Summer is coming and The Hashery’s got some brand new summer sizzlers!

The Hashery has been an independent foodie favourite of mine since its opening last December on High Street in the centre of Cardiff. Home to burgers, cubanos, mussels and cocktails this place hosts a friendly and relaxed atmosphere with some cool artsy decorations such as comic book style wallpaper and a confessions wall by the bar (dangerous, I’m sure). Recently, it’s seen a surge in popularity since the launch of its lunchtime deal; £7 will get you any main and side, including a classic mussel pot – which for the quality of their mussels is an absolute bargain!! Although the majority of the menu remains below the £10 mark, making it a city centre steal at any time of day.

Summer is now coming on fast (we hope, although the weather can’t seem to decide) and this means one thing – summer menus! This week myself and some other lucky bloggers got a first taster of the fresh new delights launching at The Hashery on 24th April. Here’s how it went…

File_001Firstly, prosecco on arrival. Big tick. What could possibly be better? The dimmed and fairy lights always make it feel cosy to me and with the impressive spread laid out in front of us, we were sure to be in for a great evening.

First tasters were the mezze board and mozzarella sticks: fresh bread, carrot and celery sticks and a homemade hummus dip made for a delicious mezze, much better than any of the times I’ve attempted homemade hummus! (Although I will keep trying…) As for the mozzarella sticks – these could very well have been the star of the show. Whilst presenting the food to us, co-founder Sean Hill explained that from their previous experiences in the restaurant industry food waste had been a recurring, shocking problem. Consequently, when opening The Hashery it has been a key focus to reduce the amount of food waste and to ensure locally and responsibly sourced File_008ingredients, making the freshest and best possible dining experience. Big kudos in my opinion; these are things I consider to be so important, for many reasons, and it makes me so happy when restaurants themselves feel the same way.

The menus have therefore been designed so that all ingredients are used in more than one dish – what does this mean for the mozzarella sticks? Nachos that don’t quite make the grade to be served as part of a nacho dish, having been chipped or damaged in some way, get ground up to form the breadcrumbs for the mozzarella sticks, giving them a unique and truly incredible crunch. I mean, seriously good. I don’t often order mozzarella sticks in a restaurant but I’ll find it hard to visit The Hashery again and not order a portion all to myself – and why not! Honestly, don’t knock ‘til you’ve tried.

Next newbie on the menu: due to the incredible success of the courgette fries on The Hashery’s original menu, they’ve introduced pickle fries in order to revamp (and reuse, reducing waste) the humble pickle so many of us overlook and/or carefully pick out of a burger. Some weren’t so keen on this idea, but having given them a go I can confirm they were actually pretty nice – although personally, the courgette fries still come up trumps.

File_000 (1)One of the key specialities of The Hashery (and my personal favourite) is the mussel pots; they’re so fresh you’d think you were in Cornwall or by the sea somewhere and so so tasty because of it! The new pot on this summer menu is The Orchard and as per usual it was super fresh and super tasty, I really can’t recommend the mussels enough. I still stand by the statement in my first post about these guys; these are the best mussels I’ve yet had the pleasure of devouring in my 22 years on this Earth. So good that tearing up the bread and absorbing every last possible mouthful of the glorious sauce these beauties come in isn’t even a question: it’s a must. I already want more just thinking about it…

The new summer menu also has some tantalisingly good-looking meat-eater options available: an absolutely huge beast of a burger called Dead Man and the only burger of theirs over the £10 price mark (modelled by co-founder Oscar GarciaFile_002 (3) in the photo). TWO homemade 6 oz patties, two lots of American cheese, pulled pork, crispy onions and your usual lettuce & tomato are crammed into this beast, however, and I’m sure I spotted an onion ring in there somewhere too. Although I couldn’t try this personally I heard no complaints from others around the room, so I imagine you get a good deal for your money’s worth. The other new meat option is a super fresh minute steak (and steak sandwich) which, as the name suggests, is cooked within minutes and served straight onto your lucky plate. These steaks are no exception to the local, responsible sourcing rule might I add, so definitely worth a try if steak is your thing.

