My Cardiff

As many of you know I have landed myself an amazing new job, however it’s in Reading which means I will be leaving Cardiff in a couple of weeks time.

Cardiff has introduced me to so many hidden gems so I thought it only fair to share my absolute favourites with you all and a few photo memories from my adventures in these wonderful places!

Breakfast

Cafe Pure is by far the best place to grab a healthy and super yummy breakfast.  They have lots of options to choose from and has fantastic views overlooking Cardiff Bay. They pride themselves on their ‘clean-eating’ options and make the most amazing healthy, fruity and fizzy drinks in the summer.

Cafe Pure

Lunch

The Deck is my Cardiff Bay haven! Tucked away down a small road opposite Cardiff Bay Police Station they serve up meals that taste ‘just like mum makes it’. Everything from comforting lasagne to the Mother Omelette stacked with various toppings. I always popped in for their famous bacon & brie baguette with cranberry sauce. They are also the best place in Cardiff to get cupcakes and brownies, with different flavours every day.

NY Deli is my guilty pleasure for a day when I just don’t feel like being healthy. This small cafe nestled in High Street Arcade offers up the most amazing selection with everything from bagels to hoagies. My favourite is the Richie Parks Special; mountains of salt beef and pastrami stacked on top of a layer of sweet gherkins with lashings of French mustard…mmm!

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Richie Park’s Special at NY Deli

Dinner

Gourmet Burger Kitchen was a place I had never heard of before I moved to Cardiff… I’m so glad I discovered it though as it has everything that I look for in a brilliant restaurant. Superb staff, banging tunes, delicious food and of course great value for money too. GBK make the most refreshing Strawberry milkshakes and of course you can get grilled halloumi as a side dish so naturally this was going to be a winner for me.

GBK

Cocktails

Cosy Club is my favourite place to drink in all of Cardiff! The prices are a little on the steep side but when you try the concoctions on offer you will be pleased with every penny spent. My two signature favourites have always been the Lemon Drizzle Cake and the Cherry Bakewell… No these aren’t cakes, they are drinks, but my oh my they taste like alcoholic, liquidised cake…Mr Kipling would be proud!

Cosy Cocktails

Salt is another place I love drinking in as it’s so close to my flat in the bay and the flavour combinations in their cocktails are just crazy. From their espresso martinis to the candy-tasting Jolly Rancher there is something for everyone here. They have spectacular views of Cardiff Bay from their rooftop terrace which is a lush setting to sit and eat dinner in the summer. It’s also a great place if there’s a large group of you, with the option to reserve an area upstairs. They have brilliant live music nights too, be sure to catch ‘Salvation’ playing there.

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Sarah and I on New Year’s Eve

Nightlife

Peppermint is the place to be on Mill Lane! With cool decor, cheap drinks deals and varied music across two floors, it’s always the best bar on a Friday or Saturday night. It can get very busy in here but that just adds to the atmosphere. Their outside seating area is beautiful to enjoy in the summer and they always put on great entertainment throughout the year and on key dates such as the Six Nations.

Brewhouse is the best place for live music in Cardiff in my opinion. Spread across a large venue on multiple levels it’s a lovely place to grab something to eat and listen to chilled musicians during the day, but by night it turns into a hive of energy with the dance floor full every night. Check their website before you go as they always have great deals on food and drink that you can take advantage of.

Live Lounge had to be mentioned! Simply because it’s a rite of passage to go there at least once during your time in Cardiff and it’s the place to end your night. Open until 4am, people pour into this venue already completely intoxicated but that’s why it makes for such a great venue. Everyone is in such a good mood from their night out that everyone is just really friendly to each other. There is nothing pretentious about Live Lounge, quite the opposite actually; but the music and atmosphere can’t be beaten on a night out in Cardiff.

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Ieva & I at Live Lounge after Varsity 2013

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Summer Tapas at Cosy Club

Anyone who knows me well, knows there is only one place in Cardiff I continually return to time and time again and that’s the hidden gem that is Cosy Club.

A discreet hideaway, it’s perfectly positioned in a central location with a great view across the main shopping street in the city.

Cosy Club is like a grown-ups’ social playground…Whether you’re grabbing brunch with a friend, booking one of their wine tasting sessions or curling up on the sofas for an intimate date it’s the perfect setting.

