Chai Street

Le roi est mort, vive le roi!

Arguably the acclamation, exclaimed as Charles VII’s accession to the throne was borne out, isn’t really apt here: Mint and Mustard, Chai Street’s paternal predecessor, is still alive and kicking (the butts of most Indian’s in Maindy / Cathays).  But, such was the cacophony of hype surrounding the launch of the latest eatery on Cowbridge Road East, it felt as though the reign of Whitchurch Road’s was certainly on the wane, if not soon to be extinguished.

That won’t be the case though.  Whilst, Chai Street’s lovely; it’s quaint, chintzy and a little bit too ‘plastic Indian’ too for my tastes, it’s destined to be a perennial ‘Harry’: a kooky younger brother, but unlikely to be heir to the throne.  From the loud, poppy, bangra tunes to the hackneyed Bollywood film posters, it all felt a little bit, well, forced.  What it does offer though is a great lunch.  And that’s what we were there for!

 

I sat down with Marc Thomas, to try the place out and after browsing over the already dog-eared menu (Intentionally, maybe? The place has only been open for a week or so at this point!) we both plumped for the Chai Special Thali from the extensive choice available.  And plumped we were… for a single main, what you get is a great taster menu of a bunch of different dishes served there.  Stand outs, for me, were the punchy lamb curry and the lovely, light onion bhaji.  And it’s really filling too.

We both polished our plates metal trays, and left suitably sated.  I think I’ll be back of an evening, with the long-haired general, to check out the evening vibe over a proper slap-up meal.  But, for a lunchtime feed, whilst Chai Street is nice enough and you should definitely go, I’d urge people to also try out the nearby Madhav (no website), which is less than ten minutes stroll away and offers a more authentic experience, in my opinion.

One point of note though, is that Cowbridge Road East, is becoming a bit of a foodie destination.  Moving away from the city centre, and in less than a mile’s worth of road, there’s now a Top 10 to choose from.  You really should get out (of the city centre) more: Kimchi (Korean), Chai Street (Indian), Chez Francis (French), Purple Poppadom (Indian), Ichiban (Japanese), Bangkok Cafe (Thai), Falafel Wales (Lebanese), Happy Gathering (Chinese), Almada (Portuguese) and Duck Egg Bleu (Classic).

 

Steak of the Art

So, in a changed from the usual business lunch.  I thought I’d take a moment to run you through a Sunday lunch.  Ever fans of the new and always supporters of the quirky, Steak of the Art Cardiff was a no-brainer.

 

Sat directly opposite the newish Chapel 1877, Steak of the Art hits you from the get go.  Even before getting in our kids were cooing about the bright green exterior.  Once inside you’re instantly wrapped in a kaleidoscope of colour and posed with the nigh on impossible task of choosing which work of art you want to sit in… As a couple, you might smile and utter something banal and turgid like, “Whatever’s easiest for you….”, with kids it is the law that you have to consider each in detail before choosing one at great length.

So it was that we eschewed a carved wood depiction of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, some window seats upholstered in grafitti and the hot air balloons on the top floor to sit at a table laid with (astro)turf betwixt bench seating covered in cartoon front rows about to clash in a scrum.

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Settling into our booth, I started to take in the surrounds, or moreover the surround sounds… Throughout our stay there was some classic mid 90’s music playing, with a special mention to The Chemical Brothers, Robbie Williams, and Chicane.  I liked this, a lot.  Not as much as my son liked the dinosaur footprints in the loo though! Alongside the neon lit urinals and the pictures that appear only as you close the loo door, the toilets are an experience in themselves.

Steak of the Art

The staff were plentiful and whilst cheery and helpful, we had a few bloopers during our visit (including a starter platter being completely forgotten about and not knowing what the fish or veg sides were).  Still, it’s early days and the free bottled water to the table went some way to patch over the oversights.  They were totally forgiven after our youngest managed to empty a full pint of coke all over the place and they busied themselves around it with no quibbles or eye rolling at all.

Th food, on the whole, was pretty good; especially the kids servings.  My eldest daughter got a superb fish and chips and finished the lot and the lad seemed pretty stoked with his burger too (they eat healthy at home I should add!).  If we’re being picky, whilst my wife’s fillet steak was delicious it was certainly rare and not medium as ordered. Likewise, I don’t doubt that my half a chargrilled chicken was an impressive feat in terms of butchery (all bones are removed and it’s served as a single piece), but an unseasoned lump of chargrilled meat is tough to swallow, however swanky the surrounds.  So, there’s room for improvement, but that’s never a bad thing and all of the quibbles above are quick fixes.

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Steak of the Art really is all about the experience in its entirety though; the lack of salt and pepper on my lunch won’t be what I remember of our visit.  I think all of the family would feel the same; my youngest was happiest wandering around the Alice In Wonderland absurdity of the place.

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Will we back?  Yeah, I’d say, very probably; it’s good fun and in my opinion a better option than the Fed Cardiff place over the way, which we’d tried the Sunday previous.  That said, looking out of the window as we were paying up, I noted the offices of south Wales legend, Leo Abse.  Leo, the gay rights campaigner, come lawyer, come politician, come one third of arguably the most talented trio of brothers to grace this land and a household name for many.  I wonder will SotA be held in similar esteem in the future…

 

Steak of the Art – www.steakoftheart.co.uk

Ground Floor, Helmont House, Churchill Way, Cardiff CF10 2HE
Phone: 029 2039 7284