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“The tart that’s bound to finish you off…”

Next, Sean introduced us to the “the tart that’s bound to finish you off”… to which he was referring to tiramisu, but needless to say that got some of us giggling away as a personal highlight of the evening. Desserts have made their debut on this new summer menu: Hashery brownie, salted caramel cheesecake, churros (brilliant! Who doesn’t love churros?!), market strawberries ice cream & cream (again, yay for local sourcing!), and our tarty friend the tiramisu. And boy, was she boozy! This was another dish like the mozzarella sticks that I normally wouldn’t order in a restaurant, yet have now been converted by The Hashery folks. Definitely worth a try, I fully intend on returning to try some of the other desserts as they all sound delicious!

Cocktails were the perfect end to the evening. And to any evening, in fact. The other main speciality of The Hashery besides their marvellous mussels is their 2-4-1 cocktails all day, every day for only £6.95; this is where co-founder Barnaby Bell comes into his element. Whilst some particular cocktail connoisseur friends of mine haven’t been so impressed as myself here before, I feel pretty confident that these new offerings will bring them around, especially sat outside in the summer sun looking out onto Cardiff Castle and people-watching all the passers by. The new and improved cocktail menu has now been colour-coded by main ingredient i.e. gin, vodka, tequila etc. making it easier than ever before to find something for everyone.

Summer Garden and Respect Your Elderflowers tasted smooth and refreshing whilst P.I.M.P My Pimms had a cheeky something extra on your usual summer sipper. Electric Tea is one I’d recommend having had it a few times now: rum, tequila, vodka, triple sec and blue curacao – sounds like a lot but it really does zing! Plus, 50p from every purchase of this cocktail goes towards charities supported by the lovely guys at The Hashery, what a great idea!

File_007 (1)Veering away from the 2-4-1 menu we have the Bulldog Margarita which was unlike anything I’ve ever tried before and something I would seriously recommend as a brilliant pre-drink; a frozen margarita, heavy on the tequila, with two coronas artfully resting against the sides of the funky skull fishbowl. It was buzzing and it was brilliant, in my opinion. If you love tequila you’ll LOVE this! Finally, I had the absolute pleasure of trying one of the dessert cocktails: lemon meringue cheesecake. I’ve never had this kind of cocktail before so didn’t know what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Very sweet with a milky, creamy texture and some crumbled biscuit on top it was a lovely finisher to a great evening. (Top tip for extra fun: if you want a real palate cleansing kick just ask about the special shots…)

The Hashery continue to impress me every time I visit, both in terms of brilliant food and attentive customer service. Sean, Oscar and Barnaby are always more than happy to help in any way they can. This new menu definitely got me feeling the summer vibes and I for one can’t wait to be sat outside in the sunshine enjoying my brand new mozzarella dippers with a delicious mussel pot and some summer cocktails. I really hope you do the same!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

P.S. Shout-out to my new blogger friends Sheri & Charlotte, lovely to meet you both!

Meat the new kid at 156

File_000 (50)Today marks the official opening of Meat at 156, City Road’s newest independent burger bar; I seriously recommend you get yourself down there. Great burgers and even better milkshakes, this is one to watch!

We arrived at the bloggers launch event on Saturday night not knowing what to expect (this was my first launch event, scary but exciting!) and boy were we impressed. Very welcoming and super friendly, the staff were great fetching us anything and everything we needed. First of all we tried the milkshakes: mine was a bubblegum and my flatmate went File_005 (9)for Oreo, both were incredible! Just the right amount of creamy thickness without feeling like a dairy overload, mine was wonderfully sweet and bubblegum-like without tasting sickly, it was brilliant! The only thing could’ve made it better was the addition of some bubblegum flavour millions sweets and that would be the dream… My flatmate went for the Oreo milkshake to begin and this, again, was amazing. Often you can find that Oreo milkshakes are too bitty with biscuit chunks and these can be too big to fit in the straw etc (all together a bit of a faff) but this wasn’t the case at Meat at 156. These were ones that Kelis was talking about… hands-down the best milkshakes we’ve ever had and would 100% go back again for these alone – honestly go give them a try!

