Recent round-up: Charlie’s foodie finds

I’m aware that I’ve been talking more about plastic than food lately, I’m very passionate about both, but so as not to stray too far away from the point I figured it was high-time I write about some of the meals I’ve had recently.

Here below is a run-through of a handful of outings which I wanted to talk about but either forgot to take a photo of menu or simply had too much fun eating to worry about taking enough notes. For that I do apologise. 

Dusty Knuckle Pizza

I cannot rave about this business and its pizza enough. I first came here last summer for one of Imran Nathoo (Kitchen Clonc)’s post-Masterchef supper clubs, which was delicious and totally changed my mind towards peach, but had yet to visit for their own offerings. Since my boyfriend and I eventually did tick it off our list earlier this year, we’ve recommended it to all our friends & family and been back several times ourselves – I can’t get enough!

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I’m not one of those naturally gifted photographers, okay…

It’s ever so slightly off-the-beaten-track on Llandaff Road in Canton but so, so worth the walk out of town. Conveniently, the fantastic little St Canna’s Ale House is also just a hop, skip and a jump away for some after dinner local beers and often live music. I’m yet to head there for one of their foodie pop-ups, previously including the likes of Brother Thai and Pettigrew Bakes, but we absolutely love this cosy, fun and very friendly little pub. You get such a good local vibe without it feeling exclusive, which for a village girl like me is wonderfully nostalgic. Anyway, back to Dusty Knuckle.

One our first visit we enjoyed the sauerkraut & pear and anchovy toast starters, followed by the Nduja and Blas Y Mor pizzas. The sauerkraut was sharp but not over-powering and was a new experience for me, whereas the anchovy toast was very fishy so a word of warning for the faint-hearted, but for us it was fantastic. My Blas Y Mor pizza was an ode to Welsh cuisine; laverbread, cockles and samphire all came together to create a unique taste experience, balancing well with the sweet tomatoes and gooey cheese and creating a class flavour combo. Their dough is the perfect balance of soft and easy-to-tear yet firm in the right places (no soggy bottoms here!), not too bloaty either in my experience. Basically I just don’t see what’s not to love. 

On subsequent visits I’ve tried the asparagus with an egg on top, the four garlic pizza (which I fully intend to go back and eat a whole pizza of, apologies in advance to my boyfriend), the goats cheese and beetroot chutney and their vegan option from last week’s Cardiff International Food Festival; courgette, burnt lemon, onion, pomegranate and nigella seeds. All of which I loved, all of which I’d have again in a second. Just writing about it is making me hungry… So if you live in or around Cardiff and haven’t checked this place out, put it at the top of your list and get down there.

Side note: they also do metal reusable takeaway boxes nowadays which I think is effing fantastic (collection only I believe).

Maria’s Greek Taverna

Situated in the heart of Cardiff’s bustling Crwys Road, this place is certainly a welcome addition to the already plentiful restaurants and cafes in this part of town. Some girl friends and I went to try it out for an early post-work dinner one evening and managed to get in there just in time to take advantage of the small plates offer – 3 for £12. So obviously we picked 3 each…

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Inside the restaurant is painted a cool, sea blue with coordinating decorations giving you real holiday vibes without having to leave the city. Judging from Gourmet Gorro’s opening review, it seems this is a whole family affair with Maria herself as the matriarch and you can taste the authenticity in the food. We ate until we were full and then I took home the leftovers to eat some more, I wish I could remember exactly what we had but it’s on my list to revisit soon – the more halloumi fries and goats’ cheese I can get my hands on the better! [Keep an eye on Wriggle for deals]

Restaurant Tommy Heaney (The Great House, Laleston)

Birthday celebrations with both sets of parents (my own and the in-laws) meant we had to go for something special. I’d heard great things about Restaurant Tommy Heaney from my friend The Octopus Diaries and others and fancied the taster menu more than that of James Sommerin in Penarth (I always worry about the veggie swaps for taster menus unless specifically stated). On arrival the hotel itself was gorgeous, outside and in. We were seated next to a big fireplace on a circular table, which was nice as everyone could easily talk, and after having spotted a bread basket on our way in, we tucked into bread and olives whilst perusing the menu and ordering drinks.

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Some of my family, however, share my enjoyment in reading a menu ahead of time so we’d pretty much already decided on the taster menu; although we weren’t asked on booking to specify, and our servers warned us that if one wanted the taster we’d all have to have it too, they seemed a little surprised when we all dived in. I think it perhaps wasn’t expected as we ended up being the last ones in the restaurant by the end of the evening (not a bad thing) and some of the younger members of staff weren’t entirely familiar with the taster menu’s contents – I assumed they were going through a changeover ahead of Tommy Heaney’s move to take over the former Arbennig site in Pontcanna, taking some of his staff with him. Unfortunately on this occasion I forgot to take a photo of the menu (I mean, it was my birthday…) so you’ll have to forgive the lack of detail, but here’s some photos to demonstrate. It was all very tasty and very well done, I can assure you that, and swapping the meat for fish for me was absolutely no problem – hoorah!

