Dash to The Hashery for some great new grub!

I’m back on the blog! Sorry to any of you who’ve been waiting to hear from me over the past month; as you can imagine it’s been a very busy time of year especially as I’ve just moved house! But finally finding the time to sit down and write again, so here goes.

There have been many food adventures since my last post but this one in particular I felt I had to share with you all: The Hashery is brand spanking new in the centre of Cardiff and offers a range of Cubanos, cocktails and mussels as specialty – may sound like a strange combo but trust me, it’s heaven. My mother and I went only two days after its opening and were treated so well that we already plan to go back again. It’s a large space but not cold if you head towards the back, whilst the combination of the dimmed edgy lighting that seems to be so in vogue at the moment and the warm friendly faces of the staff greeting you as you walk in really make it feel welcoming.

file_001-7First port of call: cocktails. What could be better at lunchtime on a Sunday? ‘Electric Tea’ tasted exactly how it sounds; zingy, fresh, exciting, familiar but with a twist. Containing a mixture of rum, tequila, vodka, gin, triple sec and blue curacao no wonder this cheeky cocktail gave us a warm glowing buzz before we tucked into the mains – we loved it! At this point, it’s also very important to mention that cocktails are two-for-one all day, every day and for only £6.95… absolute dream.

Now I must admit; I am not a person who shares food. But I do, however, love going out for a meal with people who like the same sorts of things as me so that we can try a little of each others’ but still enjoy 98% of our own dishes (or rather, I eat my own 98% and then wait until they’re full so I can ‘help them out’ – because we hate wasting food don’t we). For this reason, among many others, my mother is one of my favourite dining partners, 9 times out of 10 ordering the file_005-5other thing on the menu I really fancied trying just so I can finish it later.

On this occasion it was the Mexicano Cubano: avocado, tomato, grated triple cheese, Monterey Jack cheese and the bacon left out for my benefit. I went for the Citron Mussel Pot with an orange, ginger, carrot and coriander sauce ‘with an Eastern twist’ and I can safely say that these were the best mussels my 22 years thus far on this Earth have given me. They were divine. And from local, sustainable sources making them all the more tasty and satisfying. I really can’t recommend them enough! Soft but not overdone, not a single shell unopened, super filling but incredible sauce that I tore up my bread into as many tiny pieces as possible to enjoy, it was just wonderful. I can’t wait to try some of the other flavours! And starting from just £7.95 per mussel pot it’s an absolute bargain. They’ve also just been named as one of the top things for foodies in Cardiff to try in 2017, so I’m certainly not alone in this opinion (see Wales Online’s article).

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A close-up of my stunning Citron Mussels Pot

Going back to the Mexicano Cubano; this was also truly scrumptious. Sometimes with really cheesy grilled sandwiches it can all get a bit too much and fill you up too quickly but the balance was just right on this one, so much so that I had to fight my mother for that precious 2% of her meal. Plus, let’s not forget that the avocado makes it feel healthy and contrasts really nicely with the tomato so everybody’s a winner here – I can only imagine that for meat-eaters the bacon would be the icing on the cake. We also shared some courgette fries which were different and interesting; you’d think they’d be a bit soggy but the batter was done really well just like sweet potato fries, we very much enjoyed. Altogether a solid 8/10, maybe even pushing it to a 9 just for those mussels! But I’d like another few visits to fully make up my mind.

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The contemporary, cool-looking outside of The Hashery

I highly recommend The Hashery as part of Cardiff’s ever-growing foodie culture which I am super excited about and to be a part of. This place has a diverse and different menu which brings a fresh taste to Cardiff’s city centre in the form of amazing local seafood, whilst also being in a convenient location whether you’re out for the evening or just looking for a great sit-down lunch during a busy day’s shopping. Founders Sean Hill and Oscar Garcia have really hit the nail on the head with this one. A brilliant meal with perfectly balanced drinks and great customer service, all at a very reasonable price, we couldn’t have been happier. Their casual name drop in this Wales Online article about things to look out for in 2017 is also kind of a big deal! So go on, dash to The Hashery and see what you think. I promise you won’t be disappointed; I can’t wait to go back.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Another Wellfield wonder: give Chai a try!

