Victorian Folly

I thought Cardiff Castle was enough of a Victorian Folly, but just take a stroll a couple hundred yards back from the seafront of Brighton, and let your biscuit be taken!

So, why go to India when you can experience ‘it’ without so much of the heat and humidity? Who needs authenticity these days… Chicken Korma anyone!?

Until we speak again, Brighton Pavilion offers the kind of India you are unlikely to find in… err… India!

The Raj revisited

Window cillWith the recent TV series ‘Indian Summers‘ now disappearing into the memory banks, to be stored somewhere in a file listed as ‘Brexit and the resurrection of my imperial dreams‘ (created by the 52%, not those of us who already have an embracing world view), it was time to locally recapture an experience of India and summer. To listen to some of the Out rhetoric expounded from our so-called tolerant shores, you would swear that we have been locked away in a European constructed dungeon, and are only now creating the opportunity to stagger bleary-eyed into the bright lights that constitute the new world beyond European shackles.

As much as your correspondent is frequently regaled with messages about how cheap it is to visit India, I personally find that it is even cheaper for India to visit me! This is where Cardiff Bay comes to rescue me from the standard notion of an Indian takeaway. However, the choice requires a decision to be made, before we even get in front of one of those War and Peace sized menus. A proposition that just might drive us to follow Bella’s idea above… when decisions need to be made find a clear window cill in the sun!

The Duchess of Delhi does its very best to smooth away the challenge of the decisions decisions malady… nothing like a great big sign 18 months after opening to remind us, well, that they are open!

Duchess of Delhi [1]For those readers who are not old enough to have been present at the height of the Raj, which I guess is pretty much everyone (as it is listed as 1858-1947), here is a glimpse of what it might have looked like…

Duchess of Delhi [2]

Strangely enough, that is what nearly all traditional British Indian restaurants inform us the Raj looked like. Other versions of the authentic Indian theme are available (even in Cardiff!). So, cultural and historical context cleared up, it was time to navigate the challenge of the ubiquitous Indian restaurant menu. Is it any surprise that bottles of Cobra were invented in large sizes? Dying of thirst while reading the menu can be a serious proposition! Though it is important to say that the Duchess of Delhi has a slightly more specialist and restricted menu range, which always instils confidence in this intrepid devourer of world nosh.

Duchess of Delhi [4]

The starters were a very tasty reminder of what British style Indian food has to offer. My vegetarian visitor was satisfied with the Onion Pakora, and my cat-like carnivorous tendencies were equally satisfied with the Sheek Kebab, even when adorned with the entry-school colourful scribblings across the plate. With appetites stirred it was time for the main event. It was the decisions-decisions time again, with so many tempting treats on the menu.

My vegetarian friend enjoys a cat-like dispensation when it comes to fish; and is never able to resist something hot. So there was one simple decision… when a dish entitled Bengal Naga Jhaal Jhol is described as the hottest dish on the menu, and includes one of the hottest chilli’s in the world, why look anywhere else. Our host initially looked a little puzzled when he also asked for additional hot chilli on the side.

As for me, I was ready to retreat to a distant table, just in case the heat from the dish put summer into the shade. Apparently there was ‘smelted’ shark somewhere in that bowl! I’m a sucker for a Peshwari Naan and a Coconut Rice, but would ideally like a little of most of the menu to accompany them. But, on this occasion the sound of bleating lambs ambling towards the slaughter house en route to my bowl prevailed. I’m not sure if they picked the green chillies themselves as they sauntered towards their primary purpose in life…

Duchess of Delhi [5]

The Lamb Pepper Roast was succulent and tender, melt in the mouth, and worthy of its place alongside the Naan/Rice combination. Other Indian restaurants of varying focus and price range have been the subject of Juno/Bella style scrutiny within this blog, but the Duchess of Delhi can now take its place as part of a range rather than a competition. Until we speak again, if you are looking for a taste of India Cardiff has a selection, as long as you can cope with decisions-decisions!

It is what colour?

ChilledIn my experience black cats are colourful in character, but there is seldom any question about confusion over their colour. Juno quickly had an eye for the colourful space, particularly one where she could survey all of the world around her from a perch on a chesterfield sofa.