Next was a burger and chips each: The Texan consisted of a beef patty with cheddar cheese, hickory BBQ sauce and fried onion rings – it was a beast! The meat was succulent and all the ingredients worked perfectly together I’m told, so top marks for this one. Mine was a Meat At Signature burger with two Quorn patties, American cheese and the Meat At signature sauce. Deeelish.
I’ve always wondered why restaurants don’t seem to serve Quorn, I’d rather that than some of the sad excuses of veggie burgers I’ve had before (you know, the ones that are literally just some potato and frozen veg shoved together in breadcrumbs), I think it’s brill! The signature sauce had little bits of coleslaw-type crunchiness in it and definitely made the burger, I can’t figure out what exactly it was and I don’t want to, just trust me it was lush. Will definitely be having again! The chips came along in cute little baskets and were just the right kind of skinny fries without the excessive saltiness that you can sometimes get from certain popular fast-food restaurants (not naming any names). Also, you can’t beat a cracking coleslaw on the side. Altogether, despite normally being a sweet potato fries fan all-the-way, this really hit the spot.

File_003 (11)Speaking of fries, the dirty fries next appeared on our table. A plate of them covered in a cottage-style cheese that I was a big fan of, BBQ sauce and some smoked paprika for a bit of spice. Following burgers and milkshakes, the other speciality of this brand new hotspot is steaks and I’m told they’re incredible. Perfectly tender with a great range of sauces available, they arrived on a platter with grilled tomatoes, a grilled mushroom, a corn on the cob and another basket of fries. My Quorn substitute was two Quorn patties and two spicy Quorn sausages and went really well the black pepper sauce, although corn on the cob is one of my all time favourites so this kinda stole the show for me for this course! Seriously though, if you’re a steak fan this is 100% worth a try!

And for the grand finale: dessert. Now this, was a dream. The chocolate brownies [photo above courtesy of the Meat at 156 twitter – I was too busy scoffing it down] had a crumbly outside and luxury gooey soft centre, making them perfect for everyone no matter your texture preference (mine was gooey, my flatmate’s was crumbly). Served with a side of smooth ice cream you’re onto a winner! Alternatively, if you’re not a chocoholic there was also a lovely warm sticky toffee pudding that contrasted perfectly with the ice cream to leave me very happy indeed and verrrry full! Would definitely recommend.

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Myself enjoying the food! (Excuse rabbit hands)

All in all, it was a great evening of great food, I definitely walked (waddled) away about four times the size! If you’re after somewhere new and a bit different then try City Road’s latest, it opens officially to the public tonight! Great burgers, great steak, the best milkshakes. What’s not to love?!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Kayla meet & greet and a healthy fast-food treat @ LEON

Saturday 14th January. The day I met my idol, Kayla Itsines. It was so surreal and I had no idea what to say! But luckily I made friends in the queue and we all supported each other (and calmed each others’ nerves). It was lovely to experience the BBG community that Kayla has created and to meet her in the flesh was a dream come true! Here’s my goofy happy face for us all to laugh about:

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Not only has she created this incredible community and made fitness and healthy living accessible to so many women, regardless of previous experience or lifestyle, but she’s also become a great role model for learning to love yourself, exercising because you love your body not because you hate it. 2017 is going to be the year to body confidence she says, and I surely hope so.

Anyway, enough about that. Food time!

A few simple Google searches was all I needed to come across this exciting new development residing in Birmingham’s recently refurbished New Street Station. Leon restaurants offer healthy, simple fast-food with the view to making it much easier to eat well on the high street than currently tends to be the case – ‘why can’t fast food be good for you too?’ Exactly.

IMG_0675.JPGLeon are so dedicated to being as healthy and good for you as possible that they work with resident nutritionists to ensure the menu caters for gym bunnies and couch potatoes alike, as well as for every possible allergy or dietary requirement you can think of (well, that I can think of) be it wheat free, gluten free, dairy free, vegan, vegetarian, nut allergies and even low glycemic load for diabetics. The same applies to their children’s menu where the focus is on keeping sugars, salts and saturated fats to a minimum, which I think is absolutely fantastic! Surely the best way to get into a healthy lifestyle is to start off young so it becomes natural habit? (I know, I feel sorry for my future children too).

