Sunday, 4 November 2018

Review: Five of the Best Cocktails at Head of Steam, Cardiff

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Review: Head of Steam, Cardiff {Cardiff Food & Drink}

head of steam nice bar in cardiff for drinks

New craft ale bar Head of Steam officially opened its doors on Church Street, Cardiff, last Monday. Head of Steam have a number of bars throughout the UK, but this is their first in Wales. I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening night and as I didn't fancy a beer, I stuck to cocktails. Here's my review of five of the best on the menu.
cocktails at head of steam cardiff central

Espresso Martini (£6.95) Made with fresh espresso, the caffeine loaded, post-dinner pick me up is a drink I always go for. (Origin of the drink, if you didn't know, is that a customer at Soho Brasserie in London asked for something that would 'wake me up and f**k me up'...and so the glorious espresso martini was born). Beautifully rich and indulgent - Head of Steam use a generous shot of Absolut Vanilla in their recipe which added a touch more sweetness to this silky smooth classic.
Peanut Butter Old Fashioned (£6.95) Whisky isn’t really my thing and I haven’t much liked it in cocktails before, but I was swayed by the peanut butter element and couldn’t resist ordering one to try. Bulleit Bourbon is mixed with peanut butter syrup and angostura bitters, resulting in a very strong, interesting twist on the timeless original. Still pretty simple but with a bit of an edge, I loved this one and, surprisingly, it might have been my favourite cocktail of the night.
cocktails at head of steam cardiff central

Flaming Zombie (left - £6.95) A tart, fruity and deadly mix of dark spiced, Overproof rum and triple sec, mixed with a blend of orange and pineapple juice. The gentleman serving us with a big (probably quite flammable) beard had to take a step back as this drink, a Head of Steam showpiece, is set on fire at the end for a spectacular finish.

Pink Elephant (centre - £7.95) I feel it’s important to mention that as well as cocktails, Head of Steam have a large number of beers on offer with 45 cask and keg lines. I wasn’t really in a beer mood, but I was curious to try one of the beer-based cocktails. Three of these are on the menu and my friend went for the Pink Elephant, a contemporary spin on the Singapore Sling. Tanqueray gin, triple sec, lime and pineapple plus a splash of Belgian cherry beer. I had a few sips and thought it all came together brilliantly as a cocktail.
cocktails at head of steam cardiff central

Cherry Lollipop (£6.95) Once, before a Uni night out, I drank the majority of bottle of Lidl’s budget Amaretto before leaving the house and developed an aversion to the drink for many years. It's only recently that I've been able to stomach it again and Disaronno mixed here with Midori, lime and cranberry juice, is perfect for the festive season. A tad sickly sweet, but in the right mood I love drinks like that and the tang of the lime and cranberry adds a citrus element to it that really works.

In between all this drinking (I didn't feel too great the next day) I had a little chat with General Manager, Richard, who said "We're really excited about coming to Cardiff. There's been a lot of build up and it's been a slow burn, so it's great to be up and running. We're opening just as November internationals begin, so we're anticipating it will be busy and we can't wait to get stuck in."

What does Head of Steam have to offer that the growing new wave of craft beer bars in Cardiff don't have? "Most craft orientated bars focus on the beer and nothing else. We offer more of a hybrid, where you can go for good cocktails and even unique beer cocktails, or you can work your way through all our beers which are sourced both locally and throughout the UK. Or, you can go out for a bite to eat and get a menu that's full of variety. There's a little bit of everything."

"We're dog friendly as well and all about inclusivity. We'll have live music nights and live sport and if you haven't booked your office Christmas meal yet you're in luck - we're looking at offering the upstairs to large parties to rent out and devising drinks packages as well."

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food menu at head of steam cardiff

food menu at head of steam where to eat in cardiff

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Review: Maria's Greek Meze Bar Taverna

Review: Maria's Greek Taverna {Cardiff Restaurants/Food and Drink}

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna

I've never been to Greece, nor had I ever even been to a Greek restaurant until this year. So I was even more excited about eating out than usual when I set off on a sunny walk with my friend Soph to try out Maria's Greek Taverna, on Crwys Road in Cardiff.

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna

I know that cooking and eating are a huge part of Greek culture, especially embracing the concept of sharing food with family and friends. Meal times are a relaxed, social affair and this was present in the atmosphere - by half past 6 the restaurant was buzzing, filled with groups of friends catching up.

