Return to Old Favourites

At least it was the 25th! A family Christmas shape shifts as the numbers change with time. My last family Christmas meal was four years ago, when five people sat around the table, but now it’s just two, as the tragic heartfelt losses mount up.

So, for my sister and I, that at least meant we could decide to check out an old favourite Cardiff restaurant, dispense with the usual Christmas Day paraphernalia, and even dispense with celebrating in December! Neither of us can trust many restaurants not to downgrade their great menu’s by replacing them with Christmas mediocrity throughout the month of December. So, whether that applies to the Bayside Brasserie or not we don’t know. What we do know, is that the same high quality experience is there for the savouring.

Whilst the menu prompted a majority of tempting memories, the power of asking for what you want was also easily accommodated by the staff. Previously, Pork Belly was a starter but now it only appears as a main. The old adage is… if you don’t ask you don’t get; so, asking for Pork Belly as a starter was not only agreed, but met with results to exceed expectations.

Perhaps it’s the sense of getting something that wasn’t there that makes it taste even better! But, though the Crispy Squid looked tempting, this Pork Belly was all mouth-watering meat with a crispy crackling covering… and that melt-in-the-mouth feeling just simply can’t be resisted.

Two or three plates of this starter alone would easily have sent me off with that satisfied feeling of a meal well-deserved… you really don’t have to be anointed as a saint to be deserving of such riches in life! But, there were other memories to be tested and satisfied, not least the vegetarians nightmare… Fillet Steak! A food that should only be allowed by law to be served with chips and peppercorn sauce. A little foliage and extra fungi provides fancy dressing for any pernickety critic.

Who needs dessert after such a meat feast? Yes, I know… the very question puts me top of the list of many of your for a cactus emema! But, for me, those glasses of a lovely Argentinian Malbec are dessert enough… but then again a properly prepared macchiato serves to bring a great early Christmas to a gentle close.

Until we speak again, have a great Christmas… whenever, wherever, and with whoever you choose to celebrate it. After all, for me and a longstanding reader of these lyrical meanderings, a great Christmas meal has even been enjoyed on a balmy night in June (for the record… Fillet Steak was also eaten there.. in Blackheath, south-east London). So, the gift of the cow is really a gift of great memories as well.

Lost & Found

In Wales, the impact of the pandemic is once again easing, as we find ourselves topping the world table for progressing the vaccine rollout. But, what did you miss during the long winter months of lockdown restrictions?

Apologies and sympathy to those of you having to downgrade from Heinz to Own Brand baked beans. Juno’s View is that quality always trumps quantity, so Heinz for a day or two less a week would be my heartless advice!

In pursuit of that quality, it is the idea of a favourite independent restaurant re-opening that kept stirring my imagination. And, one such establishment seems to have taken the opportunity for an internal refurbishment during the months of closure…

Getting in an early booking, before the arrival of most other desperate punters, provided an opportunity to see where some of the felled rainforest ended up! Though it does make for a relaxed space for fine dining.

This was always a place for a limited menu of high quality local produce. So, would a re-vamped menu trouble any prior expectations?

Not wishing to overload the meat feast… a starter of asparagus and poached egg, with avocado, cherry vine tomatoes and hollandaise sauce offered an instant reminder that I’m not at ‘chez Juno’s View‘ at this point. Here, presentation combines with a delicate assault on the taste buds. Not for me, the fleeting thought of eating out of the carton/bag or whether to use a cheap porcelain plate!

Then there is the whole reason for dreaming and wishing… that poor Daisy has been grazing the ranch for months with no chance to provide a pleasurable outcome for others… Yes, the Fillet Steak experience! OK, so I cooked a couple of good quality ones at home over Christmas. But this is what getting out of bed on a rainy Tuesday morning in May is all about…

Just add some buttered greens, triple cooked chips and pink peppercorn sauce, and the picture is complete…

Until we speak again… what, you thought I’d share more of my steak with you? I’m too busy sipping the accompanying smooth Argentinian Malbec. Enjoy your Own Brand whatevers.

Chain reaction

Don’t be fooled by first appearances. These could easily be disgruntled punters beating a quick retreat; or troublemakers that have been shown the door. In reality this is the former Juno’s fan club President and Vice President, braving the elements following an anniversary meal at Miller and Carter’s Steakhouse on the outskirts of Cardiff.

Miller and Carters Thornhill [1]

I might be a little fussy about where I eat; but then I wouldn’t have been looked after so well by Juno and Bella, in their respective times, if I hadn’t been so fussy and discerning (or, that is what they would frequently remind me anyway).

One way in which these fastidious ways present themselves is a well-developed scepticism of anything chain-related. Not because I am aspiring to be a narrow-minded snob (I’m saving that treat for the full-on retirement years). More on the basis of having spent far too much of the precious time I have on this planet sat in chain-related establishments. In the interests of avoiding libel suits they shall remain unnamed (but you know who you are… and there are a lot of you littering otherwise interesting places).

Miller and Carter Steakhouses seem to be a chain who like to advertise their ‘love of Steak’, on their windows and just about everywhere else where space permits. Personally, my only previous visit, to another branch, didn’t quite provide that loved-up steak vibe. So, I attended this soiree with the full knowledge that the choice of eatery would be out of my control.

So, much to my surprise the whole experience can best be described as ‘succulent’! The King Prawns had just the right amount of spice to claim the description… garlicky. And, in an expression of modern culinary delivery, why affect the taste by tipping the pan contents onto a plate when you can simply put the pan on the plate? I’m not sure the pile of leaves constitute one of your five-a-day allocation for the fruit and veg stuff though.

