Celyn Avenue, Lakeside, Cardiff, CF23 6FH • Tel: 029 2075 5015
Not so long ago, The Discovery was a rather tired, bland pub. But as one of only two pubs in prosperous Cyncoed, near Roath Park Lake it had great unrealised potential. Step in Knife and Fork, owners of The Conway in Pontcanna amongst others. With their reputation for great food and beer I was really looking forward to visiting again. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s been transformed into a contemporary but homely foodie pub.
Straightaway, I clocked the range of real ales which boded well. Starters lived up to the rep too – creamed goat’s cheese, beetroot and toasted pine nuts was a great mix of flavours and the crispy aromatic duck egg was a perfectly cooked Chinese-y take on a Scotch egg that simply worked.
On the recommendation of the waiting staff we opted for the ‘Discover the Burger’ and ‘Plank of Pig’ for mains. Yes, I know, typical blokes. But in fairness, the burger is the result of months of experimentation with different cuts of beef and a little pork, seasoning, cooking techniques etc to get optimum moistness and taste. And it showed – a lovely, slightly charred exterior with a juicy middle and packed with flavour (no extra lean ground steak here).
Double cooked chips topped it off. The plank of pig was exceptional if a bit of a beast size (and calorie) wise. No surprise given it comprised of pork belly, a pork croquette, pork tenderloin, black pudding, crackling, a baked apple, apple puree, roasted new potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and carrots. All perfectly cooked, rammed with simple flavours and well worth the effort it took to eat.
Having pigged out, ahem, only one of us could fit in a pud and very good it was too, apparently. Another calorific overdose in the form of a Snickers tart – described to me as a chocolate and caramel frenzy. Think I’ll try it next time. As should you, all of it.
The Kings Arms
Kings Arms Village Pub and Kitchen Church Rd, Pentyrch, Cardiff, CF15 9QF • 029 2089 0202
The Kings Arms, situated in the pretty village of Pentyrch, near Cardiff, is a picture postcard 16th century pub and restaurant that has been the focal point of the village for most of its existence. Owner and chef Andy Aston intends to keep it that way whilst also attracting foodies with an adventurous, locally sourced menu in the more contemporary dining area (as opposed to the olde world lounge/bar which has a simpler menu).
I chose pan fried mackerel, black olive tapenade, slow roast tomato, focaccia & pesto as my starter, a dish so good I was still thinking about it even after finishing the main. The roasted rack of pork served on the bone with bubble & squeak, caramelised apples & cider jus chosen from the specials board was my choice as main and it tasted as good as it read. The pork was melt-in-the-mouth tender with an accompanying crisp, salty hit from the crackling. The cider jus and bubble and squeak complimented the meat well while the caramelised apples provided the perfect sweet-kick contrast. All washed down with an excellent Elwoods Summer Pale Ale. My partner J’s soup of the day starter (carrot and ginger) was welcomingly different, giving a fresh, sharp jolt to the palate whilst also giving warmth and comfort to the belly. Her main of Welsh lamb neck fillet with red pepper puree, goats cheese bon bons & rocket salad was a pure delight – pink in the middle and caramel-brown on the outside.
Our delicious desserts, a plank of chocolate consisting of white choc milkshake, rocky road and chocolate cream, and the baked ricotta, stone fruits & berries showed great invention and slick presentation. With plans to refurbish an outbuilding into a deli for local produce and a simple but high quality bar menu running alongside the more ambitious restaurant menu not only is community still at the very heart of the Kings Arms but so is food that’s well worth travelling for.
6-10 Romilly Crescent, Pontcanna, Cardiff CF11 9NR • 029 2034 1264
Arbennig Restaurant, without a shadow of a doubt, is one of Cardiff’s finest new restaurants. My midweek supper was truly sublime, and a joy from start to finish.
Located on the cusp of Canton and Pontcanna, where gastro gem Le Gallois once stood, this fine-dining hot-spot has a warm, familial air that will draw you back time and again.
I’d been planning a visit for quite some time, as the name itself inspires confidence. Arbennig, quite simply, means ‘special’ in Welsh, and my experience surpassed all expectations. The well-considered menu emphasises local , seasonal fare to best reflect the fresh Welsh produce on offer.
The venue is the brainchild of Manchester-born, Bridgend-raised and Coed y Mwstwr-trained chef John Cook and wife Ceri - Arbennig’s charming maître d’. She leads an excellent front of house team who put everyone at ease; the engaging staff are bilingual and well-informed.
Before I even crossed the threshold, I was truly blown away to see a rare Welsh treat on the menu outside. Without a moment’s hesitation, I plumped for the hand picked Porthgain crab as a starter: paired with avocado and salsa verde, it represented the best of Pembrokeshire, but with a twist.
My partner’s roast tomato salad was enhanced by the burst of basil pesto, and the creamy tang of Pant-ysgawn goatsmilk cheese from Abergavenny.
