Wednesday, 29 January 2014

January 2014 Digested


The festive period feels like a distant, hazy dream, and not just because I spent most of it with a glass in my hand. Surprisingly the dodgy weather has done little to dampen the the plans of our local food businesses and it has been a busy month. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Just in case you missed Hangfire Smokehouse's announcement via The Cardiff Food Project that they will be spending the month of February at the marvellous boozer (and my local) The Lansdowne.
  • Chef Anand George had a stellar month with openings for Munchesters, his town centre lunch venue opening to positive feedback, and a glowing review for the Purple Poppadom from none other than Jay Rayner in the Guardian.
  • Food hygiene scores continue to make news with England hotly debating whether to take the plunge. Here in Wales initial indications are positive that mandatory display of ratings is raising the game of local establishments, Don't know about you but I'm noticing a number of places (those with less than desirable scores?) that aren't displaying yet. 
  • The Grove at Narbeth was awarded its third AA Rosette, one of only 4 in Wales this year.
  • At Bar 44, owner Owen Morgan gained his Official Certified Sherry Educator's Qualification so if you thought he had plenty to say about Spain's most famous tipple before you might like to sign up for one his new 2 hour sessions and hear what he has been learning. As if that wasn't enough, the Penarth Bar 44 launched a new tapas menu this month with a refreshed offering following on for Cowbridge soon.
  • Fish at 85 have announced the return of their original chef, Dan Howell which is great news. For a review of his fantastic cooking go here.
  • James Sommerin announced the opening date for his much anticipated restaurant as Easter weekend. Booking arranagements for 'Restaurant James Sommerin' are available via an interview with Mark at Corpulent Capers
  • And finally, huge congratulations to the team at Halen Môn who have secured protected EU status for their Anglesey Sea Salt.
Dates for the diary

February 1st, The Celt Experience Brewery, Fire Festival featuring The Super Furry Animals and Hangfire Smokehouse £10 entry.

February 1st, Got Beef Co are extending their pop-up at The Canadian (previously home to Hangfire Smokehouse) to the rugby internationals, Wales v Italy all confirmed, fingers crossed for the rest of the tour!

February 2nd, Wright's Food Emporium moves 2 miles to it's new home at the Golden Grove Arms in Llanarthne, expect expanded seating and an expanded shop to follow

February 8th, the first Celtic Manor cookery demonstrations for the year, 'Comfort Food Classics' £45 including drinks reception and 3 course lunch with wine.

February 14th, Purple Poppadom Valentine's night menu, £89.95 for two

February 15th and 28thPop-tŷ, the new Pontcanna pop-up has released it's February dates.

February 26th, Grady Atkins is hosting a dinner at Fish at 85, £32 for four courses which will be seated communally, small groups of 1 -3 people recommended.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Brown Eyed Girl - Browns Bar and Brasserie restaurant review

Credit where it's due, Browns Brasserie and Bar Cardiff have worked hard to create an 'authentic' brasserie atmosphere and they are largely successful. There's lots of shiny, dark wood furniture, twinkling lights and banquettes. The friendly and competent staff are smart and clad in white pinafores and the management are a constant and visible presence. This is a professional outfit.

The menu here is 'modern classics', think pastas, salads and grills. Everyone should find something suitable and for that reason Brown's is popular large groups and post work crowds and they pitch squarely at this group with a thorough drinks and cocktails menu but on a quiet Wednesday night we are here for the food.

An aperitif - Classic Bellini (£6.50) Browns, Cardiff
An aperitif - Classic Bellini (£6.50)
My starter of Crab and Avocado Stack (£8) might have been absolutely delicious and looked lovely but coming from the kitchen as it did, fridge cold, I might as well have been eating baby food which was a crying shame with such lovely (and pricey) ingredients.

Crab and Avocado Stack, Brown's Cardiff
Crab and Avocado Stack (£8)
The second starter of Roasted Goats Cheese (£7) came with wafer thin slices of beautiful golden beetroot and fared much better with a light, sharp, fruity dressing and pico de gallo salsa.

Roasted Goats Cheese, Brown's Cardiff
Roasted Goats Cheese
The Browns Burger (£12) was pretty good, flavoursome bread, a decent patty, classic sides and more of the pico de gallo salsa.

Browns Burger, Brown's Cardiff
Browns Burger
The Plat du Jour was the Duck Confit with a pork and beans cassoulet (£16), a duck quarter with disappointingly flabby skin and the cassoulet, powerfully flavoured with smoked ham, overpowered the duck completely and towards the end suffered from the monotony of the single flavour.

Duck Confit, Brown's Cardiff
Duck Confit
The desserts of Dark Chocolate Brownie with pistachio ice cream and Eton Mess (£6 each) were both solid efforts and delivered what was expected. A rich chocolate brownie topped with bright green pistacho ice cream and a blousy cloud of cream, meringue and fruit.

