It has been a few years, but I ended up back in the Welsh capital doing a bit of exploration while my other half sat an arduous exam. At least the food was good!
The Easter of 2019 was a fine one indeed. I organised a trip which ended up being a food tour of Cardiff with meals at Yakitori 1, Giardini di Sorrento, and the Clink (now sadly closed) to name a few. It felt like all we did was eat, so in the same vein (and rather fittingly since we’re only just passed Easter) I have been crawling around a series of cafés and restaurants on this trip.
bigmoose coffee co
During my usual trawl for cafés I came across bigmoose coffee co tucked in beside St David’s off Queen Street. I missed this establishment while living in Cardiff but this time we made a beeline there after doing some shopping. The coffee was excellent, the cakes were delicious, and it was well worth a visit. Not only that, but it’s a charitable non-profit coffee shop working to help those experiencing mental health issues and homelessness. It’s nice to be able to support this sort of social enterprise, and even better when they’re putting out a really good product.
Raising the Steaks
We missed out on a chance to try Pasture, the highly rated city centre steak restaurant, as I hadn’t even considered booking until the day before. This is a place that can be booked out months in advance, so unsurprisingly this plan went nowhere. Instead I bought us a 26 oz côte de boeuf, copying Pasture’s sharing options. It was my first time cooking such a colossal steak, but it worked rather well and was quite a striking centrepiece. I’d definitely recommend it for a steak fan as the meat was beautifully tender and almost buttery, and too good to slather with sauce.
I’m always on the look out for slightly different dining experiences, social enterprises, and training establishments. Searching through the list of top rated Cardiff restaurants, I came across the Classroom which promises fine dining in the setting of the Cardiff and Vale College (CAVC) campus. When you put “college” and “fine dining” together, it doesn’t exactly sound glamorous, but the setup more than meets expectations. The restaurant is located on the fifth floor of the strikingly modernist, glass-sided campus building, with an open kitchen reminscent of the Menu. Thankfully nothing untoward happened during my visit. The surrounding landscape is fairly industrial, located between the city centre proper and Cardiff Bay, but the view isn’t the reason to trek down to CAVC.
I picked a “student takeover” day where the restaurant was staffed by catering course students. It was hard to pass up the opportunity to have three courses for £15 – starter (with bread), main, and dessert – it’s a feat almost unheard of these days, and certainly on my trip to Sheffield it was difficult to get much of a meal for less than £15. The cuisine is modern British although not overly pretentious, and the portion sizes are relatively generous.
To start I had cod brandade, an emulsion of salt cod, olive oil, and potatoes, with a few cubes of fried chorizo on top. It was a first for me and it was really delicious. Creamy but not overly rich, and balanced by just the right amount of chorizo. The portion was substantial too. Since I was on holiday, and to give the students something else to work on, I ordered a Millionaire cocktail. It was made with Southern Comfort (not ideal, and not actually a whiskey), curaçao, grenadine, lemon juice, and egg white. A little on the sweet side for me, but one I’ll probably experiment with at home with an actual whiskey. My taste in cocktails has definitely drifted towards the bitter end of the scale in the last year or two.
The next course was grilled sea bass well presented with a scattering of new potatoes, baby vegetables, and Colbert butter (a combination of lemon juice, parsley, tarragon, and demi-glace – look it up, I dare you). The fish and vegetables were cooked perfectly, and the portion was also generous. The meal was going so well that I was afraid dessert would be a let down. I was also starting to get full and needed to buy some time for everything to digest. Luckily, there’s a dessert for that.
I was told the dark chocolate fondant had a lead time of 12 minutes which made for a nice break between courses. The fondant was perfectly cooked and oozed out as soon as I broke into the centre. The orange and mint jelly accompaniment was also delicious. I have been disappointed in fondants the last few times I’ve had them, but this really was an excellent example.
Now that I’d eaten my way round Cardiff I needed to burn off a few calories, and what better way to do that than a bit of bouldering. I looked up local gyms (unfortunately the closest Climbing Hangar was in Swansea so no chance using my membership!) and found Boulders Cardiff East was only ten minutes away from where we were staying. I organised two hours of coaching and had a really good one-to-one session analysing my technique in detail and working towards making me a better climber. It was a challenging couple of hours but worthwhile, and Jaz and Simon were really friendly and supportive. I would recommend Boulders to anyone with an interest in climbing/bouldering, or if you haven’t tried it before but just fancy a go. It’s a very accessible sport catering for lots of ability levels.
That’s enough food for now. Back to porridge…
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