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna

Maria's two sons opened this restaurant with the idea of having the main dishes based on traditional Greek recipes Maria has always cooked for the family. "I bet those are real family photos in the frames" I said to Soph, who wasn't entirely convinced. I was pleased to be proved right as later on we got talking to a few of the people behind this charming, family-run restaurant, including the lovely Rosa, Maria's sister, and Maria herself. The experience of dining out is just as important as the food and, though the food was incredible, in this instance we really loved that they took the time to chat to the tables and you felt very at home, as if you’d been invited around personally for tea.

thelittlecardiffblog reading the menu at marias greek taverna

menu for marias greek taverna cardiff

The 'notes' app on my phone was whipped out so I could make a properly organised list of which dishes to pick (it was difficult to find the menu online, so I’ll pop it here for anyone else who’s curious). In agreement that it was a very strong menu and we wished we could have everything, we decided to choose a diverse array of dishes from the meze list. (We went in the evening but it's worth noting that between 12 and 6pm, 3 dishes from the meze menu are £12, a pretty decent deal).

halloumi at marias greek taverna cardiff
Halloumi Fries served with honey and fresh mint (£5.00)

Whenever halloumi is on the menu, Soph and I are like vultures - I can't imagine us ever bypassing an opportunity for some hot, fried cheese. Dripping with honey, it was perfectly cooked with a hint of mint and a touch of sweetness.

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna
Saganaki Garides - Tiger prawns cooked in a herby, spicy tomato sauce with ouzo and crumbled feta (£6.90)

Prawns were huge and juicy, with crumbled feta and a delicious tomato sauce.

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna
Kolokithokeftedes - Courgette and potato cake corn fritters served with a tahini and butternut squash puree (£4.90)

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna
Spetsofai - Spicy greek sausage with peppers, in a rich red wine and tomato sauce (£6.50)

When choosing little dishes I often make the mistake of choosing only dry ones, so along with the prawns I needed a couple of saucier options. This was a great choice - rich, flavoursome tomato and pepper sauce, paired with meaty traditional Greek sausages.

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna
Croketes Bakaliaro - Beer battered salt cod fritters, served with a potato and garlic pure and crispy leeks (£4.90)

This one was a little too salty for us, so it would be the least favourite for that reason. Didn't stop me from eating most of it though.

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna
Papoutsakia - Baked aubergines stuffed with a lamb ragu, topped with a creamy bechamel sauce (£5.50)

Basically like a rich, hearty moussaka with out any potato, this was a favourite for us both.

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna
Spanakokroketes - Creamy spinach and feta croquettes with a lemon and dill yoghurt dip (£5.50)

We were so very full by this point, but Maria popped over to our table to let us know a fresh batch of the spinach and feta croquettes had been made. Of course we couldn't resist trying one each (it was lovely that she remembered we wanted them too!).

greek restaurant in cardiff marias greek taverna
Tiropitakia - Mini feta cheese pies, wrapped in crispy filo pasty (£4.90)
Tzatziki - Yoghurt and cucumber dip, served with pitta bread (£3.95)

My second favourite dish was the feta cheese pies, I can't believe I didn't get a nice big photo of them close up and showing the inside. They were incredibly moreish and I kept going back for more even though I was stuffed.

Between two people, we could have perhaps cut out the tzatziki, pitta bread and maybe the salt cod fritters and we would still have had more than enough food. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach. I definitely want to go back and try the big dishes in the main menu. The evening really made an impression on us, it was such a laid back yet lively atmosphere and made me want to book a flight to Greece ASAP. To get such a nice vibe like Maria's has along with wonderful food is really hard to come by. I urge you to give this restaurant a try if you haven’t and let me know what you think, I can’t imagine anyone coming back with anything other than a glowing review!

(Soph has been back since, booking through the First Table website - where you can get 50% off the early evening tables, all the details are on if you're interested. Maria's also have a deal on the Wriggle app - use my code YITPVI for £5 free credit towards your first order.) 

Address: 68 Crwys Rd, Cardiff CF24 4NP
Phone: 029 2115 1268

Disclosure: I was invited to sample the menu, food was complimentary but all opinions are my own.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Review: The Admiral St David (St David's Hotel, Cardiff Bay)

Review: The Admiral at Voco St David's, Cardiff Bay {Cardiff Restaurants}

beautiful image of cardiff bay

Working in the centre of town, I do tend to find myself drifting towards the same chains of restaurants when I go out for food. Summer is the perfect time to stretch the legs and it's my goal to walk more and try new places, venturing outside of my restaurant-comfort zone. I've also started making more of an effort to pop down to Cardiff Bay, which is such a vibrant part of Cardiff, especially when the sun is shining and the sea is sparkling! I took my mum to sample the menu at The Admiral St David last week, which is pictured above, based in the five star St David's hotel.

cocktails over cardiff bay
Welsh 75 (Brecon gin, elderflower, lemon, sugar, Champagne - £12.95)

cardiff bay admiral voco st davids cocktail menu
Twisted cocktails menu! A great selection of rum cocktails were also available.