I recently went there for dinner with my friend Jack and we might have spoilt ourselves just a little bit.

We opted for a starter each… I had the mushroom bruschetta & Jack went for the Goats cheese pearls with sun-blushed tomatoes and black olive tapenade… These were just so scrummy!

Cosy Starter

We decided that we simply couldn’t choose which tapas dishes to go for…so we went for all of them! The only 2 we didn’t try were the ham hock and the herring as they had run out.

Mini Cumberland sausages with a sticky, wholegrain mustard & cider sauce– 10/10 WE LOVED! If I had my own Last Supper, this is what I would serve.

Crispy potatoes with pesto mayonnaise-9/10 Lush flavours, crunchy texture, creamy mayo!

Honey glazed shredded 5- spice pork– 9/10 A party in your mouth with each soft, gooey piece

Watermelon & crumbled feta with black olives, mint & extra virgin olive oil– 9/10 The naughtiest salad you’ll ever have… Going to make this at home!

Chorizo braised in cider– 8/10 Mouth watering texture, scrummy sauce, could’ve eaten a whole bowl of this

Mushroom rarebit made with their guest ale and mature cheddar– 8/10 Just like mumma makes it!

Home cured raspberry salmon with a raspberry vinegarette– 6/10 Lush salmon, bit too much fruit…

Grilled courgettes, red peppers & roasted vine tomatoes with a walnut & parsley pistou– 6/10 Superb flavours but this dish deserves to be served warm!

Mini fish fingers with tartare suace– 8/10 Always a winner for me… Gotta love anything mini

Houmous topped with spiced sultanas and chickpeas– 10/10 Made us feel very festive, I want to smother this on top of everything I eat at home.

Sweet potato and basil falafels with cumin & coriander yoghurt– 6/10 We are not falafel people, but we tried them and loved the aromas that came from within.

Pulled chicken poached in buttermilk and ginger with fennel & apple coleslaw– 7/10 Bit too much slaw, not enough chicken but blimey the chicken was good!

Cosy Tapas1

Okay…we were so full by this point we contemplated stopping but then we remembered… there’s always room for dessert…hehe!

I went for the Peach Melba Cheesecake which arrived in the cutest jar and tasted phenomenal… nom nom nom!!

Cosy Dessert

Jack chose the Rhubarb, stem ginger and custard fool… It looked outstanding and the heavenly noises Jack made whilst eating it only made it seem even better.

After feeling suitably stuffed we made our way home, but not before saying goodbye to the evening’s host Nathan who always gives you a warm welcome and makes sure you’ve had a great time.

The whole team at Cosy Club always make you feel like one in a million and it’s for this reason that I will continue to keep going back!

If you’re looking for a great deal then head to Cosy Club on Tapas Tuesday and you can get 3 tapas dishes and a glass of wine for £11.50!!!!

http://www.thecosyclub.co.uk/cardiff

 

   

Yes Pie-Minister

I love quirky food… anyone who knows me knows that!

So imagine my excitement when Pieminister contacted me to see if I would come along to the press launch of their new Cardiff restaurant on St Mary’s Street last Friday.

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I spent the whole week building it up in my head, tweeting them constantly and hyping it up to my ‘plus one’ Jack who didn’t quite understand the concept at the beginning, like most people I’m sure.

So how do I begin to explain Pieminister… Well it’s not so much gourmet Greggs as Sweeney Todd meets fine dining (not the dead people part, just the pies) although when Commercial Minister Chris came around to speak to us I had to ask whether moving in to a unit just a few shops away from old style barbers ‘Keep The Faith’ was just a happy coincidence… He laughed and assured me it was!

We were greeted warmly by Marketing Minister Claire who told us we could go and have a look around and then order some food and drinks.

When you walk in you are immediately greeted with a chilled out bar feel, with a mix of booths and tables it lends a very relaxed atmosphere; perfect for a girly lunch or even a first date.

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The downstairs is simply crying out to be used for private/large parties, it’s beautifully cosy with lots of lights hanging from the ceiling and a mix of tables and booths.

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Back upstairs we both ordered a Thatcher’s Cider which was both crisp and sharp.

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For food I opted for the Matador… A pie filled with British Beef Steak, Chorizo, Butterbeans and Olives, accompanied by Sweet Potato Fries and gravy… Perfect for dipping the fries into!