Besides their impressive – and thus far unique, in my experience – dedication to nutritionally-balanced food that’s super good for you, it was their equally unrivalled dedication to sustainability and eco-friendliness which really drew me in. As a very keen geography graduate I’m all about sustainability where possible and so are these guys; they are founding members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (awesome) which helps restaurants learn to source their ingredients, engage with local communities and manage their environmental impact in an environmentally and economically sustainable manner.

img_1766Turns out that restaurants account for almost half of what British people spend on food, which is a hell of a lot when you think about it! However, this means that if we take action to encourage restaurants to become more sustainable in their behaviours and practices, this will eventually permeate through the food chain and have significant positive impacts on the way food is farmed and the way we consume. Which can only be a good thing! I mean, think about it: if we spend over half of our food money on eating out, just imagine what the impact of the restaurant industry is on food production and the food chain as a whole. When you go to a restaurant you want everything on the menu to be readily available, right? All that food has to come from somewhere. Let’s not get into the whole global food crisis thing because that’s another debate for another day, but if we can make small changes in the way we shop and eat and manage our food sources then this can have a huge impact and ultimately help to secure our foodie future.

Now, obviously there’s also a big focus on recycling, water saving, waste management andimg_9123 energy efficiency but I could go on all day. Let’s get to the food itself. As per usual, my mother chose something I could happily dip into as well: the Sweet Potato and Falafel Hot
Box which also contains chickpeas, a grilled red pepper and lots of herbs and spices to form this kick-ass Middle Eastern style classic. The falafel was soft and crumbly but not too dry, the flavours were perfectly balanced and to be honest it was an absolute joy to eat.

fullsizerender-5For my brother: the Chicken Burger composed of a chargrilled butterfly chicken thigh, an assortment of fresh salad and an olive oil mayo in a sesame seed bun. He also chose the baked fries to accompany this and I can’t even describe how good these were – like nothing you’ve ever tasted before and something I’d go as far as to say you shouldn’t die without trying. Much healthier for you than normal fries due to the baking rather than frying and they’re sprinkled with a special Leon seasoning that is just a taste sensation. Every time I visit Birmingham from now on it won’t be complete without some of these fries!

Moroccan Meatballs Hot Box was my father’s wise choice, where grilled meatballs in a spiced tomato sauce met Italian brown rice, toasted seeds, fresh herbs and a lovely fresh coleslaw. Baked fries made another appearance here and much to my delight, my father & brother couldn’t manage to finish both portions… What a shame! All the more for Charles. My actual main course, however, was a perfectly spiced Sweet potato, Kale and Okra stew in a spiced peanut butter sauce – a modern twist on a West African classic that was an absolute dream in a box. A fully recyclable box, of course. I would happily eat this over and over again; even just the rice was a job very well done. This recipe actually features in their new cookbook Fast & Free which I’m now seriously tempted to buy – if so, keep an eye on the Instagram for my attempts at recreating this.

We also had a couple of smoothies to go with our meals – whilst my dad tortured me with every sip of his Camden pale ale (Dryathlon hurts when eating out, I’ve discovered, but if you’d like to donate you can do here!). The Clean Green Shake was really nice, sweeter than I anticipated but not sickly by any means. I’ll go for that next time I think! This time I had opted for the Blueberry & Elderflower Kefir smoothie which was nice and tasted very good for you, I’ve read up a little about kefir before, but I did prefer the green shake to be honest. I’m just more of a sweet person, it’s a personal thing. I did indulge in a couple of their sweet treats to take home later which were delicious – a pistachio and sweet potato Fronut and a type of healthy brownie thing. Yum.

Overall it’s a 9/10 from me, only deducting a point because I would’ve liked my table wiped down before sitting but I guess that’s fast food. There are so many things on the menu I want to try, I’m really hoping that Leon comes to Cardiff pretty soon so I can do! They’ve said their vision is to have one in every capital city so let’s keep our fingers crossed people… Definitely recommend!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Dash to The Hashery for some great new grub!

I’m back on the blog! Sorry to any of you who’ve been waiting to hear from me over the past month; as you can imagine it’s been a very busy time of year especially as I’ve just moved house! But finally finding the time to sit down and write again, so here goes.

