Nant Restaurant – Coleg y Cymoedd

Ever since I first came across Nant and the good reviews associated with it on Trip Advisor, I have been trying to visit. But given its limited hours, especially in the evenings (was twice a week, now only once), it was almost impossible to sort out a booking due to work commitments. Now that I’m back working on this side of the bridge, it was a case of finding a Thursday evening that worked for us (and was available). So, after booking a table almost 2 months prior, we were finally seated at a table at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nant Restaurant.

The restaurant staff is almost entirely made of students studying at the college. Under the supervision of a chef, aspiring student chefs are responsible for all the dishes served on the menu that changes weekly. The place is simple and almost resembles a standard college or hotel mini seminar room, with all the focus on the food offering.

Keeping things simple, the set menu has about four starters and mains each, and two desserts with allergies and special requirements catered for. A glass of Bramble (£3.95) was fairly strong but refreshing with fresh blackberries and just the right amount of crushed ice.

Duck spring rolls opened things on the food front with a bang. This was nothing like the puny spring rolls that one comes across most Oriental restaurants in the country.

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Generously meaty and succulent shredded duck was bursting out of crispy golden fried pastry, with a glaze of thick hoisin sauce complementing things well.
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Faggots in a pea and mint gravy was tender and meaty but had a bit too strong (pate like) taste for my liking, although that’s also because I’m not a fan of pate and offal. H had no issues in polishing it off.

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A mound of slowly braised beef was tender and fell apart for most of it except for some parts that were a bit on the dry side. I think this was also because there was very little of the bacon sauce to moisten it. Creamy mash was spot on with not a lump in sight. A side plate of cooked veg was done perfectly; none of the overcooked mush that one sometimes comes across at restaurants.wp-image-1705981951jpg.jpg

We finished things off with an apple tarte tatin each. The sticky caramelized apples and pastry base combined beautifully with the cinnamon crème and ice cream.

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Service was friendly and attentive, with the students showing no signs of nerves. At the end of the evening, the student chefs went around each table and explained who was responsible for different parts of the menu and discussed feedback with the diners.

Now for the best part; this delicious and well presented 3 course meal offered astounding value at £13.50. You’d struggle to find a main course for this price in a lot of places in the city.

We enjoyed our meal at Nant. Food of this taste and quality (those spring rolls topping the charts) at the price point is rare. Go ahead and get your booking in; evening slots do fill in quickly so I wouldn’t wait if I were you.

The details:

Address: Heol y Coleg, Nantgarw CF15 7QY

Hours: Lunch – Tue, Thu, Fri: 12pm – 1 30pm

Dinner – Thu: 5 45pm – 8 30pm

Booking: nant@cymoedd.ac.uk / 01443 663050

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Gina’s cafe

“Chapatti and Karak” is an institution of sorts in Doha, and other parts of the Middle East. The concept is simple – a hot refreshing cup of karak chai (masala tea) with a chapatti for dunking (in Doha’s version, it is paratha, the flaky soft Malaysian roti which is also popular in India). They also have a branch in London now. Needless to say, I was delighted to find out that Cardiff had its own version in Gina’s Café which is popular among expat students and residents, and rightly so. Situated opposite the castle, this tiny café also serves a variety of authentic Indian street food.

On my first visit, I had a strong, milky and well spiced cup of ‘karak chai’, with a good undertone of cardamom flavor.

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This version of the tea is normally served with sugar, although in this case, it was just the right amount of sweetness. Accompanying it was a chapatti kheema roll (£2.50) which comprised of Indian spiced beef mince in a soft flaky roti. As far as snacks or light lunches go, this was an ace combination.

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On a subsequent visit, along with the tea (which was spot on again), both of us had chapatti with chicken masala (£5.50). Tender morsels of chicken was strong on the flavour front, with garlic and coriander leading the way.

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The chappati was soft, flaky and kept fresh by being individually wrapped in foil. The dish was slightly greasy but the authentic taste and flavour made up for it, and offered amazing value.

Next time you are in town and want to get away from the rush and try some delicious food, head over to Gina’s Café.

The details:

Address: 34 High St, Cardiff CF10 1PU

Web: https://www.facebook.com/ginascafe/

Tel: 07790 744444

I Giardini di Sorrento

Cardiff, like most UK cities, has a lot of Italian restaurants. We are lucky to have quite the stellar line up in terms of Italian fare, with the likes of Cafe Citta, Da Mara, Casanova, Calabrisella to name a few. How does the fairly new entrant on City Road, I Giardini, compare to the rest?

