Redemption Steaks

Having clearly failed the honest reporting test… as my last post had been somewhat unfairly likened to culinary hate mail, by a disappointed punter who was unable to join the inaugural Black Salt adventure. There was only one possible solution to what otherwise could have become a tense Mexican Dine-Off on an ordinary Friday night in a favoured local boozer (big shout out to the Flute & Tankard!).

A reunion with culinary confusion was duly arranged with said punter, and the previously failed search for the mythical Wine List and Greek Salad amongst a sea of battered vegetables was accepted. Not least, so that the gauntlet of challenge can be retrieved from the litter-strewn pavement of Whitchurch Road.

On my approach, I did wonder if there was a cunning tactic at play… paying unemployed hospitality sector employees to pose in an open window idly chatting with interested passers-by. Could this be the new way of making places look busy and in demand?

Anyway, the time arrived when the afore mentioned gauntlet needed grasping… and before I could even raise a patronising clicked finger demanding to see the previously extinct Wine List, there it was, already laid out on the table, taunting me back into a pose of relative British consumer timidity.

The road to redemption is clearly signposted, so my next decision is delicately poised… what starter to tempt the palate? ‘Safety first’ shouldn’t be the determining factor when it comes to culinary adventures; but, sod it, that Halloumi with Chilli and Honey was just too good to be missed!

Then came the prime purpose of this visit, to see if a Greek Salad really could accompany a steak on the same table at the same time. It may sound like a simple request, but on the previous occasion we mere mortal diners had committed the cardinal sin… asking for a Greek Salad to REPLACE the signature oceans of fried batter that unquestionably accompany everything that had walked or swam in a previous incarnation. Lessons have been learned… just ask for Greek Salad alongside everything else. And lo, before our ravenous eyes, two Greek Salads duly arrived ahead of Daisy’s delights.

Only one challenge was left, in order to redeem my reputation as a serious investigator of all things Fillet. Could the true centrepiece of the visit stand alone, unimpeded by the burden of shouldering an onion ring the size and consistency of a tractor tyre? Again, there is a simple solution presenting itself in gluttonous obviousness… why have 8oz when you can have a 12oz beast of medium rare succulence? Even accompanied by a mega slice of cooked tomato, this animal has no intention of lurking in any shadows! And yes, those chips were very tasty when dipped in a pond of peppercorn sauce. [For any overseas readers, chips and oz’s are what Brexit might have been fought over, whilst still being a completely ridiculous idea!].

Until we speak again, yes… it’s a French Red Wine, a St Emilion. But in my defence, I didn’t order it! Personal redemption, it seems, comes with a price tag. ‘Black Salt II ~ The Redemption‘ was worth extending the glove of friendship, at least to resolve any unnecessary continuation of the Mexican Dine-Off. Trilogies, however, well, that’s a whole different culinary affair!

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.

Second bite

Sometimes it takes a second visit in order to truly satisfy those expectations… wherever they may originally have come from. Take I Giardini di Sorrento for example…

Great reviews and a sight of a sumptuous swordfish main dish on the website, and I’m salivating at the prospect of my first visit. However, combine such raised expectations with a visit to a Cardiff based independent family-run Italian restaurant in the company of a fine food critic, who just happened to be returning from Venice 24 hours earlier, and the recipe for success could be quite a challenge!

Fortunately, a light and delicately fried calamari starter primes the taste buds nicely, and those potentially unachievable expectations begin to dissolve into the tender seafood chewiness, spiked with the sharpness of squeezed lemon…

Then comes the tinge of disappointment, as it seems the swordfish has gone awol off the menu tonight, taking a break to allow some poor sea bass to put in a shift! Thoughts turn to a Plan B, and though my choice of salmon pistachio penne was only slightly overly salty, for my guest the risotto principe was quite a few furlongs behind in the race with its Venice counterpart of a few nights earlier.

We leave sated, but with a sense of disappointment; the important lesson being one of tempering expectations before a first visit… just taste the moment. So many awards and great reviews can’t all be misplaced… cue a re-visit, and a chance to soak up the authenticity of a lunchtime capriciossa pizza

It might be Cardiff, but could we really be dining elsewhere?

And even a visit to the restroom involves an additional reminder we could be absorbing Mediterranean vibes…

Until we speak again, there is a question about whether our tastes on the night have anything to do with the overall quality of what is on offer. Should we allow particular expectations to determine our experience in the moment? Well, yes we should… but don’t let that block further adventures into culinary discovery.

Summer in the city

It’s the height of the summer season when tourists and locals alike seek to take those all important memorable photographic reminders. So, come to Cardiff and add to your collection of photographs of, er… metal!

We have a newfound worship of the stuff at the historic heart of the city as St John’s Church adopts a form of icon hibernation…

And if its culture you are seeking, just try the National Museum of Wales, with its strangely tent-like impersonation…

There just might be a case of contagion, as the museum’s corporation neighbour of City Hall belies its usual finery by angling to get in on the act…

Then there is the world renowned sporting arena of the Millenium Stadium (no product endorsements for financial institutions here!) sporting a partial makeover…

Fear not, surely views down St Mary Street towards the castle will be spared; but Hodge House has other ideas…

Until we speak again, you might be forgiven for thinking Cardiff has become the home of heavy metal!

Wales by the Med

It’s springtime in Wales… blowing a gale and shivering! The deceptive kind of inviting day where any sensible cat would ignore the sun and blue sky and stay indoors. But where did sensibility get any of us anyway? Thoughts drift towards lazy balmy Mediterranean days of summer; but why wait… when The Mumbles can bring a piece of the Mediterranean closer to home!

Outside

Don’t be deceived by the empty tables, as this was a lucky early visit; and before we had finished the meal all tables downstairs were taken as were most upstairs. This may be a place worth booking to avoid disappointment!

