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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 1w ago

The primary aim of the Octopus Diaries has always been to celebrate, and share unique dining out experiences and dishes in the independent sector.  To give a shout out to all those businesses where 9-5 doesn’t exist, and which are run by individuals and teams with a passion and insatiable desire to offer their guests a unique dining experience, value for money and quite simply great food.

Yes, I may have misled a few individuals along the way who believed me to have an unconventional obsession with cephalopods, oh, and that I was apparently male…that came as news to me, and a few others!  But overall, I very much hope I’m somewhere in the vicinity of hitting the mark.

And this month has certainly been all about celebrating uniqueness, and as I have come to realise, reads a little of the who’s who of the more recent series’ of Great British Menu – with three out of five Chefs appearing, and two achieving the ultimate goal of cooking in the final Banquet in 2017 and ’18.

If you happen to have missed the May edition of Krak’en Bites you can catch up here.  But for now, I hope the June round-up provides some inspiration on where to dine out in Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and beyond.

Leyli Joon & Co. Supper Club

Leyli Joon & Co ‘Welsh’ Burrata, Knafeh, Tomatoes, Samphire and Pul Biber

£455 courses

If you were looking for something different in Cardiff, then a supper club courtesy of Leyli Joon & Co is the perfect place to start.  A Persian-influenced food events company, it’s headed up by Chef Leyli Homayoonfar.  Born in Wales, her love for cooking stems from a childhood where food was, and still is central to her family’s life, courtesy of a Persian father and Welsh mother.

And it’s evident from the evening that it’s still very much a family affair, with everyone pitching in to make this event a success.  And oh, do they succeed…

Pulling in an impressive crowd of sixty-four to The Tramshed in Cardiff, a beautifully decorated dining room, and a feast of five courses ensures that we are whisked away to the Middle East.

Imaginative dishes are bold in flavour, and demonstrate a superb understanding of spice; from crispy cocoons of melted cheese with confit tomatoes, and BBQ prawns marinated in spicy harissa; to slow braised, deep-fried Welsh lamb nuggets coated in Bahārāt spice, and the finale of a creamy white chocolate crémeux with crystallised pistachio and grapefruit gel.

This exciting Chef is certainly one to watch.  My recommendation – if you spot this supper club being promoted, purchase a ticket, and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Oklava, London

Whipped Feta Crostini, Candied Pumpkin & Chilli£2.50 each

I have somewhat of a girl crush on Selin Kiazim.  It’s partly due to a touch of curly hair envy…but primarily it’s as a result of her debut appearance on Great British Menu in 2017, where it was very evident that her Turkish-Cypriot influenced dishes were out to excite and push boundaries.  Combine that with the fact that both her and Pip Lacey ended up going through to the final banquet, and it was fantastic to see two female chefs, maybe not so much “comin’ out of the kitchen”, but certainly “doin’ it for themselves”.

Naturally Oklava has been on my list ever since; although if I’m being honest I still wasn’t completely sure what to expect having not experienced much more than the usual breads, köfte, kebabs and baklava.  As it turns out, the easy-going Oklava takes Turkish-Cypriot food to the next level, delivering flavour-packed and beautifully presented dishes including whipped feta crostini with candied pumpkin, classic Turkish pide filled with beef, caramelised onion, Kapya peppers and Tulum cheese – a traditional Turkish goats cheese, and Şeftali – a Cypriot kebab with red onion salad.

My only disappointment on this occasion – my lunch-time visit is all too brief.  From the aromas of the open kitchen with countertop seating allowing you an eagle eye view of the action, to an exceptional dish of slow cooked spiced aubergine, which in a food trip to London, turns out to be the highlight of the weekend; a return trip will certainly be in order soon.

Cornerstone, Hackney Wick

Pollock, Curry Sauce and Crispy Potatoes£17

With an impressive culinary CV, and following his appearances on Great British Menu in 2017 and again in ’18, when he successfully made it to the final banquet; it was apparent that Chef Tom Brown looked set to make his own mark on the industry and a name for himself, when he opened his first restaurant in April 2018.

Named after the Chef’s favourite Arctic Monkey’s song, Cornerstone has received much critical acclaim over the past 12 months.   Including being recognised as the third best restaurant in the UK, in the recent 2019 Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards, beating off stiff competition from a plethora of Michelin starred establishments.

As you would imagine from a Chef who spent six years under the wing of Chef Nathan Outlaw, the menu focuses on seafood; it’s a pescatarian’s playground.  If you don’t like fish, Cornerstone is not the restaurant for you.  Dishes of salmon pastrami, mackerel pâté with treacle bread, and pollock with curry sauce showcase this Chef’s abilities, albeit on this occasion the signature crab crumpet, recently altered to be topped with Welsh rarebit, falls short and slightly disappoints on flavour.

I enjoyed Cornerstone, it offered a near faultless dining experience.  Did I fall in love with the restaurant, and more importantly is a return visit on the cards? No…and I will explain why.  Because for all of this restaurant’s credentials and recent accolades, in a small community in Cardiff, there is another restaurant that offers a similar concept.  A restaurant where I personally believe the Chef achieves a comparable, and in the case of some dishes – elevated level of cooking.

By all means, go…experience Cornerstone, and enjoy – then come home and take pleasure in the fact that we have Heaney’s on our doorstep.

Bar 44, Bristol

Chorizo Yorkshire Pudding from the Spanish Sunday Roast Lunch Platter£38 for 2 people

The brainchild of Owen, Tom and Natalie Morgan, the inaugural Bar 44 was established seventeen years ago in Cowbridge.  Three further premises have since followed in Wales including Asador 44, prior to the announcement in early 2018 that the group would be expanding across the bridge to Bristol.

Located in the heart of Clifton Village, on first impressions it’s plain for all to see that a significant amount of time and investment has been put into the redesign of Bar 44, Bristol.  Previously a bank, the building has been thoughtfully renovated into a vibrant, family friendly restaurant space, reflective of the modern Spanish dishes on offer.  And while this month’s visit is less about the traditional seasonal tapas, the plates of 35-day dry aged sirloin of Hereford beef, chorizo Yorkshire pudding, jamón fat roast bravas potatoes, truffled Manchego cauliflower cheese, hispi cabbage with jamón butter, and caramelised heritage carrots certainly live up to Bar 44’s exacting standards.

If you’re looking for something a little different, the platter is well worth checking out; and quite frankly nothing prepares you for the sheer size and smokiness of that pud.  Accompanied with a couple of glasses of Palo Cortado, the roast from Bar 44 makes for a superb Sunday lunch alternative, although the obligatory afternoon nap will still be required afterwards.

