Thursday, 28 August 2014

Smokehaus Hits Cardiff

And, like the proverbial London bus, you wait ages for one and then three come along at once...

So, another rib/grill/BBQ/low and slow/US themed/big portion restaurant hits the capital - this time it's the turn of The Smokehaus - following in the footsteps of Feather and Bone, Hangfire Smokehouse and others, this style of food and dining is firmly taking a hold in the foodie scene in Cardiff.

I should point out at the onset also that I was invited to the evening to try the food, so didn't pay for the food on this occasion.

So, then, housed in the former Hooters venue, it is clear from the onset that this new venue is no sappy themed venue, but a nice cosy, welcoming place to take a few hours and enjoy some food and drink.

The interior has been really nicely done, and I could see myself stopping here for a few drinks, as well as the occasional evening out for a meal.

The evening was one of the final run through evenings for the staff to get up to speed before the official opening earlier this week - and let me say they did an excellent job. Every member of staff we interacted with was knowledgeable, polite, and did the job well - my only criticism was that in some cases, this meant you were left waiting a while whilst they chatted to other customers - but it's a small negative.

And so to the food - who can't resist a whole load of meat when you dine at this type of restaurant so I went with the The Smokehaus Threesome, a splendidly sized portion of pulled pork, beef brisket and pastrami. Served with fries and coleslaw it was a good sized portion and the meat, especially the brisket was melt in the mouth moist and beautifully cooked. The pastrami was delicious and I must admit, my least favourite, and somewhat disappointingly, I wasn't overly impressed withe the texture or the taste (or the temperature) of the pulled pork. Personal taste I guess but it wasn't for me.

Another small gripe - and this may be explained by the fact that the venue was full and we all arrived at roughly the same time - the food was swift in arriving - great - however, along with the pork, for me the fries were particularly tepid in temperature, and failed to hold any heat by the time I was only halfway through my meal. 

As for the coleslaw - well it looked and tasted fine, but not freshly made, not fresh looking, not zingy, it looked, to be honest, straight out of Tesco express next door ! Sorry guys but at £1.95 as an extra side it needs to be a lot more exciting than that !

My partner went with the The Donut Burger - a cheeseburger topped with grilled smoked streaky bacon, sweet sauce then placed between two sweet glazed donuts - and this was really good! It shouldn't work should it - but it does - definitely worth you trying it ! 

Drinks wise - great to see Penderyn Welsh Whisky on the menu, and there's the usual range of beers, wines and cocktails that you would expect, including one of my non-Welsh favourites, the American wheat beer, Blue Moon.

So did we do desert ? Hell yes... 

I'm still buzzing from the sugar rush! I had the Mississippi Mud Pie which was ace, and my partner had the Marshmallow Topped Waffle - which was even sweeter and stickier!

Overall, the whole experience was professional, welcoming and definitely worth a return trip or two. Staff were excellent, the food was mostly damn good and the few gripes I had were personal taste as opposed to any major problems, so judge them for yourselves.

Go on, you know you want to.... Go get that bus.... 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Get Your Mojo On

It's always pleasing when new venues open up in these tough times for the trade, and so here at Drinks from Wales we were pleased to be invited along to look at North Cardiff's latest offering - the Mojo Lounge in Birchgrove.

Styling itself as a Tapas and Cocktail venue, and taking up residence in the former Blockbuster video store, it is great news to see dedicated owners making an investment in the High Street and bringing a different hospitality experience to the area.

I popped along on an evening where the owners had invited local traders for a little peek before tonight's main opening - a great idea by the way.

The style of the bar was pretty good and they have done a nice job on the interior.

The emphasis is on casual but refined eating and drinking, with a Tapas menu and a range of cocktails and wines including the Espresso Martini

and the Tropical Heath...

and with a few premium lagers and ciders on tap the only thing missing is some quality craft ales - but wait, that's in the pipeline too - so watch this space for some good Drinks from Wales appearing soon !

The owners are friendly, and this is definitely a venue worth a visit in the coming months when it's up and running - and I'll go try out the full experience and report back...

Oh, and the olives were pretty good....

All in all this is a venue you should try, and I certainly will be back to sample the squid and prawns at some point in the near future ! Go on, get your Mojo on sometime soon...

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Meet The Brewer - Seren Brewing Co

Also taking place this week, this time on Thursday evening, (14th August) is the ever popular Meet The Brewer session at one of Cardiff's latest craft beer hangouts, The Gravity Station.

Facing the public to explain all about their brews this time is Ali Kocho-Williams of the Seren Brewing Company, a West Wales microbrewery.

As they say on their website:

"Seren Brewing Company is an award-winning nanobrewery on the edge of the Preseli Mountains in North Pembrokeshire. Beers are crafted by an international award-winning brewer on a small scale. This is craft beer made in West Wales – good beer on a small scale with no fancy bells and whistles, just pure ingredients, hard work and distinctive flavours."
So, for an entertaining evening, and who knows a taste or three of some splendid Welsh beers, and top it off with a takeout from The Gravity Station's wide range of bottled craft beers .. get yourself along !

Pop-Up Wine Bar.. what's not to like ?

Just a quick heads up that the latest of Wine Store 4's Pop-Up Wine Bar events will be taking place in Rhiwbina this Friday from 5pm.

