Showing posts with label cardiff food blog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cardiff food blog. Show all posts

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Street Spirit - Le Bistrot Pierre Restaurant Review

In LA there is a street where two worlds collide. On one side is notoriously scuzzy Downtown LA and on the other is millionaire playground Beverley Hills. Chippy Lane may have improved its image in the last decade but the juxtaposition on Caroline Street of 'last stop of the night' favourite Dorothy's opposite the mega chains of the Brewery Quarter development is not lost on me, and it is to the 'sunnier side of the street' the we head on a Friday evening to try out mini-chain Le Bistrot Pierre.

First impressions are that the whole enterprise is très à dessein and slick, a smattering of gallic accents amongst the staff, white pinafores and shiny shiny dark wood everywhere. The menu is stuffed full of classic French home cooking and hits all the key marks you would expect. Moules, camembert, and boeuf bourguignon all present and correct.

The cooking is pretty decent too. A starter of Calamari £5.95 is crisp and light with no hint of rubber band twang. The Saucisse de Toulouse £5.95 (so popular it appears twice) comes with a suitably runny poached egg and sharp tomato dressing.

The mains keep up the cooking standards. A pleasing and precisely cooked Rib-Eye Steak well complemented by a Roquefort Butter and crisp skin-on frites.

Rib Eye Steak, Le Bistrot Pierre Cardiff

The Agneau au Cassoulet is perfectly tasty if awkward looking, but I can't quite forgive the use of the 'cassoulet' as an accompaniment and what we really have is braised lamb with a bean stew. I know, I know I'm being picky but the equivalent in Italian would be serving pasta as a side dish and it's just wrong.

Le Bistrot Pierre Cardiff

The desserts are lovely. The Delice au Chocolate £5.25 plenty gooey and rich and the Café Gourmand £6.95 a fun 'greatest hits' of lemon tart, sorbet, chocolate fondant and a lovely Gateau au Miel.

Le Bistrot Pierre Cardiff

It's really hard to dislike Le Bistrot Pierre and as chains go it is a good safe bet for town centre. The service standards are high, the quality of the ingredients and the cooking make up for the chain restaurant touches that are subtle but evident. Throw in a wine list that deserves more than a passing glance and while I may not be hopping up and down with excitement, there is more than enough here to keep me interested.

Le Bistrot Pierre Cardiff

Disclosure: I was invited to review Le Bistrot Pierre and my meal was complimentary

Le Bistrot Pierre
The Old Brewery Quarter, Caroline Street, Cardiff, CF10 1FG.
Tel: 029 2034 5990

Twitter: @pierrecardiff

Sunday, 6 April 2014

10 questions for... Justin Llywellyn

Chef Justin Llewellyn’s career has seen him take the helm at some of the most prestigious hotels in South Wales including Resort Head Chef at the Celtic Manor, Head Chef at St David’s Hotel and Executive Chef at The Vale Hotel. He has been Head Chef at The Park Plaza in Cardiff city centre for 18 months.

1. Give us 5 words that describe your food.
Modern, British, Local, Quality Ingredients. You can mask cheap ingredients but I’d rather give a smaller amount and let the best ingredients speak for themselves. For example we buy chicken from Madgett’s Farm which has a completely different texture and taste, it’s really meaty and there’s no comparison to a supermarket chicken. We also buy a lot of heritage vegetables, old fashioned really, carrots and beetroot. 

2. Apart from your knives, what one piece of kitchen equipment would you never be without?
Thermomix probably is our pride and joy, it makes velvet purees. You can get domestic ones and you can just make anything in them. We don’t really use water baths, we’re more about traditional cooking. A lot of places use them but I think it’s just a lazy way of cooking. I’m not a dinosaur, I will try these gadgets and they are precise but for us it’s all about slow cooking.

3. Which book should be in every kitchen and why?
Daniel Bourdain is probably the latest one, my sister bought it for me, for Christmas. Thomas Keller, Under Pressure is a good one, that’s all about sous vide. I’ve got too many books, I’m on Amazon buying cookbooks all the time to be honest. Larousse I would recommend to young chefs. My sister-in-law has a pub and a couple of her regulars know I’m a chef and they bring back books when they go to auctions so I end up with all these 200 year old books. In Season is one of my favourites and I use that all the time. 

4. If you could give the 18 year old you one bit of advice, what would it be?
I’d still be a chef, I wouldn’t change it. A lot of people are unhappy in their jobs, I work 16, 17 hours a day so I can’t be unhappy! My parents had a guesthouse and I used to cook the breakfasts when I was 10 years old. I just like the hotel environment, I like the challenge of a 24 hour business. The only thing is that I’d probably go and work abroad, travel more.

5. People photographing their food - yes or no?
I think it’s a compliment to be honest. You see it all the time, especially with our afternoon teas. I’ve got no issue with it. Trip Advisor is really good, it has it’s downside but it’s another avenue for feedback. People take photographs and they put them on there. As a consumer that’s where I go first!