Menu Gordon Jones, Bath

Cornish line caught couch’s bream, Sicilian aubergine, Bombay mash, Isle of Wight tomato and lobster butter |

6 courses – £55 lunch tasting menu

The Warning

  • If like me, and you take the decision for a leisurely walk to this restaurant from Bath city centre, but your fitness regime equates to that of a sloth – hit that Uber app. Thank me later.
  • If you are someone who prefers to choose what they eat, or has a dislike of certain ingredients, it’s probably best to give Menu Gordon Jones a wider berth.
  • If you like surprises, don’t mind what dish arrives in front of you, and enjoy being at the mercy of a Chef’s imagination, come closer my friend…you’re in for a treat.

If Chef Gordon Jones hadn’t first grabbed my attention with his inclusion in Great British Menu this year, his restaurant’s marketing slogan undeniably would have – “Let the Chef Surprise You”.  And yet somehow in the past seven years, Menu Gordon Jones has remained off my radar…until now.

An array of flavours, textures, combinations and culinary influences awaits.  The menu changes every week.  Did I mention you have no idea what dish you will receive?  Anticipation is very much the name of the game at Menu Gordon Jones.  And on that bombshell, I’ll leave you to read the full blog post hereCOMING SOON.

If you would like to ask any questions about the restaurants I have dined in this month, please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 1M ago

Well another month has come and gone – it doesn’t seem long ago that I posted April’s Krak’en Bites round-up.  Yet here we are, seemingly at the end of May.

This month has been all about Cardiff; from pop-ups and fine dining to new openings. it’s fantastic to see the food scene starting to move forward again.  Although I hasten to add, it sometimes very much feels that as a city we take one step forward and two steps back, with further restaurant closures announced this week, and I fear, more to come…

In this respect, it’s important to recognise and celebrate the culinary talent that Cardiff does have – four are mentioned below, but there are a number of chefs making their mark in the Capital.  And that’s exciting.

Personally, I have always enjoyed finding out a little more about the person behind the dish, primarily as it allows an understanding of the chef’s thought process, their style of cooking and more importantly the work that goes into the plate that sits before you.  And this is why I am thrilled that Bite Cardiff will return to Insole Court this summer on the 27th July.  Last year, the inaugural event saw more than 10,000 people meet and sample dishes cooked by 30 of South Wales’ top chefs and restaurateurs.  In 2019, 40 chefs look set to take part, and all dishes will once again be £3.  If you missed out last year, I highly recommend getting this date in your diary.

Ember, Cardiff

Lamb rump with pickled mustard seeds, spring greens and roast cauliflower sauce

Following the success of the vegetarian Dirt pop-ups, it wasn’t long before Chef John Cook – formerly of Arbennig, announced his next culinary project, and in March launched Ember.  A kitchen pop-up based in Milk and Sugar in Cardiff city centre, the menu changes on a monthly basis, and is driven by the produce that is currently at its seasonal best.

Priced at £40 for meat and £30 for the veggie version; based on my dining experience, you’ll find an exceptional four-course fixed menu waiting for you.  This month saw tasty dishes of Wye asparagus with ricotta, salt-baked Jersey Royals with Manchego cream, lamb rump with roast cauliflower sauce and white chocolate meringue with red wine fruits.

Twenty one days later and I’m still craving cauliflower sauce…I don’t even like cauliflower.  That’s how good this pop-up is; how good this Chef is.

Ember is running again in June, and tickets can be booked via Wriggle.

Salkaara, Cardiff

Malabar Prawn Biryani£10.95

Open for just shy of a year, Salkaara in Llandaff has recently been making waves in Cardiff.  If you choose to take TripAdvisor as a credible source for recommendations, it currently takes the prime spot as Best Indian and the Gold medal for Best Restaurant in the city.  However, judging by the number of people dining on a Monday evening, its popularity appears to negate the need to debate on the authenticity of any reviews.

Named from the word Salkaram in Malayalam, which means hosting guests, a feast, or a hearty welcome; Salkaara has a strong Keralan influence thanks to its Chef – Santhosh Nair.  Having previously worked for Mint and Mustard, and with almost 30 years experience within the industry, on paper alone, expectations for this meal were high.

It didn’t disappoint.  A modern restaurant, with welcoming staff and a good choice of starters, mains, accompaniments and a variety of tasting menus, including a post 9pm option for just £20 per person; it is certainly a step up from your local ‘curry house’.  Opting for the soft shell crab and Malabar biryani, dishes are well spiced and aromatic.  And while the biryani was a touch wet for my liking, and if I’m nit-picking, could have done with a few more prawns, overall it was a tasty Indian meal, and worth a visit.

The Park House, Cardiff

Soy glazed 120-day aged beef with white asparagus and puffed rice

When the announcement was made that Chef Matt Waldron would be joining The Park House in Cardiff back in mid 2018, I have to say I was intrigued to the direction the restaurant would be taken in.  Having followed the chef on social media for the last four years, I have watched with interest as his career has progressed.  Needless to say his talent has recently been recognised by the Craft Guild of Chefs, as he has secured a place in the semi finals of the National Chef of the Year Awards in June.

The Park House Restaurant and Wine Bar was established back in 2005.  Accommodated in a Gothic style Grade 1 listed mansion house originally built in 1874 by the Marquess of Bute, it has recently taken on a more modern look and feel, moving away from its previous members club status to a contemporary fine dining restaurant.  Menus are varied with an à la carte, 5 and 8 course tasting menus, and I have to say an unrivalled lunch offer at £40 for 5 courses with matched wines.

Having last visited The Park House back in 2016, I was intrigued to see the changes for myself.  Read the full blog post hereCOMING SOON.

Uisce Cardiff

Tomato Sour Dough£3.00

This month also saw the opening of Heaney’s little sister – Uisce (Ish-ka; meaning: water).  Located next door to the award winning restaurant, this coffee and wine bar looks set to make its own mark on Cardiff.  A late night visit put the snack and charcuterie menu to the test; and a glass of Argentinian Grüner Veltliner washed down shots of gazpacho and plates of oysters, sour dough, boquerones, croquettas, Galician beef cecina, and as it turns out the aptly named ‘Kick in the Head’ – well worth experiencing if you like your meat with a touch of heat.

Yet the beauty and ‘shape of Uisce’, lies in its all day dining concept.  With both breakfast, and I have to say an impressive lunch menu. including Welsh lamb crumpet, lobster roll and mussel curry with beer bread, you won’t be short of choice.  And if the quality of dishes at Heaney’s is anything to go by, you won’t be disappointed.