But even she might have initiallyPurple Poppadom [1] baulked at the idea of poppadom’s coming in a shade of purple! So, fortified by some good prior reviews, it was time for a friend and I to venture forth in search of the Purple Poppadom and search was the operative word, as this gem is easily missed as you stroll along the main Canton thoroughfare in Cardiff. Yes it is that tiny door to that place upstairs:

Once you have found it the welcome is warm and friendly, helped by booking a quiet time of the week (early Sunday evening). And the purple decor was of the restrained variety…

Purple Poppadom [2]

 

 

Whatever you think you know about Indian cuisine, leave it at the door, as a quick glance at the equally restrained menu initially leaves you wondering ‘what is that?’ But don’t get me wrong, the menu deserves time to be spent reading it to get the twists and signatures in the dishes; while possibly drinking out of Buddha shaped beer bottles!

Purple Poppadom [3]

A reference to a starter originating from the street food stalls of Lucknow was tempting. It is a bit like the UK ‘M&S Food’ supermarkets that go in for naming the place of origin as a means of elevating the recognition of their signature dishes. Venison Pao came delicately spiced, with melt-in-your-mouth minced meat, topped off with a fried egg. Not your standard Indian restaurant dish, but after a couple of mouthfuls I resolved never to eat anything but this for the rest of my life!

Purple Poppadom [5]

It would take something rather special to stop me from just repeating the starter order. Luckily this place has plenty more temptations where that one came from. Coconut rice and Peshwari Naan should have been relatively easy to choose, but there were a few other accompaniments running them close. The Kashmiri Roganjosh and Saag Gosht provided variations on lamb that once again can only be described as melt-in-the-mouth perfection.

Purple Poppadom [7]

Purple Poppadom [4]For the record, the poppadom’s were not purple (but one of the accompanying chutneys was, alongside green and yellow varieties!)…

Juno would have been baffled, but we came out… replete. Until we speak again may your dining experiences hit a purple patch!

Taste of enlightenment

As a carnivorous cat I struggle to get the vegetarian thing. However, some would say my lot more often play with our prey rather than eat them; so, perhaps I need to get in touch with my vegetarian side. But where in deepest Cardiff could seriously introduce me to the artistry of the vegetable, and take up the challenge of shifting some of my passionately held gastronomic prejudices? Penarth Road neither benefits from a city centre or Cardiff Bay location, which may suggest why it is not known either locally or internationally as a hub of culinary excellence… more of a highway for ethnic wholesale outlets or a parade of low cost obesity fuelling stations.

But don’t blink, it seems the aubergine may just get its moment in the sun. There nestled in amongst the downbeat signs of bedsit land I am accosted by the surprising temptation of a Vegetarian Food Studio

Veg Studio [6]

What can this message possibly mean? Is the best thing you can do with a vegetable is to photograph it, or draw it, or even paint it? There is only one way to find out, and on closer inspection my senses are reassured by the signs of Indian cuisine, an undoubted home of doing good things to vegetables with a mouth-watering range of spices and fragrances. The decor is basic and functional following a relocation 100 yards along Penarth Road from its previous home of the last 10 years.

Veg Studio [2]

With ethnic murals adding to the authentic setting for the greatly anticipated feast…

Veg Studio [3]

Some of the previous visitors reviews serve to build the expectations: “Amazing”, “I’m not a veggie, but wow”, “Best Indian food in Wales”, “Superb food every time” and “Can’t get there often enough.” The range on the menu is enough to bamboozle even the regular aficionado of Indian restaurants, but this is somewhere distinctly different, and the serving staff are on hand to offer explanations and advice.

Starters of Hara Bhara Kebab and Hot Garlic Chilli Dosa ensure that fabulous tastes sizzle and crackle across the tongue, calmly settled by the contrast of a jug of Salted Lassi.

Veg Studio [4]

The main course is a mix of Chilli Paneer, Masala Mushroom Nu Sak (mild curry), with sides of Almond, Jeera & Cinnamon Rice and Methi Paratha.

Veg Studio [5]

For this cool cat the food was just right, but if you go accompanied by a fellow hot cat don’t be surprised if the chilli dish is deemed not hot enough, and more of the raw onions will be required to spice the palate. For this self confessed carnivore a trip to the vegetable patch has proved to be illuminating, and surprisingly tasty. So, until we speak again this is Spicy Juno wishing that all of your studios be creative and that your vegetables are fragrantly presented.

Eat, drink and sizzle!!!

Food festival 1You humans don’t half like your food! Come to think of it, I quite like your food as well, particularly that dead animal type of stuff. You vegetarians out there like to beat yourself up about the cruelty to animals thing, whereas us cats look on it this way… if it moves eat it, and if it doesn’t, eat it with a little less effort. But not to worry, vegetarians are safe with me… you don’t taste of much, and tend to have little protein to offer. That said, there are a number of good reasons why I like your food (not necessarily you as food), but for the main one just take a look at what I have to look at every morning:

My food

My personal shopper likes to tell me it

says chicken on the packet. Well, kiss

my furry rump, it doesn’t look like the

chicken you all eat!

