Monday, 14 December 2015

Arbennig Emporium - Preview

Next month the restaurant Arbenning in Pontcanna opens Arbennig Emporium right next door to it in the site of the now defunct Fat Pig Deli. 

Speaking to John and Ceri Cook who run Arbennig about what the plan is for the new venture they say, " the aim is to create a relaxed and friendly environment customers can enjoy a light bite with friends or simply some coffee and a slice of freshly baked cake". Also on offer will be a selection of seasonal soups and freshly baked focaccia sandwiches with a variety of fillings and styles. John who is the head chef at Arbennig says "the ethos of the emporium will match that of the restaurant. Sourcing quality ingredients and whenever possible ensuring they are local".

Ham Hock Scotch Egg is an example of what will be on the menu

Snowdonia Cheese scones to be served along side their soups

Arbennig Emporium also aims to be the first port of call for foodies looking for specialist cooking ingredients, so people can recreate the restaurant experience in their own kitchens.
That's not all, they plan to serve breakfast, provide a take away service of gourmet meals and if you are too lazy to leave the house then a delivery service will also be on offer through Deliveroo.

Take away Duck Confit!

Things have been in overdrive for the last few weeks as preparation for their opening is well under way with a launch date of the 12th of January 2016. For more information, menus and hours of business checkout their website or follow on Twitter @ArbennigE or like on Facebook
I for one am really looking forward to seeing what exactly will be on offer and think it will be an excellent addition to the area and Cardiff's independent food scene. I also plan to be the first in the queue when they open! 

Work in progress

Arbennig Emporium
Due to open the 12th of January 2016
Address: 4 Romily Cresent, Pontcanna, CF11 9NR 

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Corran Resort and Spa - Afternoon Tea

As the weather turns ever more gloomy and temperatures drop Mrs Clonc and I decide to escape for a little afternoon away. As we happened to be in west Wales The Corran Resort ans Spa seemed the ideal place to do just that.

Afternoon Tea has certainly seen a growth in it's popularity over the last several years and as such there are a lot of places that offer it. All with varying degrees of success. It's  fair to say that the popularity of afternoon tea has grown together with the nations interest in all things baking (Great British Bake Off the main instigator) so have peoples expectations. 
I must admit I do love the pomp and ceremony around the whole occasion of afternoon tea not to mention how very twee it actually is.
The afternoon tea at The Corran was presented as you would expect on a tiered stand. I must say the overall presentation was excellent and very impressive. That touch of theatre is exactly what you want when you go for afternoon tea . 

It comprised of finger sandwiches at the bottom, a cavalcade of patisserie and sweet things on the middle level and two shot glasses of dark chocolate mousse on the top level. This was accompanied by a side of two freshly made scones! We were offered a pot of our choice of tea. The tea source in tea bag form (Twinings) rather than loose leaf. 
I'm not entirely sure of the etiquette about how you approach afternoon tea but then again I don't really care and you don't have to be Sherlock to know what we went for first. Yep, the warm scones. 

The warm scones of the plain variety were excellent, really well made and tasted delicious. More importantly they provided an excellent medium to hold the vast volumes of clotted cream and jam. In the interest of fairness I alternated what went on first, jam or cream and surprise surprise  it tastes fantastic either way.

As mentioned the savoury element to this dish were the sandwiches. These are normally fewer in number but accompanied by a mini pork pie each. As I do not eat pork we had more sandwiches in lieu. The sandwiches comprised of a salmon and cucumber, cheese and pickle, cheese and tomato and chicken and mayo. Nothing to report here really apart from they were as you would expect, neatly prepared with no crusts but nothing to write home about. They did provide a welcome break in between the sweet elements.

The sweet elements in question took up the next two tiers and comprised of tarte aux citron, chocolate brownie, bara brith, welsh cakes, honeycomb and two shot glasses of dark chocolate mousse.
The most outstanding element by far was the superb tarte aux citron. Thin, crisp pastry with the most well balanced filling. Sharp with lemon but not so much your salivary glands spasm and sweet but not overly so. Perfect. 
The brownie flecked with white chocolate morsels was rich with dark chocolate, dense in consistency and a first for me to find on an afternoon tea. 
The duds I'm afraid were the bara brith which was like cardboard and no amount of butter slathered on top would have made it any better. The welsh cakes were unremarkable. A shame that the two Welsh elements were not better.
The honeycomb was a lovely flourish, well made and tested the retention of a few fillings.
Lastly the two shot glasses filled with a dark chocolate mousse and topped with a fruit compote sealed the deal. Deeply rich but light mousse, cut through with the fruit and a single raspberry a the bottom of the glass like hidden treasure. Superb and a great way to finish.

