Culinario gatti

Calling all you culinary cats… Giovanni’s has been established on The Hayes in the centre of Cardiff since 1983; but in 2013 a second branch opened on Park Place, conveniently opposite the New Theatre. But, don’t expect any Godfather III operatic grandstanding here… for a start, you may be greeted by a less than appetising facade of scaffolding, as painting is in progress.

Front [1]

It is worth getting past your penchant for deciding the quality of a restaurant based on the external appearance (particularly as this will change sometime soon). After all, you should be in food critic, not architectural critic mode, if your aim is to satisfy gastronomic urges. I know, I’m a hypocrite, as I am often critical of sloppy architecture, including that of modern restaurants.

On a recent post rugby match visit, there were plenty of persone che mangiano di ristoranti, with everyone engrossed in the menu under the expert tutelage of the resident maestro…

Giovanni's [1]

It is worth lingering over the menu, as this is no run-of-the-mill Italian chain. We are talking a family-run restaurant with plenty of amore put into the whole experience as well as the culinary produce. For the visiting young one it was Scallops Al Limone for a starter, which received glowing praise from someone who knows his scallops. I opted for the Gamberoni all Marchesa (roasted king prawns in garlic, white wine and parsley)…

Giovanni's [2]

Yes, I know it should be white wine with any seafood; but my inner Lecter couldn’t resist a nice Chianti! As for main courses, the visiting ‘Son of Cool’ went for the traditional option of a good home cooked Lasagne Emiliana Fatta in Casa, and yours truly was in the mood for a main that would live up to the red wine accompaniment. So, what better than a Penne Spezzatino (fillet steak in garlic, wine and tomato sauce)…

Giovanni's [3]

Some of you might be licking your lips with anticipation of what quintessential Italian desserts are about to be laid out before you. Well, tough… this is early evening, and space needs to be left for a few beers elsewhere (you can only have so much of a good Italian thing before reverting to what the British do better!). But, before I leave you, and in the continuing spirit of hydration, I did indulge in a double espresso and Sambucca on the side. There are some liquids that only the Italians really know how to make!

Giovanni's [4]

We both left full of culinario contentezza, as we transitioned from Italian delicato to the bustle of a Saturday night in a British pub. Until we speak again, may all of your cornetto’s be less than vanilla. And Bella says ciao.


Locally sourced what?

On my travels recently I met up with my daughter in the city of Juno’s birth, London. Where to eat? So many choices (if you can afford most of them). Avoiding the bog-standard see-them-everywhere chains isn’t a difficult decision to make; but then you are faced with the culinary equivalent of the dreaded ‘estate agent speak’, where language seems to be the vehicle for promoting more of a smoke-and-mirrors confusion than aiding your powers of decision-making. It’s a competitive world, this restaurant business, and nowhere moreso than in the centre of one of the world’s leading cities.

Modern European does what it says on the tin. Fusion conjures up visions of either some kind of scientific experiment or an industrial procedure, either of which should cause alarm if you are purely focused on eating. Brasserie keeps the industrial metal vibe going. Bistro is something now applied to so many different places that its origin as a small cheap Parisian eatery has long since been lost. You can choose by country of origin, as London seems to have more types of cuisine than there are countries on the planet these days; but then you find yourself meeting up at a railway terminus without a Masters Degree in local culinary geography, so walk the streets and take pot luck is the most likely order of the day. Then there is the question of whether you are looking at a stand alone restaurant or is it part of the expensive boutique hotel next door (and does that matter anyway)?

You can always decide on the criterion of available budget; but some external menus are either written in small font size with dim lighting, or the pricing doesn’t easily correlate to each item, and the hidden extras just might surpass the cost of the main meal.

Where is my trusted feline advisor when I need her? This is the moment where Juno would undoubtedly be referring to me as ‘indecision central’ or ‘the resident knowledge gap’. Previous experience of the area of Bloomsbury does nothing on the night to speed the decision, but at least my young companion is no car driver so the long lost art of walking is not beyond her ability. At last, we walk through the Dickensian Woburn Walk


… and stumble across an advert for Italian-British fusion at the simply named Number Twelve. It was not clear until you search for the rest room that this is part of the Ambassadors Hotel, so be prepared for a degree of elegance in decor, layout and quality of the food. This is definitely not your basic and simple bistro, and despite being tucked away in an isolated corner the service was welcoming. The window table was next to frosted glass with seating backing up to the window, so it is not going to be a place where the passers-by get to decide on whether they try it out based on gawping at what you are eating! The fillet steak and grilled salmon main courses were very well prepared, and despite having six chips on your plate it has to be said they were large and perfectly cooked. As for the side of chilli spinach, what a delight…

Number Twelve Bloomsbury

Not a cheap eating option, but if you are in the mood to savour some quality this is definitely a place worth checking out. However, I am left baffled by the menu and advertising claims to locally sourced ingredients… as Juno would have most definitely reminded me, the only locally sourced ingredients in London are concrete, tarmac, glass and exhaust fumes. Whether you are in for the surf or the turf options, until we speak again don’t let your eating be put off by culinary estate agent speak!