All in all we had a delicious meal all round and agreed we’d love to try out his new Cardiff set up – which is actually undergoing crowdfunding at the moment – however, the small hiccup of some unfamiliarity with the taster menu and/or not always introducing the dish whilst placing it in front of us, plus a very long wait for a taxi, let it down. I would still recommend dining here as the food was of a brilliant standard and the setting was idyllic, but if you’re planning on having the taster menu I’d recommend asking them to make a note of this when you book to avoid any such issues in the future.

P.S. There’s a chance to try out his cooking a little closer to home for a few weeks now (hopefully longer!) as he opens his pop-up in Arbennig over the next six weeks to support his crowdfunding campaign to take over the venue permanently. Find more info here and get involved if you can!

Adi’s, Bridgend

Wandering back east towards Cardiff I had the pleasure of discovering Adi’s dessert bar in Bridgend a few weekends ago. Whilst the idea is much the same as many other dessert shops – pick your base (waffle or pancake), pick your ice cream, sauce, toppings etc. – the thing that made Adi’s special was that there were alternatives available for everyone. And I mean everyone; my boyfriend’s sister is both dairy and gluten intolerant and was in absolute heaven!

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Gluten free pancakes or waffles? Sorted. Dairy free ice cream? Not a problem. Non-dairy milkshakes? No worries. And that’s on top of all the full dairy, full gluten ‘regular’ options too, making it an ideal place to go if you’re catering for a variety of needs or searching for somewhere to treat yourself as I was. We opted for bubble waffles which look as funky as they sound, a couple of dollops of ice cream each, some fruit, sauce, sweets, the works. We left very happy chappies and I wouldn’t hesitate to go here again next time I’m in Bridgend – my boyfriend’s sister already has!

And there you have it, a round-up of all the places I’ve meant to talk about recently but hadn’t got around to it. You can probably tell which one is my favourite 😉 but I would give a thumbs up and a recommendation to any of the above depending on what you’re looking for. I do plan to begin writing proper reviews again soon so anywhere you’d recommend or if you try any of these for the first time, do let me know in the comments! Next up on my list; the brand new 39 Desserts, Tommy Heaney’s pop up and John Cook (previously of Arbennig)’s DIRT pop-up in Ogmore, watch this space…

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

National Vegetarian Week – My top 5 vegetarian dinners

A little earlier in the week than my usual blog post but I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about my top 5 favourite veggie dinners this week, seeing as it is National Vegetarian Week, in the hopes of giving at least a few of you some inspiration to try something new or different!

First off, I’d like to add two disclaimers: a) I’m not full veggie but have become more so recently, only eating fish a few times a week, and b) some of these recipes are my own but I don’t claim to be any amazing chef or anything, I just like throwing stuff together to see what I can make. Take from that what you will.

1. Veggie risotto

This is one of mine and is detailed in its own blog post from a while back (click here for the recipe), but is brilliant for cooking in bulk or for feeding guests as it’s super easy to bulk out – just keep adding more veg! The trick here is not to underestimate how much stock is needed and to be careful to add it slowly and steadily, waiting for it to be absorbed into the Arborio rice before adding more.

You can also mix it up by using a different cheese of your choice or by using butternut squash instead of pumpkin, just see what you prefer or what you’ve got in the fridge. Don’t be afraid to experiment!

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Veggie risotto with pumpkin and halloumi

2. Quorn cottage pie

Some people really aren’t keen on Quorn and that’s fine. I used to be quite picky with it myself and actually went off it for a while, but when I realised I was eating a crazy amount of fish instead I decided to bring it back into focus and have rediscovered a love for its diversity.

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Mini Quorn cottage pie

Again, cottage pie is pretty easy to make a few extra portions of so I’d recommend making this on an evening when you’ve got a bit of time (it isn’t the quickest dinner in the world but definitely worth it) and saving the rest for lunches the following day if you can. It’s not only packed with flavour and goodness, it’s also proper comfort food if you do the mash right. My mash is something I take great pride in but, unfortunately for you guys, is and shall remain a secret recipe… Just trust me when I say that playing around with the ingredients a little can make a world of difference.

Quorn have their own recipe on the website which uses their mince and is the one I usually follow, making a few of my own tweaks along the way, but there are loads of recipes for it online too so have a Google and see what you most like the look of.

If you’re not into cottage pie their mince is also good for a bangin’ veggie spag bol (title photo of this post) – also a recipe on their website.