As for the mains, the succulent salt roast duck breast was combined with creamed parsnips and spice roasted oranges, whilst my companion’s hand-rolled potato gnocchi with peas, baby spinach, Wye Valley asparagus, feta and basil pesto, was a taste sensation.
The cream and butter baked brioche, cinnamon apple and organic vanilla ice cream that followed was gone in sixty seconds; a hearty dish that must surely rank as Cardiff’s best new dessert. At the opposite end of the dessert spectrum, the light and refreshing strawberry and coconut sorbets were sent directly to the taste stratosphere, paired with the mindblowing piquancy of the chewy cardomom meringue; a heavenly combination that brought the evening to a memorable close.
Each dish expressed a boldness, a natural flair and a passion for regional Welsh cuisine that is sorely lacking elsewhere in Cardiff at present. ‘Arbennig’ also translates as distinct or unique; this cook’s vision will make you proud to be Welsh.
83 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JP • 029 2061 7534
The sign outside read, “If you’re having grill problems I feel bad for you son’’. I knew then that this was going to be my kinda place. Based on Whitchurch Road in Cardiff’s studenty Roath area, Got Beef is an independent gourmet burger joint with character and personality. Minimalist (interiors mainly consisting of exposed brickwork/bench style wooden seating and open central kitchen) and laidback the vibe is both busy and relaxed at the same time.
Obviously word has already started to spread about the good things going on here, especially when considering the entire menu consists mainly of only a handful of burgers and dogs. Quality over quantity…and all that.
I plumped for the Uni (ooni) burger which included the award-winning patty (the initial building block for each burger on the menu) with spicy calamari rings, spicy mayo and Asian style ‘slaw. Not too spicy but with a quick kick to the tastebuds, the Shirasha Mayo worked well with the thin hoops of calamari that sat atop the Welsh Black beef burger patty. The coleslaw had edamame/soy-beans in it, wasn’t too heavy on mayo and tasted fresh, sharp and exotic. Hell - the burger even looked good, served in lightly toasted brioche-style bun it was the closest a burger is ever going to get to being called cute.
My dining partner Siôn opted for the Soprano burger with chorizo, bacon, monetary jack and jalapenos. If you’re not already tasting that off the page then you’re a liar or a vegetarian – whom are of course also catered for here. As sides we went for ‘old faithful’ the Cajun onion rings, which are huge spheres of battered onion with globules of mayo drizzled on top. The Dirty Fries are served skin-on with jalapenos, cheese and bacon bits and were so tasty they almost distracted us from the burgers. They would work equally well as a bar-snack, especially alongside their exclusive Bavarian brewed Sunday IPA that they serve bottled from the fridge which worked so well with the salty and spicy fare laid out before us. If it’s burgers you want why go anywhere else – these are the best in Cardiff.
The lazy duck
435 Cowbridge Road East, Victoria Park, Cardiff CF5 1JH • 029 2022 0993
In the last edition of RedHanded, we were raving about duck egg bleu – the fine-dining restaurant run by the well-travelled chef Gareth Dobbs. It’s only right we indulge in the full experience so we returned to try out the lazy duck – the restaurant’s adjoining café bar. It’s situated in what was known as The Victoria Social Club, famous for hosting weekly ballroom dancing to ladies and gentlemen of the local community. The dancing stopped long ago but it’s still a venue for the people of Canton and beyond to congregate – only this time over some good food and drink.
The interior is similar to that of its neighbour – warm and inviting with an overriding feeling of relaxation. A charming barman greeted us with a smile and then led us to our table. To start, we shared a meat mezze board. It was loaded with an array of goodies; the cured meats were generously thick, the olives plump and sharp and the perl wen deliciously creamy, spread invitingly over crisp slices of toasted ciabatta.
For the mains, I had the celtic pride beef burger with spicy chilli jam whilst my dining partner opted for the cranberry, brie and mushroom Wellington. The burger was a huge hunk of meat, nestled between a doughy bun and given a surging kick by the spicy chilli jam. The accompanying triple cooked chips were as every good chip should be – crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside. The Wellington was tasty and light, given a blast of freshness by roasted cherry tomatoes and a balsamic reduction.
As the plates were cleared, my dining partner claimed she was sated. However, when I ordered the caramel chocolate torte she requested an additional spoon. We made short work of the torte; the wonderfully rich chocolate was married perfectly with a refreshing vanilla ice cream. To drink, we sampled a couple of cocktails from a lengthy list of options. I supped on an Apple and Cardamom Sidecar which brought together a lovely blend of aromatic flavours infused with a sweet punch. My dining partner’s tipple of choice was Welsh Garden – a mix of gin, elderflower and gomme. It was a winning combination of light, sweet and floral. Neighbours don’t come much more inviting than this.