Saturday, 17 September 2011

Review - Bully's

This was my third visit to Bully's in the fictional area of Pontcanna (really, it doesn't exist, you are either Canton or Riverside folks).

The first time we went I was very impressed. Good food, not perfect but to be honest that probably makes it more interesting. Lovely relaxed, friendly vibe. Fab.

Second time, 2 months later, was good but an identical version of the first time we went. What's that all about? The menu was identical for crying out loud! I'm sorry but a changing menu for me is essential and speaks to the quality of a restaurant. If I wanted the same thing every time I'd go to Nando's. It worries me when a chef sticks so rigidly to a menu paying no attention to what might be good from their supplier.

A quick visit to their website recently showed me a largely, yet still not completely, new menu, so I thought we'd have another bash to see if this time I would be sold one way or another.

To start:
  • Spiced parsnip soup
  • Salmon tartare, keta caviar, herb and truffle water dressing
The soup was fine. Essentially curried parsnip. Nothing to get excited about but fine. I had the salmon which was lovely. Very very fresh (as raw salmon absolutely has to be) the caviar lovely, salty etc. Not really sure about the truffle water, it didn't seem to add much at all. Is that surprising when you are adding water to a dish? Didn't spoil anything but probably not necessary.

  • Parsnip and sage risotto cake (with extra pan fried foie gras)
  • Fillet of Welsh black beef, caramelised baby turnip, gaufrette potatoes, game crumbs, Madeira jus
He had the beef which I have had before and it was as good as it always is. The gaufrette potatoes (essentially fancy McCoy's crisps) were good and crispy but at £25 always feels a bit over priced. The game crumbs were an unnecessary item on the plate and added nothing.

I had the risotto cake which had a lovely flavour of caramelly parsnip but was under fried and anaemic. I always make extra risotto so I can have risotto cakes on day 2 and I really expect them to be lovely and golden. Done properly they are a thing of deliciousness but it is probably a bit of a lazy veggie option to be honest.


  • Granny Smith apple tarte tatin, caramel sauce, summer berry ice cream
  • Dark and white chocolate mousse, banana coulis
 The chocolate mousse was exactly as you would want, rich velvety and smooth. I thought banana coulis an odd choice but I was reassured that it worked well.
The tarte tatin was (like a couple of other items) under cooked. Whilst the apples were lovely and soft, the caramel rich and sweet, the pastry was completely pale and underdone which is unforgiveable since the updside down cooking method of a tarte tatin should mean that the pastry comes out perfect every time. I also thought that the addition of summery berry ice cream was a shame, overpowering the lovely simplicity of apples, pastry and caramel. Why would you do it? A good quality vanilla ice cream is all that should be needed. If you must faff about with it go for a caramel or honeycomb icecream but don't give me blackberries and raspberries - I scraped the ice cream off and left most of it.

The strangest thing about our visit was a product of the three large groups they had in on that night. Bully's is far too small to cope with this and I think it showed in the cooking. It also showed in the service. Only one of the 2 waiters on that night knew anything about the food, the other, when we asked about the game crumbs told us that he knew nothing and was 'just helping out'.

When we were ready to order dessert and clearly getting irritated that we had been left with the menu for 20 minutes AND had run out of wine 10 minutes earlier which is rubbish in anyone's book, the waiter came over for a bit of a sit down and asked that we wait for a bit while 'we get this group out of the way'. We were left waiting for another 10 minutes before anyone came to take our order which really is poor service.

Another mixed experience from Bully's and I remain unconvinced that they can justify their very high prices. The lack of consistency is the key issue and I want to love it, I really do but it hasn't quite hit the mark for me yet.

Bully's on Urbanspoon

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