I was a bit saddened to see A Shot in the Dark close; spent many a time in there sipping far too much hot chocolate for my own good. On the bright side, it has given way to a charming little Italian restaurant that is inspired by cooking from Sorrento, with a very authentic feel inside in terms of the waiting staff and the menus on offer.

All the pasta is freshly made on site and prior to my visit, had only heard rave reviews of the food dished out. During the festive period, they ran a slightly different menu, but with still a lot of choice on offer.

Calamari Fritti (£7.95) was spot on, with the lightly crisp batter not having the slightest trace of grease, and a light flaky exterior giving way to fresh firm squid. Accompanying aioli was smooth and creamy and worked a treat with the generous portion of calamari. This was definitely one of the best versions of the dish in the city.

The pappardelle venison ragu(£15.95) showcased the pasta making skills aptly. Cooked al dente, the thick ribbon pasta combined well with the rich venison ragu, although it was a tad too salty in parts.
A bottle of Montepulcian d’Abruzzo complemented the meal perfectly.

I Giardini is a cracking addition to the vast array of Italian independents in the city. Although some may find it slightly more expensive than its counterparts, it is definitely worth a visit for some freshly cooked meals with very good flavour. Oh, and some cracking calamari…

The details

Address: 12 City Road, Cardiff CF24 3DL

Tel: 07703 429185 / 02920 486580

Web: https://www.i-giardini.com; @i_giardini

Wilton Court Restaurant with Rooms

Rarely do we have a weekend or midweek break away in the UK. The appeal of continental climate and cuisines along with general ease and affordability to get across the Channel meant that UK city breaks were never quite in the running. However, for H’s recent birthday, I decided not to stray too far away from home. Armed with a recommendation for the website Secret Escapes, I found what looked like a fairly good deal for the Wilton Court Restaurant with Rooms in Ross-on-Wye.

Set on a picturesque riverside location, this Elizabethan building’s restaurant prides itself on frequently changing menus that are largely based on produce from the Herefordshire area. The L shaped restaurant area is a decent size, with one end being part of a solid ceiling conservatory offering good views of the Wye river.

A plate of olives with a light garlic dressing, and skewers of succulent herby and smoked sausages were offered whilst we perused the menu.

My wood pigeon breast starter was served on a bed of pearl barley, wild mushrooms and crumbed black pudding. The pigeon breast with its gamey texture was still fairly soft and the black pudding crumbs added a good depth to the flavour. On its own, the mushrooms and pearl barley didn’t quite work for me, but the dish as a whole was a pleasant start to the proceedings.

I’m a sucker for lamb and almost always order it, especially when it sounded as appetising as here – roasted lamb rump, lamb croquette and bubble and squeak.

Pink tender fillets of lamb almost melted in the mouth.

The lamb croquette’s crisp exterior gave way to a minty shredded lamb interior which was amazing. This was probably one of the best versions of bubble and squeak I have had, with crushed potatoes and onions mixed together with a strong undertone of garlic.
A well set and indulgent chocolate delice with salted caramel and caramel ice cream rounded things off nicely.

Breakfast the next day strongly carried on from where we had left off. Scrambled eggs were a perfect level of creaminess and combined excellently with the smoked salmon. The sausage had a good meaty texture to it with every bite meeting a light herby flavour.

Wilton Court was a great location for a mid-week break. Even if you don’t have time for an overnight stay, I’d strongly recommend dining here if you are in the area.

The details:

Address: Wilton Court Hotel, Wilton Lane, Ross-on-Wye HR9 6AQ

Web: wiltoncourthotel.com

Tel: 01989 562569

Kin + Ilk

Brunch is probably my favourite meal; shame that it is normally only a weekend thing for me. More than the menu offerings, I reckon it’s the fact that it normally is the first meal of the day on a weekend and anything goes in terms of what can be ordered that makes it an appetising prospect. True, there are some dishes that have become more ubiquitous on a brunch offering like pancakes, French toasts, Eggs Benedict etc. But the one that is a personal favourite for me is the chorizo or sausage hash. What can be a better and more balanced (IMO) start to weekend food than a combination of eggs, fried potatoes, and chorizo?

