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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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

 

Revered Cuisine

Who could possibly resist Magret de canard roti et sauce aux cerises? That is pan fried duck breast and cherry sauce for the less travelled gourmands among you…

It may well be supremely complemented by a glass of Mouton Cadet Bordeaux, but it is always important to be aware of the derivation of what you eat. On the very morning of this feast I surveyed the environs of my Paris hotel only to be somewhat dismayed by the attraction of the currently topical plastic flotsam and jetson for the local duck population…

But, I was quickly reassured that my wildfowl actually walks on water before adorning my plate!

Until we speak again, remember that only in Paris can we revere that which we may subsequently devour… allegedly!

A religious experience

The Last Supper

“Jesus… it is so easy to become one of the devoted disciples after crucifying some fried oysters!”

Welcome to blasphemers corner. But, that is something that NOLA [colloquial term for New Orleans, Louisiana] can do to you. A recent moment’s quiet contemplation, and suddenly I was there again. The day is 5th October 2017; the time is approximately 9.30pm; the bar is Vacherie in New Orleans.

The snare is a plate of fried oysters on spinach salad with belly pork and a bacon vinaigrette, with a glass of porter on the side. For tomorrow I take my leave, and a NOLA resurrection will have to wait.

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Until we speak again, in memory of Juno & Bella, Veganuary converts need not apply!

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.