Hidden in plain sight

Ever wondered “What is in there?” as you glance up at shuttered windows; or you see most lights are on, but one room seems to be bathed in the mystery of darkness.

It would hardly be a thought worth thinking as you gaze over at a city centre Burger King joint, as late night revellers are acoustically invading your alcohol-infused imagination…

Outside at night

But, thanks to a recent ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ TV documentary, by the adventurer/writer Will Millard, the secrets of the 300 year old Green Dragon pub are briefly revealed. The building now largely occupied by a Burger King hides the only remnant of a bygone past… The Mahogany Room.

Inside [1]

Apparently, this ornate delight is obscured from public gaze for health & safety reasons (personally I think that could be more to do with the other current occupier!).

Inside [2]

Here is where the alcohol-infused imaginations of Cardiff’s former great and good discussed the pressing civic matters of the day, and made the decisions that would shape the growth of the would-be capital city of Wales.

Inside [3]

Alas, the premise of the ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ TV programme was that the city, unlike many of its English and Scottish counterparts, has not been very good at valuing its past history and architecture. It prefers to give an outward impression of the new and shiny, either destroying or hiding many of its gems. And The Mahogany Room is a classic example of such a cultural crime…

Inside [4]

Until we speak again, if your gaze is halted by closed shutters or images of darkness surrounded by pools of light, Juno and Bella would have reminded you to summon up your alcohol-infused imaginations!

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Cool cats in Cardiff

Was that the ghost of Juno I saw looming over the Cardiff skyline the other day?

St Johns Church [3]

It’s funny how a distorted photograph can spark strange connections in the imagination. So, no, it turns out it was one of those rare ‘old’ buildings in the city. A recent TV programme called ‘Hidden Cardiff‘ set out the premise that the city cares little for its past, with the exception of Cardiff Castle and St. John’s Church. And the Juno vision turned out to be St. John’s Church

Night [1]

The original church was thought to have been built in 1180. But there is a certain irony in the above photograph, as it was ransacked by a rebellion led by Owain Glyndwr in 1404, and rebuilt later in the 15th century in the form it now takes… looking down on the Owain Glyndwr pub (as any ‘good’ beer lover would!).

It also seems to be a particularly ideal location for a somewhat pastoral ignoring of any fireworks across the pond in celebration of the American Declaration of Independence!

Old Cardiff pic [2]

Talking of distorted photographs and strange connections in the imagination… my New Orleans sojourns of 2017 have heightened my sensibilities to the presence of cool cats; and I recently noticed an example of the genre providing a different type of congregation at the site of St. John’s Church

Jazz band and St John's [1]

Until we speak again, listen out for Bass Twelve if you happen to be around Cardiff; or, if not, simply enjoy imaginary meanderings of your own!

Uxbridge English Dictionary

For devotees of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ here is a new addition to their ‘Uxbridge English Dictionary‘…

Kebabish [1]

“Like a Kebab!”

It’s early Sunday lunchtime, and I spy an unassuming restaurant frontage…

Outside view

And the inside initially seems to be one slide show short of a conference…

Inside view

But the menu entices a challenge far too early in the day for me…

Menu page

For me, it always has to be a taste of spice rather than a challenge of heat; so the sizzling Lamb Seekh Kebabs look like the deal that will seal the dictionary definition…

Lamb Seehk

But, what do we have with it? Naan bread, maybe, rice possibly… but then I spy something on the menu that creates intrigue. Fries have always been a ‘rest of the world’ poor version of good old proper chips; but Keema Chilli Fries (described on their menu as ‘Simply Amazing’), now that sounds worth sampling…

Keema Fries

Cheap, tasty, with something of a wow factor thrown in; a fabulously fresh tasting salad and the non-alcoholic Mojito Mocktail, finished off a memorable lunch. The early timing also ensured a rare experience of having my own personal restaurant!

Until we speak again, sublime might be an under-performing citrus fruit (in the Uxbridge English Dictionary), but it is an experience to be savoured down City Road in Cardiff.

Look behind you!

The problem with a mega cream-based confection is that it might just trigger a stampede! But that’s when a solid brick wall comes in handy…

Until we speak again, next time you happen to be visiting Cardiffs Castle Arcade beware what you order in Coffee Barker!