The service was attentive and friendly and our tea pots were refreshed and refilled at least twice at no extra charge. We had our afternoon tea in the bar area which is scattered with comfy seating and low tables, you can also have it in their beautiful dining room. In total the afternoon tea came to £12.50 each which is in my opinion excellent value for money. 
We very much enjoyed our visit to The Corran, the cosy and relaxed atmosphere suited us perfectly. The afternoon tea on the whole was presented well with a few outstanding gems. I dare say a gift voucher of afternoon tea at The Corran would make a lovely Christmas present.

The Corran Resort and Spa
Address: East Marsh, Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, SA33 4RS
Tel: 01994 427417

Friday, 27 November 2015

Hang Fire Smokehouse Announce Restaurant Opening

The Hang Fire Smokehouse duo have announced they will open their first restaurant, Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, in February 2016!

The new restaurant will be situated in a 215 year old Grade II listed Pump House on Barry Waterfront which has recently been converted as part of a multi-million-pound regeneration project.

Samantha Evans, co-owner of Hang Fire Smokehouse, said: “This is the biggest project we’ve taken on yet - and probably the most exciting. We’re head over heels in love with the beautifully restored Pump House - it’s already bursting with character.”
From winning the coveted BBCR4 Food Award for ‘Best Street Food’ to writing their first cook book, this announcement rounds off a successful year for the duo whose business is less than three years old.

Shauna Guinn, co-owner of Hang Fire Smokehouse, said, “The street food and pop up model only allows us to showcase a small part of what we do. That was part of the initial reasons for writing our book, we wanted to show people that we’re more than just pulled pork! Our vision for the ‘Hang Fire Southern Kitchen’ is to bring together all the things we loved and learned about the food, drink and music of the American South.”
Samantha added, “We’ll be cooking on natural fuel such as sustainable wood and charcoal and, as always, using as much local produce as possible.”
The informal restaurant will be over two floors with the main dining area and craft beer bar upstairs with a small late night ‘speak easy’ style New Orleans cocktail bar downstairs. Hang Fire Southern Kitchen will be open for brunch, lunch, dinner and take away. It promises a true southern American dining experience.

Hang Fire Southern Kitchen will open its doors in February 2016 and the début cook book, ‘Hang Fire Smokehouse: Adventures in American BBQ’, will be available from May 2016. For all the latest, visit or keep an eye on social media @hangfirebbq

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Tortilla Cardiff - Review

Wondering around aimlessly looking for somewhere to eat, with a child that really needs a nap but refuses to give in to their obvious tiredness is not a good place to be. Throw in the fact that it is the Rugby World Cup and Ireland are playing France in Cardiff today! Town was heaving, everywhere was full and all around us was a sea of green and blue shirts. This might account for my odd decision to veer off the main thoroughfares onto Caroline Street aka Chippy Alley. I could reminisce about the good old days when I would stumble out of the Philly onto Chippy Alley to gorge on some gravy and chips (good times) but I won't (mainly because I miss those days quite a bit).
The point is I didn't expect to find Tortilla, all shiny and new and more importantly empty! That's not all, the boy had fallen to sleep in the push chair, that or he was overcome by the alcohol fumes emanating from all the bars near by.

Tortilla is an ever expanding chain specialising in Californian style burritos and tacos and opened just a couple of months ago. I must say that I  love the décor in this place, sure I've seen beer bottle chandeliers before but I still love the effect. Along with the semi industrial touches of corrugated metal and neon lighting. My favourite part was the booths to the back of the restaurant with distressed wood cladding on the walls and lovely light fittings.

The menu is concise, straight forward and ordering is done at the counter where your meal is prepared before your eyes.

We went for some tortilla chips with guacamole and salsa to accompany our Tres Tacos and Barbacoa Burritto. The tortilla chips were as you would expect as were the dips, the guacamole being the preferred one. With the tres tacos you can choose what type of soft tortilla you want either corn or flour and three individual fillings if you want. And I did want. We went for two flour and one corn tortilla and three separate fillings. One with grilled chicked and mild salsa, the second grilled steak and mild salsa and the third with barbacoa with a hot salsa. All with cheese and lettuce. By far the barbacoa was the favourite. Braised shredded beef so full of flavour spiked with the hot salsa was sublime. Even if it did dribble everywhere. Also the soft flour tortilla over the corn one but good to know they offer a gluten free alternative.