6. What makes for a great food experience?
It depends whether I’m taking my wife or children but really you just want really good service and quality food. I’m not the type of person to complain unless it’s really bad but really I think you look at what you pay for. I want good quality and to for the food to match what’s described on the menu. Decent portions too! I enjoy the experience of Michelin restaurants but I wouldn’t want to do it every day. 

7. Tell us about an ingredient that is underrated and what to do with it.
I think the flavour of Kohlrabi is amazing and we shred it and put it in salads or do a gratin, slice it with potato and press it like a terrine. We’ve been using quinoa for about 15 years now but it’s only in the last year you’ve been able to get it in supermarkets. We have potted rabbit on the menu now and we add chicken to it to encourage people to eat it.

8. What dish reappears on your menu regularly?
The pork belly. We buy whole woodland pigs, we take the belly and cook it really slowly at 90 degrees in duck fat for 24 hours. Once it’s done we roll it then cut it in to portions and pan fry it ready for the table. What we put with it depends what’s in season, maybe cauliflower puree or butternut squash. Sometimes we put scallops with it, pork and fish go really well together.

9. What do you see as the latest food trends?
I’m seeing a lot of Asian influence in food, we’ve got an Oriental duck salad on the menu which is lovely. People are also wanting to eat more healthily but it still has to taste amazing. Our owners are very healthy but they eat out all the time and they encourage us to look at this or that restaurant. Fish is so popular at the moment, we try to keep away from using fish like cod and use pollock or ling but when ingredients are trendy it pushes the price up. We are also using more raw food to keep the flavour and the goodness in.

10. What’s next for Justin Llywellyn and The Park Plaza?
We’re changing the menus all the time, the competition is so fierce in Cardiff so we’re just looking at our own quality and not getting too hung up about what anyone else is doing. We’re busy which is good and I’m trying to get as much feedback as possible, I want to do things right. One thing we're looking at launching is a gentleman's afternoon tea with a shot of beer, maybe a cigar on the terrace or steak sandwiches. 

Monday, 31 March 2014

March 2014 Digested

Spring has sprung and new produce is on the way. Crab, Jersey Royals and Spring Greens will be coming to a menu near you soon! Plenty of news and openings to talk about so here's the news for March...

  • In February's Digested I reported on a new opening planned for Saundersfoot, Coast Restaurant brought to you by the team at The Grove in Narberth. This month came the exciting news that Will Holland, formerly of La Becasse Ludlow had been appointed Head Chef when plans for his own restaurant fell through. Opening is currently planned for April 14th.
  • The Gravity Station, a small but perfectly formed craft ale bar and shop opened on Barrack Lane, handily positioned for a few post work beers and a burger at The Grazing Shed. Check the opening times though because their licensing is a tiny bit restrictive. 
  • Following a popular pop-up run at The Canadian in Splott, Got Beef opened in their permanent home on Whitchurch Road.
  • Anyone who has been to a festival in the last decade will already be familiar with Pie Minister. And by familiar I mean have had their festival more or less rescued by beer mopping Mothership. If you don't know what I'm talking about, get yourself to their new shop on St Mary Street for pie, mash, gravy and minted peas pronto.
  • While we're on the subject of festivals, Abergavenny, the granddaddy of food festivals in Wales will be hosting its first evening festival. Early bird stroller tickets go on sale at 2012 prices from Monday the 7th of April.
  • Nomad Restaurant had its inaugural dinner at the Clytha Arms on the 30th March and the food looked amazing. I say looked because I missed it but the pictures looked tantalising. Follow @nomadcardiff for details of the next event. 
  • And last, but by no means least, The Discovery opened in Cyncoed to general approval all round. For photos from the preview evening go here.

Dates for the diary

April 8th, Bar 44 in Penarth are holding a Calçotada. 'A what?' I hear you say. Take a look at this for the lowdown of what you might expect

April 14th, Coast Restaurant in Saundersfoot due to open

Late April, Restaurant James Sommerin due to open, exact date TBC

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Poles Apart - Y Polyn, Nantgaredig restaurant review

It has taken me over a year to make it to Y Polyn. I've been thwarted by snow (twice), car trouble and a mistimed attempt on Mothering Sunday, but I finally made the trip and I'm pleased to say that although it was worth the wait I'm kicking myself that I left it quite so long. The restaurant is run by husband and wife team, Sue and Mark Mason who have a thriving business out here in deepest, darkest, loveliest, Carmarthenshire.

The menu name drops plenty of quality Welsh produce (Pantysgawn cheese, Carmarthen ham and saltmarsh lamb) and there is sufficient choice to demand a stiff gin and tonic before I could order. This is food for getting stuck into so bring your appetite.

I had been warned about the bread, and the sea salt and rosemary crusted white was something special.

Bread at Y Polyn

A starter of wild rabbit tagliatelle was lip smackingly, deeply savoury and pan fried scallops with just a hint of fivespice accompanied by shards of crisp Carmarthen ham and a celariac puree.

Wild rabbit ragu at Y Polyn

Scallops at Y Polyn

Dovey Estuary saltmarsh lamb was served pink with a confit breast and a pungent onion, garlic and thyme puree.