In the arrival of both Heaney’s and Uisce, not only has Chef Tommy Heaney finally achieved the somewhat ‘impossible’ feat of being in two places at the same time!  But it also appears that he means business when it comes to shaking up this city’s food scene.

If you would like to ask any questions about the restaurants I have dined in this month, please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

The post Krak’en BitesMay 2019 appeared first on .

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 1M ago

Ahh Bristol.  Bursting with choice when it comes to the independent food scene; I have to admit I’ve always found an appeal in spontaneous car journeys along the M4 to ‘eat out’.  Now made all the more pleasurable by the fact that the non-discretionary £5.60 to re-enter my own country of residence, is no longer added to the overall bill .

Do I feel like I am cheating on Cardiff when I head over the bridge to dine out?  A little.  Ok, I’m in a different postcode – is that still a valid excuse?  Probably not.  After all it is an hour away, while it takes me just shy of 20 minutes to travel into Wales’ capital city centre.  But when it comes to variety, and as a blogger who enjoys writing about and discovering unique restaurants, Bristol is the perfect place to start.

In view that I have no wish to offend a percentage of my readers – but taking into consideration that Wales had secured a win over England in the Six Nations, I had consumed a few pints of local cider to celebrate this feat, and as we sit down my opening sentence pays homage to a fictional superhero…cue the rising intonation – “I am Root?”; on reflection, this blog post probably shouldn’t have been a reality.

As it turns out, it’s amazing how much clarity you can gain from a dish of cauliflower.

Badged as a small plates restaurant that ensures vegetables receive star billing while serving meat on the side’, Root does exactly what it says on the tin, with the added bonus that the meat and fish courses are equally as delicious, and faultless to match.  Sitting at the heart of the popular Cargo 1; unless you’re apparently after a flat screen to watch a rugby match, the converted shipping containers are an ideal place to while away the hours – eating, drinking and taking in the buzz of Bristol’s Wapping Wharf.

Root’s succinct menu is truly a showcase of the best in seasonal veg.  Beetroot served with blueberries, Jerusalem artichoke accompanied with a rémoulade and potato gnocchi alongside pickled apple are a few of the eye-catchers that appeal from the single A5 sheet.

Cauliflower pakora, blood orange and cashew milk£6

But it’s the cauliflower that wins, and we start with four gobi pakoras.  Aromatic and with a heat that pleasantly builds, deep fried florets encased in a golden crispy batter are each topped with a segment of blood orange.  As good, if not better, as any I have experienced in a curry house, these are offset with a rich and creamy base of cashew milk.  Throw in a handful of citrus bitterness for good measure, and this is a dish that demands your attention.

As does the open kitchen, which for those of us with a tendency for inquisitiveness (read nosy) – provides sensory overload.  From the three chefs that occupy the small space and who animatedly chat to the diners across the adjoined bar, to the aroma and precision of the dishes that they plate on the pass in front of us; subsequently leaving us craving the next.

Ox tongue with Swiss cheese sauerkraut flatbread

John Dory with smoked yoghurt and apple

And the two specials up next are certainly worth those pangs of selective hunger.  Simple yet elegant, well balanced and flavour-packed combinations; both imaginative dishes deliver on texture and taste.  From elegantly stacked layers of tender cubes of offal with Swiss cheese and fermented raw cabbage on flatbread, to the heat of the spice that builds from the delicate John Dory and then is subtly doused by the Yorkshire pud shaped dollop of smoked yoghurt and apple.

This is food that truly excites.

Mushroom risotto with fried enoki mushrooms£9

And the final savoury dish of mushroom risotto topped with fried enoki mushrooms, doesn’t compromise on maintaining that buzz.  It’s clear there is an innate understanding of texture and balance when it comes to this menu.  Salty and more than a little addictive, the fried mushrooms provide the perfect crunch in an elegantly rich bowl of ingredients that you simply won’t want to share…with anyone.

Chocolate ganache with passion fruit

Yet if this meal wasn’t memorable enough, the dessert stands out for all the right reasons.  A chocolate ganache hits the right note when it comes to bitterness.  While the sweet cream that accompanies, topped with the tartness of the passion fruit, ensures that the only detail of this indulgent combination heading back to the kitchen is the plate, minus some of its glaze!

Bestowed with the position of 57th in the UK’s top 100 Estrella Damn National Restaurant Awards, Root was also awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin in 2018 and you can see why.  Chef Rob Howell’s ethos and philosophy of producing delicious, yet simple, sustainable and affordable dishes appears more than deserving of this accolade.  And this comes from someone who has mixed views on the small plate concept, and is an avid carnivore.

This is not a restaurant that offsets quantity with the promise of ‘quality local, seasonal produce’.  Its focus remains with achieving both, and scrimping does not appear to feature in their vocab, unlike some others that opt for this approach to dining.  All the above dishes were shared, and gratefully a late night kebab was not a requirement.  Instead, Root truly celebrates the vegetable in all its glory.

“I am Root?”

“Yes, I am!”

Opening Hours

Monday and Tuesday: 5.30 – 9pm

Wednesday – Saturday: 12-2pm and 5.3o-9pm

Address | CARGO, Gaol Ferry Steps, Wapping Wharf, Bristol, BS1 6WP

Telephone0117 930 0260

Web | www.eatdrinkbristolfashion.co.uk/root

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 2M ago

As a person who struggles to maintain a hobby – primarily anything that involves a certain level of physical effort; if you’d have asked me whether I would still be writing about dishes I enjoy eating 24 months later, I may have replied “not a chance”.  As it turns out the exertion of lifting fork to mouth suits me just fine, and this month saw The Octopus Diaries turn two.  Thankfully, with no full-blown toddler-style tantrums in sight; my passion for food, exploring independent restaurants and writing hasn’t diminished over the past few years, and I continue to be thankful for the ongoing support and encouragement from those around me.

If you happen to have missed the March edition of Krak’en Bites you can catch up here.  But for now, I hope April’s round-up provides some inspiration on where to dine out in Bristol, Cardiff and beyond.

Santa Maria, CardiffINVITE

Fritto Misto£6.50

Earlier this month, I was invited to experience the new pizza menu at Santa Maria’s on St. Mary’s Street in Cardiff.  Formerly known as Nine Yards, Italian patisserie and prosecco have now been swapped for contemporary Italian dining.  A selection of starters, cured meat and cheese platters, hearty secondi and not forgetting pizza are now available in this cosy, wood clad city centre restaurant.