Over the past 18 months or so, Kin + Ilk has slowly been lapped up by Cardiff folk. It’s popularity has seen it open a second café on Cathedral Road which is where we visited. Airy space with big windows, high ceilings and a clean modern feel, I can see how this can be a popular weekday spot for office workers in the area, and a place to kick start your weekend. They also provide free selection of newspapers on the weekend which is a nice touch.

There are two versions of hash plates on the menu (£8) – a corned beef one, and a chorizo hash. Our chorizo version looked impressive, with a generous portion of sautéed onions, chorizo sausages and crispy potatoes topped with a poached egg.

Cutting into the egg, I was hoping for the runny yolk to flood the rest of the plate, however, it was slightly more viscous than a perfectly poached egg. It was the same with H’s version.

Nevertheless, it still combined well with the plump and slightly smoky chorizo, and the crisp and fluffy potatoes. The dish could have done with tiny bit more seasoning but overall, it was a very good and hearty version of a chorizo hash.
A latte was very good with a smooth texture, and the strong roast holding its ground very well amidst the milk.

There is no dearth of cafes in Cardiff and it can be a very competitive segment. Kin + Ilk manages to hold its own amidst them all and there are enough reasons for one to spend an hour or few in here.

The details:

Address: 31 Cathedral Road, Cardiff CF11 9HB

Tel: 0292078 9842

Web: http://www.kinandilk.com

Frankies Italian

Deciding on a takeaway is always a hard task for me. If you take out Indian and Chinese from the mix, are not a fan of Dominos, and don’t want your delivered food to look like it’s been in a washing machine cycle (Deliveroo), you are stuck (OK, admittedly, I don’t make it easy for myself by being so picky!). Facing a similar dilemma last week, I suddenly remembered having some good pizzas from Frankies Italian at a party last year.

Frankies isn’t your run of the mill pizza takeaway place. Instead, this long standing Roath eatery offers a range of pizza and pasta dishes with fairly authentic toppings (no stuffed crust monstrosities in sight). Prices are very reasonable too with most pizzas at the £8.50 and pasta dishes around the £7 mark. They also have special offers on takeaway orders: two pizzas, garlic bread and 1.25l of Coke for £20, or four pizzas and the rest for £31, the latter which we made use of.

The 12 inch pizzas did look the part, with a general lashing of the toppings. My rustica (£8.50) – had a decent hang to it; the parma ham was good and combined well with the fresh rocket and  the blobs of buffalo mozzarella that resulted in a soft cheesy centre. However, the edges were a bit dry for my liking.

H’s order was the goat’s cheese based Capra (£8.50) with extra topping of chicken. Although it didn’t look as impressive as the Rustica, it tasted even better. I’m a big fan of goat’s cheese on a pizza, and here, it presented a formidable partnership with the caramelized onions and chicken. I’d say that the crusts were similar and could have done with a bit more crispy snap to it but it didn’t seem to bother her in the slightest; she didn’t leave behind a crumb.

Garlic bread had a good snap to it, and the flavor was strong which is how it should be! Think twice if it is a date night…

With the onset of the cold winter nights, Frankies is a great option for some good tasting pizza with a lot of choice of fresh toppings. And for the difficult ones like me, it adds a reliable and reasonable option into the takeaway mix.

The details:

Address: 6 Mackintosh Place, Cardiff CF24 4RQ

Tel: 0292045 4234

Web: http://www.frankiesitalian.co.uk/  ; @frankiesitalian

 

Wok-ker Shaker

I have always been a big fan of Malaysian food. The flavours generally combine the best of South East Asian cuisine, and South Indian cuisine; think Nasi Goreng, Roti Canai, Nasi Lemak…

Over the years, Cardiff has had an option or two cropping up that serves decent Malaysian fare but sadly, they never seem to last long enough. Jalan on Woodville Road (formerly Café Malaysia) is a great bet although under the new avatar, the menu is a bit limited (only variants of Nasi Lemak are on offer). It wasn’t until I read Ed’s write up on Wok-ker Shaker that I realised that there was another Malaysian joint in Cardiff; needless to say, it went straight on top of my ‘places to try’ list.

