Sunday, 23 November 2014

Wahaca Cardiff - Review

It's almost a year to the day I last stepped into a Wahaca restaurant and this week I had a chance to step into a new Wahaca, right here in my home town of Cardiff. The Wahaca we were last in is possibly my favourite eating spot in London. The ultra funky Wahaca Southbank, 8 shipping containers bolted together to create one of the coolest places to eat in London. With great views and great food, I always felt a little gutted that there wasn't a Wahaca closer to where I live. Fast forward to June this year and my wish was granted, Wahaca were opening their first restaurant outside of London in Cardiff! A great coup for the city and proof that the UK is taking note of this great capital city. As if that wasn't good enough news, this happened:

A tweet I posted about Wahaca coming to Cardiff was used on the hoardings outside the future restaurant along with other tweets from Wahaca fans. Honoured doesn't even cover it. For someone who had only started tweeting 3 months earlier I couldn't believe my tweet had been used. So on November the 13th 2014 Wahaca Cardiff opened its doors, I was sadly away that weekend but managed to pop in on the Monday after opening along with Mrs Clonc and baby Clonc to try it out.

The restaurant is huge, with two main dining areas on the ground and first floor with a very cool bar on the second floor. The decor is what I would call 'refined industrial' with exposed steal beams, painted scaffolding and wood cladding. I very much like the open kitchen toward the back of the ground floor and I can imagine when the weather improves (summer is a long time away) the outside dinning area will be positively jumping.
The staff all seem motivated and well trained. Everyone from the host who showed us to our table and happily accommodated us providing a high chair and space for us to park the buggy to our waiter Jack who was friendly yet professional and actually looked like he enjoyed what he was doing. I must say it's a stroke of genius for the waiter to introduce themselves by name and note it down on the paper menus in front of you, which also act as your table mat. It saves referring to the waiter as 'excuse me' when trying to get their attention. 
As mentioned we have eaten at a Wahaca before so we were adamant to try something new, aside from the obligatory tortilla chips and guacamole.  Choosing primarily from the street food part of the menu we opted for (in order they arrived):
Herring tostadas, crisp tortillas topped with smoked herring, sour cream, cucumber and chive salad. Perhaps not our favourite dish, fiddly to eat and personally we found the herring overpowering.

Thankfully the next dish to land was from their winter specials, Duck taquitos: confit duck leg wrapped in a crisp tortillas with a mole sauce. Simply delicious, the crisp shell giving way to soft and flavoursome duck.

We did order Chipotle chicken quesadillas, which is a large toasted tortilla with our chosen filling and cheese. Sadly this dish was very plain and lacking in much flavour (also no photo sorry). But fear not things then got a lot better, the best dish by far was the Plantain taco, soft tortillas bursting with flavour from the sweet and crispy plantain, salty feta, fiery chipotle adobo and rounded off with crema and frijoles (black beans). A suberb dish, well balanced, interesting, moreish with a good kick to it. It's so nice to try a dish that delivers so well on flavour, smell, texture and presentation. I will definitely be having this once again. 

A trip to Wahaca would not be complete without Churros, if you have not tried these before you are in for a treat. Essentially a Mexican doughnut, crispy on the outside but soft on the inside, dusted with sugar and spice that just dissolves in the mouth. Dunked into the accompanying chocolate sauce it is heaven. 

The total bill came to £32.65 including a couple of soft drinks from their extensive non-alcoholic drinks menu and a couple of coffees (the coffee comes with a square of the best chilli chocolate ever). Back in the day a cold Corona Extra or a Margarita would of gone down a storm. 
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Wahaca Cardiff, it provides a welcome alternative to the city centre dining scene and is definitely on course to be a sure fire hit. I would thoroughly recommend it, great service which is so important to me, good food and atmosphere. A good tip would be to take advantage of the very user friendly online booking system as it is likely to be very busy over the next few months judging by the queues for lunch on a Monday. The last word here goes to baby Clonc, who apart from charming most of the restaurant from his high chair, managed to blag a couple of these funky Wahaca teaspoons.

Wahaca Cardiff
51-53 The Hayes, St Davids Dewi Sant, CF10 1GA
Tel: 02921 670414

Monday, 10 November 2014

Hokkei - Review

When I heard the rumours months back that MasterChef 2013 finalist Larkin Cen and Dale Williams were joining forces to open Hokkei I was intrigued.  Being a big fan of MasterChef I remember watching their highs and lows as they progressed through the series and the fact that they were both from Cardiff made it even more exciting to watch, like supporting your home football team (as I don't support a football team, MasterChef is my Premier League).  

Set on the bustling Crwys Road in the heart of Cardiff's student area, Hokkei intends to improve upon the take away experience with  the aim of providing 'Awesome Asian Food To Go' and the Hokkie Box itself is the centre piece of the menu. Billed as a perfect meal for one the Hokkie Box includes one main dish, a side, a dim sum and an extra. It just so happens that Mrs Clonc and Baby Clonc are away visiting the grandparents so a perfect opportunity for me to visit Hokkei Box on their opening day. 
The boxes have been amusingly themed under names such as Moo, Birdy and Piggy. I went for The King: Tiger prawns, ginger and spring onions as the main and then chose the triple cooked crispy beef as the dim sum, steamed rice as my side and spicy Asian slaw as my extra. 

The presentation of the food so neatly and precisely in the lovely Hokkei Box is excellent, each component in its own little compartment within the box sealed for freshness ready for you to tear into when you get home. The food, what shines through is the quality of the products that have been used and the care and skill that they have been prepared with. The triple cooked beef was excellent, crispy as you like (but not so much that you might want to visit your dentist the next day) covered in a sticky, spicy and sweet sauce. The prawns were proper tiger prawns and not the ones you normally get fobbed off with in Chinese or Indian takeaways. Beautifully cooked, plump and juicy with a hint of warming ginger and a crunch of slightly charred spring onion, stunning. The steamed rice, cooked perfectly and the spicy Asian slaw provided a welcomed zing of freshness.

My complete meal came to £14.95. They do deliver but I waited for my order to be made up which took a matter of 15 mins or so. A lovely touch was a cup of complementary Chinese tea while I waited.

Hokkei is by far the best take away I have had of any genre. So slick in its presentation and delivery of flavour. I am definitely a fan and would highly recommend people try out a Hokkei box for yourself. The question is which Hokkei box are you? 
In the meanwhile I need to hide this box before Mrs Clonc gets home and realises I went to Hokkei without her!

92 Crwys Road, Cardiff, CF24 4NP
Tel: 029 22331400
Twitter: @HokkeiBox