3. Quorn sausage casserole

(Believe it or not, I’m not sponsored by Quorn, I just eat it a lot. If I was I’d be asking for some more changes to their packaging, but this isn’t a plastic post so I won’t go on).

Quorn sausages are my favourite of the lot and actually the most versatile, in my opinion, because aside from having them as classic bangers I also like to cut them up into chunks to have in fajitas, pastas and casseroles. Casserole recipes vary online including Quorn’s own, but personally the below is what works best for me:

  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 4-6 Quorn sausages
  • 1 tin butter beans
  • ½ a leek, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 onion, diced
  • Italian herbs seasoning or similar
  • 1 red pepper, sliced

Method:

  1. Fry the chopped onions in a little olive oil in a large pan, at medium-high heat until beginning to soften. You can either add the sausages (cut into chunks) at the same time or grill them separately and add later.
  2. Once the onions are softened, add the pepper slices and leek and continue to fry for a few minutes. Drain and rinse the butter beans then add to the pan along with the chopped tomatoes. Stir around to mix it all up, then sprinkle the Italian herbs (perhaps two teaspoons or so, not too much) and add the frozen peas too.
  3. Reduce the heat a notch and let all that simmer away (with the lid on if you have one) for around 5 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken and the peas have melted. If you didn’t add the sausage at the start, now add the cooked sausages cut into chunks.
  4. After simmering take off the hob, taste test the seasoning and serve. Save any leftovers for lunch the following day.

Alternatively, you can put all the ingredients in the slow cooker, no need to brown the sausages first, and do it that way but the sauce doesn’t thicken in the same way.

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It seems I’ve never thought to photograph my own casseroles so here’s Quorn’s. Source linked.

4. Chickpea curry

One of my own recipes, this is my go-to if I want to make a homemade curry. Super simple, very satisfying and easy to customise by varying the ingredients to include spinach, beans, sweet potato or butternut squash if you wish. My recipe includes prawns but for a vegetarian curry just omit those – it still tastes just as good!

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Butternut squash and chickpea curry

5. Burrito bowls

Finally, another one of my own concoctions but it’s one I make time and time again because it’s just so… you guessed it, quick and easy. Sometimes I chuck in some Quorn sausage chunks and sometimes I don’t, it’s completely up to you, and you can cook the exact same thing but enjoy as a fajita rather than a burrito I just haven’t been brave enough to make my own tortillas yet!

Best served with a little bit of mayo, yoghurt, or half an avocado (seasoned with salt and pepper), this is one of my favourite homemade vegetarian meals to date. Even my meat-loving other half loves it. Find the recipe within this blog post.

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Burrito bowl deliciousness

What about eating out?

If you’re not so confident in the kitchen don’t fear! There are all kinds of places in Cardiff offering fantastic veggie dinners that shouldn’t be missed: The Grazing Shed’s Naughty Shephard burger is a favourite of mine, anything and everything from Milgi (I’m still yet to try their Sunday roast but have been dying to for ages!) and Anna Loka is full of vegan delights, just to name a few. Many chains now also offer some great veggie and vegan menus including Wagamamas, Wahaca and The Stable.

Basically, you’re spoilt for choice whichever way you look at it so I urge you to try at least two new vegetarian meals this week – after all, variety is the spice of life! Who knows, you might even find something you didn’t know you liked until it was on the plate in front of you.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

This post was not sponsored in any way, all opinions or recommendations are my own.

Holiday eats – Restaurante Rebate, Alicante

Every now and again we all need a break. I recently returned from a lush two weeks off, one spent in Southern Spain with my wonderful other half who never takes holidays but was in dire need of relaxation, one spent milling around at home-home then driving across country to North Wales for some adventuring. All in all, we had a fantastic time and although I didn’t document this trip as much as previous holidays for various reasons, it was really good to have a proper break from pretty much everything. What we did do was sleep, eat, drink, repeat; basically my idea of living the dream (with some exploring thrown in of course). So without writing my usual fairly lengthy run-down of the whole holiday itself I decided to focus on my food highlight of the trip: Restaurante Rebate.

Staying in a family apartment not far away from the small town of Sucina, we hadIMG_7620 hired a car in order to get around and explore some places. This restaurant was recommended to us by said family and was easily one of, if not the highlight of the Spanish half of our holiday. Restaurante Rebate is tucked away down some remote, dusty roads towards Alicante and appears to be in the middle of bloody nowhere by all accounts; yet on arrival we were instantly impressed by the appearance, layout and style of the restaurant. Mostly focused outdoors, there was plenty of sun, plenty of shade and several gorgeous trees among the tables. A small platform had been placed in the middle for the main event; this was the Flamenco Show which is on every Wednesday and Friday lunchtime, according to their website, and which we’d booked a few days before flying out.