It’s a competitive market when it comes to pizza in Cardiff however, you’ll find a good choice at Santa Maria including the familiar Napoletana, Quattro Stagioni and Diavola.  12 inches will set you back £12-£14; although Santa Maria’s trademark is the pizza metro.  Just imagine a whole metre of fresh wood-fired Italian pizza to share…or not, if you’re feeling particularly hungry!

Porro, Cardiff

Sautéed mussels with garlic, chilli and leeks, a touch of cream and served with toasted sourdough£13.95

Located on the High Street in Llandaff, Porro seeks to ’embrace the Italian philosophy of celebrating simple, quality ingredients’.  And in this statement, it certainly succeeds.  With the advantage of being both family friendly and open every day – as it turns out, perfect if you’re looking for somewhere to dine out on a Monday evening – Porro offers a good selection of dishes from its choice of breakfast, lunch and à la carte menus.

On this visit, sautéed mussels with garlic and leek feature as a special.  Rich with cream and accompanied with sourdough, it’s a generous portion and excellent value for money.  Comfortable and homely with a welcoming team, Porro is a restaurant for all occasions.

Keralan Karavan

Piggy In Da Blanket – pulled pork vin-d-aloo in crispy parotta bread, Keralan slaw and sExy fries£7.50

It always puts a smile on my face, when the Keralan Karavan rolls back into town.  Having previously fallen in love with the unique dishes last March, this month saw a week’s takeover in Beelzebubs bar in Cardiff, where they again showcased their tasty Keralan street food.

Keralan Karavan has now been a firm favourite on the Cardiff scene for a number of years. Headed up by Pankaj Krishnan, he’s a Chef on a mission to discover the perfect ‘spice’ formula. With a big shout out to his father’s Keralan heritage, this vibrant pop-up is all about promoting good vibes and celebrating good times with good food.  In addition to the fragrant home-made speciality curries and trademark onion bhajees, this takeover saw the addition of new dishes including Piggy In Da Blanket – an addictive dish of pulled pork vindaloo in flaky parotta bread, which is sure to become a firm favourite this summer on the street food circuit.

The Cauldron, Bristol

Mixed Roast – beech-smoked roast sirloin of Angus beef and saddle of Texel Cross lamb served with beef dripping roast potatoes, cumin roast carrots and parsnips, smoked butter greens and Yorkshire pudding £17.00

Hop onto The Cauldron’s website and you’re greeted with the statement A Kitchen on Fire.  Should I be worried? Is the purchase of an extinguisher going to be a prerequisite to dining? The image of glowing embers beneath is a source of comfort; the fact that I have already read outstanding reviews of this restaurant another.  The Cauldron is a little different, as is the neighbourhood in which it resides.  We dined on a Sunday – the wood-fired roasts are cooked in “Woody” the oven and over a charcoal pit; the gravy takes four days to make in “Bertha” – a 60-litre Cauldron.  Perhaps, you understand where I am coming from now…

You have to book.  You will be asked to pay a deposit.  Be prepared to still be dreaming about this roast months later.  Read the full blog post here – COMING SOON.

The Cambrian Inn, Solva

The ‘Fat Lamb’ Burger – Lamb patty topped with tandoori pulled lamb, grilled halloumi, spiced Bombay ketchup and Coronation mayo£14.95

Planning on heading further afield in Wales over the May Bank Holiday?   A two-hour trip west from Cardiff will see you arrive in the picturesque village of Solva, where a scenic tidal harbour, sandy beach, walks and a beautiful main street of locally owned shops, galleries and pottery awaits.  And as a bonus, for a small community, there are plenty of options when it comes to dining out.

Yet when it comes to The Cambrian Inn, there is nothing small about these portions.  It is always said that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’, well rest assured that the lamb burger above tasted as good as it looked.  Combine their great choice of imaginative burgers with pub classics and locally sourced shellfish and fish, and The Cambrian Inn is one gastro-pub not to miss.

If you would like to ask any questions about the restaurants I have dined in this month, please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

The post Krak’en BitesApril 2019 appeared first on .

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 3M ago

Is anyone else struggling with the fact that a quarter of the year has already gone?  Just me?  Due to a quick adventure over the Atlantic last week, March has been on my radar for sometime, but quite frankly this month has flown.

If you missed February’s Krak’en Bites – where have you been?  However, before I subject you to this month’s restaurant round-up, I wanted to give a quick shout out to the most recent Kickstarter restaurant project to hit Cardiff.  One of the Capital’s best-loved pizza restaurants are hoping to raise £40,000 to assist them in refurbishing an old park-warden’s bungalow in Sophia Gardens, and turn it into one of the city’s most sustainable food and drink venues.  At the time of writing The Warden’s House by Dusty Knuckle is 72% funded, with 9 days to go; there are some great offers, so if you love pizza – why not hop on over to their page take a look, and pledge to support this venture.

The Heathcock, Cardiff

Roast duck breast, crispy leg, smoked carrot and fennel£17.80

As the sister pub to the highly acclaimed, Bib Gourmand pub Hare & Hounds in Aberthin, by reputation alone ‘The Heathcock’ always looked set to fly.  Yet since its opening in October 2018, it’s made its own mark in Llandaff, and now firmly established, it is proving to be a popular addition in the city within a city, both as a local pub and a restaurant.

A second visit in March proved that the excellence of the first, was not a coincidence.  This relaxed gastropub offers menus that change on a daily basis, and includes hearty dishes of braised rabbit leg pappardelle, pheasant, leek and ham hock pie and roast Torgelly dry aged rib of beef.  And not forgetting their renowned soufflé, which thankfully has made the 12 mile trip to feature on this menu too.  On this occasion service was a little hit and miss, but if you haven’t been to The Heathcock it’s well worth popping in for a quick bite after a walk in the park, or considering booking a table for your next meal out.

JOLS Restaurant, Merthyr Tydfil

Slow-cooked Asian pork belly with char sui slaw and sriracha mayo2 courses £15 or 3 courses £20

Since encountering Jamie O’Leary’s Cornish Crab Porridge at Bite, Cardiff last year, I had vowed to make the short trip along the A470 to find out what this Chef was up to in Merthyr.  As it turns out, it’s something special.  With an à la carte menu leaning towards more classical French cooking available later on in the week; a Monday night visit offers a fixed price menu.  At just £15 for 2 courses, if you moved this restaurant 23 miles south, you’d be looking to fork out double the money for this quality of produce and standard of cookery.

Hearty, comfort food – you’ll find dishes of Asian-influenced pork belly, scampi with laverbread ketchup, wagyu burger and battered pollock with triple cooked chips.  Well worth a visit.