A welcoming cosy glow irradiates from this cute little catch at the top of Wellfield Road, Roath.  Its bright, bold colours and warm lighting make it stand out from the crowd and appear individual and independent in a cool, funky, hipster-kinda way.  Its fresh take on classic Indian dishes keeps you on your toes and entices you to try new things, mix it up.  There’s also a custom spice chart on the wall inviting you to be daring and experiment a little – because why not?  ‘When in Rome’ as they say.

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The jazzy newspaper-style menus

The first thing to put a smile on our faces was the menus which come in the style of newspapers; something funky and different, a nice personal touch I think.  Tables and chairs feature the same colour scheme as the sign on the front making the décor flow together nicely and creating a comfortable, warm and inviting ambience.  The staff are very friendly and attentive, happy to answer any questions you may have and making a point of explaining that everything is made fresh and to taste; you have complete creative freedom with your dish in terms of ingredients and spice levels – ideal for fussy eaters!  Plus, I feel this makes the whole experience more special and welcoming without the worry of who likes a lot of spice and who doesn’t.

First up: cocktails… obviously.  Chaiholics Rum Special was my poison of choice: gingerfile_002-5 and cinnamon rum swizzle with a burst of peach.  The peach softened the ginger and cinnamon into a sweet, smooth texture which went down very easily; whereas my father’s Chai-jito (adaptation of Mojito) was strong and delicious yet packed a little too much punch for our liking. A good effort, 7/10.

Starters: Okra fries.  These I’ve wanted to try for quite some time so leaped at the opportunity!  They arrived with a choice of two sauces and were fried with an assortment of light spices and chillies, altogether making a very more-ish but amazing starter we couldn’t stop nibbling on!  Delish.

Mains: in my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with a good prawn curry – or in this case, a Goan prawn curry! A top notch treat meal whilst also getting a good amount of protein in – win, win!  Despite wholegrain rice not being available on request, the sauce itself was just the right level of heat for me.  Not too hot, not mild, but just right… like Goldilocks and her porridge you might say.  This was disturbed, however, by my accidental crunching on a chilli seed that’d been hiding somewhere*; that aside, this was lush.  My parents both had lamb dishes which I’m told were succulent and tender, coming easily apart which is apparently rare and difficult to get right (not that I would know).  By the end of the evening we were all absolutely stuffed and thoroughly enjoyed (almost*) every mouthful.  I can definitely say we would more than happily return – and I most likely will.

Wellfield Road is full of little gems like this, of which I have only discussed a few; but whether you live in Cardiff or you’re just visiting for the weekend I definitely recommend taking a look.  There’s so much on offer in such a small area you can’t possibly be disappointed!  It’s small, cosy places like Chai that create the homely, comfortable and laid back atmosphere of eating out on Wellfield Road, in my experience.  Friendly staff, great food, reasonable prices, lots to choose from – what more do you want!  Wellfield strikes again: an overall 8/10.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Juno what’s going on in Roath?

You’ve had a long, tiring day at work: Juno is there.  You’re hanging out of your arse after a heavy night out: Juno is there.  You really just need a good old pick-me-up, even better if it’s just healthy enough not to feel guilty about: Juno is there.

Living within easy walking-distance of this little local gem has definitely been a factor in my falling in love with Cardiff.  Aside from the convenience, the staff are always so friendly and helpful even if you’re there just to get some work done with a few nibbles and a nice atmosphere.  They’re also very accommodating – you’re never too much of an inconvenience, which culminates in the laid-back, super friendly and above all cosy vibe of the place that makes it so special.

The warm, cosy interior of Juno Lounge, Roath. [Photo credit: Trip Advisor]

Menu: burgers, salads, hangover breakfasts and specials; Juno has it all.  Whether you’re a meat-eater or a fussy eater, there’s no shortage of incredible options, including a whole menu of vegan and gluten-free.  For meat-lovers: the Hero Burger.  Highly renowned as one of the best burgers in Cardiff, this beast is composed of a 6oz beef patty, chorizo, mature cheddar, fried red onion, chimichurri, chipotle mayo and marinated chilli.  10/10 for sure.  For veggies: Yossi’s Falafel Burger.  Full of flavour and goodness, this isn’t your standard veggie burger!  A wood-roasted pepper, rocket, tomato, red onion, basil pesto and garlic mayo all accompany the falafel to create this fantastic, fresh feast that will surely keep you coming back for more.  9/10 from me; close but not quite as good as the following…

Specials: I’ve had the last two special burgers in a row (I’m basically a regular now) and I can safely say both were incredible.  The first, a spiced hummus and halloumi burger, was stunning.  I’m a huge fan of halloumi anyway especially in burgers, trying new variations whenever I get chance (e.g. Street Food Circus).  On this occasion I wasn’t sure how the spiced hummus was going to work but it was perfect – salty meets sweet & spicy, with a juicy roasted pepper in the middle, whilst the all-important salad balanced it all out.