Dark Chocolate Brownie, Brown's Cardiff
Dark Chocolate Brownie
Eton Mess, Brown's Cardiff
Eton Mess
I can't really get very excited about the food at Browns, the menu is crowd pleasing and fitting for the area but there were some issues with the execution of the dishes that we tried, which at this price point isn't great. That said, we did have a very pleasant evening, the ambience and the service make this a reliable and solid performer for town centre.

Disclosure: I was invited to review Zest at The Marriott and my meal was complimentary, thanks to Brazen PR

Browns Bar and Brasserie
The Friary Centre, The Friary, Cardiff, CF10 3FA
029 2066 7096

Web: http://www.browns-restaurants.co.uk/locations/cardiff/
Twitter: @brownscardiff



Browns Bar and Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Take Me To The River - Cardiff Marriott and River Cottage restaurant review

The Cardiff Marriott might not instinctively be your first choice for a good dinner in Cardiff but a new partnership between the mega-chain and stalwart champions of local, seasonal food River Cottage might be just about to change your mind.

The principle is straightforward; to improve the offering at the restaurant by working with River Cottage and training the team to develop and deliver seasonal menus. The training included baking, butchery and a grounding in how to source ingredients from local organic and free range suppliers. It all sounds hugely promising but how would it fare in practice?

We started with Parsley Salad with Crab and a Soft Boiled Egg (£6.95) which was light and fresh, the richness of the crab cut through with capers.

Cardiff Marriott Parsley Salad, Crab, Soft Boiled Egg
Parsley Salad, Crab, Soft Boiled Egg
The second starter of Smoked Venison with Pickled Mushrooms, Crispy Garlic and Winter Leaves (£6.45) was rich and tender.

Cardiff Marriott Pickled Mushrooms, Crispy Garlic and Winter Leaves
Smoked Venison, Pickled Mushrooms, Crispy Garlic and Winter Leaves
A homemade focaccia was disappointingly under-proved and cake like.


The mains were rather special. Slade Farm Lamb, Smashed Celeriac, Chilli and Thyme (£14.95) was packed full of meaty goodness.

Cardiff Marriott Slade Farm Lamb, Smashed Celeriac, Chilli and Thyme
Slade Farm Lamb, Smashed Celeriac, Chilli and Thyme
Slow Cooked Organic Graig Farm Brisket with Anchovy and Rosemary Potatoes was comfort food at it's best. Softly yielding beef and rich dauphinoise hit the spot.

Cardiff Marriott Slow Cooked Organic Graig Farm Brisket with Anchovy and Rosemary Potatoes
Slow Cooked Organic Graig Farm Brisket with Anchovy and Rosemary Potatoes 
Sides of Chips and Aioli and Honey Glazed Rainbow Carrots (both £3) were completely unnecessary, but since when has that mattered? Both were excellent.

Cardiff Marriott Chips and Aioli and Honey Glazed Rainbow Carrots
Chips and Aioli and Honey Glazed Rainbow Carrots
The puddings maintained the high standard, an Almond and Orange Pudding with Red Wine Pear and Vanilla Ice Cream (£5) light enough to finish the meal.

Cardiff Marriott Almond and Orange Pudding with Red Wine Pear and Vanilla Ice Cream
Almond and Orange Pudding with Red Wine Pear and Vanilla Ice Cream
Despite the lacklustre presentation, a Vanilla Panna Cotta with Spiced Apricot and Biscotti restored my faith in the classic dessert after a couple of duff efforts recently.

Cardiff Marriott Vanilla Panna Cotta with Spiced Apricot and Biscotti
Vanilla Panna Cotta with Spiced Apricot and Biscotti
At the end of dinner I had a long chat with Executive Chef Anthony Barnes about local suppliers and the difference this new approach has made to the team at the Marriott.  Their enthusiasm is carried through to front of house with charming, knowledgeable service and can also be felt in the refreshed wine list (we had an excellent bottle of Rioja recommended by our server).

The menu showcases local suppliers and sets the tone.
I have to commend The Marriott for this new approach, going on the evidence of this dinner they have a talented team with more to offer than your standard hotel fare. Hopefully their buying power will be felt by the local suppliers with whom they engage and this can only be a good thing for us all. 



Disclosure: I was invited to review Zest at The Marriott and my meal was complimentary, thanks to Nylon Communications

Zest at the Cardiff Marriott in partnership with River Cottage
Mill Lane, Cardiff, Wales CF10 1EZ
Tel: 029 2039 9944

Web: http://www.marriott.co.uk/hotel-restaurants/cwldt-cardiff-marriott-hotel/zest-restaurant/5551607/about.mi 
Twitter: @CardiffMarriott  Zest on Urbanspoon
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