Chris Amodeo returns to share the second part of his guide to the newest and tastiest Cardiff food trends for CPS Homes' Cwtch Magazine.
Another change to have occurred is with dining in pubs. "The really big thing over the last three to four years has been the development of the gastro-pub," says Nicki Tudor. "They've gone from being a bit pretentious to serving quality grub and a proper pint of real ale. Urban Tap House, Hang Fire Smokehouse and the Knife & Fork Food chain are great examples."
"In recent years people have been turning away from more formal ways of dining towards a more casual experience, that offers comfort and familiarity and yet does not compromise on quality," says Sharon Noakes, a director at Knife & Fork Food.
"We don’t consider our pubs to be gastro-pubs. Our pubs are great pubs that happen to serve fantastic food."
Semantics aside, this gastro-pub model may deliver many a failing traditional boozer from the brink of closure, as well as bringing quality, casual dining to suburbs so far bereft of such offerings on their doorstep.
As an aside, earlier this year Knife & Fork Food sadly closed Wood Brasserie in Cardiff Bay, a decision based principally upon the Bay’s "changing demographics in the last 15 years," says Sharon. "After much discussion it was ultimately decided that the more casual, chain-centric character of the Cardiff Bay dining scene no longer suited the Woods brand." Suffice to say, Cardiff’s grassroots food revolution probably won’t take place in the Bay.
Another form of ‘guerilla dining’ is offered by Llanishen High School teacher Angharad Elias, whose Y Pop-ty began just before Christmas when she cooked for a bunch of friends in a local Scouts hall.
Since then it’s been a “a very fast rollercoaster ride” for Angharad, as word quickly spread of her regular pop-up, offering just 20 lucky people a three-course, set-menu meal for £30 in St Catherine’s Church Hall in Pontcanna.
“The idea of it being pop-up and occasional initially started due to the sheer fear of the financial commitment of getting my own place. But as time goes on, I realise that it’s the exclusivity and uniqueness that makes it special and attractive to my audience,” says Angharad.
“Food is something that brings us together. People strike up new friendships on the nights, and it’s a pleasure to see this happen. I like to think the Pop-ty experience – and it is an experience, not just a meal – is personal and tailored especially for the audience of that night.”
Even Michelin star chefs aren’t above doing the odd pop-up. “The foodie landscape in Cardiff is on the up definitely,” says James Sommerin. “I myself have done a few really successful pop-ups recently.”
May saw the long-awaited opening of James’s brand new, eponymously named restaurant on The Esplanade, Penarth. “We’ve designed everything about the restaurant ourselves,” he told Cwtch. “There are large windows right the way around the restaurant to make the most of the sea view and the decor is light and airy. It has been designed with a relaxed atmosphere in mind. I want to give the diners the best experience possible, and that doesn’t just come from food; I want our service to exceed everybody’s expectations.”
The James Sommerin restaurant is of course a welcome addition to Penarth’s array of quality eateries. As Cardiff is the only European capital without a Michelin star, we hope that James Sommerin’s new restaurant gains the same recognition as his previous restaurant, the Crown at Whitebrook, and raises the standard on this side of the Ely River too.
Another packed and exciting area of Cardiff’s restaurant scene is in Indian cuisine. We love a good curry, us Welsh, and Cardiff offers the very best in quality and originality. Mint and Mustard is Cardiff’s most highly awarded of any restaurant, while the multi-award-winning Moksh in Cardiff Bay seems to snap at its heels.
“Where I think Cardiff does well is in Indian food, with Anand George at Purple Poppadom blazing a trail for regional – specifically Keralan – cooking, and with his influence being felt across the city as previous students take over their own kitchens,” says Jonathan Swain.
Here too change is afoot. The newly opened Bombay Café in the old Bute Dock Hotel and Dabbawalla, previously Haveli, on City Road offer a more traditional or vintage experience. “People understand food a lot better nowadays and want something more authentic,” says Shaz Haris, owner of Dabbawalla. “In Cardiff, we’ve seen the number of places serving street snacks, chai, lassi and thalis grow in the last year. Things that people eat or drink every day in India and has more of a traditional, homemade feel to it.”
People want an experience now when they go out to eat, says Shaz. “At Dabbawalla, we aim to take our customers on a cultural journey of India, from the menu, the vintage décor to the tiffin box takeaway club that pays homage to the dabbawalla food delivery system that has been in existence in Mumbai for over a century.”
Across the Welsh capital, there are exciting things coming to the boil. “Cardiff’s food scene is expanding,” confirms Cai Pritchard. “We now have some great little restaurants serving good quality local food, which is helping to put Cardiff on the foodie map.” Food lovers of Cardiff, you’re in for a treat.
“It’s the less formal, street-food options which often prove the most diverting,” says Jonathan Swain from Cardiff food blog The Plate Licked Clean. “Whether it’s Katiwok’s kati rolls, or baguettes and bagels from Fresh or New York Deli, an Animal Style burger at Got Beef, a mutton thali at The Bombay Café, the tenderest chicken shish kebab for miles at Mowlana, or the beef short ribs at Hang Fire Smokehouse.”
“We’re huge fans of the Cocorico Patisserie,” says Rhys from Got Beef. “It’s great to see everything handmade on-site to such an incredibly high standard. It was helpful in our decision to open on Whitchurch Road too.”
“Our favourite snack lunch spot in the Bay is The Deck – delicious baguettes using great ingredients, made with genuine care, plus great service and good for afternoon tea. No wonder they’re third best place to eat in Cardiff on Tripadvisor.”
If all this talk of food has whet your appetite to come and live in Cardiff, we have lots of beautiful properties available to both buy and let on our website. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any queries – we’re happy to help you through every step of the journey to your new home!