Hills, Brecon

Kimchi, Kimchi ya ya Pulled Pork Burger£12.50

In my restaurant round-up of 2018, I may have made the bold statement that Hills in Brecon served up some of the ‘best burgers in Wales’.  In 2019, I’ll continue to stand by that statement – until I am proved otherwise.  Don’t let the two hour round trip from Cardiff put you off, it’s well worth the petrol money.  With monthly burger specials such as the fiery Kimchi, Kimchi ya ya Pulled Pork, classic burgers such as the Juan Hilario and New York, and fries that quite frankly deserve their own certificate of commendation; if you make one dining out decision this year, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to Hills.

Calabrisella, Cardiff

Parma pizza£10.50

First things first, a confession; in the five years it has been open, rather strangely I have never been to Calabrisella.

Now that’s out of the way, I will readily admit that I have been overlooking a little gem.  Named after the original women’s costume from the Calabria region of the Italian Republic, it’s clear from the steady stream of customers entering through the sliding patio doors on Cowbridge Road East, that this is a popular local establishment.

From breakfast to brunch, and pizza to pasta, the menu offers a good choice of traditional, home-cooked, comforting Italian dishes.  There is also the option to takeaway – particularly useful when you only manage to work your way through half of their 14″ pizza.  A special mention also goes to the arancino bolognese, an absolute steal at £2 each and quite frankly, a meal in itself…bellissimo.

R.P. Culleys, Cardiff

Slow cooked pork belly with sticky puy lentils, carrots and calvados apple£22

Named after the local philanthropist and entrepreneur – Richard Palethorpe Culley, who once held the catering contract for The Exchange Restaurant within the Coal Exchange; I have to admit that the restoration of both R.P. Culleys and The Exchange Hotel itself is impressive.  The Grand Hall being worth a visit alone.

While I have had the opportunity to visit R.P. Culleys both for the opening and for an event, this was the first time I had dined in the restaurant.  Starters are good; exceptional when it comes to the broth of the Gavi steamed Welsh mussels.  Main dishes edge on the pricier side for a hotel restaurant, ranging from £11 to £29 – although I hasten to add the Culleys oxtail, foie gras and beef pie with truffle mash and seared beef fillet is worth every pound.  Although on this occasion I am less enthused by the slow-cooked pork belly, where the fat is far from “melt in your mouth” and the sole strip of crackling offers a crunch, but is oily and lacks seasoning.

Aside from some minor issues, if you’re looking for something a little different down in Cardiff Bay, Culleys is more than worthy of your consideration…whether I would personally choose to dine there again over some other independents offering similar dishes in the city, is yet to be seen.

If you would like to ask any questions about the restaurants I have dined in this month, please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

The post Krak’en BitesMarch 2019 appeared first on .

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 4M ago

A Letter of Declaration

Dear Chef

I was always taught that ‘patience is a virtue’.  As it turns out, a countdown of 110 days is no mean feat.  110 days of anticipation; 110 days of being continually plagued with social media posts that tease and reinforce your desire (for a dish).  And now, I finally find myself standing here…

The idyllic view alone is enough to warrant the 230 mile round trip (sheep-avoidance tactics aside); the reward – the epitome of a destination restaurant nestled in the Welsh countryside.  Yet the magnificent facade that greets, does not entirely prepare for what lies underneath.  In this instance, I judge by the cover.  I should have learnt by now.

There are not many venues I walk into, and instantaneously feel at home – least of all a restaurant.  Ynyshir is a place that I could have known all of my life; a place that I could whisper my deepest, darkest secrets into its teal walls, and it wouldn’t judge.  Background vocals, courtesy of a Cypress Hill LP, remind me of a long forgotten youth.  While any perception of Michelin-star pretension, can be left at the door…preferably the one that discloses this restaurant’s true intentions;

“Ingredient Led. Flavour Driven. Fat Fuelled. Meat Obsessed”.

An expertly prepared pre-feast gin cocktail loosens my tongue and leaves it unravelled across the table, as I glance at the 14 course tasting menu (challenge) that has been set.  Single ingredients seduce; while much is left to the imagination.  Uniquely, the team are introduced before even having the pleasure of meeting them.

NFOS. No Fear of Starving? As it turns out ‘Not French Onion Soup’ spectacularly opens the four hour culinary ‘showcase’, with a punch of miso onion purée, cubes of tofu and shiso-pickled vegetables in a dashi stock.  Pick your ‘weapon of choice’ from the tool roll; a spoon being the ideal candidate, placing your head in the Holy Grail of bowls, being the second.  Indiana Jones, and his quest to find the Last Crusade has nothing on this locally produced crockery.

At this point I must apologise, after all I seem to be getting ahead of myself – this is after all the first course.  Did I happen to mention that it was divine?  Should I imply that it is very much a taste of things to come?  Single ingredients that assault the senses.  Mouthfuls that leave you craving more.

Not French Onion Soup (NFOS)

If we’re going to play games – preparation appears to be very much the name of this one.  An Aylesbury duck leg brined in sugar salt and fire spice has been cooked sous-vide for 12 hours and fried.  Crispy with sesame oil, spring onion and a black glaze, one is not enough.  I’m usually ‘relatively’ low maintenance but not on this occasion.  I want more.

Aylesbury Duck

The seven day proved sourdough begs to be slathered in the accompanying miso butter and whipped aged Welsh Wagyu beef fat.  While three slices of marinaded char sui pork belly remind me that ‘practice does make perfect’; albeit that even after two years of working on the recipe, it ‘apparently’ could still be better…

Pork Belly

I could pout over the presence of only one fish course on today’s menu, but I won’t.  Quite frankly, if you were looking to win me over, this is the dish to do it.  The gin must have taken effect, I’m not sure who is blushing more – myself, or the soft, silk-like flesh of the Himalayan salt cured mackerel courteously chaperoned by a rhubarb ketchup, and topped with raw rhubarb and grated lardo.  It’s a rich, heady combination of fatty, salty tartness, that leaves me under no illusion…I’m falling fast.

Mackerel

At this point, I develop the inability to dine without a grin plastered permanently across my face.  There is nowhere to hide with these dishes.  And with the anticipation of each plate, I certainly have no inclination to take any form of refuge from the bold flavours.  But it is almost too much to bear, when course after course comes with such an affectionate and animated explanation from the eager team.

Presenting as a mousse, duck liver has been aged for three weeks and comes accompanied with fresh apple, wood sorrel and toasted spelt.  A carefully considered comparison of the dish, and the consensus of the table sees it being renamed as the “love child of a Frazzle”.

