Is anyone else struggling with the fact that a quarter of the year has already gone? Just me? Due to a quick adventure over the Atlantic last week, March has been on my radar for sometime, but quite frankly this month has flown.
If you missed February’s Krak’en Bites – where have you been? However, before I subject you to this month’s restaurant round-up, I wanted to give a quick shout out to the most recent Kickstarter restaurant project to hit Cardiff. One of the Capital’s best-loved pizza restaurants are hoping to raise £40,000 to assist them in refurbishing an old park-warden’s bungalow in Sophia Gardens, and turn it into one of the city’s most sustainable food and drink venues. At the time of writing The Warden’s House by Dusty Knuckle is 72% funded, with 9 days to go; there are some great offers, so if you love pizza – why not hop on over to their page take a look, and pledge to support this venture.
Roast duck breast, crispy leg, smoked carrot and fennel | £17.80
As the sister pub to the highly acclaimed, Bib Gourmand pub Hare & Hounds in Aberthin, by reputation alone ‘The Heathcock’ always looked set to fly. Yet since its opening in October 2018, it’s made its own mark in Llandaff, and now firmly established, it is proving to be a popular addition in the city within a city, both as a local pub and a restaurant.
A second visit in March proved that the excellence of the first, was not a coincidence. This relaxed gastropub offers menus that change on a daily basis, and includes dishes of braised rabbit leg pappardelle, pheasant, leek and ham hock pie and roast Torgelly dry aged rib of beef. And not forgetting their renowned soufflé, which thankfully has made the 12 mile trip to feature on this menu too. On this occasion service was a little hit and miss, but if you haven’t been to The Heathcock it’s well worth popping in for a quick bite after a walk in the park, or considering booking a table for your next meal out.
Slow-cooked Asian pork belly with char sui slaw and sriracha mayo | 2 courses £15 or 3 courses £20
Since encountering Jamie O’Leary’s Cornish Crab Porridge at Bite, Cardiff last year, I had vowed to make the short trip along the A470 to find out what this Chef was up to in Merthyr. As it turns out, it’s something special. With an à la carte menu leaning towards more classical French cooking available later on in the week; a Monday night visit offers a fixed price menu. At just £15 for 2 courses, if you moved this restaurant 23 miles south, you’d be looking to fork out double the money for this quality of produce and standard of cookery.
Kimchi, Kimchi ya ya Pulled Pork Burger | £12.50
In my restaurant round-up of 2018, I may have made the bold statement that Hills in Brecon served up some of the ‘best burgers in Wales’. In 2019, I’ll continue to stand by that statement – until I am proved otherwise. Don’t let the two hour round trip from Cardiff put you off, it’s well worth the petrol money. With monthly burger specials such as the fiery Kimchi, Kimchi ya ya Pulled Pork, classic burgers such as the Juan Hilario and New York, and fries that quite frankly deserve their own certificate of commendation; if you make one dining out decision this year, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to Hills.
Parma pizza | £10.50
First things first, a confession; in the five years it has been open, rather strangely I have never been to Calabrisella.
Now that’s out of the way, I will readily admit that I have been overlooking a little gem. Named after the original women’s costume from the Calabria region of the Italian Republic, it’s clear from the steady stream of customers entering through the sliding patio doors on Cowbridge Road East, that this is a popular local establishment.
From breakfast to brunch, and pizza to pasta, the menu offers a good choice of traditional, home-cooked, comforting Italian dishes. There is also the option to takeaway – particularly useful when you only manage to work your way through half of their 14″ pizza. A special mention also goes to the arancino bolognese, an absolute steal at £2 each and quite frankly, a meal in itself…bellissimo.
Slow cooked pork belly with sticky puy lentils, carrots and calvados apple | £22
Named after the local philanthropist and entrepreneur – Richard Palethorpe Culley, who once held the catering contract for The Exchange Restaurant within the Coal Exchange; I have to admit that the restoration of both R.P. Culleys and The Exchange Hotel itself is impressive. The Grand Hall being worth a visit alone.
While I have had the opportunity to visit R.P. Culleys both for the opening and for an event, this was the first time I had dined in the restaurant. Starters are good; exceptional when it comes to the broth of the Gavi steamed Welsh mussels. Main dishes edge on the pricier side for a hotel restaurant, ranging from £11 to £29 – although I hasten to add the Culleys oxtail, foie gras and beef pie with truffle mash and seared beef fillet is worth every pound. Although on this occasion I am less enthused by the slow-cooked pork belly, where the fat is far from “melt in your mouth” and the sole strip of crackling offers a crunch, but is oily and lacks seasoning.
Aside from some minor issues, if you’re looking for something a little different down in Cardiff Bay, Culleys is more than worthy of your consideration…whether I would personally choose to dine there again over some other independents offering similar dishes in the city, is yet to be seen.