The premises is very basic. Expect a takeaway style atmosphere with a couple of long benches and tables, and an open kitchen where the noodle and rice dishes are stir fried in two large woks. The menu comprises of a ‘build your own noodle’ option similar to WIWO, and a bunch of Malaysian noodle and rice dishes.

Everything is cooked fresh to order and arrive as and when they are ready. First one out of the door was Kuey Teow (£5) which was a fab showcase of fresh flavours; soft flat noodles mixed with chicken, chillies, spring onion, and a generous garlic flavour that had my breath of approval.

Nasi Goreng (£5) saw crispy egg fried rice and stir fried vegetables soaked in flavour and managing to avoid being dry (which can be easily done when you don’t have a lot of sauce going for you). The smattering of chilli was just right and the dish carried a pleasant undertone of heat and flavour. It was remarkable how different tasting the two dishes were despite a few common ingredients.

Curry puffs or Malaysian Samosas (£0.80p each) saw a buttery shortcrust pastry give way to mashed chicken and potato blended with chilli and garlic. It was a bit like a smaller sized pasty bursting with flavour.

Chicken naga bites (£3) took us a bit by surprise; we weren’t expecting moreish crispy battered chicken strips which was a mix between the KFC hot wings and southern fried chicken strips. Despite the deep fried nature, they weren’t greasy and combined well with the slightly weird combo dip of sweet chilli and mayo!

Portions were generous and offered amazing value; one can feast like a king for about a tenner. Armed with a Wriggle deal, it was almost daylight robbery (by us!).

Wok-ker Shaker did everything right to further cement my appreciation for Malaysian cuisine. In a city filled with hidden gems, this little one is right up there in the mix.

The details:

Address: 8 Tudor St, Cardiff CF11 6AF

Hours: Tue-Sun 12 – 11pm

Web: https://wokkershaker.com/

Figlmuller, Vienna 

When one mentions food and Vienna in the same sentence, the things that usually come to your mind are coffee houses, strudels, sausages…and schnitzel. Yes, good old fried breadcrumbed pork (sometimes chicken). Yes, it probably isn’t as exciting as other European cuisine stalwarts but when you get it right, it’s bang on simple comfort food.

So, on a recent visit to Vienna with mates, we decided to not just have any schnitzel but the ones served from the institution where the current form originated back in 1905 in the city. Yes, it sounds like a right old tourist trap but many posts and reviews suggested that Figlmuller was equally revered by both locals and tourists. Also, as suggested in most reviews, we made the sound call of booking in advance. On arriving at the restaurant, we joined a raking queue of diners most of whom were escorted fairly quickly into the restaurant whilst those without a reservation had a peep through the windows, shrugged in disappointment and walked away. Come on people, it’s only a schnitzel…

About half hour later, I was looking at a behemoth almost twice the size of my face. A thin flattened crispy object with its edges well outside the plate’s diameter was presented with a wedge of lemon on top. Every bite met with a crunchy crisp texture which immediately gave away to the juicy meat within. There was not a hint of dryness anywhere, and at the same time, it didn’t feel greasy either.

Sides of roast potatoes were a bit different to what we expected but good. They were more like balls of finely diced amf shredded  potato mixed with herbs.

Potato salad again was not like what i had come across before. A mixed leaf salad was placed on a bed of soft sliced potatoes doused in garlic vinaigrette. 

We washed down the food with a rather light, slightly sweet bottle of Austrian Riesling.

So, was the place worth the hype and history associated with it? Definitely. Personally, I’d have liked  some options of sauces thrown in to add more flavours to the mix. Most of us struggled to finish ours (not me, obviously!), so you are guaranteed of a hearty feed. Service was good too, especially given how busy the place was. If you are only going to have one schnitzel whilst in Vienna, make sure it is at Figlmuller.

The details:

Address: Figlmuller, Wollzeile 5, 1010 Vienna

Hours: Daily 11am – 10 30pm (9 30pm close for kitchen)

Web: https://www.figlmueller.at/en/welcome.html

Society Standard: Meet the meat.

​Society Standard has slowly turned into a firm favourite since its opening just over two years ago. Since my first visit, they have slightly amended the menu too, including the addition of sharer boards and mall plates. Armed with a Wriggle Deal, we tucked into an All the meats (£23.50) sharing platter which looked the part – an impressive selection of pulled pork, ribs, beef skewers, grilled chicken, chips, refried beans, and salad leaves.