The dish that follows of Cornish crab in seaweed stock with puffed rice, coriander and infused in a katsu curry ketchup, continues the elevated comfort food theme.  For as I sit here, the only words that manage to escape are “it’s chip shop curry”.  Congratulations, you’ve rendered me speechless; an achievement that a few others in life would have been pleased to accomplish.  It is, however a bowl that simply keeps on giving; warming, homely – essentially a ‘pimped up’ Saturday night takeaway without limits.

Crab

An enviably emerald green slice of compressed pickled cucumber blankets a third dish of duck that has been lovingly aged in the meat chamber, rolled over the BBQ and smothered in hoisin sauce..  What culinary wizardry is this that produces a plate of such deep, dark, meaty stickiness?  There’s no place like home?  There’s no place like here.

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 4M ago

Last month saw the introduction of a new feature for 2019 – Krak’en Bites (the Welsh accent being non-mandatory). Much like the legendary cephalopod, the backend of my blog was starting to take on a mythical quality, in that some posts were never going to become a reality.

I’ll therefore be subjecting you to a round-up post each month, allowing me to give a shout out to all the ‘cracking’ dishes I’ve eaten, and the restaurants I have dined in during the previous 28, (29), 30 or 31 days (depending on your ability to remember the rhyme).

The Admiral, St David’s Hotel, Cardiff

Michael’s apple crumble with Welsh honey ice cream£8.00

Drawing inspiration from the food culture and bold flavours of Australasia and Asia-Pacific, while utilising the best of seasonal Welsh produce – the all day menu at The Admiral in Cardiff Bay offers a good range of dishes from starters/small plates, salads, grills and main courses.  A starter of Welsh mussel and clam broth, chilli, garlic, lime leaf with fermented black beans (£8) is a dish to write home about, as is the chicken laksa, while the Thai green vegetable curry (£16) is unfortunately not – pleasantly spiced, yet the inclusion of courgette creates a strange texture and thins the sauce.

But it’s the desserts courtesy of Head pastry chef Michael Coggan and his pastry partner, Rebekah Clash that grab your attention.  Former contestants of Bake Off: The Professionals in 2018, there is some serious talent on display; and both Michael’s apple crumble with Welsh honey ice cream (£8) and the spiced pumpkin baked cheesecake (£8) beg to be admired,  And then devoured in as many mouthfuls as you can realistically manage.

Curry 36, Berlin

Currywurst mit pommes frites €3.40

Located at Mehringdamm 36, Curry 36 is perfect for a cheap, quick bite if you’re exploring the city.  There’s a lot of social media hype around it, a similar story for Mustafa’s Gemuese Kebab a little further down the street, so expect ‘a tourist line’ (it was a longer wait for a kebab – if there are two of you, opt for one person in each queue!).  Ultimately it’s comforting street food, especially when it’s 1°C outside – perhaps a little too much sauce for my liking, but if you can, finally, locate your currywurst, it’s a pretty damn tasty example of the German sausage.

Santiago’s Tapas, Cardiff

Pulpo a la Gallega£8.90

Let’s get the website marketing messaging issue out of the way –

“The only place in Cardiff to experience an authentic Spanish dining experience.” – no it’s not.  And if you’re going to make such a bold statement, I would first check the competition within a mile radius.   Placing that topic of discussion firmly to one side for now though, Santiago’s have a good choice of classic tapas dishes on offer, and this visit certainly put the menu to the test.  I’ll sum up by saying that it is tasty ‘home-cooked’ style Spanish dishes in a relaxed restaurant with a warm welcome.  Will I be going back?  Now there’s another topic of discussion…

Bwydiful, Cardiff

Caws Caws Burger£9.45

Having been highly-regarded on the street food scene, Bwydiful became the latest vendor to move into a permanent location in December 2018.  Now settled in Victoria Park, the restaurant is a relaxed affair in simple surroundings, with quite possibly one of the warmest welcomes you’ll get in the city.  Offering eight choices of burger, plus the option to add on extra patties, bacon, halloumi and more cheese (there is a running dairy theme here) – all the street food favourites, plus a few additions, are on the menu.  The sides are also not to be missed and more than a little addictive; stand outs being crispy halloumi fries that come drizzled with chimichurri and a pot of thick sweet chilli jam, and mini cubes of hash browns with a chilli mango dipping sauce.

And finally in terms of where I lie in the whole ciabatta bun saga – every food blogger in Cardiff seems to take a different viewpoint.  I like them.  Soft and beautifully fresh from the local Pettigrew Bakeries, my only personal gripe would be that due to the inadequate size of my mouth, I had to cut it in half – a sharper knife would have been helpful, or a stash of baby wipes!

Root, Bristol

Cauliflower Pakora, Blood Orange and Cashew Milk£6.00

Badged as ‘a small plate restaurant that gives vegetables star billing and serves meat on the side’.  Root does exactly what it says on the tin, with the added bonus that the meat and fish courses are equally as delicious, and faultless to match.  Sitting at the heart of the popular Wapping Wharf in Bristol, and housed in converted shipping containers in Cargo 1, this was my first visit.  It won’t be my last.  Read the full blog post hereCOMING SOON

Sticky Fingers Street Food, Cardiff

The Two Anchors – Platter – 4 king prawns with garlic butter on a bed of rosemary sea salt fries, with burnt lemon mayo£12.00

Aside from its name – I’ve yet to achieve sticky fingers – they’ve been meaty, juicy, garlicky and fishy (don’t judge), but so far significant levels of stickiness have proved elusive; the permanent street food market in Cardiff’s Brewery Quarter is however, becoming one of my ‘go to’ places to grab a quick bite to eat.  Or on this occasion, a more leisurely visit accompanied with a couple of pints.  Home to five traders – HoofHorn to Hind, The Two Anchors, The Original Goodfillas Co, Mr. Croquewich and Makasih Street Food – it’s open from midday Thursday to Sunday and well worth a visit if you haven’t been yet.

If you would like to ask any questions about the restaurants I have dined in this month, please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

The post Krak’en BitesFebruary 2019 appeared first on

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 5M ago

Occasionally I find myself wondering whether I am, in fact, ‘losing the plot’.  I imply this, as if you’re willing to take a 600 mile round trip, to essentially ‘dine out’, there must be some degree of madness going on?  Right?

Wrong.  Because hidden away in the tiny hamlet of Summerhouse near Darlington, sits the North East of England’s first and at present only, two Michelin star restaurant.  And while it may appear a touch indulgent to drive for five hours to eat; to drive for five hours to experience this level of dining seems perfectly comprehensible.