Saltmarsh lamb at Y Polyn

Whole lemon sole was simply fried and swimming in a beurre noisette and brown shrimp.

Whole lemon sole at Y Polyn

Crème brûlée is my ultimate dessert and this did not disappoint. I often find my heart sinking when I see it on a menu, so many restaurants feel the need to mess about with it adding lavender or Earl Grey.

Don't. This is how it should be.

Creme brulee at Y Polyn

A fun yet grown-up knickerbocker glory produced a huge smile from my friend who grinned pretty much all the way to the bottom.

I might be late to the game, but I really liked Y Polyn and this is my kind of food. Quality ingredients, economically presented; by which I mean that nothing superfluous makes it on to the plate. No twiddly bits and no gimmicks. Special mention has to go to the front of house team who run the dining room casually yet professionally. I relax because they are relaxed and I honestly can't think when I've enjoyed a dinner this much.

I don't think it will be long before I'm back. In fact, anyone fancy a mini bus trip out West sometime soon?

Y Polyn

Y Polyn
Capel Dewi, Carmarthen SA32 7LH
01267 290000

Twitter: @ypolyn

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Discovery - Launch night

Last night I went along to preview the latest offering from Knife and Fork Food, The Discovery in Cyncoed which is just a stone's throw from Roath. Opening night is tonight (Friday 7th March) and I'm pleased to report that they've done a smashing job with the refurb, tastefully decorated in shades of stone and slate and punctuated with Eames style teal chairs, there are fires and plenty of comfortable seating. Here are a few photographs from the evening...

Eating area at The Discovery
Eating area at The Discovery
The bar team at The Discovery
The bar team
The bar at The Discovery
The bar area
Blackboard menu at The Discovery
Blackboard menu which will change regularly

And here's the food that we tried, the menu and food style will be familiar to customers of The New Conway and The Pilot.
Flame grilled mackerel at The Discovery, Cardiff
Flame grilled mackerel
Crispy Aromatic Duck Egg at The Discovery Cardiff
Crispy Aromatic Duck Egg

Ox cheek chilli con carne - serious umami hit!
Ox Cheek Chilli Con Carne - a serious umami hit!

Discover the burger - a pork and beef patty
Discover the burger - a pork and beef patty
Plank of Pig - exactly as it sounds, plenty of crackling and black pudding.
Plank of Pig - exactly as it sounds, plenty of crackling and black pudding.

Snickers tart - one for the sweets lovers, very rich and gooey
Baked Alaska - well retro!
Baked Alaska - well retro and very pretty

The Discovery
Celyn Avenue, Lakeside, Cyncoed, Cardiff, CF23 6FH
Tel: 02920 755 015

Twitter: @thediscoverypub

Sunday, 2 March 2014

February 2014 Digested

February has been wet and wild but there are encouraging signs that Spring is on the way which means carpets of daffodils, the end of the season for leeks, and Pancake Day which in my house involves caramelised banana and Chantilly cream. In South Wales news has been brisk with some new openings to note for the month.
  • A new restaurant is to open at Coppet Hall Beach, Saundersfoot and will be run by Neil Kedward and Zoe Agar, the couple responsible for The Grove at Narbeth. Coast will offer seafood and stunning beach views and is planned to open this Spring. The actual date is to be confirmed but this will be an exciting launch.
    • Former Oscars of Cardiff head chef John Cook has reopened as Arbennig Restaurant on the same site in Pontcanna.
    • On the 23rd of February longtime Cardiff Bay independent Woods closed its doors for the last time. Parent co Knife and Fork Food cited the changing nature of the Bay area as the main reason for the move. I'll miss Woods and I'm seriously hoping that the Pilotage Building doesn't end up housing another chain restaurant.
    • While we're on the subject of Woods, former chef Andy Aston has taken a 3 year lease on Brains pub The Kings Arms in Pentyrch following the exit of Otley Brewers.
    • Vegetarian favourite Canteen on Clifton Street, faced with the opportunity of buying the building, are raising money by selling shares at £80. They are also looking for structural engineers and builders interested in bartering services in exchange for food or cookery lessons. If this is you, get in touch with the restaurant direct.
    • Bryn Williams wrote this interesting piece for the FT naming his five favourite places to eat in Wales.
    • And finally, shouty 'sleb chef Gordon Ramsay has confirmed that he will be competing in Ironman Wales which takes place in Tenby later this year.

    Dates for the diary

    March 3rd - 8th, The Fig Tree Penarth welcomes back guest chef David Tomlinson and the return of their vegetarian week

    March 7thThe Discovery, the latest addition to Knife and Fork Food opens in Cyncoed

    March 14th, Just the one date for  Pop-tŷ this month, first come first served!

    March 3rd, 17th and 31st The Meating Place has launched a series of dates through March 'A Taste of...' starting with South Africa, Ireland and Australia. 

    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

    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

    Twitter: @CardiffMarriott  Zest on Urbanspoon
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