The second, a butternut squash and edamame bean burger, featuring halloumi (obviously) and served in the beauty that is a brioche burger bun, I went back for twice because I loved it so much.  I just want to be clear on one thing… this was a chunky-ass burger.  I mean it was more than just a two-hand job…  This is the first time in my life I’ve ever had to be one of those bell-ends that cuts their burger using actual cutlery instead of our God-given hands; like those people who insist on cutting pizza with a knife and fork despite the fact that it was MADE to be eaten with our hands – even cut into portions to do so!  Anyway, this burger was huge, but it was so so good.  Packed full of veggie goodness (butternut squash being rich in fibre, vitamins & minerals, antioxidants and very low in calories, similar to pumpkin) and well-balanced flavours, it’s a solid 10/10 from me – for both of the specials, in fact.

Burgers aside, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every single meal I’ve had at Juno (hungover or otherwise).  The Avocado Brunch is perfect for that hangover fix due to its cheeky sprinkle of chilli flakes; the Grilled Halloumi & Falafel salad is great for those days when you want to eat out but don’t want to stray too off-plan; the Triple-stacked Buttermilk Pancakes with banana, strawberries, peach sauce and Greek yoghurt are a very filling but very rewarding breakfast to bring you back to life after a heavy night or a stressful week (also available with smoked streaky bacon & maple syrup); and lastly, but by no means least, the classic poached eggs & smoked salmon on toast which has saved me on some of my darkest days.

One of the things I especially love about this place is that the friendly chilled-out vibe is also reciprocated in the staff, meaning that when the struggle is very real and the waiter or waitress can see it on your face, they give that service with genuine smile and you know that they know what you’re going through.  (Sort of like a Friends “we know that they know, we know” situation).

My cute & cosy set up whilst writing at Juno

 There’s so much more I could say about Juno Lounge; I haven’t even mentioned the Cruiser Atlantic pale ale they serve on tap, specifically a Loungers brew, or the cocktail menu I’ve been dying to try for ages, or even the tasty-looking tapas menu!  But I will certainly be back time and time and time again.  I’d recommend it to any of my fellow Roath residents and Cardiffians: embrace it as your local/regular because that’s half the beauty of the place.  It’s convenient and it’s cosy, but it’s also really good, reasonably priced, wholesome food in a place you’re always made to feel totally welcome.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*special thanks goes to my fave waiter Juno George for the genius title suggestion!

P.S.  I don’t actually know if his name is George

An award-winning Welsh wonder: Bryn Williams @ Porth Eirias, Colwyn Bay

You may remember Bryn Williams from The Great British Menu back in 2006, you may not.  But whether you’ve followed him from the beginning or not, it’s becoming widely recognised that Denbigh-born Bryn is one of Wales’ best contemporary chefs, becoming a celebrity chef in his own right.  This was definitely evident in his bistro at Porth Eirias in Colwyn Bay, which I had the pleasure of visiting for evening dinner earlier this week.

The bistro itself has a cool, relaxed feel; dimmed lighting, plenty of seaside decoration and a large open hatch between the kitchen and the bistro allowing you to look in on a bit of the action, which, for me, is always an exciting extra.  The staff were very friendly and welcoming, allowing us plenty of time to choose our drinks whilst we were busy getting excited over the main menu; we’d had a long look at this beforehand in order to really psyche ourselves up, only to realise once there that the menu had changed.  While this may sound like a complaint, it really isn’t!

Seasonal menu changes are something I love to see; making the most of local ingredients and whatever’s available that particular week, this is the kind of sustainability and support of local produce that I’m always babbling on about and I love it!  Let’s not of course forget that it’s a very clever way of getting you to come back to eat time and time again (which, of course, we do happily), yet it also plays to the chef’s strengths by constantly challenging them to change and adapt to new things.  Win-win, really.  In the words of Stacey Shipman: “Nice one, Bryn!”.

