Well another month has come and gone – it doesn’t seem long ago that I posted April’s Krak’en Bites round-up. Yet here we are, seemingly at the end of May.
This month has been all about Cardiff; from pop-ups and fine dining to new openings. it’s fantastic to see the food scene starting to move forward again. Although I hasten to add, it sometimes very much feels that as a city we take one step forward and two steps back, with further restaurant closures announced this week, and I fear, more to come…
In this respect, it’s important to recognise and celebrate the culinary talent that Cardiff does have – four are mentioned below, but there are a number of chefs making their mark in the Capital. And that’s exciting.
Personally, I have always enjoyed finding out a little more about the person behind the dish, primarily as it allows an understanding of the chef’s thought process, their style of cooking and more importantly the work that goes into the plate that sits before you. And this is why I am thrilled that Bite Cardiff will return to Insole Court this summer on the 27th July. Last year, the inaugural event saw more than 10,000 people meet and sample dishes cooked by 30 of South Wales’ top chefs and restaurateurs. In 2019, 40 chefs look set to take part, and all dishes will once again be £3. If you missed out last year, I highly recommend getting this date in your diary.
Lamb rump with pickled mustard seeds, spring greens and roast cauliflower sauce
Following the success of the vegetarian Dirt pop-ups, it wasn’t long before Chef John Cook – formerly of Arbennig, announced his next culinary project, and in March launched Ember. A kitchen pop-up based in Milk and Sugar in Cardiff city centre, the menu changes on a monthly basis, and is driven by the produce that is currently at its seasonal best.
Priced at £40 for meat and £30 for the veggie version; based on my dining experience, you’ll find an exceptional four-course fixed menu waiting for you. This month saw tasty dishes of Wye asparagus with ricotta, salt-baked Jersey Royals with Manchego cream, lamb rump with roast cauliflower sauce and white chocolate meringue with red wine fruits.
Twenty one days later and I’m still craving cauliflower sauce…I don’t even like cauliflower. That’s how good this pop-up is; how good this Chef is.
Ember is running again in June, and tickets can be booked via Wriggle.
Malabar Prawn Biryani | £10.95
Open for just shy of a year, Salkaara in Llandaff has recently been making waves in Cardiff. If you choose to take TripAdvisor as a credible source for recommendations, it currently takes the prime spot as Best Indian and the Gold medal for Best Restaurant in the city. However, judging by the number of people dining on a Monday evening, its popularity appears to negate the need to debate on the authenticity of any reviews.
Named from the word Salkaram in Malayalam, which means hosting guests, a feast, or a hearty welcome; Salkaara has a strong Keralan influence thanks to its Chef – Santhosh Nair. Having previously worked for Mint and Mustard, and with almost 30 years experience within the industry, on paper alone, expectations for this meal were high.
It didn’t disappoint. A modern restaurant, with welcoming staff and a good choice of starters, mains, accompaniments and a variety of tasting menus, including a post 9pm option for just £20 per person; it is certainly a step up from your local ‘curry house’. Opting for the soft shell crab and Malabar biryani, dishes are well spiced and aromatic. And while the biryani was a touch wet for my liking, and if I’m nit-picking, could have done with a few more prawns, overall it was a tasty Indian meal, and worth a visit.
Soy glazed 120-day aged beef with white asparagus and puffed rice
When the announcement was made that Chef Matt Waldron would be joining The Park House in Cardiff back in mid 2018, I have to say I was intrigued to the direction the restaurant would be taken in. Having followed the chef on social media for the last four years, I have watched with interest as his career has progressed. Needless to say his talent has recently been recognised by the Craft Guild of Chefs, as he has secured a place in the semi finals of the National Chef of the Year Awards in June.
The Park House Restaurant and Wine Bar was established back in 2005. Accommodated in a Gothic style Grade 1 listed mansion house originally built in 1874 by the Marquess of Bute, it has recently taken on a more modern look and feel, moving away from its previous members club status to a contemporary fine dining restaurant. Menus are varied with an à la carte, 5 and 8 course tasting menus, and I have to say an unrivalled lunch offer at £40 for 5 courses with matched wines.
Tomato Sour Dough | £3.00
This month also saw the opening of Heaney’s little sister – Uisce (Ish-ka; meaning: water). Located next door to the award winning restaurant, this coffee and wine bar looks set to make its own mark on Cardiff. A late night visit put the snack and charcuterie menu to the test; and a glass of Argentinian Grüner Veltliner washed down shots of gazpacho and plates of oysters, sour dough, boquerones, croquettas, Galician beef cecina, and as it turns out the aptly named ‘Kick in the Head’ – well worth experiencing if you like your meat with a touch of heat.
Yet the beauty and ‘shape of Uisce’, lies in its all day dining concept. With both breakfast, and I have to say an impressive lunch menu. including Welsh lamb crumpet, lobster roll and mussel curry with beer bread, you won’t be short of choice. And if the quality of dishes at Heaney’s is anything to go by, you won’t be disappointed.
In the arrival of both Heaney’s and Uisce, not only has Chef Tommy Heaney finally achieved the somewhat ‘impossible’ feat of being in two places at the same time! But it also appears that he means business when it comes to shaking up this city’s food scene.