Named after the Raby Estate, and the hunt that used to meet at the 200 year old Grade II listed building, the premises were taken over by self-taught Chef James Close in 2009.  Initially awarded its first Michelin star after only three years, a second subsequently followed in 2017.

With 26 covers, Raby Hunt is a relatively intimate affair.  Minimalist interiors with a palette of black, grey and white provide a modern look, while the addition of a quirky skull theme supplies a talking point.  Throw in a playlist to reminisce over, with the likes of early Coldplay, Nick Cave and Oasis tracks, and you can begin to a) get a sense of the comfortable, unpretentious atmosphere and b) the chef’s age…and woefully mine.

Split into three sections, specifically Global, Signature and Pastry – the 13-15 course tasting menu of what I can only describe as gastronomic theatre – to the credit of James Close, leaves a lot to the imagination.  Priced at the time of writing as £140 per person/£170 per person for the kitchen table – it is simple, and ingredient-led; the downside being for some, that it is uncompromising.  Aside from minor changes, be mindful that there are no substitutions and vegetarian options are not available.

GLOBAL

A journey to France gets the tasting menu underway, as two delicately crisp ‘puffed up’ pommes soufflées with oyster emulsion appear. Disappearing seconds later in one rather large ‘snake-like’ mouthful – the punch of the lovage garnish, while providing a welcome kick, is well judged without being overpowering.

Skipping over the Atlantic, a meaty raw, sweet scallop is dressed with jalapeño and light wisps of radish.  Beautifully fresh, the heat from the chilli is balanced out by the bitterness of the addictive lime dressing it sits in.

Remaining in Mexico for inspiration, a third snack of a crispy crab taco with a salsa verde of tomatillo arrives topped with pistachios.  Presented on a bed of dried popcorn kernels, this is the dish that simply ‘keeps on giving’ in waves of saltiness, and with a heat that continues to build even after the last bite.

Up next, a textural contrast in snack, in the form of a soft blue open corn taco, topped with sweet suckling pig, and accentuated with a warming salsa macha and avocado.  Visually, to say I’m observing perfection would be an understatement.  An inspired combination, it captures the flavours of Mexico on a tortilla.
Heading 11,000km back east this time, I have to say as dishes go, the fifth ‘act’ is simplistic in style, but optically impressive – courtesy of the plate it presents on.  Japanese delicacies of salty mackerel sashimi and warm, tender A5 Miyazaki wagyu nigiri sushi rest on greyscale palms, begging to be pinched with the chopsticks that accompany.

The final dish in the ‘global’ section remains in Japan with tempura langoustine.  Coated in a lace-like, crispy batter with hints of sour yuzu and sansho pepper; it’s a rich and seductive combination that amalgamates soft and crunchy textures in three glorious mouthfuls.

SIGNATURE

I always love it when a dish comes with a warning; this one less “you’re going to feel the burn”, and more a statement of “tuck in as soon as it arrives” (basically disguising its true meaning of ‘don’t mess around taking endless pics’).  With both hot and cold elements, the first signature dish of chicken liver parfait and duck pâté is blended and comes frozen in a theatrical cloud of LN2 with grated artichoke to top.A second signature dish sees slivers of razor clam meat returned to its shell, alongside girolle mushrooms, celeriac and samphire.  Combining land and sea; it’s one surprisingly hearty course.

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 5M ago

It’s time to introduce a new feature for 2019 – Krak’en Bites (the Welsh accent is non-mandatory).  Much like the legendary cephalopod, the backend of my blog is starting to take on a mythical quality, in that some posts are never going to become a reality.  Hence the introduction of a round-up post, allowing me to give a shout out to all the ‘cracking’ dishes I’ve eaten, and the restaurants I have dined in during the month.

To say that January has been a long month would be an understatement, but the last 31 days have delivered some true culinary delights.  Although before you scroll further, I feel it is necessary to clarify I rarely eat out this much, and I have been particularly lucky to have dined at two Michelin starred restaurants in such a short period of time.  Normal service will resume in February, before my credit card has an early hissy fit in 2019!

Oblix West

Grilled diver scallops, roasted tomatoes, parsley & basil pesto£19

Situated on the 32nd floor of The Shard in London, Oblix is a contemporary restaurant, with as you would expect from its sky high location, stunning views across West London.  With sharing starters averaging out at £19, steaks at £36 and more eye-wateringly a wagyu beef tomahawk for two priced at £170 – it’s certainly not a cheap ‘dine out’.  However, for that special occasion, it’s one to consider.  On this visit, service was a little hit and miss, but overall it was a pleasant dining experience.

Bateaux London

Severn and Wye smoked salmon with celeriac remoulade

If you’re looking for a different dining experience, Bateaux London is the capital’s leading restaurant cruise provider.  Combining unrivalled views of London from the River Thames with tasty food, this is well worth checking out if you want to combine lunch, afternoon tea or dinner with a spot of sightseeing.  With prices starting from £39 per person, our set three course lunch cruise included Severn and Wye smoked salmon, chicken with butternut mousse and a Seville orange cheesecake.  And while we got off to a slightly shaky start; wobbly chairs are apparently not conducive to a comfortable trip on a boat that also rocks, and inside temperatures were on the chilly side (it did warm up) – overall The Glass Room was a fun and unique way to discover London’s famous landmarks.

RustiKo, Soho

Gamberetti Piccanti£6

Situated in the heart of Old Compton Street, RustiKo is an independent boutique restaurant and bar situated in the heart of Soho.  As we found out earlier this month, it’s the perfect post-theatre eatery, serving a contemporary Italian menu of freshly cooked pasta, pizza, fish and meat dishes.  Badged as Italian ‘Tapas’ style – although I am unsure why it’s not called cicchetti or similar…(possibly to make it relatable to more customers); there is also a good choice of tasty small plates including Italian arancini, gamberetti and parmigiana. Accompanied with a glass of Valpolicella, and a playlist that included Gloria Estafan – make of that what you will – and RustiKo offers a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.  A quick tip though – if you have ‘issues’ with your knees, or are planning on having a few ‘bicchieri di vino’, probably best to give the small metal, spiral staircase at the entrance a wide berth!

Ynyshir

Brined Aylesbury duck leg in sugar salt and fire spice

There is always a degree of anticipation when you book a table in advance; and with a four month wait, to say there was a countdown to this trip would be an understatement.  Led by Chef and Owner Gareth Ward, Ynyshir is a Michelin star destination restaurant located on the coast of mid-Wales.  At this point my single recommendation would be, if you haven’t been…go.  Yes, it is one for a special occasion.  Yes, it does lead with the statement – “Ingredient led.  Flavour driven.  Fat fuelled.  Meat obsessed.”  Yes, you can expect the likes of Cypress Hill, ACDC and the Wu Tang Clan playing in the background.  And yes, it won’t be to everyone’s taste.  But if you relish a dining experience that will leave you speechless…go.  Read the full blog post hereCOMING SOON.

