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. 

    Sunday, 2 February 2014

    The Celt Expreience Brewery, Fire Festival, 1st February 2014

    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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