Staring at the bowl for a while got me interested in this idea of an International Food and Drink Festival, and so I took myself down ‘the Bay’ to see what was what.

Food festival 3

Firstly, I didn’t get the ‘international’ thing, until I saw the Indian food tent and the kebab tent. So, ok I admit the idea of kofte’s and curry’s aren’t exactly Welsh inventions. Then I really didn’t get the chocolate and cheese stalls in 30 degrees of heat thing, but they tell me around here it is usually closer to 30 F than 30 C, and wet. At least the locals seemed to be enjoying it.

Food festival 4Food festival 5Talking about wet… I see the beer and cider tents seem to be the busiest. The tea and coffee stop seems to be struggling on a day like this (probably got someone doing a rain dance around the back). But, suddenly a sight to gladden the heart of any a cool cat… a tent with a sign saying ‘Welsh Venison Centre’. I feel a need to sink my teeth into a venison burger, low on the greenery and thick with the juicy brown stuff, topped off with a little chilli sauce. Us sophisticated cats have taste you know; none of these pretend burgers that are all bun and no gertrude. Bless those ‘dear’ venisons (I know it is supposed to be ‘deer’, it’s called artistic license) for sacrificing their lives to a greater good… or even a cunning kamikaze plan towards eventually killing off people through obesity and high blood pressure.

What’s that noise I hear? My fabulous burger is coming to an end, so my attention wanders to the sounds intermingling around the Bay… a distorted jazz band plays enthusiastically, as they are being ignored by loads of people. The whole place seems to be buzzing, and if you want to know the full programme of stalls, music and events check out the following link: http://www.cardiff-festival.com/content.asp search for the food festival and download the following programme:

Food festival 2Time for me to stop basking in the hottest day of this year (so far), and get back to those bowls of so-called chicken flavoured cat biscuits and cold water. See you again soon. Juno

A bowl full of India

Cats and Indian food are probably not a combination that comes to mind that often. Dogs in Indian food has been a frequent joke we like to share at many a feline soiree… but they usually don’t have as much flavour as many of our other animal friends (you humans are so queazy about eating your ‘friends’). Don’t get the idea that I just lick clean those left-over silver trays either… oh no, I have my personal standards and exquisite tastes. Here I am tasting a particular favourite tandoori dish:

Arrival in Cardiff

My personal litter-tray shoveller prefers that I leave the spicier vindaloo dishes alone, and my own sense of sophistication prevails when it comes to the chilli count.

My old stomping ground of East London likes to promote its Indian food credentials, but to the uninitiated you are often eating the just as tasty Bangladeshi cuisine. To my surprise, Cardiff is home to a very adventurous Indian restaurant at Moksh in the heart of the Bay.

Moksh [1]

Some of my less sophisticated alley-cat colleagues do me the favour of checking out the left-overs in the bins out back late at night, and pass on their critical appraisal of many establishments. Though this Moksh joint serves up a lot of what you would normally expect in a British Indian restaurant, Top Cat and mates were highly complementary about the twists and turns in the following selection:

Starters of Prawn Bollywood and a Moksh Delight (Chocolate and Orange Chicken Tikka).

Main of Duck Lemongrass Coriander (tangy sweet and sour curry).

Sides of Avatar Aubergines, Green Tea Rice and a Chilli Chocolate and Honey Naan.

Not quite sure what all of that is going to do to my litter tray, but it sounds fabulous. The place also decorates outside with a range of critical and customer tributes:

Moksh [2]

Moksh [3]

One problem I have found, as I slink around the Bay is that the place is usually closed while all the other usual chain restaurants around it are open! For those of you who want a true Indian culinary adventure, these things are best sampled at night, but you might want to book a table on busy evenings because it does seem very popular. I suggest you get more information from their own website at: http://www.moksh.co.uk/

As to what ‘Moksh’ actually means, I offer you the following from their outside decor:

Moksh [4]

“Release: Liberation: The term is particularly applied to the liberation from the bondage of karma and the wheel of birth and death: Absolute Experience”.

Any the wiser? Nor me… just be a cool cat and go and enjoy the food and leave the philosophical meditations to the academic cats. See you again soon on my stroll around Cardiff. Juno