There have been many food adventures since my last post but this one in particular I felt I had to share with you all: The Hashery is brand spanking new in the centre of Cardiff and offers a range of Cubanos, cocktails and mussels as specialty – may sound like a strange combo but trust me, it’s heaven. My mother and I went only two days after its opening and were treated so well that we already plan to go back again. It’s a large space but not cold if you head towards the back, whilst the combination of the dimmed edgy lighting that seems to be so in vogue at the moment and the warm friendly faces of the staff greeting you as you walk in really make it feel welcoming.

file_001-7First port of call: cocktails. What could be better at lunchtime on a Sunday? ‘Electric Tea’ tasted exactly how it sounds; zingy, fresh, exciting, familiar but with a twist. Containing a mixture of rum, tequila, vodka, gin, triple sec and blue curacao no wonder this cheeky cocktail gave us a warm glowing buzz before we tucked into the mains – we loved it! At this point, it’s also very important to mention that cocktails are two-for-one all day, every day and for only £6.95… absolute dream.

Now I must admit; I am not a person who shares food. But I do, however, love going out for a meal with people who like the same sorts of things as me so that we can try a little of each others’ but still enjoy 98% of our own dishes (or rather, I eat my own 98% and then wait until they’re full so I can ‘help them out’ – because we hate wasting food don’t we). For this reason, among many others, my mother is one of my favourite dining partners, 9 times out of 10 ordering the file_005-5other thing on the menu I really fancied trying just so I can finish it later.

On this occasion it was the Mexicano Cubano: avocado, tomato, grated triple cheese, Monterey Jack cheese and the bacon left out for my benefit. I went for the Citron Mussel Pot with an orange, ginger, carrot and coriander sauce ‘with an Eastern twist’ and I can safely say that these were the best mussels my 22 years thus far on this Earth have given me. They were divine. And from local, sustainable sources making them all the more tasty and satisfying. I really can’t recommend them enough! Soft but not overdone, not a single shell unopened, super filling but incredible sauce that I tore up my bread into as many tiny pieces as possible to enjoy, it was just wonderful. I can’t wait to try some of the other flavours! And starting from just £7.95 per mussel pot it’s an absolute bargain. They’ve also just been named as one of the top things for foodies in Cardiff to try in 2017, so I’m certainly not alone in this opinion (see Wales Online’s article).

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A close-up of my stunning Citron Mussels Pot

Going back to the Mexicano Cubano; this was also truly scrumptious. Sometimes with really cheesy grilled sandwiches it can all get a bit too much and fill you up too quickly but the balance was just right on this one, so much so that I had to fight my mother for that precious 2% of her meal. Plus, let’s not forget that the avocado makes it feel healthy and contrasts really nicely with the tomato so everybody’s a winner here – I can only imagine that for meat-eaters the bacon would be the icing on the cake. We also shared some courgette fries which were different and interesting; you’d think they’d be a bit soggy but the batter was done really well just like sweet potato fries, we very much enjoyed. Altogether a solid 8/10, maybe even pushing it to a 9 just for those mussels! But I’d like another few visits to fully make up my mind.

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The contemporary, cool-looking outside of The Hashery

I highly recommend The Hashery as part of Cardiff’s ever-growing foodie culture which I am super excited about and to be a part of. This place has a diverse and different menu which brings a fresh taste to Cardiff’s city centre in the form of amazing local seafood, whilst also being in a convenient location whether you’re out for the evening or just looking for a great sit-down lunch during a busy day’s shopping. Founders Sean Hill and Oscar Garcia have really hit the nail on the head with this one. A brilliant meal with perfectly balanced drinks and great customer service, all at a very reasonable price, we couldn’t have been happier. Their casual name drop in this Wales Online article about things to look out for in 2017 is also kind of a big deal! So go on, dash to The Hashery and see what you think. I promise you won’t be disappointed; I can’t wait to go back.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Another Wellfield wonder: give Chai a try!

A welcoming cosy glow irradiates from this cute little catch at the top of Wellfield Road, Roath.  Its bright, bold colours and warm lighting make it stand out from the crowd and appear individual and independent in a cool, funky, hipster-kinda way.  Its fresh take on classic Indian dishes keeps you on your toes and entices you to try new things, mix it up.  There’s also a custom spice chart on the wall inviting you to be daring and experiment a little – because why not?  ‘When in Rome’ as they say.