Woky Ko: Cargo, Bristol

Braised Pork, Apple and Peanut Powder Bao£4.95

Housed in a converted shipping container in Wapping Wharf, Bristol, Woky Ko: Cargo is a casual diner serving Asian street food.  Entering through sliding patio doors, it’s a cosy, minimalist space with a wonderfully welcoming front of house.  Plates arrive swiftly, which is perfect if you’re looking for a quick, delicious and affordable lunch.  From pillows of soft steamed filled baos, spring rolls, noodles and rice, there are a good choice of dishes.  However if I have one suggestion, order the salted caramel and coconut ice cream bao.  If you’re a pud-lover, you won’t be disappointed..

Casamia, Bristol

Casamia has been at the top of my ‘to do’ list for many years now, however after experiencing Peter Sanchez-Iglesias’ dishes at the recent collaboration with Tommy Heaney in Cardiff, it quickly became apparent that a trip to Bristol was not to be put off any longer.  Established in 1999,  Casamia is a Michelin star restaurant serving a multi-course, seasonal tasting menu.  Officially named as the ‘best UK restaurant outside of London’ by SquareMeal last year – I am going to struggle to find the words to explain how ‘special’ this dining experience is.  Watch this space.  Read the full blog post hereCOMING SOON

Oz Urfa, Cardiff

Edessa – Chargrilled lamb shish and Adana with sun-dried tomato sauce£12

If you’re looking for good, old comfort food in these winter months, then a trip to Oz Urfa should be on the cards.  A popular Turkish restaurant for many years in Cardiff, it’s now re-located from its previous home on City Road to North Road.  A cosy and welcoming atmosphere awaits, and the dishes are excellent value for money. Tuck into freshly-made authentic mezze, lahmacun, chicken shish and köfte (to name a few) – the lamb shish above was more than substantial in my eyes, and delicious to match.

If you would like to ask any questions about the restaurants I have dined in this month, please feel free to give me a shout on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

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The Octopus Diaries by The Octopus Diaries - 6M ago

Where to start…

As I sit here with a day remaining of 2018, awkwardly attempting to forge its highlights into some kind of discernible blog post – one word stands out.

Thankful.

While perhaps too many to list, I’m thankful for the wonderful opportunities these past twelve months have brought.  It’s been a year of firsts from finally experiencing dining at a 2 and a 3 Michelin star restaurant, to visiting the Abergavenny Food Festival and listening to the insightful restaurant critic, Grace Dent.

I have had the pleasure of meeting some inspiring Chefs this year, who truly are pushing boundaries in the kitchen.  From Chef’s James Close and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias, to being invited to James Sommerin’s Welsh Stars Dinner in May, which saw five of Wales’ Michelin Star Chefs join together to celebrate the restaurant’s fourth birthday.

But it’s not all been about the stars; some of the more memorable dining experiences this year, have been from independents on my doorstep.  As with restaurants throughout the UK, the industry in Cardiff has and continues to face challenges; and while we have seen closures this year, thankfully there have also been some highly anticipated openings.  It would also be a travesty if I didn’t mention the inaugural Bite, Cardiff in July, which celebrated the true culinary talent this city has to offer.

After spending twelve months writing in the shadows, I am thankful for the friendships I have made within the wider industry, Cardiff blogging community and online – and eternally grateful for the ongoing support, encouragement, persuasiveness, banter and opportunities to gatecrash!

And while a new job has inevitably restricted the hours spent blogging; my passion for food has certainly not diminished.  Therefore if nothing else, I am thankful that the words haven’t completely escaped me.  Yet.

Based on some of the restaurants I have had the sheer damn luck to dine in, to place my Top 10 list of dining experiences in any order, would be nigh on impossible this year.  I can’t compare them.   And while I will divulge my overall favourite – from Cardiff to NYC (and a few locations in between), it’s been an educational and exciting past 12 months – which looks set to continue in 2019.

The Top ‘Ten’ tacles 2018

In alphabetical order (I hope)…

Eleven Madison Park, New York City

An exceptionally beautiful, perfect piece of culinary escapism; Eleven Madison Park in New York was quite simply a once in a lifetime dining experience this summer.

Hangfire Southern Kitchen, Barry

Since my initial visit in 2017, Hangfire has now become one of my local ‘go to’s’.  I may have been a little late jumping on the bandwagon, but with a great choice of low and slow BBQ dishes, I couldn’t not include Sam and Shauna back in my list for 2018.

Heaney’s, Cardiff

The addition of Heaney’s to the restaurant scene in Cardiff has been one of the most anticipated and exciting prospects this year.  Offering a wonderful dining experience in welcoming and relaxed surroundings, that truly reflects some of the best in Welsh cooking.

Hills, Brecon

While I have had my eye on the Hills in Brecon for sometime, it wasn’t until December that I finally experienced what could be considered as some of the ‘best burgers in Wales’.  Don’t let the two hour round trip from Cardiff put you off.  Great restaurant, great food, great service.  I’ll be back in 2019.

Milkwood, Cardiff

Having opened in 2017, I’m thrilled that I finally visited Milkwood this year.  Offering a continually changing menu informed by top notch local Welsh produce, the dishes demonstrate a genuine love of food, by a team who have an excellent knowledge of local Welsh produce.

Raby Hunt, Darlington

Set in the heart of the hamlet of Summerhouse, near Darlington, The Raby Hunt is NE England’s only two Michelin star restaurant.  Offering an exciting tasting menu of 13-15 innovative, theatrical and delicious courses – not only is James Close one hell of self-taught Chef. but he is also lovely to speak to.

Sketch, London

The word ‘surreal’ does not even come close to describing Sketch. It’s an intriguing, luxurious and comfortable space, where the level of detail is beyond imagination.  The ideal setting for sophisticated French cooking.  And if I was giving out awards for service this year, hands down this restaurant would be the winner.

Tavern on the Green, New York City

My fixation with dining at Tavern on the Green in New York, has rather randomly been there for the past 25 years.  After reading a book, in my formative years, I’ve always wanted to visit.  This year, the teenage dream came true, and it didn’t disappoint.  A truly beautiful establishment; a trip to ‘The Big Apple’ wouldn’t be complete without experiencing this restaurant at least once.

The Beach House, Oxwich Bay

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