The burrito however was a bit of a beast which they very kindly let me take a photo of before they expertly rolled and folded it. Again the main component was the excellent barbacoa beef and pretty much everything else behind the counter as you can see!

There is no elegant way to eat a burrito so I dived straight in and didn't look back. The beef was not overpowered at all and the flavours of the different components like the coriander rice could still be picked out. Brilliant.  
As for Baby Clonc he did wake up half way through and had a bit of everything sat in the high chair that they have, gold star for Tortilla! The total bill came to £19.60 with a couple of soft drinks.
After this we headed back into the chaos of town with full bellies and a smile on our faces. This is the kind of fast food I like. Looking forward to going back soon.

Tortilla Cardiff
Addess: 30-32 Caroline Street, Cardiff, CF10 1FF
Tel: 0292 0221908

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Brod - The Danish Bakery

Ever since a planning application notice was spotted outside the former wine merchants on Wyndham Crescent excitement has been growing until this week when the doors were 'very gently opened' to quote their tweet on opening day. It's fair to say interest in Brod has been high and that was clear to see when I visited yesterday.

The place was absolutely brimming with people, the staff were busily working away behind the counter with the frantic energy of opening week powering them and it looked great! The place has been turned around with wood cladding, industrial light fittings and exposed brick and stone. It feels a lot bigger than I remember it with the main counter to your left as you enter, tables to the right and a little cwtch/corner or should I say hjorne (thank you Google Translate) at the far end. Next to this is the kitchen complete with real life Danish baker.

I popped in just before 2 pm and due the massive demand they had almost sold out of everything! Thankfully there was still a few spandauer - Danish Crowns left, phew! I sat down at the window and watched the world go by (aka I went on twitter) and waited for my Americano and Danish to arrive while watching  a seemingly never ending steady stream of people coming and going.

The Americano was bang on and I believe they are supplied by Clifton Coffee. The Danish Crown was as good as it looked! Light pastry with a not too sweet custard centre, the perfect pick me up on a grey and rainy day.

But as rotten luck would have it as I got up to leave this amazing smelling tray of Kanel Snegal - Cinnamon Snails was brought out fresh from the oven! I did contemplate having another Danish but my will power was not to be broken today, I'm still regretting that decision now!

Essentially I am just chuffed that this has opened so close to where I live and can't wait to go back and try more, I may just need to get there a bit earlier! Also it's great to see an independent business do well. I wish them all the success and can totally see this becoming my go to place to catch up with people. 

I don't often add opening times but I though it maybe helpful in this case (times according to their facebook page).
Wed-Fri 9am - 5pm
Weekend 9.30am - 3pm

Brod - Danish Bakery
Address: 126 Wyndham Crescent, CF11 9EG

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Child Friendly Places to Eat - Cardiff

With half term upon us I thought I would compile a small list of places I have enjoyed eating out as a family. Places that serve good food, in a great environment and that are not especially stress inducing when eating out with a child. Although Baby Clonc is 18 months old the places I recommend would be suitable for most children (depending on the child of course). 
The 'No Brainer': Chapter Arts Centre

This has been a firm favourite since Baby Clonc arrived on the scene and which we return to time and time again. The great open layout with light flooding in is a fantastic place for kids to roam about in. I love the feeling of space in this place, the diverse array of people there and the fact that no one even bats an eye lid if your kid decides to kick off. Food for both grown ups and a specific children's menu is good.  The portion sizes for children are excellent (dishes on the children menu will set you back £4.50) There are good baby changing facilities and parking outside if you can get it! I also recently noticed there is garden outside the main entrance with rosemary, lavender and even Figs! Essentially this is the place to go with minimum stress. Good food, good people, good times.

The 'Fancy One': Burger and Lobster Cardiff

If you could take 2 minutes to stop stressing about how expensive their burgers are and just listen up. This place is fantastic for children young and old! High chairs, check! Baby changing facilities, check! Cool lobster tanks, check! And now, with a the unique to Cardiff lunch menu that runs during the week, a little less pricey (see my full review of their lunch menu). 

The brilliant staff are more often than not happy to get a lobster out from the tank for your kid to see up close! I would have loved this as a kid! I love it now as an adult. In terms of food for kids, 2 burger sliders with fries and salad will set you back £10. Potentially some tasty left overs for parents to polish off. 