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The jazzy newspaper-style menus

The first thing to put a smile on our faces was the menus which come in the style of newspapers; something funky and different, a nice personal touch I think.  Tables and chairs feature the same colour scheme as the sign on the front making the décor flow together nicely and creating a comfortable, warm and inviting ambience.  The staff are very friendly and attentive, happy to answer any questions you may have and making a point of explaining that everything is made fresh and to taste; you have complete creative freedom with your dish in terms of ingredients and spice levels – ideal for fussy eaters!  Plus, I feel this makes the whole experience more special and welcoming without the worry of who likes a lot of spice and who doesn’t.

First up: cocktails… obviously.  Chaiholics Rum Special was my poison of choice: gingerfile_002-5 and cinnamon rum swizzle with a burst of peach.  The peach softened the ginger and cinnamon into a sweet, smooth texture which went down very easily; whereas my father’s Chai-jito (adaptation of Mojito) was strong and delicious yet packed a little too much punch for our liking. A good effort, 7/10.

Starters: Okra fries.  These I’ve wanted to try for quite some time so leaped at the opportunity!  They arrived with a choice of two sauces and were fried with an assortment of light spices and chillies, altogether making a very more-ish but amazing starter we couldn’t stop nibbling on!  Delish.

Mains: in my opinion, you can’t really go wrong with a good prawn curry – or in this case, a Goan prawn curry! A top notch treat meal whilst also getting a good amount of protein in – win, win!  Despite wholegrain rice not being available on request, the sauce itself was just the right level of heat for me.  Not too hot, not mild, but just right… like Goldilocks and her porridge you might say.  This was disturbed, however, by my accidental crunching on a chilli seed that’d been hiding somewhere*; that aside, this was lush.  My parents both had lamb dishes which I’m told were succulent and tender, coming easily apart which is apparently rare and difficult to get right (not that I would know).  By the end of the evening we were all absolutely stuffed and thoroughly enjoyed (almost*) every mouthful.  I can definitely say we would more than happily return – and I most likely will.

Wellfield Road is full of little gems like this, of which I have only discussed a few; but whether you live in Cardiff or you’re just visiting for the weekend I definitely recommend taking a look.  There’s so much on offer in such a small area you can’t possibly be disappointed!  It’s small, cosy places like Chai that create the homely, comfortable and laid back atmosphere of eating out on Wellfield Road, in my experience.  Friendly staff, great food, reasonable prices, lots to choose from – what more do you want!  Wellfield strikes again: an overall 8/10.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

Juno what’s going on in Roath?

You’ve had a long, tiring day at work: Juno is there.  You’re hanging out of your arse after a heavy night out: Juno is there.  You really just need a good old pick-me-up, even better if it’s just healthy enough not to feel guilty about: Juno is there.

Living within easy walking-distance of this little local gem has definitely been a factor in my falling in love with Cardiff.  Aside from the convenience, the staff are always so friendly and helpful even if you’re there just to get some work done with a few nibbles and a nice atmosphere.  They’re also very accommodating – you’re never too much of an inconvenience, which culminates in the laid-back, super friendly and above all cosy vibe of the place that makes it so special.

The warm, cosy interior of Juno Lounge, Roath. [Photo credit: Trip Advisor]

Menu: burgers, salads, hangover breakfasts and specials; Juno has it all.  Whether you’re a meat-eater or a fussy eater, there’s no shortage of incredible options, including a whole menu of vegan and gluten-free.  For meat-lovers: the Hero Burger.  Highly renowned as one of the best burgers in Cardiff, this beast is composed of a 6oz beef patty, chorizo, mature cheddar, fried red onion, chimichurri, chipotle mayo and marinated chilli.  10/10 for sure.  For veggies: Yossi’s Falafel Burger.  Full of flavour and goodness, this isn’t your standard veggie burger!  A wood-roasted pepper, rocket, tomato, red onion, basil pesto and garlic mayo all accompany the falafel to create this fantastic, fresh feast that will surely keep you coming back for more.  9/10 from me; close but not quite as good as the following…

Specials: I’ve had the last two special burgers in a row (I’m basically a regular now) and I can safely say both were incredible.  The first, a spiced hummus and halloumi burger, was stunning.  I’m a huge fan of halloumi anyway especially in burgers, trying new variations whenever I get chance (e.g. Street Food Circus).  On this occasion I wasn’t sure how the spiced hummus was going to work but it was perfect – salty meets sweet & spicy, with a juicy roasted pepper in the middle, whilst the all-important salad balanced it all out.