We were seated beside the window with a spectacular view of the bay, and received a very warm welcome from the staff (quick mention - Kat and Katarina were the names of the ladies serving us - both absolutely lovely!) who eagerly talked us through the menu. After a complete re-launch last year, The Admiral opened with a menu merging local sourced Welsh produce with Australasian and Asia-Pacific inspiration. This type of cuisine involves a fusion of flavours from Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Sri Lanka, making up some exciting and eclectic dishes. Something quite a bit different, I don't think Wales has anywhere else similar...not yet anyway!

The restaurant itself has quite a laid back, classy yet informal vibe to it, a trendy, nautical theme with lots of cool tones, light blues and greys, that fits in very well with the setting and location. The cocktail menu featured 'twisted cocktails' consisting of classics with a Welsh twist, I really enjoyed the Welsh 75 (Brecon gin, elderflower, lemon, sugar, Champagne).

voco st davids admiral hotel cardiff menu
Chicken satay, peanut sauce, grilled lime (£8)

It was really difficult to choose what go to for as so many things sounded so great, it's such an interesting menu. We settled on sharing a chicken satay starter. The bold flavours were beautiful, chicken was perfectly cooked with a light, crispy coating and the satay sauce was spot on. No regrets on the choice whatsoever, I just wish we had got one plate each.

voco st davids admiral hotel cardiff steak
Dry-aged Cefyn Mawr Farm beef, fries, roasted beef tomato, portabella mushroom
(Market price, £2 for peppercorn sauce)

My mum hadn't eaten a steak in a restaurant for a while and she was extremely happy with her choice of main course. Her review was very positive - this is a direct quotation: 

"The most tender steak I have ever tasted, its deliciousness floored me. The peppercorn sauce added a peppery kick whilst not being too overpowering. The steak was cooked to perfection, reminding me of hazy, summer days around the barbecue with my family in Italy, reminiscent of the juicy steaks we all used to enjoy". 

Putting me to shame really, I think she should be the one with the blog! I tasted a few chips and they were light, buttery and fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside. A more traditional option for a main, if you aren't feeling too adventurous.

voco st davids admiral hotel cardiff menu
Chicken laksa, egg noodles, fried Asian shallots, fried egg (£16)

thelittlecardiffblog eating at st davids hotel admiral voco

voco st davids admiral hotel cardiff menu
Most delicious chicken thigh!

I ordered the chicken laksa after a long time deliberating between that and two other options (Grilled Thai ginger-marinated lemon sole with chinese greens, or the Char siu pork belly, barbecued king prawn, spiced rice and pomegranate). It was absolutely divine! I was so pleased because if you know me, you'll know I'm really not a 'noodle person' so this wasn't the obvious choice. But I am a chicken person, an egg person and I do like a bit of heat in my food. I thoroughly enjoyed the contrasting textures, the rich, fragrant, coconutty sauce with a bit of a kick. The chicken thighs were so tender and flavoursome, just thinking about it all now is making me hungry. If you're visiting this restaurant I'd recommend you pick this, it was a very memorable meal.

voco st davids admiral hotel cardiff dessert
Milk chocolate brownie, yuzu ice cream (£7) & Ginger crème brûlée, poached rhubarb (£6)

voco st davids admiral hotel cardiff dessert

For desserts, I opted for the brownie and my mum selected the ginger creme brûlée. The brownie was served warm and was chocolate-fudge-cake-like in texture, with ice cream flavoured with 'yuzu' citrus fruit (a souring ingredient used in Asia). They went really well together and it was a lovely dessert, but my mum's choice stole the show. Melt-in-the-mouth custard with a subtle ginger flavour throughout, paired with hot poached rhubarb and sugary sweet meringues, absolutely incredible (and highly photogenic)!

We were in love with the food here and can't recommend it highly enough. You can tell everyone behind this restaurant is extremely talented, as well as passionate about the food. There were only two things which would have made the experience better. One would have been if my mum hadn’t gone for the same cocktail as me, so we could have had the opportunity to sample two. Rookie error! The second would have been if we had got lucky with some sunshine, because the outside seats overlooking the bay would have been amazing, but it was too windy. But in my mind, that's just an excuse to come again in a few months' time. Would like to try the bar menu at some point, or the Sunday dinner, and the afternoon tea sounds particularly nice.

More information on the St David's Hotel:

Disclosure: I was invited to sample the menu, all food was complimentary (minus one extra dessert!) but all opinions are my own.

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