Uxbridge English Dictionary

For devotees of the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ here is a new addition to their ‘Uxbridge English Dictionary‘…

Kebabish [1]

“Like a Kebab!”

It’s early Sunday lunchtime, and I spy an unassuming restaurant frontage…

Outside view

And the inside initially seems to be one slide show short of a conference…

Inside view

But the menu entices a challenge far too early in the day for me…

Menu page

For me, it always has to be a taste of spice rather than a challenge of heat; so the sizzling Lamb Seekh Kebabs look like the deal that will seal the dictionary definition…

Lamb Seehk

But, what do we have with it? Naan bread, maybe, rice possibly… but then I spy something on the menu that creates intrigue. Fries have always been a ‘rest of the world’ poor version of good old proper chips; but Keema Chilli Fries (described on their menu as ‘Simply Amazing’), now that sounds worth sampling…

Keema Fries

Cheap, tasty, with something of a wow factor thrown in; a fabulously fresh tasting salad and the non-alcoholic Mojito Mocktail, finished off a memorable lunch. The early timing also ensured a rare experience of having my own personal restaurant!

Until we speak again, sublime might be an under-performing citrus fruit (in the Uxbridge English Dictionary), but it is an experience to be savoured down City Road in Cardiff.

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Look behind you!

The problem with a mega cream-based confection is that it might just trigger a stampede! But that’s when a solid brick wall comes in handy…

Until we speak again, next time you happen to be visiting Cardiffs Castle Arcade beware what you order in Coffee Barker!

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.

Farewell

Look through any window

It may be a famous old Hollies track, but the instruction also offers a taste of nostalgia. Here is a bygone age, when Brains were truly great beers to challenge the best around…

look-through-any-window

But this scene in a Cardiff Coffee#1 shop just got me reflecting back on a recent trip to Llanelli in west Wales. This was once a boom town built on heavy industries with a specialist focus on tinplate, but now it’s a faded shadow of itself. Perhaps it might still look like a big place to someone steeped in the rural ways of life, but to the average urban dweller Llanelli leaves you asking “what’s the fuss?” If you look closely enough you might find something resembling a modern welcome…

thomas-arms-hotel

But then again, as the first image implies, Brains used to be something once, but what’s the fuss? Better to settle for a smooth New Zealand Pinot Noir when the beer offering is the range of modern day corporate Brains!

fire-and-wine

Come to think of it log fires were something once, but now they have succumbed to a strange elevated form of designer chic as a centrepiece of a room…

fireplace

Then again, pork chops were something once, but what’s the fuss? Now they have to be Harissa spiced with a side of creamy slaw!

harissa-pork-chops

It’s good to know that a hearty cooked breakfast still is something, even if beans now have to come in a gravy pot!

Full Welsh breakfast.jpg

If you find yourself in the time warp, aka Llanelli, The Thomas Arms should provide that comfortable reality check that the 21st century is soon to make an appearance. Meanwhile, looking through any window provides me with a nostalgic remembrance that it was a favourite pastime of Juno

sunshine-at-14-3

Until we speak again, remember that nostalgia is a thing of the past. Spare yourself a moment or two, and look through any window

 

Coffee Industry

capital-quarter-new-build-1

Something’s happening in a strange space outside of the city centre of Cardiff, known as the Capital Quarter.

For many locals the sight of a blue sky takes on a mythic status. But with the help of an over-sized set of chopsticks, there seem to be some complex metal jig-saw puzzles rising where once there was mud and the dereliction of industry from a bygone age…

4

 

 

3

What this emerging conglomeration of metal and glass structures are meant to offer is anyone’s guess. The well-being of indigenous Cardiffians, and the post-Brexit still welcomed immigrants of the world, is duly promoted by the purveyors of dubious post-industrial dreams. But surely, the only real industry of any note in the developed world of the 21st century is coffee shops. You don’t have to look too far (about 5 yards buys it) for the nearest coffee shop, as Kin + Ilk promise a future marriage of coffee and industry, in the form of a ‘small business’ promoting venture.

kinilk-1

In modern parlance, we now have an artisan coffee shop, whatever that is! A quick glance at the menu offers the first hint…

kinilk-6

If you prefer your avocado + chilli + lime on toasted sourdough to be sampled in a minimalist setting, this is your place…

kinilk-5

kinilk-4

The cappuccino just about holds its own against the masses of competition occupying the city centre.

kinilk-7

But clearly it is early days, and these premises look perfectly located for the hundreds of anonymous captains of industry who will no doubt descend on the business edifices (or is that edify?) sprouting out of fertile former docklands grit. Located on Smart Way, it is yet to be determined if it is a smart move, but they are at least extending a daily welcome to anyone passing by (or is that lost?)…

kinilk-3

computer-cat

 

Though she is sadly long passed, Juno was always one for a contemporary coffee shop pose, as no self-respecting cat has a cup without an accompanying screen.

Until we speak again, don’t forget that those cups of coffee are not only your pleasure, they are also contributing to the next industrial revolution (or should a ‘not’ be inserted somewhere in that sentence?).

 

Pigs ear of a meal

Juno and Bella both demonstrated a special fondness for a pig. Particularly one that came in morsels! As for a pigs ear, that was more likely a description they would attribute to me, or anything I attempted to do. But they sure would be salivating if they had an opportunity to share a recent experience of The Potted Pig

2. Outside sign

Following the financial crash a few years ago, there are many things that people can think of using an old bank vault for… not the least being a dungeon for locking away greedy bankers! Here in Cardiff we have more creative ideas, like a space where local people (and even a few visitors) can sample a range of pig-based fayre, with a drop of the falling down juice on the side…

3. Bar4. Bank vault

You might even be lucky enough to be placed where the eponymous pig can shun you, in favour of a little rest…

5. The Potted Pig

As for the food, I am pleased to say that this restaurant comes with that special characteristic of a small but perfectly formed menu. No unnecessary elaboration here, this is a place for serious quality at reasonable prices. Though the pursuit of pig clearly features as the centrepiece of our gastronomic quest, your choice of animal will be far from limited. However, I could not resist a starter that offers crispy pigs ears, particularly when it came with succulent black pudding, the smokiest of bacon, topped off with a delightfully poached egg. The pigs ears were pork scratchings of the highest order. My compardre chose a belly pork starter (but that was to be my main course)…

 

6. Starters

This was a breakfast like I had never tasted (particularly at 8.30pm). So now, after a delicate tasting of Rioja, it was onward, dinner beckoned. With ducks, lambs, fish, and even a vegetarian dish on offer, my friend succumbed to the sound of a quack, while I could not avoid the continuation of the snort. Slow cooked free range pork belly had to be the order of the day; even if it did come with something requiring the gastronome’s dictionary… choucroute. Me neither! It turned out to be something akin to sauerkraut, and perfectly adorned the sacrificial pig. They even do great chips here!

9. Both mains

All I can say is, that next time you find yourself on St Mary Street in Cardiff, with that knot of hunger and a desire to assuage the temptation of more vegetables, get your timing right. This is a place that has limited opening hours, and you may need to book, but it is worth it.

Sleeping catAs for Bella, had she been on this particular escaped, it would surely have ended in a cat-like impression of the potted pig itself.

Until we speak again, may your pigs ears be crispy.

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!