“To begin at the beginning:” – Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas
It is summer, a sun-dappled evening, in the community of Pontcanna, cloudless and azure-blue, the pavements bustling…
Yet unlike the renowned Welsh writer and poet’s fictitious village of Llareggub this venture is safely tucked in the realms of reality; albeit that in Milkwood we are witnessing the culmination of a long-held dream to open and run a small neighbourhood restaurant.
At this point, I am ashamed to say, I am a little late to this party. One of the most significant openings of 2017 in Cardiff, I have surprised myself in the fact, that it has taken me this long to get around to making a reservation. The persistence (nagging) of fellow bloggers – Bwyta yn y Brifddinas and The Plate Licked Clean in this matter has, thankfully, finally paid off.
Owned and run by the trio of Tom and Cerys Furlong and Gwyn Myring, – the team behind both the Lansdowne and Grange pubs, and previously The Potted Pig and Porro in Cardiff, it’s clear before a plate of food even graces the table, you’re in knowledgeable hands. A point that becomes all the more obvious, based on the fact that by 8pm there is not a spare chair in the house. Boasting a cosy, neighbourhood charm that I pray is not becoming a rarity in these parts; the fresh and modern interior of Milkwood, along with the warmest of welcomes, ensures that as you take your seat, it’s almost too tempting to kick off your shoes and settle in for the evening.
A single leaf of paper addresses the menu selection, And while it could be considered that the choice of four dishes for each of the three courses is somewhat limited, they reinforce the restaurant’s ethos of simple but sound cooking with a showcase of local Welsh produce.
Slices of warm, crusty home-made Welsh beer and rye bread, interspersed with carraway seeds, are accompanied with salted butter. In this instance, I find it rare that bread will initiate so many profound thoughts, but aside from making a rational judgement that I require both the recipe and the rest of the loaf, I settle on the final perception. The bar is being set high for what proceeds.
Pulling you in and impressing from the first bite, two mouthfuls of toasted sour dough with a vivid salsa verde, salty anchovies and tomato, provide an explosion of flavour. An amuse bouche of pure delight, the only disappointment is that a couple more aren’t gracing the plate.
Crispy lamb tongue, lamb sweetbreads, leeks and laverbread | £8.00
I had encountered this Welsh delicacy of the crispy breaded lambs tongue and laverbread, a week prior at Bite, Cardiff – a one day festival which celebrated the array of culinary talent this city has to offer. The dish had intrigued me then, and while the idea of eating offal may not have appealed to everyone, apparently it also attracted 926 other people on the day too! With added value on this occasion; the starter includes the welcome addition of tender and creamy lamb sweetbreads, elevated by salty capers and a sweet leek purée. Ensuring that a well-balanced, adventurous plate of Welsh produce is received..
Smoked trout, avocado mousse, cream cheese and caviar | £8.00
Soft, smoke cured trout sits pretty (and) pink on a generous mound of rich, creamy avocado mousse. While a cream cheese-topped crostini with a dollop of caviar, adds texture and saltiness to the beautifully presented starter. Depending on the company you’re keeping, it’s the type of dish that lends itself to discretely (or not), licking the remains off of your finger. Although, the temptation to stick my head in the bowl, seems like an all too viable option as well.
Pressed pork belly, pork and fennel terrine, onion purée and braised fennel | £18.00
While choices of smoked aubergine, pan-fried hake and whole roasted poussin hold temptation; on this occasion it’s the pressed pork belly that pulls me in. Skilfully cooked, a thick layer of crackling breaks with a satisfying crunch, while the perfectly tender layers of rich fat and meat melt on your tongue. The pork and fennel terrine and onion purée provide texture contrasts, and although the braised fennel is a touch over-powering, overall this is one impressive plate providing clean and distinct flavours.
I’ll readily admit that when it comes to food, I am an avid ‘people watcher’. Fine, yes…basically I’m nosy. So as I observe beautifully presented, indulgent dessert courses appear from the kitchen – ending up on other’s tables, I know it won’t take much to twist my arm. But if you are debating on a third course, and I would recommend that you don’t debate, Milkwood has a secret weapon…
He’s the type of person you sneakily send in if you see a customer wavering, or if they’re evidently trying to limit their dairy intake. Apparently I’m easily led. Covert operations aside, his ‘powers of pudding persuasion’ are unique; taking a seat, he enthusiastically explains the sweet selections, and I lose focus in favour of listening to random dessert-related words swimming around my head – tuiles, pastry, chocolate ganache, tuiles, sticky, ginger…more tuiles. Needless to say only minutes later, and an order is heading to the kitchen.
Yoghurt, raspberry and honey | £8.00
Chocolate, cherry and hazelnut | £8.00
Both equally attractive, if you were looking for a definition of contrasting then these plates would be it. While a dish of sticky honeycomb (quite clearly out to put a Crunchie to shame) is scattered amongst soft yogurt ice cream, light aerated cream and raspberries in various forms. Its polar opposite.is a decadent salted chocolate ganache and light chocolate mousse, balanced out with poached cherries, and a sharp cherry purée with hazelnuts. Add wafers, and did I mention tuiles?; and the standard that was initially set, is raised to a whole other level.
- Offering a continually changing menu informed by top notch local Welsh produce, I am actually going to say that this is over and above ‘simple but sound cooking’. The dishes at Milkwood demonstrate a genuine love of food, by a team who have an excellent knowledge and understanding of ingredients and flavours..
- The personal customer service you receive is second to none, and the team go all out to make you feel welcome.
With an awareness of how much is at stake in writing a conclusion; this is, after all, my last chance to persuade you to go and make a reservation – I will draw to a close with the following statement. At this current time, I would personally consider Milkwood to be the best restaurant in the Capital.
In the last 12 months, we’ve seen the demise of a number of independent restaurants in the city; to say that it is ‘hard going’ in the marketplace at the moment, would I guess, be a considerable under-statement. Yet maybe the tides are turning in Cardiff. As we approach the end of 2018, I would consider that we have some significant openings ahead. And for myself that’s exciting; because thanks to Milkwood, which notably has been the only new restaurant in Cardiff to enter the Michelin Guide 2019, the bar has been set high for those who are also set to follow their own culinary dreams.
Weds-Sat 12pm-3pm and 6pm – 10pm
Sun and Mon – closed
Address | 83 Pontcanna St, Cardiff, CF11 9HS
Web | milkwoodcardiff.com