The ' Cool One': Wahaca Cardiff

I love this place and so does Baby Clonc. The tactile eating with your hands style of food is great for kids. Aside from the fact the children's menu priced at £5.25 it is excellent value for money (main and a drink included but ice cream is extra). Skip the ice cream and share a churros with the little one,  that is if you can bear to share it. 

Typical children's meal at Wahaca

Again all the basics are there, high chair and changing facilities. Not only that but kids get a free babychino! Only down side is it can get quite busy and the tables are tightly packed so go for an early lunch/dinner. (See my full review of when Wahaca opened in Cardiff)

The ' Adventurous one': Ichiban

This stalwart of the Cardiff food scene has been serving up excellent Japanese food for years. I've never had a bad meal at either of their restaurants and recently I've noticed that lots of families go there too. Granted the décor is dated but the sushi is excellent with service to match. I would probably avoid with young children as the facilities are not great but older kids who are a bit more adventurous with food should love it. I wish my parents took me for sushi.

By no means is this an exhaustive list but just a little something for those looking for inspiration. Food is my passion and I'm sure it's the same for many people too. I want to share that with my son by visiting exciting and imaginative places that serve up good food to both children and adults alike and not feel stressed out by the whole experience! So I hope the above helps!

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Foodie Five with Cyrus Todiwala

Last month by sheer chance I was lucky enough to have a five minute chat with the very talented and entertaining Cyrus Todiwala at Abergavenny Food Festival. Cyrus Todiwala is chef patron at the now legendary Café Spice Namaste in London which has been going strong for the last 19 years. Cyrus is a well recognised figure on the UK food scene and our TV screens, from multiple appearances on Saturday Kitchen, numerous publications and of course one half of the eccentric Incredible Spice Men along with Tony Singh.
I took this opportunity to ask one of the most renowned Indian chefs in the UK a couple of questions:

Pic courtesy of Huw John 

What do you make of the Indian food scene in Wales?
Ha! Good question! If I’m honest I haven’t had the opportunity to eat or visit many of the Indian restaurants around Wales so don’t feel I can fully comment. However I do know there are some good Indian restaurants in Cardiff.

Ok, if Wales is too specific what about the current state of Indian food in the UK?
Indian food has proved to be one of the nation’s favourite types of food and as a result restaurants must work hard to retain this position by delivering authentic Indian food but at the same time trying to innovate and keep things interesting.

This is not your first Abergavenny Food Festival what keeps you coming back to Wales?
I love Wales! In fact a lot of the produce we buy in for the restaurant comes from Wales including most of the lamb.

Pic courtsey of Huw John

There you have it my five minute chat with Cyrus Todiwala and not a bad person to start with for my very first interview. He was as likable and enthusiastic as he is on television and a true gent. Cyrus if you’re ever in Cardiff and want someone to show you where the good Indian restaurants are just let me know!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Lufkin Coffee

While ambling around my neighbourhood last Saturday I stumbled upon a little sign at the gate of 183A Kings Road in Pontcanna. This address happens to be the home of the renowned Pipes Brewery and is a little mews if you like in the heart of Pontcanna. It is home to a variety of businesses, studios a Dojo and now a new coffee joint.

I always like visiting 183A Kings Road, once you walk through the archway the hum drum and buzz of Pontcanna is dialled down as you enter this indie hub.

Lufkin Coffee has only been open for business for a month. Their pitch is simple, coffee beans are roasted on site in small batches then ground on site before your cup of coffee is made for you using the pour over filter method. This simplicity and transparency in what they offer is echoed in their refurb of this snug unit. It has been made to feel light, bright and bigger than it actually is. A real triumph.  There are some stools at the window if you want to sit in or have a seat outside if the weather is nice.

At present they offered 2 types of single origin coffee one from Nicaragua and one from Kenya. As I was actually born in Kenya this was a no brainer for me. Watching Dan prepare my coffee you can tell this is his baby. Such care and concentration as he pours the water over the coffee grounds that then drips into the cup below. The coffee itself was remarkably light and refreshing.

Speaking to Dan he expressed the whole idea of Lufkin coffee (apparently the name Lufkin means love) is to deliver a truly hand crafted coffee which incorporates some of the ethos from the slow food movement. Which brings me to mention that this place is the polar opposite of the generic high street coffee joint and that if you want Dan and the team to make you a hand crafted coffee you best not be in a rush.

So next time you find yourself in these parts why not take a stroll down 183A Kings Road, you never know what you may find.

Lufkin Coffee
Address: 183A Kings Road, Cardiff, CF11 9DF