The second, a butternut squash and edamame bean burger, featuring halloumi (obviously) and served in the beauty that is a brioche burger bun, I went back for twice because I loved it so much.  I just want to be clear on one thing… this was a chunky-ass burger.  I mean it was more than just a two-hand job…  This is the first time in my life I’ve ever had to be one of those bell-ends that cuts their burger using actual cutlery instead of our God-given hands; like those people who insist on cutting pizza with a knife and fork despite the fact that it was MADE to be eaten with our hands – even cut into portions to do so!  Anyway, this burger was huge, but it was so so good.  Packed full of veggie goodness (butternut squash being rich in fibre, vitamins & minerals, antioxidants and very low in calories, similar to pumpkin) and well-balanced flavours, it’s a solid 10/10 from me – for both of the specials, in fact.

Burgers aside, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed every single meal I’ve had at Juno (hungover or otherwise).  The Avocado Brunch is perfect for that hangover fix due to its cheeky sprinkle of chilli flakes; the Grilled Halloumi & Falafel salad is great for those days when you want to eat out but don’t want to stray too off-plan; the Triple-stacked Buttermilk Pancakes with banana, strawberries, peach sauce and Greek yoghurt are a very filling but very rewarding breakfast to bring you back to life after a heavy night or a stressful week (also available with smoked streaky bacon & maple syrup); and lastly, but by no means least, the classic poached eggs & smoked salmon on toast which has saved me on some of my darkest days.

One of the things I especially love about this place is that the friendly chilled-out vibe is also reciprocated in the staff, meaning that when the struggle is very real and the waiter or waitress can see it on your face, they give that service with genuine smile and you know that they know what you’re going through.  (Sort of like a Friends “we know that they know, we know” situation).

My cute & cosy set up whilst writing at Juno

 There’s so much more I could say about Juno Lounge; I haven’t even mentioned the Cruiser Atlantic pale ale they serve on tap, specifically a Loungers brew, or the cocktail menu I’ve been dying to try for ages, or even the tasty-looking tapas menu!  But I will certainly be back time and time and time again.  I’d recommend it to any of my fellow Roath residents and Cardiffians: embrace it as your local/regular because that’s half the beauty of the place.  It’s convenient and it’s cosy, but it’s also really good, reasonably priced, wholesome food in a place you’re always made to feel totally welcome.

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*special thanks goes to my fave waiter Juno George for the genius title suggestion!

P.S.  I don’t actually know if his name is George

An award-winning Welsh wonder: Bryn Williams @ Porth Eirias, Colwyn Bay

You may remember Bryn Williams from The Great British Menu back in 2006, you may not.  But whether you’ve followed him from the beginning or not, it’s becoming widely recognised that Denbigh-born Bryn is one of Wales’ best contemporary chefs, becoming a celebrity chef in his own right.  This was definitely evident in his bistro at Porth Eirias in Colwyn Bay, which I had the pleasure of visiting for evening dinner earlier this week.

The bistro itself has a cool, relaxed feel; dimmed lighting, plenty of seaside decoration and a large open hatch between the kitchen and the bistro allowing you to look in on a bit of the action, which, for me, is always an exciting extra.  The staff were very friendly and welcoming, allowing us plenty of time to choose our drinks whilst we were busy getting excited over the main menu; we’d had a long look at this beforehand in order to really psyche ourselves up, only to realise once there that the menu had changed.  While this may sound like a complaint, it really isn’t!

Seasonal menu changes are something I love to see; making the most of local ingredients and whatever’s available that particular week, this is the kind of sustainability and support of local produce that I’m always babbling on about and I love it!  Let’s not of course forget that it’s a very clever way of getting you to come back to eat time and time again (which, of course, we do happily), yet it also plays to the chef’s strengths by constantly challenging them to change and adapt to new things.  Win-win, really.  In the words of Stacey Shipman: “Nice one, Bryn!”.

