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.

A ray of sunshine

What do you think when I suggest ‘Portugal‘ to you? Sunshine, Atlantic breezes, seafood, Lisbon, Porto, fine wines and ports? Am I the only one that thinks ‘Cardiff‘? A bit of lateral thinking maybe, but come on people, get with the programme. I might have travelled here at the behest of my resident fur-ball from my familiar home in London, but at least I am making an effort to acclimatise to their triumphant homecoming. Azure blue skies, white walls bathed in sunshine, and the prospect of mouth-watering Portuguese dining… it can only be Cardiff.

Madiera [1]


Here is a pub quiz question for you… where is Madeira? An archipelago located off the Portuguese Atlantic coast you geographical geniuses recite, with the confidence of the world traveller informing the majority of Americans who are busy searching their world atlases that only stretch from Washington State to Florida, and Maine to California. Well, my eccentric informant tells me it is to be found on Guildford Crescent in downtown Cardiff somewhere close to the archaeological site of a local swimming pool best known for its indoor version of lido style changing rooms facing directly onto the poolside.

In the case of the Madiera Ristorante, the adjacent Masonic Hall and Thai House provide the wider urban vista in place of the more usually expected Atlantic panorama. But don’t simply turn up at this place. Since 1998 it has built a reputation for a relaxing atmosphere, fine dining, and the sight of your food dripping from the ceiling! This is somewhere that definitely needs a booking, and it is popular for all sorts of groupings. If you are an intimate pair of cats with designs on mutual purring over dinner be prepared to unashamedly shout your sweet nothings back and forth… as you could easily find yourself located in a darkly lit corner only to be joined by large and small groups of contestants practicing for a foghorn blowing competition…

Madiera [2]The menu reads like your holiday memories from those lovingly remembered trips to the Algarve… plenty of the swimmy flappy things that us cats so love to play with eat raw (a bit like the Japanese in that sense). Caranguejo (crab), lulas (squid) and Gambas (prawns) are to be found in shoals. But, if you like to put plenty of meat on to your fury rump there is no shortage of Carne dishes, both of the conventional (steaks) and adventurous (portuguese twists to familiar favourites). Then there is the creative use of space… why have your skewered delights laid out across your plate when you can simply hang it from the ceiling over your table?

Madiera [3]Espetadas are a Madeira speciality that come in pork, beef, lamb, chicken, monkfish or combinations; and are simply deliciously cooked kebabs hung from hooks above your table, with the option of garlic dripping down through the whole skewer. However, if you are a vegetarian, try being one of the fish eating variety, or else your range will be limited to what you normally buy in the supermarket!

Once again, I have had to stay at home Olive branchguarding the ancestral pile, while those who don’t know how to wrestle a fish around the floor, pawing its head against a handy skirting board, are enjoying gastronomic delicacies and delights. Until we speak again this Juno will be planning to hideout in the bin store behind the Madeira Ristorante… just perfecting the right pose to catch any falling fish.