Miller and Carters Thornhill [2]

But, the big test was yet to come. Fillet Steak is a mainstay of this gastronome’s on-the-road diet. No worries (as I turn Australian for a second), as the steak was cooked to medium rare perfection. The bowl of lettuce with a choice of slop to add on (bacon and honey seen here is recommended) was a nice twist for imposing some healthy note to the otherwise cholesterol infusing presentation…

Miller and Carters Thornhill [3]

The Argentinian Malbec (Aguaribay, in this case) was a great complement to the succulent fare.

Until we speak again, circumvent any car crash catastrophes… choose culinary chains with considerable caution.

A glimpse of future past

In the words of Juno, the ‘resident smart arse’ is trying to be too clever with the language again… “Say what you mean and mean what you say, but make sure the culinary treats are directed to a deserving cat.” IMAG1550

With a friend in town the opportunity opens up for a visit to a relatively new city centre eatery. The buzz of excitement of a swanky meal is matched by the buzz of pedestrian traffic through town. But as the destination opens up the memory meanders back to another century, or as Juno used to say “my personal ‘old git’ is busy reminiscing again”. It might look to the newcomer like a fortified bank vault, and to the younger locals it is Habitat. However, to the wise elders of Cardiff this is ‘the leckie’, the old electricity board building from when South Wales Electricity Board (SWEB) shone a ray of light into the grim darkness otherwise known as the 1970’s…

IMAG1551

In 2014 it reopened on The Hayes as a branch of theIMAG1552 Miller & Carter’s Steakhouse with big promises for the connoisseur of the cow! ‘For the love of steak’ is their strap-line, with claims to already be one of Cardiff’s best steakhouses, and this cat is arriving with expectations to match.

The decor is an inviting mix of the old and new, giving the place a soupçon of gravitas, but will the food match?

Miller and Carter [2]

Who needs a proper starter when you can share succulent olives with artisan bread, all served up on a piece of Welsh slate? And the wine was tasty too…

Miller and Carter [3]

‘Curiosity killed the cat’, or so one of Juno’s least favourite sayings goes… but the less well known rejoinder ‘satisfaction brought it back’ would surely fulfil the mounting expectations of a vegetarian’s worst nightmare! With a great drum roll the main attraction takes centre stage…

Miller and Carter [4]

… and as for the verdict, it can best be described as not disappointing, but possibly mildly underwhelming. The texture and appearance of the fillet steak was just how I would assume GM beef would come served… an Electric Daisy Edible Plastics production; but it tasted ok. As for the chips, what’s with the attempted competition with McDonalds? Who wants ‘fries with that’ when your meal needs a proper top quality crispy & fluffy combo!

Juno faceUntil we speak again this cat recommends that you keep Miller & Carter’s in mind as a good option if you are focused on price, as for a good fillet steak you are paying nearly a tenner less here than some of the local places that have a better claim to be one of Cardiff’s best steakhouses.

My religion

I wouldn’t say I was obsessed with food, but some of you regular readers might have drawn a different conclusion. As I was strolling along Churchill Way just the other day, contemplating just how much good food can be something of a religious experience, I was arrested by quite a sight:

Chapel [1]

Is it a church? Is it a restaurant? If there is such a thing as what you humans call a God, why is he mucking with my head in this way? I started to come over all confused between my flocks and my herds… this is a flock (or is it supposed to be a bunch of people blindly following each other in a shared faith, based in hope but little else?):

Picture of Flock of Sheep - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

Now a herd is something I put my hope and faith into, particularly one with a clear process that goes from a) to b):

a)  [image from my good friend Fat-Freddies-Cat]:

man gave numbers to all the animals

b) Image from Craig Farm Organic Beef site [or frequent image in my head that I associate with animals, farming, cattle… or just plain being awake]: 

Yes, it used to be a place of worship, but now Chapel 1877 is… well, a place of worship. Step inside and the confusion continues, the original chapel feel is still very much there, only now there is an inviting bar and a unique restaurant atmosphere around the place… no corporate chain decor here, even though this God idea seems to incorporate its own large-scale establishment with branches all over the place:

Chapel [3]

The pews have gone, replaced by comfortable chairs and tables of different shapes and sizes. Gone are the hymn sheets, now replaced by tempting menus for a range of budgets.  Gone is the vicar and the choir, to be replaced by a different kind of order of service (though my personal diners that I sent to experience the place for me were not overly impressed with the service… it was reported as rushed and confused at the outset, even though the place was busy without being full; but it improved after apologies for the mix up over wine ordered and failure to produce the bread and olives before the starter).

As a cool cat my priority though had to be the food, and on this there was no compromise. The reports back were excellent. My faith was soon restored when I saw the herd had arrived in a colourful display:

Chapel [4]

The beef carpaccio with capers, rocket, parmesan and a Worcester mayonnaise set the bar very high from the start; but the fillet steak was excellent, as was a special mention for the accompanying mushroom (cooked to perfection… not that us cats care much about that detail!). Following the earlier mix up over the wine there was no repeat with the later brandy order; and the macchiato was just right.

The collection plate at the end was reasonable for the quality of food served up… not cathedral-like overly expensive, but not your routine church hall affair either. My reporting restauranteurs tell me they would happily return to worship at another service. For me, thoughts of that herd remain something that would require a confessional, but I am still Juno blessing you all until I see you again.