Setting the scene…

Once seated at our choice of table (sun or shade) we were offered drinks whilst perusing the menu, which we took gladly and I followed the waiter’s recommendation of a glass of IMG_7619Cava. Start as you mean to go on. Seeing as it was a gorgeous sunny day and we were planning on spending most of our afternoon there, we treated ourselves to the 4 course tasting menu for the bargain price of 24,50€. At this point I feel it important to mention how incredibly polite, attentive and accommodating the staff were to every question or request, adapting my courses to include only fish and vegetarian dishes without hesitation whilst my boyfriend took them as was.

As the cherry on top I opted for the accompanying wine flight, making it 25€, as I don’t currently drink red wine (nor much white wine that doesn’t originate from New Zealand) so was keen to expand my horizons. Also, red wine makes you seem quite adult, doesn’t it? This was a fantastic choice because our wine waiter was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly very passionate which made the experience all the more special – and myself proud that I’d chosen to be grown up and get sophisticatedly drunk on a Wednesday afternoon.

First course: ‘Waking up your tastebuds’

Parmesan & lemon jam, a hummus cone, orange & kale smoothie, fishcake on sunflower toast. Paired with a pale but fruity white wine which was delicious; not as sharp as I’d usually go for but very easy to drink. [Disclaimer: best to declare early-on that I am in no way a wine connoisseur so do forgive the lack of fancy terms here. Maybe oneday.] 

Needless to say, I was most excited about the hummus cone. It was awesome; sprinkled with a little paprika it was like a savoury ice cream cone of loveliness. Good crunch, too. I imagine that the fishcake could’ve been a close second because I love a good fishcake, however I think this was before they’d asked whether I ate fish or not so it was swapped out in place of a decorated cream cheese, also very tasty in fairness. The smoothie was weird as is any kale smoothie in my experience, but not unpleasant, and the parmesan with lemon jam was a delightful little sweet crunch to present a great texture contrast between the tasters. All of these nibbles complemented each other well in flavour and texture, so far so good. Before you ask, yes I did note the plastic bag and straw for the smoothie and yes, it could’ve been avoided but my Spanish is already very limited so I wasn’t sure how to convey this to the staff nor if they’d understand where I was coming from.

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I chose the wrong seat for insta-worthy lighting, didn’t I?

Second course: ‘Refresh moment’

Cesar salad, strawberry salmorejo, ceviche served on patacon, beetroot tartare. Paired with a medium white wine, sharper than the last but still soft and equally as drinkable. It still had a hint of fruitiness but less so to coordinate with the savoury tasters in this course.

The salad was very tasty and refreshing with a light crunch, likely my highlight of this course as I particularly enjoyed the sprinkling of crumbs on top. Beetroot isn’t usually to my taste but despite being a little sharp, the tartare was more pleasant than anticipated and accompanied the salad well. I hadn’t understood what ceviche was (I now know it’s a kind of seafood) but the components worked well together and atop the sweet patacon it was a lovely little mouthful. The strawberry salmorejo turned out to be a tomato and bread-based purée, originating in Andalucia, and whilst this balanced out the dish in terms of texture by contrasting with the crunchiness of the salad and patacon it wasn’t to our liking to be honest. The taste of strawberry just seemed a bit strange in conjunction with tomato, though I understand its intention was to be refreshing.

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Third course: ‘Fried specialities’

Mussel croquette, wild mushroom croquette, roasted chicken croquette, criolla pastry. Paired with a rosé wine, getting sharper again but with good flavour and body to it.

Here I had a vegetarian substitute for the chicken croquette but all of the fried delights were very satisfying and not over-greasy, fried just right. A heavier course than its predecessors, the sharpness of the rosé cut through the mashed potato within the croquettes nicely so that I didn’t feel overwhelmed or bloaty, just well fed (though the food-baby was beginning to kick-in). Moreover, by this point I was on my fourth glass of wine so was getting to the level of merriment that requires fried goods to keep you going. Perfect timing.

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Fourth course: ‘Tasty’

Creamy Spanish omelette, roasted pear with blue cheese, duck delights on sweet potato puree. Red wine, medium bodied and rich without being too heavy or bitter of aftertaste – I enjoyed, much to my surprise.