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The herb garnished beef steak skewers had good flavour and were fairly juicy although a tad less time on the grill would have probably made them more succulent.

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The chicken on the other hand was cooked well but could have done with a bit more seasoning. However, combining it with the thick toasted bread, salad and cabbage added a bit more depth of flavour and made for quite a nice open sandwich.
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The pork cast in this platter took things up a notch. Pulled pork was succulent, and had the perfect amount of sauce marinade without letting the latter overpower the pork’s flavour.

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The ribs were meaty and fell off the bone without much prodding – definitely one of the better versions out there in the city. What it lacks was the slight charred  bits and edges that a proper smoker lends (like the Hangfire version) but nevertheless, very good and possibly the standout performer.
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The rest of the cast was a bit hit and miss; found the inclusion of refried beans a bit odd and had a slightly reheated taste to it. Fries were mixed too, with some lending a good crisp whilst others a tad soggy.

We washed down the food with a cocktail each. My Disaronno and orange liquer with grenadine syrup was  good although anything more than a glass would have been far too sickly sweet. A spiced mojito that used Sailor Jerry’s rum was even better, with the mint and spiced rum working very well together.

It’s not surprising to see Society Standard busy on a Friday evening; it’s got a very good laid back vibe, with a rather unique but appetising take on your average bar menu, and good selection of drinks. One could still argue that the prices (especially drinks) are on the higher side especially given the location. Barring this, suburbs in Cardiff could do with more places like Society Standard.

The details:

Address: 79 – 81 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3Jp

Hours: 10am – 11pm 7 days a week.

Webhttp://www.societystandard.co.uk (no reservations taken)

The New Inn, Cardiff

Doesn’t everyone like a good a local pub that is run by friendly staff, serves good comfort food, a varied range of drinks, and in my case, also shows most of the live football? Since moving out into the suburbs, we were a bit disappointed to find that there wasn’t really a pub that ticked all these boxes; that is until we popped into The New Inn. One can argue that being a 20 min walk away, it might not exactly be classed as a local but I can live with that.

I don’t know what it was like before the new ownership and refurb but Clare and Andrew have done a great job in sprucing up the place – bright, roomy with big patio doors on one side and a mixture of tables, chairs and sofa seating. The menu largely comprises of the usual pub fare, with good amount of choice and daily offers in tow.

My calamari (£4.95) starter saw morsels of lightly crispy and well seasoned squid on a bed of rocket that had the apt amount of balsamic dressing.

This wasn’t your run of the mill breaded ring shaped calamari that you often come across, but morsels included parts of the body as well as tentacles which paired with the creamy piri piri mayo was ace.

Having run out of the steak and ale pie, I opted for the chicken and ham (£8.95) version which had chunks of chicken and ham hock mixed with a creamy sauce and encased in a buttery shortcrust pastry that didn’t flake away at the light prodding of cutlery (again, a common problem with a lot of pies elsewhere).

Accompanying onion gravy had the right viscosity and flavour. There was not a single soggy chunky chip on the plate; all had a good crisp bite and fluffy insides albeit could have done with some seasoning.

H was very pleased with her oak smoked salmon fillet (£11.95); the meaty chunks of salmon was cooked perfectly with a slight flakiness to it.

The salted caramel fudge cake (£4.45) was a combination of chocolate brownies, and chocolate and salted caramel fudge.

I personally found it a bit too sickly after a couple of bites but H didn’t seem to mind at all, mopping it away in a few minutes. The sponge was a tad dry but this was neutralised by the salted caramel sauce and the rather nice vanilla ice cream.

On a previous visit, I had the 21 day aged 8oz sirloin steak (£13.95) which had a good meaty and juicy flavour too it, and cooked right (medium rare in this case); no chewy bits at all. Properly crisp and crunchy onion rings were a highlight of the accompanying sides, with more of the same crispy chunky chips.

I really like The New Inn; it has a lot going for it in terms of food, drink and atmosphere. If honest and comfort pub food is what you are after, you can’t go wrong with a visit here.

The details

Address: The New Inn, 75A Caerphilly Rd, Cardiff CF14 4AE

Hours: Mon to Sat, 11am – 11pm; Sun 12pm – 10 30pm

Tel: 02920 620924

Web: http://thenewinncardiff.co.uk