The store, in Beulah Road (Number 4 unsurprisingly) regularly holds these events, alongside a number of other innovative ways to get you involved with wine!

As they state on their website:

'Throughout the year we hold a number of tastings in our dedicated tasting room at the rear of our store. Generally the tastings are themed around a specific region or country, or maybe we will look at the different styles a grape variety can produce due to its location and climate, or the touch of the winemakers hand.
'Cost per person naturally depends on the wines on show and will include a platter of cheese, charcuterie and bread, supplied by our friends Snails Bistro Delicatessen, next door.
'You can also hire our dedicated tasting room for you own private tasting event.
'We also host World of Wine Dinners on the 1st Saturday of every month at Snails Delicatessen. Each dinner consists of a 4 course set menu from the culinary region of choice served with carefully selected wines of the area.'

For this Friday (15th August) the Wine List is: (available by the glass or bottle)

So if you're around the area and fancy an evening of wine, do drop in ! You never know, they might even do a Welsh Wine Pop-Up night one day soon....

Monday, 11 August 2014

Feather and Bone.. Not quite a 3D experience UPDATED

EDIT: We revisited here on Saturday, and a few changes to note

1. The place was freezing! Turn the heating up guys it's not conducive to a good night...
2. Still no US Craft Beer
3. Still no wine list
4. Decor still the same
5. Damp smell improving
6. And this is the biggie I guess, portion sizes have dramatically reduced

My partner went for the half rack of beef ribs, now either this was the world's smallest cow or we were done up like a kipper. It was merely a third of the size of my half rack a few days earlier. Poor poor show. Also overheard discussions about the size of the half racks of pork not being good enough so people got full racks - if they did, these too are smaller.

Both Were Half Racks of Beef Ribs - You be the judge !

The fries were also downsized, which wasn't a problem as the portion size was probably too big before.. But why the changes? 

Only positive, the coleslaw had dressing.

So, I'm not sure this visit was all that special, the air of the place didn't seem to me like somewhere in this for the long haul... Just my opinion but it doesn't shout longevity to me in any sense. I hope I'm wrong.

So.. A mixed bag but we are probably down to a Double D at least.. And I don't mean cup size! 


So I’d seen a few tweets and there was a bit of a buzz about a new venue in Cardiff… I was in Cardiff… having a few beers at the brand new Brewdog Cardiff. Of which more later…

Thus came my introduction to the Feather & Bone Bar and Grill – self-styled home of slow and low ribs and buttermilk fried chicken. I needed to eat, I was on Westgate Street, let’s give it a go.

I must say it’s a good thing I don’t do first impressions – as it wasn’t good. An empty venue, a slight damp smell, quite clearly the refurb hadn’t been completed and the staff almost outnumbered the customers – and there weren’t that many of either!

So the extremely pleasant waitress showed us to a table – not sure if the style is meant to be semi weathered but that’s what it was and left us with the menus – which offered good southern style fare.

Now this is a drinks blog first and foremost so let’s get the bad points out of the way first.

I ordered a draught beer. A Boston Red as the menu suggested. They didn’t have any. No, they didn’t have ANY draught beer whatsoever. OK. So I asked for a wine list, they didn’t have one. The barman started reciting grapes to me – I wasn’t impressed. He eventually brought me across every bottle of red they had to choose from – a nice gesture, but get a list guys (oh and some draught beer might be nice).

My partner had a Metropolitan cocktail – or two to be precise as it was 2-for-1 at the time – and this certainly was a cocktail with a kick!

So the drinks offerings can only get better – and a reason to return I guess.

We ordered the food – my partner went for the buttermilk chicken – and I went for the half rack of beef ribs – which are apparently dry rubbed and cooked for five hours and smothered in secret recipe sauce.

The food arrived and I wondered if we had ordered for four people! The portions are certainly fat boy friendly which pleased me no end – and if I’m truly honest, the amount of fries was a bit much even for my tremendous appetite. The ribs were plentiful, meaty, slow cooked, smoky, tasty and wonderful. They weren’t smothered in anything, which I was actually thankful for, as I hate that. The slaw was more of a sliced veg as there was literally no dressing or mayo on it, but it was pleasant enough. And the ribs were superb. Well cooked, beautifully spiced and seasoned, and all in all left me thinking I needed to come back here again and again. The fries were abundant, crisp and golden and pretty damn good. All in all a winner.

My partner’s chicken was equally gargantuan and impressive. Four pieces, two breast and two leg, of moist, tasty, spicy, crispy fried chicken (I know, I shared them!)  and the same perfect fries and dry slaw…. This was some of the best fried chicken I’ve had in a while so it was pretty damn good.

And the best part of the deal - well the prices. This place has picked a price point that is both competitive and great value when combined with the portion sizes.

The food weighed in at almost fast food prices and certainly was excellent value for money at £20 for both meals. Added to the drinks at special offer prices before 7.30 and this place is a competitive addition to the Cardiff foodie scene – even if it’s yet to make an impression with it’s drinks offerings!

I for one will be back and I know that, the service will be excellent, the prices good, the portions generous and the food hitting the spot – now sort out the d├ęcor, the damp, and the drinks and the 3D experience will be complete.