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.

Displaying photo 1.JPG

Displaying photo 2.JPG

Displaying photo 2.JPG

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.

Displaying photo 3.JPG

Displaying photo 4.JPG

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.

Displaying photo 1.JPG

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

Apple Jacks

So, I tried to be the first customer at The Pitch on Thursday, but after some great comms on twitter, when I arrived they didn’t have any tables in, which would have made lunch awkward!  I’ll be back there next week though, so stay tuned for the review.

As a result, I was at a bit of a loss of what to do so wandered on up The Hayes, contemplating as I went which types of restaurants I want to try and focus on this year.  I passed Wahaca, Cosy Club, Burger & Lobster, Carter & Miller… and whilst I have eaten and will eat again at these, I’d really like to try and get out and about to more independent, smaller outfits. Especially places where you could take a client / supplier for lunch and have them pleasantly surprised.

As such, it was a pleasure to stumble upon Apple Jacks.  It’s a Deluxe American Diner, with the motto ‘All Are Welcome’ and with good reason.  There’s something here for everyone here, so please don’t be put off by the fat it’s sat between a pub and a Harvester!  Kids will love the coke floats and the bookable table set within an *actual camper van*; parents will sigh in relief at the kids menus; fans of interior design will coo at the geometric design and feel of the place; even claustrophobes will love it: there’s stacks of space including a funky shack of a kitchen upstairs too 🙂

What’s it like for a bloke at a loose end, who’s looking to grab a nice lunch, though? Well, pretty damned good as it happens.

There’s stacks of variety in the menu, especially in the seafood area (hake, crevettes, scallions, creole shrimp, pollock, oysters all featured) something you don’t see much of around Cardiff, so it was no surprise I went for the clam chowder and, just as I was feeling a tad greedy, a side of sweet potato and chorizo fries.

Clam Chowder - Apple Jacks
Clam Chowder – Apple Jacks

 

The chowder was great; a sharp broth with firm, ferric greens and plenty of clams alongside chunks of salty bacon.  All this sat in a sourdough tortilla and whilst this edible bowl was lovely to eat it was hellishly fiddly! Quite a few clams bit the dust as a tried to tear half toasted, half soggy tortilla from the bowl.  It also came a distant second to the doorstep slice of toast served with the bowl, that was purpose built for dunking into such a meal.  Alas, the bowl was emptied, but I was glad for the lemon water bowl to wash my hands in!

Sweet Potato and Chorizo - Apple Jacks
Clam Chowder – Apple Jacks

 

I think sweet potatoe fries are a bit of a poisoned chalice; I’m yet to have a portion that I’ve wanted to tell the world about.  That said there is something about them that makes me order each and every time! This was made all the more unavoidable with the addition of chorizo.  I’m not sure of the science, but getting that crisp outside alongside a fluffy centre, as you can with a good Maris Piper, seems impossible with sweet potatoes.  As such, it was no surpise that the side didn’t match the main, but it was still damn tasty, if not quite crunchy.

Finally, I got a coke float (like a time machine to 1980’s birthday parties for anyone of my generation) beforehand and a mocha afterwards, both lovely.

Coke Float - Apple Jacks
Coke Float – Apple Jacks

 

So, there you have it; Apple Jacks is a really, really well fitted out place that serves a really nice range of classic American Diner meals, with their own twist.  Go! Be a younger George McFly and check the place out.

 

www.applejackscardiff.co.uk

Call: 02920 227 792 or Email contact@applejackscardiff.co.uk

17 Church Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BG

 

 

 

Upstairs - Apple Jacks
Upstairs – Apple Jacks
Geometric Design - Apple Jacks
Geometric Design – Apple Jacks
Decor - Apple Jacks
Decor – Apple Jacks
Camper Van - Apple Jacks
Camper Van – Apple Jacks

 

WiFi - Apple Jacks
WiFi – Apple Jacks

 

 

 

Le Bistrot Pierre

So, to start at the beginning, I thought I’d choose a trustworthy old friend and I wasn’t disappointed.  As ever the magnificent Claude was there to welcome me and take me through the menu as well as putting up with my ever depreciating attempts to speak French with him.  Fortunately, he’s hooked up with a Welsh speaker so his rustiness with the hen iaith makes me feel a little less stressed out.

The service here has always been good and whilst it is a chain nowadays, it could well be called a bracelet of restaurants… With only a dozen links in total all over the UK and this one being the only one in Cardiff, coupled with the amiable waiters and waitresses, it hardly feels like a chain.

So, I settled in, next to a pair of pensioners and took the chance to check some emails (the free wifi code’s their phone number without the first zero: 2920345990).  The menu‘s really strong at the moment, but it does change regularly, so it’s always worth checking back to the site in advance of your visit.  Lunch is £10.95 for 2 courses or £12.95 for

Today, I went for the salmon special as a starter and I’m glad I did too; the combo of flaked and smoked salmon with dill and capers, sat on a plump blini and in a tart sauce.  Claude might’ve thought I’d become a magician so quickly did it disappear from my plate.  This was served with some lovely crusty sliced baguette and soft, salted butter.

Salmon Starter Special
Salmon Starter Special

The downside of this was that it ruled out getting the risotto, which I really fancied.  I mean, read this and tell me you’re not tempted:

Risotto of broad beans, steamed leeks, wild mushrooms, tarragon and smoked paprika

The risotto and mushrooms had just the right bite to them and whilst the tarragon got slightly lost, the leeks were sweet and coupled well with the tiny broad beans.

Risotto
Risotto of broad beans, steamed leeks, wild mushrooms, tarragon and smoked paprika

 

This was washed down with a bottle of water (filtered on site, but still £1.50) and a green tea… a teabag and hot water (£2.00).  Whilst these add ons do get on my wick a bit, it still felt like great value when all’s said and done.

Thanks Claude, and all the team at Le Bistrot Pierre, Cardiff: if you’re looking to take a client out for lunch in the city centre then I strongly recommend you give this place a spin.

Claude
Claude – My favourite waiter in Cardiff

Le Bistrot Pierre, is on Caroline Street… (yes, yes that’s Chippy Lane!), easily accessible from The Hayes or St Mary’s Street.

http://lebistrotpierre.co.uk/locations/cardiff