This was possibly our favourite course because of the presentation of the omelette; it was IMG_7649deconstructed in such a way that a lightly cooked egg laid atop a crunchy base of what I think was some kind of thin, tiny homemade potato chips and some seasonings, and you had to stir them all up together to form the omelette. This might sound strange but it was bloody delicious and so creamy! Definitely our favourite nibble of the whole experience and I think it’s quite fun to get involved with the food as well as simply eating it. The roasted pear was done very well and balanced out the strength of the blue cheese, though because of the cheese I was glad it was a small portion as oppose to a normal-sized dish else it could have been overwhelming. The duck delights was thoroughly enjoyed by my other half in his tasters – despite his taking a likeness to some particularly photogenic ducks strutting around the restaurant from a nearby pond, pictured – but unfortunately I can’t remember what my duck substitute was and had been so distracted by said photogenic ducks that I’d forgotten to take a photo of this course. My apologies! What is pictured below is the red wine with this course and the dessert wine for the next.

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Fifth course: ‘Small desserts’

Cheesecake, fruit salad with sangria, carrot cake. Dessert wine, sweet and very rich but a great end and matched perfectly with the desserts.

The deconstructed cheesecake-in-a-jar was a good mix of sweet and savoury but lacked the biscuit base we are so accustomed to at home so wasn’t a full cheesecake as far as we were concerned – enjoyable all the same. I helped myself to both portions of the fruit salad with sangria which was both refreshing and deceiving in the sense that fruit sounds healthy, but when one considers the four previous courses and sweet but tangy alcohol alongside, perhaps not realistically part of your five-a-day after all. But we don’t go on holiday to diet do we?! (Christ, wouldn’t that be a miserable world).

Last but not least, the carrot cake was perfectly spongey and deliciously moist. As someone who doesn’t like an over-abundance of carrot in their carrot cake, this was spot on; as was the relative amount of frosting (because I’m not keen on too much frosting either, I often find it over-powering). The cake especially paired with the dessert wine as light and moist met rich and flavourful, whilst the natural sweetness of each element of this course was what made it work well altogether to round off the meal without being sickly.

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Final thoughts?

We loved this tasting menu and the experience overall. It felt personal, it felt special and everything was executed to a high standard for a real bargain price. At the end of the meal we felt full but not uncomfortable, very content and in my case very ready for an afternoon alcohol-induced nap. As I said at the beginning, this was likely the highlight of our Spanish holiday and as well as the brilliant food, the attentive and knowledgeable staff and the venue as a whole provided such a welcoming, friendly and easy-going atmosphere that you felt right at home spending several hours there as we did. I really would recommend visiting if you find yourself in the Alicante area, especially for the traditional Flamenco Show which was an encapsulating and exciting performance of several phases, a fantastic accompaniment to the meal itself. Information can be found below – if you visit too I’d love to hear your thoughts!

IMG_7626Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Information: 24.50€ for the taster menu, 25€ including wine flight.
Address: Carretera CV 952, Km. 10,5, 03190 Pilar de la Horadada, Alicante
Bookings: reservas@restauranterebate.es
Website: Restaurante Rebate

Brilliant breakfast at Big Moose Coffee Co.

You may have seen a post of mine about my top 5 favourite breakfast spots in Cardiff a while ago; this is a place that deserves a new spot on that list.

Big Moose Coffee Co. is a new coffee shop tucked away in Cardiff’s city centre offering sandwiches, omelettes and some seriously tasty breakfasts with a twist. Crowdfunding exceeded all their expectations and allowed this charitable group to make their dreams a reality without becoming a charity; these guys have the sole mission of ‘leaving the world a better place than we found it’ and intend to do so by employing homeless or disadvantaged youths through Llamau, training them up for the world of work with the customer service and transferable skills many of us take for granted.

Not only that, but their offerings in the café are serious contenders in the Cardiff food & drink scene. I’ve been twice already and will not hesitate to return time and time again, not just because of the incredible service and perfectly executed breakfast, but also because the coffee shop itself has such a welcome, friendly and relaxing feel to it that you simply don’t want to leave. It’s a large space but it feels warm with the right lighting, not to mention the pleasant greenery on each table and potted planters on one of the walls, adding both a decorative touch and a strange sense of peace – perhaps all the hoo-hah about plants being good for the mind and soul is true after all?

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As well as all of this, there are two extra features I feel I have to mention which make this place really special: firstly, the stairs are incredible, serious home-deco inspiration I intend to recreate one day when I’ve a house of my own. Mix & match tiles sounds so simple but it’s so effective in my opinion, donating a very personal touch which large open spaces like this so often lack yet make you feel at home, comfortable, content.

Secondly, the toilet is uniquely kitted out with a grass-like wall, fairly lights and a wall print reading “Be kind” which is perfect for toilet mirror selfies but also serves as a reminder for everything Big Moose represents. Embrace it, welcome it and let yourself feel at home in this coffee shop and I can confidently say you’ll enjoy the whole experience.

