much of what you like.

2-2 with only a few minutes of the final left to play… both restaurants miss easy late chances as a result of the over-bearing noise from boisterous neighbouring tables. As time is running out it comes down to quality of service… the Madiera offer friendly but not particularly attentive service, while Viva Brazil rely too much on the waiters frequently serving skewers at tables and diners helping themselves to the salad bar.

The match goes into extra time, and with quality of food being on a par it is going to a penalty shootout, unless one team can pull out something entirely unexpected. With the clock running down into its final minute Viva Brazil throw the curved ball of vegetarian options! With an extensive range on the creatively stocked salad bar, and the offer of a freshly prepared cooked vegetarian skewer a surprise lead is established. The Madiera can only respond with a small range of omelette, pasta and mushroom stroganoff options; and despite claims to extensive fish dishes the final whistle blows!

Having taken the beautiful game away from the beautiful exponents, and setting it in the beautiful city of Cardiff, Brazil still win the World Cup!!

Viva Brazil description [2]

Until we speak again this is one Juno who intends to stop relying on personal reviews of these eateries brought home by the resident nosh monster… its high time that I get to taste all of this fabulous stuff myself. Who said immigration didn’t do anything good for this country? May the Ukip rump long continue to enjoy their boiled beef and carrots.