Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Bar 44 Cardiff - Review

It's fair to say I haven't been this giddy about visiting a restaurant in a long time, maybe it's because I maybe the only person in Cardiff to have not eaten in any of their award winning restaurants. There I said it. It's been like a dirty secret that I've kept for a while, but the opportunity simply had never arisen. However with their latest outpost on Westgate Street in Cardiff which is a 10 minute drive (if that) from my house or a thirty minute stroll through Llandaff and Pontcanna fields I was going to put things right.

I decided to walk this particular night and met my friends at the restaurant.  The  only thing recognisable from it's previous incarnation as Pica Pica is the vaulted ceilings and location of the bars. Everything else has been improved immeasurably. It some how seems bigger, lighter and  not at all dingy but warm and inviting.

I was the first to arrive and decided to quench the thirst I'd built up during my walk with a pint of Alhambra, heaven. After the rest of the group arrived and ordered their drinks (a couple of glasses of sherry as recommended by our host) we proceeded to chat and ordered what felt like half the menu.

First up the Alex Gooch sourdough bread and oils, Gordal olives and Venison salami. Simply the best bread and oils I have had which is saying a lot for a dish that is normally instantly forgettable. Superb olives, I could have eaten them all. Venison salami, deep game flavour with a peppery kick, perfect with a cold beer. Apologies for the brief run down but we did order quite a lot!

The fish dishes of crispy hake and sea bream were perfectly cooked. The hake in a crisp batter accompanied by a searing alioli was as mentioned perfectly cooked if a little bland. The sea bream on the other hand was superb and the favourite dish of the night for one of my dining partners. The other fish dish was something I've wanted to try for a long time, the Puntillitas negra burger. Baby squid in a squid ink burger roll with a side of fennel and apple alioli. The impossibly soft and earthy squid ink burger encasing the crispy squid was delicious but the whole dish including the fennel salad seemed to lack seasoning. 

My other dinning partner preferred the one pot braised chrorizo, ham hock, pancetta fava bean stew which was her favourite dish of the night.

Pushing on, the patatas bravas was good, tortilla well made but again bland, the crispy chickpea, tomato and zamarano (hard ewes cheese) was lovely nutty chickpeas, sharp tomato and salty cheese, delicious
The cheeses brought up the rear with an excellent Mahon (paprika rubbed cows cheese, the Spanish know how to show their cheese a good time) served with crunchy toast thins and a delicious zingy chutney. The bomba rice fritters filled with Cabrales cheese packed quite a punch. The crispy as you like coating giving way to creamy rice and then potent blue cheese. The Cabrales cheese is what I can only describe as blue cheese squared, so be warned only blue cheese lovers may like this one, I loved it!

But it doesn't stop there and yes of course we ordered desserts. One orange sorbet, an almond and caramel ice cream and a muscavado cheese cake with sour cherry sorbet. The orange sorbet was everything you would expect from a well made citrus sorbet, light and refreshing, perhaps the most sensible choice after the amount of food we ate. The almond and caramel ice cream was just incredibly delicious and one of the nicest ice creams I've had. However my favourite dish of the night was just the best cheesecake I've had in an age. Creamy sweet cheese, perfect biscuit top and the most astounding sour cherry sorbet. Just so good. You must order this if you go, its totally worth it. The pedro ximenez I had to accompany it topped off an excellent meal.

The service was exemplary. Polite, attentive and helpful. Alice and the team ran the show so well, it's a joy to see service done so brilliantly. The entire bill with drinks came to £87.50 without tip. 
I thoroughly enjoyed eating at Bar 44 Cardiff, the food was executed well and delicious the service brilliant and the atmosphere just so welcoming I didn't really want to leave. 

Bar 44 Cardiff
Address: 15-23 Westgate Street, Cardiff, CF10 1DD
Tel: 02920 090 444
Twitter: @bar44cardiff

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