Menu options vary from sandwiches to omelettes, toast to tea & cakes but the two breakfasts I’ve had there so far have been easily two of my favourite breakfasts in a while. Big Moose is already right up there with Milk & Sugar (the old library) in my go-to city centre brunches. First to be put to the test was my classic, ‘basic b*tch’ breakfast of avocado and poached eggs on toast which has become my solid point of comparison for all new breakfast/brunch experiences [see aforementioned top 5 Cardiff breakfasts post for evidence].

The yolk was the star of the show, running perfectly over a lovely thick spreading of smashed avocado and presented on a wooden board for extra pizazz. I was invited to season it with salt & pepper myself so as to suit my own taste, which I liked, and on the whole this breakfast was a dream. I was especially excited that somewhere was mad enough to be open at the absurd hour of 8am on a Sunday which I found myself walking through town in. So, whatever the time or occasion I’d certainly recommend giving Big Moose a try, you may just be in luck as I was!

Second time around I took my parents along and ordered the other thing on the menu screaming my name: the banana, walnut, maple and coconut cream toast. Sound strange? Trust me, it’s a stroke of pure genius. Also totally vegan, by the way. I still can’t quite decide (or perhaps I’m just scared to admit) whether this superseded my beloved avo & eggs on toast and became my new breakfast heaven. It very well may have.

This is one for a sweet tooth, I will warn you, but the texture contrasts were also amazing with the crunchy walnuts and toast against ripe banana and smooth coconut cream, maple syrup marrying it all together in perfect harmony. I’m seriously hungry just thinking about it again; if you like bananas then you really, really need to try this. For the sake of your tastebuds. For the sake of your soul.

And that, my friends, is why you should visit Big Moose Coffee Co. next time you’re in Cardiff city centre. Yes, the food is brilliant. Yes, they’ve designed the café with environmental awareness in mind, taking the no straw stand and encouraging everyone to help themselves to free tap water, both to drink in and fill up your water bottles. Yes, the décor is brilliantly cosy, homely and welcoming. But most of all it’s the culmination of all of these things that makes this place so special and good for the soul in every way.

Treat yourself, treat others, take some time to relax and unwind and all whilst supporting an incredible, local cause. Big Moose, you know I’ll be back soon.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

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‘Special’ by name, special by nature: Arbennig

The award-winning Arbennig restaurant is situated in Pontcanna not far away from the well-reputed Brød Danish bakery (which I’m sadly yet to visit, but it’s on my list) and Pipes beer (a personal favourite of mine), but well worth the wander out of town. I’d heard many good things about it from colleagues and fellow bloggers beforehand and even met the owner briefly when handing out roast dinners to the homeless with the Arbennig staff and other volunteers just after Christmas, but I was yet to dine there myself. So for Valentine’s Day this year we decided to take the plunge and try it out. We were not disappointed.

The set menu was short but catered well for different tastes, we thought, and sometimes I think there’s a charm in smaller menus as it allows more focus on the ingredients themselves and can result in dishes of a higher standard (see photo below). IMG_7008 All three of the starters were chosen between us, mine being the beetroot cured salmon with horseradish, blood orange and endive. I didn’t really know what endive was but I assumed it was the baby gem-like leaves when the dish came, which presented a good texture contrast. It was very tasty, the combination of beetroot and cured (rather than cooked) salmon worked really well, however I personally don’t like horseradish so that was my only issue. My father had the same and absolutely loved it, my mother had the garlic mushrooms and said it was perfectly balanced, not too heavy and a great start to the meal and my boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed his lamb ragu. Happy faces all round so far.

For mains my parents shared the treacle and mustard braised short ribs and I have to say, despite not being to my taste, they looked and smelled (much to my surprise) fantastic. The presentation really was spot on throughout, you can tell this is something Arbennig pride themselves with and they do it all without compromising portion sizes or flavour. The ribs were full of flavour, cooked perfectly with the meat easing off the bone and totally delicious, according to my parents. My father just wanted more! It’s worth mentioning here that the care taken in Arbennig to source their ingredients from local, fresh and often family-run suppliers really shines through in the quality of their dishes, these ribs being no exception.

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The braised short ribs

My boyfriend and I opted for the roasted cod loin where the quality of the fish was also very noticeable, heightening the overall dish which was so bloody tasty we’d have it again any time. The ingredients complimented each other perfectly in every way, the zing of the lemon purée marrying with the fresh fish yet contrasting with the scorched baby gem. It’s such a good feeling knowing that you’re supporting local suppliers, within a local family-run business and the meals taste all the better for it. I love that supporting local is such a big thing in Cardiff and long may it continue if these are the results!

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Roasted cod loin & Israeli cous cous etc.

Several glasses of wine and many comments on how fantastic everything was later, it was time for dessert. Again, all three of them on the set menu were chosen between us: my mother’s blood orange, biscuit crumble and almond meringue combo was another perfectly balanced combination, the meringue (my favourite) was just crumbly enough without breaking apart too easily and tasted incredible. My father’s rhubarb and almond tart was also impressive looking, well-balanced in flavour & texture and very satisfying. But the star of the show for me was the warm chocolate fondant with honeycomb and sorbet… Oh. My. God.