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For the first time all evening we were completely silent, content with our comfort food and drinking in the atmosphere in the room. After finishing we both sat back and took a big sigh… these are the best pies ever! (I should point out that at this point I was slipping into a pie-induced coma!)

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With fresh and locally sourced ingredients you just can’t go wrong and with Pieminister’s ethical values you know you are always guaranteed something that’s kind to you and others too.

Pieminister’s promise to their customers is that they insist on 100% free range British meat (sourced locally), 100% free range eggs, Non-hydrogenated fats and fresh herbs & vegetables… the ultimate in British pie baking!

After being disappointed at the lack of desserts to try, Commercial Minister Chris arranged for us to try some of the famous Pork Scratchings and some apple sauce from the kitchen. They did not disappoint… Super crunchy with a soft yet slightly chewy edge and an incredible flavour, we will most definitely be back for some of these.

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If I only had one criticism of the evening it was that a couple of team members were rather uninterested and one was actually quite rude. I’m someone who champions customer service! It’s the difference between people going out or just ordering things online. Even more importantly in a restaurant where direct service is more heavily needed than in a retail store. I’m going to put this down to first night nerves coupled with the stress and pressure of all the press being there, so I’m going to reserve full judgement until I’ve been back.

Ultimately the evening was amazing though and so was the food and I can’t wait to go back and see how they’re all doing now that they’re officially open to the public.

To find out more visit http://www.pieminister.co.uk

#liveandeatpie

Hit or Miss: Five Guys

I recently visited the brand new branch of Five Guys in Reading and if I’m being brutally honest I’m not sure whether It lived up to the hype that had been building from everything I’d heard.

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Let’s start with the good…The best bit of my whole visit was being served by Hollie…Or Holly, sorry if I’ve spelt it wrong…She went out of her way to help me when I had lots of bags and after having a bit of a bad day her cheery disposition really perked me up!

Now the brand does offer some great and unusual choices of burger toppings… grilled mushrooms, green peppers, fresh (i.e., spicy) jalapenos and the usual onions and pickles. You can also choose to have your burger “All The Way” which is with every topping…I highly recommend this for the full Five Guys experience!

The fries were great: thick-cut so they’re still fluffy and potato-y on the inside. The location is slightly out of the way of the main shopping centre area so you would need to know it’s there, but it’s a good addition to the centre, after we waved goodbye to the miserable Pontis cafe that used to be there.

The high-tech drinks dispensers are a joy… they make it possible to have all kinds of different drinks from one machine, which sounds like every other drinks machine but trust me…It’s much more fun!

Now for the bad… I was originally tempted in by a promo girl handing out leaflets, who told me that it was “real fast food!, So fast it only takes 2 minutes”…I was sold! Although 10 minutes later I was still waiting for my burger and a bit annoyed as I’d booked a taxi to pick me up which had already rung me once to see where I was…Luckily they agreed to wait.

Now for the ugly… In the 10 minutes that I stood waiting for my food, 4 members of staff were served theirs. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that they are able to eat there for their lunch and they probably get a lovely staff discount…But I’m the customer…I’m paying for a service which I’m not receiving because the staff are too busy serving the other staff. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but bearing in mind I’d already been lied to about the waiting time and the fact that there were close to 15 people ‘on duty’ in the kitchen at one point just really agitated me!

What made it so much worse, was that there was a member of staff stood next to the kitchen, chugging down a jumbo coca cola, who by his accent, telling everyone what they were doing wrong and just his general demeanour, I assumed to be someone who’s come over to the UK to “show us Brits how it’s done”…There is never an excuse for poor customer service…ever… and this guy clearly should have been leading the way!

I would return, purely for the food, not the service…unless of course I can manage to get the fabulous Hollie again!

Dinner at La Tasca

So I was invited to La Tasca in the Brewery Quarter a few weeks ago to sample some of their delights…I know, hard job, but someone’s got to do it!

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I always visit La Tasca since I started attending salsa classes here and the food here is always cooked beautifully and the restaurant itself is very homely.

There is always such a selection with the Tapas that you can’t go wrong, whatever you are into and whoever you are with. The environment here is much more authentic Spanish than most tapas bars in Cardiff and you do feel very comfortable from the moment you arrive… it’s a great atmosphere and very reasonable for the price. The staff are always very attentive too and will go out of their way to be as helpful as possible.