A taste of radicalisation

Searching for the cradle of civilisation? Look no further than City Road in Cardiff. With Mesopotamia at one end (previously reviewed in another post) creating a unique Iraqi/Mexican vibe, somewhere along the southern portion of the street is where Syria stakes a claim for our culinary patronage, in the form of the Shaam Nights restaurant…

Syria might be home to the oldest inhabited part of the world, or what’s left of it, but there is a modern but homely welcome to be had here at the City Road caliphate…

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This particular home of delicate Syrian cuisine frequently occupies a place in the top 10 restaurants in Cardiff (even though Jay Rayner is a food critic who doesn’t seem to think the city has more than two!).

First decision made… a familiar starter of succulent Vine Leaves provides us with a spiritual entree.

Then we were all left wondering how pork can taste so light and delicate, when sampling the Hummus with Shawarma starter, complete with flat bread. Melt-in-the-mouth is the best way to describe this experience (sorry vegetarians, once again you lose out, as the righteous bacon sandwich meets a mystical equal!)…

This is a temple to non-alcoholic consumption, but with the temptations of such enticing cuisine, and the choice of a fruit-filled Shaam Nights Cocktail, an Ayran salty natural yoghurt, followed by a Syrian Coffee, who needs the falling down lotion? As for the main attraction, Lamb Mosaka, Vegetarian Mosaka and  Lamb Kufta were more than enough to seduce the taste buds in the direction of the delights of the Middle East

As if to reinforce the newfound faith, a delicately flavoured rice side accompanied the Lamb Mosaka: a quintessential Syrian dish of stewed lamb, fried aubergine, onion, garlic and sweet peppers cooked in a tomato sauce. Something approaching a culinary version of a religious experience was slowly unfolding…

Until we speak again, I leave you with their own words from their website… “don’t blame us if you’re hooked!” Finishing off with a simple cash transaction (Note: they don’t accept credit cards but have cash machines in the wall outside the front door!), we left well and truly converted.

What would Ghengis have?

While Junior Cool Cat was recently visiting town, the burning question was where to find a feast suitable for a ravenous visitor? It’s threatening rain, so we need something that will shine a light through the emerging gloom…

Yangs [1]

Faced with a potential climactic/culinary Yin and Yang situation, Cardiff would unwittingly provide the ideal solution…Yin’s are definitely low down on the priority list, but what about Yang’s!

Yangs [2]

With an area of Cardiff known as Canton, it would seem there is an obvious location for a Chinese culinary answer. But this Yang’s is to be found in the opposite direction in Grangetown. So the marauding hordes would have to do their pillaging, or should that be foraging, in the fast food populated wastelands to the south of the city. As fried chicken, pizza, burger and kebab joints are wilfully eschewed, Yangs offers an altogether more satisfying welcome…

Inside Yangs

While perusing the extensive menu, the choice of appetiser leaps off the list; if it was good enough for Ghengis Khan then it’s good enough for me, so the Crispy Aromatic Mongolian Lamb is promptly ordered…

Junior Cool Cat goes for the Steamed Fresh Scallops, and it’s the ubiquitous Tsingtao Chinese beers all round…

Apetizers

How could that lamb possibly be followed (other than with another lamb appetiser)? I guess Ghengis would go for a banquet of mega proportions, but we make do with a more modest banquet of Beef with Green Peppers and Black Bean Sauce, a Stir Fried Chicken dish, and House Special Mixed Rice (including king prawn, sliced chicken, Char Siu pork and vegetables)…

Beef Chicken House Rice

Until we speak again, if you are looking for a tasty Chinese banquet, don’t follow the logic of signs to Canton; leave your Yin behind you, and head for Yang’s.

Hangin’ in the Treme…

Hangin’ in the Treme

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…Watchin’ people sashay
Past my steps
By my porch
In front of my door…

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Church bells are ringin’
Choirs are singing
While the preachers groan
And the sisters moan
In a blessed tone

 

Down in the treme
Is me and my baby
We’re all going crazy
While jamming and having fun

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Trumpet bells ringing
Bass drum is swinging
As the trombone groans
And the big horn moans
And there’s a saxophone

Festival Stage

Treme is a colourful location for the masterpiece post-Katrina drama series, as well as being a place of historic cultural significance…

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It was thanks to a tip off from the vunderbar Sue at the Vacherie Bar on Toulouse Street that resulted in me heading on down for an experience of stunning food and cool jazz in the heat of the afternoon…

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Until we speak again, keep jamming and having fun!

Full acknowledgements go to John Boutte for the lyrics of the Treme theme tune.