I’ve seen many a fondant go horribly wrong on Masterchef but, from that, I’ve got a good enough idea of what they’re supposed to be like; this was absolute perfection let me tell you. Held its own on the plate just until you dipped your spoon in to gently tear it apart and then out came the oozing, gooey, warm and gorgeous chocolate. I’m a huge chocoholic anyway and honeycomb is one of my favourite things to pair with it, so I can honestly say this is a serious contender for my favourite dessert ever. Perhaps even taking the top spot. The sorbet was the cherry on top, presenting that brilliant contrast between warm and cool, sponge and smooth and just all-round awesome-ness. I’d have it again tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that… (Except I’ve given up chocolate for lent ☹ *cries*)

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The work of art that was the chocolate fondant…

The service at Arbennig was just as fantastic as the food, too. The staff were very attentive, seeing to our every need or request, happily explaining anything we asked about and were genuinely interested in how much we were enjoying our experience. The place was a little chilly when we first arrived but warmed up when the other tables started filling up (and once our wine had kicked in). All in all, everything was perfectly balanced, very well flavoured and prepared and presented to a high standard. I can’t recommend it enough and can’t wait to go back to try the normal menu; by which I just mean not a set menu, as the restaurant menu itself changes weekly in line with what’s fresh and in season – isn’t that brilliant? Exactly how things should be, not to mention always keeping it interesting. Have you tried Arbennig yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Note: this post was not sponsored, we paid for our meal in full and all views are my own.

Tasty Tapas at Cathedral 73

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve always found it hard to share. Fortunately, not when it comes to tapas. Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Cathedral 73 to try out their new tapas taster menu, following management changes back in November; I was informed that some of the options have been designed as sharers so brought a friend along for the ride.

We arrived not quite sure what to expect but were greeted kindly on arrival with some very nice Bloody Mary’s and took a moment to enjoy the décor around the place; funky, chic and interesting without seeming tacky, this place has truly been decorated to a high standard. It was a very warm welcome from both the staff and the establishment; it was so nice to walk into a hotel lobby and not shudder at the excessive use of air-con! Before the food began, we were treated to a tour around some of their unoccupied rooms: the bridal suite, a one-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom apartment.

The Bridal suite is spread over two floors and is cosy yet very comfortable, with extra little luxurious touches such as a stand-alone bath within the lounge area itself to soak in bubbles and watch your favourite TV… Or just enjoy the freedom of a separate bathroom to send your partner off to rather than let them interrupt your relaxation time! The apartments are more focused towards business guests for long stays, who may prefer to keep to themselves and cook rather than eat in the restaurant each night. They are, however, also suitable for couples or even small families, each containing a small but functional kitchen area (I say small, about the same as my own one-bed flat kitchen to be fair), lounge area with TV, and bedroom with generously-sized ensuite. I’d happily live in one of these if it were an option! Overall we were very pleasantly surprised by the size and comfort of the rooms in Cathedral 73, all with a very professional finish, and it’s now definitely on my radar should we or any relatives ever need a place to stay in the centre. Grand tour over, it was high time for a bite to eat.

On our table waiting for us were some delicious garlic breads to whet our appetite and keep us ticking over whilst the food was being freshly prepared. Needless to say; they were gone in a flash. First came some well-presented faggot balls atop mushy peas and sporting a single parsnip crisp, which although I couldn’t eat I was told were hot but tasty. My veggie option was a thick slice of goat’s cheese atop a leafy salad, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and a zesty jus. I thoroughly enjoyed and the cheese slice was just the right size so that I still had room for more, as goat’s cheese can sometimes be too filling as a starter.

Fish pie then came in cute little pans and tasted and smelled delicious, yet their handles were very hot to the touch so approach with caution when trying to scoop out onto a side plate. The individual components were also cut into small chunks for ease of consumption, which actually felt like a really nice touch. There was then a cottage pie for the meat-eaters, which again looked and smelled very good, yet at this point we began to think that ‘small plates’ may have been a better description than tapas as we were beginning to get very full. My alternative was a porcini mushroom wellington, which is not something I would usually go for as I’m not keen on the mushroom texture but the jus was delicious and the pastry was perfect, all together a very satisfying dish actually.

Finally, full to the brim we just managed to squeeze in some Welsh rarebit with a poached egg on top to finish. The egg was perfectly runny and as my first taste of rarebit it was delicious. I would definitely go for it again!