We shared 6 tapas dishes which were;

Pescado Blanco Frito (Malaga) which is deep-fried white fish, in their special-recipe San Miguel batter, served with homemade paprika & roasted garlic mayonnaise and lemon.

Patatas Bravas (Espana) which is fried potato, with spicy tomato sauce. We also added cheese to ours.

A Festival of Mushrooms ( Rioja) which is chestnut and button mushrooms, sautéed in garlic butter and white wine.

Pork Belly (Segovia) which is slow-cooked pork belly, served with rosemary herb-scented beans.

Croquetas de Pollo (Madrid); Hand-crumbed with chicken breast and served with roasted garlic mayonnaise.

Pollo Marbella (Malaga). Chicken breast, cooked with smoked paprika, chorizo, mixed peppers, onion and a white wine & cream sauce.

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This was more than enough for the two of us, we were rather full so skipped dessert. We’d also washed all this down with a bottle of the house red wine between us… Hic!

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We agreed that our favourite dish was definitely the deep fried white fish with its succulent, flaky texture and exceptionally well-flavoured batter, it was not going to be beaten.

The mushroom dish and the Pollo Marbella were close contenders…full of flavoured herbs, both of these dishes ticked all of our boxes. Again both of these were cooked exceptionally well and stayed sizzling long enough for us to dig in to each aspect of the meal without any of it getting cold.

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We were a little let down by the pork belly, stringy and tough and just pretty bland we only managed half of it between us before admitting defeat.

We were a little bewildered as well, as everything tasted rather salty. Having eaten at La Tasca plenty of times before this was a surprise as normally you can add salt to taste but the patatas bravas were almost ruined by the amount of salt on them…A girl can only handle so much sodium in her life!

Overall this was a great meal, as is expected from such a experienced restaurant, they currently have a great selection of seasonal tapas dishes too which are only around for a short space of time. I have no hesitations in sending you all in the direction of La Tasca in Cardiff. Make sure you try out their salsa classes too…just have a sangria or five first if you’re nervous!

Disclosures:

Invited by PR company- Yes

Staff knew I was a food blogger- Yes

Compensated for meal- Yes

Brunch at Giraffe

Visiting my mum for the weekend, I wanted to treat her to a nice breakfast so we headed in to town and spotted Giraffe. I’ve only ever been to the one in Reading for dinner but that was a great experience so thought breakfast would be just as amazing!

We had a warm welcome when we arrived, and the waiter said we could choose where we wanted to sit as it wasn’t busy which was a nice option.
For some reason neither of us gelled with the waiter; most likely down to the fact that we hadn’t even sat down before he came over and asked us what we would like to order. I asked if we could have a few minutes to think to which he rolled his eyes and muttered something in another language and then said he would come back…not a great start.

When he came back 5 minutes later we ordered our drinks, the ‘Coconutty Iced Coffee’ which is flavoured with chocolate and coconut and garnished with a sprig of mint…this most definitely hit the spot first thing in the morning. Light and refreshing, it zipped just the right amount of caffeine through our veins to allow us to function like normal people…unlike most of Reading at 9am on a Monday morning… which is usually like a scene from Shaun of the Dead!

We both chose breakfasts we’d not had before. Mum ordered poached eggs with crispy bacon and flat mushrooms- The portions were a little on the small side, especially for the overly large plate it was presented on but it was cooked to perfection.

I opted for the regular breakfast but for a bit of Mexican flair I opted to have avocado and chorizo added in. You can see from the photos how much there was of each. The avocado alone I was charged an extra £1.30 for…That’s more than a pack of 4 avocados in most local supermarkets
Now before you criticise me for not bringing it to their attention, they never came & checked back with us during our breakfast that everything was okay. They didn’t even ask when clearing our plates.

This branch clearly needs a bit of refresher training in how to treat customers – my pet hate is going somewhere where the chefs are clearly the stars yet people don’t go back because of the rude waiting staff who just don’t want to be there. My compliments really do go to the chefs as the food was cooked and presented exquisitely.

Overall this place did the job… just about.
I’ve been to a fair few other branches of Giraffe and they’ve all been great – this one clearly doesn’t have the team with the right pizazz, so I won’t be returning in a hurry.

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