Inside

Cheese may be what cats use to trap mice, but grilled Halloumi is always going to be a trap for me. But the real surprise was the cubed liver starter, far more tasty than any throw back to the dreaded school meals of shoe leather and cold onion fame. ..

Haloumi and Liver starters

Then came the main event… with so many different tasty kebabs to choose from the Turkish residents of The Mumbles certainly came up with a stunning twist on the Patlikan Kebab… Skewered Lamb, aubergines and tomato came vigorously sizzling across the restaurant to the table; and the addition of the spoon was an essential implement for what could easily have been mistaken for a supreme stew…

Patlikan Kebab

Until we speak again, enjoy your days in the Mediterranean, but if the cost of flights and hotels appear prohibitive, well, just pop over to The Mediterranean (Mumbles style) where the welcome will be just as warm.

Dandelion in the breeze

Cats purring on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the Gower peninsula

What could possibly add to the tranquility of a brisk Welsh coastal breeze? How about a Dandelion? Well that wasn’t the answer that immediately came to mind…

Such an unassuming frontage hides unique delights… a place where Wales meets America, as local laverbread and samphire can be served up alongside pancakes with maple syrup!

Until we speak again, cats just love pigs… particularly when they come dressed as bacon!

[Note to certain readers: vegetarians are also served… and not just on plates!]

Under the radar cuisine

Sometimes it’s the quieter places that can occasionally provide the big surprises. Take Whitchurch in Cardiff… as a teenager I would frequently be saying, yes, just take it; but then I escaped only to re-visit over many years to find that it has a quaintly interesting aura about it.

Never a place to appear in any gastronomic lists, but somewhere that domestic pets needn’t live in the fear of abduction with designs on being turned into heavily disguised nouvelle cuisine! It seems that one quiet little corner is bucking the trend of many years, as The Brook Bistro has had many failed previous incarnations but now seems to be thriving…

Brook Bistro

Well, thriving may not be what comes to mind on entry, but we were visiting very early evening and it was a fully booked little establishment later that same evening…

Restaurant

But, then again, unlike some of the bigger more ferocious members of the cat family, we weren’t here to eat the locals. When it comes to what’s on the plate, this place served up some delightful surprises; with a mushrooms, chorizo and stilton starter leading the tastebud assault…

Mushrooms Chorizo and Stilton

Then it was time for the main event, and a combination of Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb and a Grilled Tuna Steak Salad were delightful sights and mouth-watering tastes…

Slow Roasted Rack of Lamb and Grilled Tuna Steak Salad mains

Until we speak again, discerning cats are currently licking their lips over tasty Argentinian Malbecs!

Booze-free eating?

What… dining out without alcohol? Whatever next?

Take a stroll through Bold Street in Liverpool and you might just happen upon a Lebanese Carrot Juice, with a Grilled Halloumi Salad on the side (at Bakchich Restaurant), where pomegranate seeds make for a great accompaniment to the grilled halloumi…

Then again, walking 10 yards further along the same street you just might find a refreshing Moroccan Lemonade, Fresh Mint & Lime, ideally complemented by a Lamb Tagine (at Kasbah Cafe), where the lamb just falls off the bone…

Meanwhile, across the street, a breakfast cup of Lemongrass and Ginger Rooibos must surely be accompanied by a taster of Asparagus and Poached Egg but don’t forget to add the Bacon and Halloumi options; don’t worry, a smidgen of greenery and tomato provides an illusion of healthy eating (at Leaf Cafe)…

Back in Cardiff, the alcohol-deprived extravaganza may be continued with an Indian Salted Lassi amply supported by Chilli Mushrooms, Channa Batura, and Almond, Jeera & Cinamon Rice (at Vegetarian Food Studio)…

Salted Lassi

With a stroll from Penarth Road to City Road enabling a Lebanese/Turkish combo Mango Lassi to be deliciously interrupted by a Mixed Shish or Chicken Shawarma (at La Shish)…

And, if you are in the mood to search for Persia, return back along City Road, take a left into Newport Road, and a couple hundred yards on the right just off Newport Road you will find Mowlana. Here you must try the house speciality Lemon and Mint Juice… it certainly helps meet the challenge of the shared platter of a Mixed Kebab!

Until we speak again, booze-free eating is just a fabulous reason for going on tour, just so long as Juno was selecting a fine bottle of wine for the return home!

Wine stocks

Dining in the Wild West

When the good lady says she knows a few places for spectacular dining, well, gales and crashing waves were not the first things I had in mind. The best idea I could come up with was to just get strapped in and do as I was told (an altogether unusual experience!). Fish anyone?

As it turned out the salmon at Pierre Bistro along the seafront at The Mumbles was worth shooting the breeze for…

But a mere 24 hours later, the initial sense of any sea of tranquillity was to be sublimely displaced by the already showcased sea-lashed topography of The Gower shoreline.

Some may go for the ‘catch of the day’, but if it involves wrestling the aforementioned waves… me, I’m after drier terrain and something with more hooves than scales. “Bring on your best rib-eye” I said. And the Langland Brasserie overlooking Langland Bay did just that…

Until we speak again, when the good lady says there is a really great joint down by the sea, step through the door and take a good long toke on whatever floats your boat.

Twice upon a time in the country

The draw, a welcoming sign on a background of grey…

Dynevor Arms [1]

The tease, book or not to book?…

2018 [1]

The joint, a deceptively ordinary facade hides a warmly welcoming bar…

2018 [2]

The roast, a family favourite for any Sunday…

2018 [3]

The steak, memories of the earlier visit…

Dynevor Arms [3]

Until we speak again, on the experience of two visits, the next time you happen to be travelling along the Llantrisant Road just outside of Cardiff there just might be a hearty meal waiting a discerning culinary cat.