Now when it comes to drinks, obviously I had to try a local brew… Snowdon Craft Lager from The Great Orme Brewery based in the Conwy Valley (4.7%) was a lovely, smooth addition to the evening meal.  Not too heavy in its texture, or too strong in its flavour, but perfectly crisp and thirst-quenching – so much so that it almost disappeared before our food arrived, oops!  One of my company had a different brew from Great Orme: Atlantis IPA, an American style pale ale made with British hops.  “A very nice brew, that” was the reaction… which for those of you who don’t translate classic English Northern, means ‘lovely body and flavour, very enjoyable’.

And then came the food…  Despite being in a coastal and therefore traditionally fish restaurant, I decided to indulge in the only meat I actually eat – duck (strange choice I know, don’t ask).  Confit Duck Leg, braised red cabbage, glazed apple, green peppercorn sauce.  Oh, my.  The combination of the duck and the red cabbage alone was enough to make this dish an absolute treat, but once combined with the sweetness of that glazed apple and the green peppercorn sauce it was truly something really special.  I savoured every last mouthful.  And was the envy of my company for it!  When in Rome though, right?

Fish fingers, fries & crushed peas may not sound much like haut cuisine but when done in a coastal and/or seafood specialised restaurant, they really can be amazing.  I’m reliably informed that this dish was incredible, “the best fish fingers I’ve ever had”, and I don’t doubt it for a second.  I mean, just look at them!  Especially considering that these particular fish fingers were composed of Plaice, not Cod as is traditional; another thing I love about chef restaurants is making the simple things different and amazing, particularly when using local ingredients to do so – in this case, the Plaice.  Another fantastic fish feature was Smoked Haddock, crushed potatoes, poached egg & butter sauce (top-right of below); this also looked, smelled, and I’m told tasted B-E-A-utiful.  The same again for the Gilthead Bream with saffron orzo, crispy pancetta & braised kale (bottom-right of below): stunning in both appearance and flavour.  The only slightly negative comments any of us had about the meal was that we could’ve eaten it all again – because it was so thoroughly enjoyed!  Even for those traditionalists among you, I’m told the Porth Eirias 8oz burger with fries & coleslaw was no exception to this very high standard and top-class taste.

Now when it comes to dessert, it’s kind of common custom when you’re in a party of more than two or three to only get a dessert when someone else wants one so as not to be the only one keeping the party going.  Much to my delight, I was not the only one: a vanilla cheesecake with pineapple, passionfruit and lemongrass arrived for one of my company, who’s face was instantly one of confusion and uncertainty…  yes, okay, it was kind of a de-constructed approach to a cheesecake but I’m sure it tasted brilliant all the same!  Just wasn’t quite the big, hearty, bowl-full of pudding he’d hoped for… (Northerners, what can you do).  Two others went for the spiced apple compote, bayleaf custard and crumble which looked absolutely delish and more of the traditional type of dessert the cheesecake chooser would’ve very much appreciated.  Nevermind, pal.

My dessert, in my opinion, was still the very best choice: baked banana, chocolate and peanut butter with some peanuts sprinkled over the top as well.  Absolute dream!  It took me right back to my years growing up as a Girlguide when we used to do baked bananas in foil on the BBQ, but cut a slit in the middle and inserted a cheeky chocolate flake which melted and tasted altogether fantastic.  Just the warm comfort you needed after a long day making fires and building woodland shelters and all the fun outdoors-y stuff.  My only concern was the peanut butter to chocolate ratio, I would’ve preferred more of an even split myself, but this is just a personal thing and depends completely on your affections towards chocolate and peanut butter.  Not sure I could live without either, if I’m honest…

This concluded my wonderful evening of fine dining at Porth Eirias.  The strong sea winds of Colwyn Bay prompted sweet nostalgia of my university days up in Aberystwyth, whilst the quality and style of Bryn Williams‘ food, let alone its incredible and fresh flavour from high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients, really made the evening and the meal very special.  I would 100% go back again.  And I look forward to what new and different delights may be on the menu next time!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*special thanks once again to Juno Lounge for their hospitality for the second week in a row whilst I posted this, you truly are one of my absolute favourites I’ll be writing about very soon…