Now when it comes to drinks, obviously I had to try a local brew… Snowdon Craft Lager from The Great Orme Brewery based in the Conwy Valley (4.7%) was a lovely, smooth addition to the evening meal.  Not too heavy in its texture, or too strong in its flavour, but perfectly crisp and thirst-quenching – so much so that it almost disappeared before our food arrived, oops!  One of my company had a different brew from Great Orme: Atlantis IPA, an American style pale ale made with British hops.  “A very nice brew, that” was the reaction… which for those of you who don’t translate classic English Northern, means ‘lovely body and flavour, very enjoyable’.

And then came the food…  Despite being in a coastal and therefore traditionally fish restaurant, I decided to indulge in the only meat I actually eat – duck (strange choice I know, don’t ask).  Confit Duck Leg, braised red cabbage, glazed apple, green peppercorn sauce.  Oh, my.  The combination of the duck and the red cabbage alone was enough to make this dish an absolute treat, but once combined with the sweetness of that glazed apple and the green peppercorn sauce it was truly something really special.  I savoured every last mouthful.  And was the envy of my company for it!  When in Rome though, right?

Fish fingers, fries & crushed peas may not sound much like haut cuisine but when done in a coastal and/or seafood specialised restaurant, they really can be amazing.  I’m reliably informed that this dish was incredible, “the best fish fingers I’ve ever had”, and I don’t doubt it for a second.  I mean, just look at them!  Especially considering that these particular fish fingers were composed of Plaice, not Cod as is traditional; another thing I love about chef restaurants is making the simple things different and amazing, particularly when using local ingredients to do so – in this case, the Plaice.  Another fantastic fish feature was Smoked Haddock, crushed potatoes, poached egg & butter sauce (top-right of below); this also looked, smelled, and I’m told tasted B-E-A-utiful.  The same again for the Gilthead Bream with saffron orzo, crispy pancetta & braised kale (bottom-right of below): stunning in both appearance and flavour.  The only slightly negative comments any of us had about the meal was that we could’ve eaten it all again – because it was so thoroughly enjoyed!  Even for those traditionalists among you, I’m told the Porth Eirias 8oz burger with fries & coleslaw was no exception to this very high standard and top-class taste.

Now when it comes to dessert, it’s kind of common custom when you’re in a party of more than two or three to only get a dessert when someone else wants one so as not to be the only one keeping the party going.  Much to my delight, I was not the only one: a vanilla cheesecake with pineapple, passionfruit and lemongrass arrived for one of my company, who’s face was instantly one of confusion and uncertainty…  yes, okay, it was kind of a de-constructed approach to a cheesecake but I’m sure it tasted brilliant all the same!  Just wasn’t quite the big, hearty, bowl-full of pudding he’d hoped for… (Northerners, what can you do).  Two others went for the spiced apple compote, bayleaf custard and crumble which looked absolutely delish and more of the traditional type of dessert the cheesecake chooser would’ve very much appreciated.  Nevermind, pal.

My dessert, in my opinion, was still the very best choice: baked banana, chocolate and peanut butter with some peanuts sprinkled over the top as well.  Absolute dream!  It took me right back to my years growing up as a Girlguide when we used to do baked bananas in foil on the BBQ, but cut a slit in the middle and inserted a cheeky chocolate flake which melted and tasted altogether fantastic.  Just the warm comfort you needed after a long day making fires and building woodland shelters and all the fun outdoors-y stuff.  My only concern was the peanut butter to chocolate ratio, I would’ve preferred more of an even split myself, but this is just a personal thing and depends completely on your affections towards chocolate and peanut butter.  Not sure I could live without either, if I’m honest…

This concluded my wonderful evening of fine dining at Porth Eirias.  The strong sea winds of Colwyn Bay prompted sweet nostalgia of my university days up in Aberystwyth, whilst the quality and style of Bryn Williams‘ food, let alone its incredible and fresh flavour from high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients, really made the evening and the meal very special.  I would 100% go back again.  And I look forward to what new and different delights may be on the menu next time!

Diolch i chi a hwyl am nawr,

Charles xx

*special thanks once again to Juno Lounge for their hospitality for the second week in a row whilst I posted this, you truly are one of my absolute favourites I’ll be writing about very soon…