All in all, it was a really good evening with generous hosts, a lovely venue and very tasty (very filling) food. Despite unfortunately not catching the details of the full menu or prices, I would very much like to return for dinner some time (I did eye up their Valentine’s menu but haven’t decided yet) as well as try out some of their cocktails; plans were mentioned to expand their gin collection in the near future, starting with an event tomorrow evening (Friday 26th) that I sadly can’t go to, but I’ll certainly keep my eyes peeled for more.

Have you been to Cathedral 73? What did you think?

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Top 5 Cardiff breakfast spots: Charlie’s current cravings

I don’t know about you but I really feel like breakfast (or brunch) has upped its game recently. Gone are the days when going out for breakfast just meant a full English or a greasy fry-up; now it’s all about the picturesque pancake stack, the avocado on toast or the perfectly poached eggs we see flooding our Instagram feeds. I, however, welcome this change with open arms (I’ve never been much of one for full English breakfasts anyway) so have rounded up my current favourite breakfast/brunch spots in Cardiff.

In no particular order…

  • Juno Lounge, Wellfield Rd

I’ve written about this place before and honestly really miss the days of living just over the road. It saved me from many a hangover and hosted me writing many a blog post in the early days. Juno is great for any occasion in my opinion (and it’s pup friendly which is a huge bonus!) but for breakfast I’d recommend: the avocado brunch, triple-stacked buttermilk pancakes with fruit & yoghurt OR bacon & syrup, or the lounge breakfast (like a fry-up) also available as vegetarian. They’ve also recently added sweet potato waffles to the menu which look and sound delicious…

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Sorry, I’m always too hungry to snap breakfast… but used to love writing here with a burger & pint!

  • The Moos, Whitchurch Rd

A wonderful little vegan cafe which celebrated its first birthday earlier this year, The Moos is a great place to go for a filling, healthy breakfast. Their speciality is smoothie bowls and/or açai bowls which come in a variety of colours, wonderfully decorated and taste as good as they look. There’s also avocado toast if you need to satisfy that craving, as well as a range of delicious sweet treats, takeaway wraps & sandwiches and a recently installed pick-your-own salad bar so you can easily take home a lunch or snack for later. It’s also worth noting that AIM yoga studio has not long opened in the space above the cafe with a wide range of classes available to book online – dream combination really!

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Yes, this was all for me… I was hungry that day…

  • Barkers 

These cafes are split into Barkers Tea House and Coffee Barkers, one in each of the arcades either side of High Street in town. Both are cute, comfortable and perfect for a casual catch-up with a friend, afternoon tea (booking is necessary), or a weekend brunch with a nice hot pot of tea. The eggs royale and salmon & cream cheese bagel are my personal favourites, with plenty of freshly made sandwiches, paninis and cakey bits also on offer. It’s without doubt one of my go-to places in town and I look forward to one day trying the afternoon tea!

  • Milk & Sugar/Llaeth & siwgr

After seeing such a buzz online about the opening of the new branch in the Old Library in town, I went to try it out with The Octopus Diaries last month. I can safely say it was one of my favourite brunches so far! We both went for the chilli avocado & poached eggs on toast (obviously) and it was dreamy, perfect yolk if ever there was one (see my instagram for evidence). It was just enough, not too heavy for a Saturday morning. Other options available include full Welsh breakfast, thick-cut toast with sweet & savoury options, classic cheese omelette and many more including an ever-changing specials board which looked very tasty. The space is big and open without being cold and airy, great for people watching over a delicious breakfast or lunch. I’ll definitely be visiting again!

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Seriously dreamy poached eggs right there…

  • Penylan Pantry

The most recent of my breakfast escapades, this place did not disappoint. I’m sure you can guess what I went for… (organic crushed avocado & chilli on toast with a poached egg, of course) but it was absolutely delicious, so fresh and full of flavour. Another great people watching spot too if you’re sat in the window. I’m keen to go again soon because the menu had so many tantalising options (80% of which are available as gluten-free according to their website!) such as healthy chocolate porridge, the healthy start bowl, homemade Pantry beans & toast and gourmet grilled cheese on toast – the latter of which my boyfriend’s parents tried when we went and said it was delicious. There was a small mix-up with our meal which meant a slight delay but otherwise the quality and flavour were fantastic. There’s also a deli counter, an impressive selection of local organic produce and all kinds of pantry items available to buy (perfect for those Christmas hampers). To top it all off this place has a nice neighbourhood feel, I’m a fan.

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I don’t know who decided to add feta to the mix but definitely a good choice

And there you have it, my current favourite Cardiff brunch & breakfast spots. Trust me, there are many more on my list to visit! Any particular recommendations are most welcome, but if you’re looking for somewhere to brunch this weekend I’d definitely recommend one (or a few) of the above; all of them delicious, fresh and very satisfying.

Happy weekend!
Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx