Summer Dinner At The Bush Inn, St. Hilary

The Bush Inn at St. Hilary in the Vale of Glamorgan has long been one of our favourite places to eat. It was built in the 16th Century and retains much of the style of the original with bare stone walls, flag stone floors, original oak beams and a large inglenook fireplace. It has been offering hospitality for over 500 years.

The Bush Inn at St Hilary near Cowbridge is one of a handful of family favourites, including The Fox & Hounds in Llancarfan, Summer Palace in Llandaff and The Royal India in Dinas Powys, as well as our local, The Star Inn.  And then, of course, we are spoiled for choice with the variety of restaurants in Cardiff Bay and the Cardiff itself. It is great to see the return of the Bayside Brasserie, although we miss the Pearl of The Orient.

These days, it’s a lot easier to book if you do so online, for example at  www.bookatable.co.uk which will connect you with loads of local restaurants, as well as showing you recent customer reviews and available offers to save a bit of cash – always welcome in the long summer holiday.  Simply enter the town you are looking or your postcode to find restaurants near you.  This is especially useful if you are on holiday and need to feed the kids fast! Note, however, that The Bush still relies on the telephone or email for bookings.

It was a beautiful balmy evening and the little village of St Hilary was peaceful as usual.  The pub is situated next to a pretty church and its thatched roof and, in winter, roaring log fire, add to its appeal.

Last night was so warm, however, that the restaurant doors to the enclosed pub garden were open.  There you’ll find not only wooden benches and tables but also a place to play boules.  Just ask behind the bar for the boules set.

The Bush’s menu specialises in home-cooked rustic food and the place is well known for its pies, Wellingtons and vegetarian menu.  During the day there are fresh salads, ploughmans lunches and sandwiches to choose from whilst grills and the specials menu are available in the evening.

We started off by sharing some bread with oil and balsamic vinegar (£3.50) and a bowl of olives (£3.50).

We didn’t want to spoil our appetites for the main course, especially since Caitlin and Ieuan have long outgrown the children’s menu.

Mat opted for the 10 oz Sirloin Steak served with chips, mushrooms, onions and a side salad (£20.95). He asked for the steak to be served medium and his steak was spot on, tender and juicy.  The Peppercorn Sauce was rich and creamy (£1.50).

The Sirloin Steak

Ieuan surprised us for asking for his new favourite, Sticky Spare Ribs with BBQ Sauce served with chips, mushrooms, onions and a side salad (£14.50).  The portion size was extremely generous but that didn’t stop him.

Sticky BBQ Ribs

Caitlin has the appetite of a sparrow but she managed her Handmade 6 oz Beef Burger with lettuce, tomato, caramelized onion marmalade served with chips and a side salad (£11.50).

Handmade Beefburger

I opted for the Pork Chop with Apple Sauce, served with chips, mushrooms, onions and a side salad (£15.50).  Pork can be tricky to get right but the chop was lovely and moist whilst the apple sauce is an old school treat.

Pork Chop with Apple Sauce

What I particularly like about The Bush Inn at St Hilary is that the food is consistently good.  That is not to say I don’t occasionally wish for a couple of new dishes to try but you always know you’ll get good value for money and the kids will eat their fill.  There comes a point where you’ve had all the chicken and fish goujons you can take.

On to desserts and the cheesecake of the day was a real treat – Caramac (£6.50).  My all-time favourite chocolate (although Bendicks Mints come a close second).  Creamy with a crunch crumb base and studded with Caramac this was delicious.

Caramac Cheesecake

Mat is a coffee fiend so he chose the Affogato – vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso and crushed amaretti biscuits £6.00.

Affogato

Caitlin chose Apple and Cinnamon Crumble served with ice cream £6.50 whilst Ieuan chose Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce £6.50 which also comes in a Gluten-Free option.  All of the desserts were faultless and the strawberry garnish made a nice change from the ubiquitous Cape Gooseberry which I have tried but failed to love.

Apple and Cinnamon Crumble

Sticky Toffee Pudding

If you are looking for a traditional country inn with good food that is a little off the beaten track and away from crowds,  The Bush Inn at St Hilary ticks all the boxes.

I can’t see us getting bored of its delights for a very long time.  Especially as they serve a very good Malbec too.

For more information visit www.bushinn-sthilary.com.  To book a restaurant online in your local area go to www.bookatable.co.uk.

Afternoon Tea With Smartbox By Buyagift At Jaspers Tea Rooms

GIFTED: Afternoon tea with Smartbox by Buyagift

If you struggle for present ideas for loved ones then a stress-free solution is to give them an experience they will never forget, or a lovely treat they wouldn’t normally splash out on themselves for from Buyagift.

Buyagift offers a great range of trips, experiences and treats via pre-purchased gift cards bought online.

Since it was mum’s 80th birthday recently, last weekend we tried out a Buyagift experience for ourselves, when we went for a luxury afternoon tea at Jaspers Tea Rooms in Llandaff, Cardiff.

I was sent a the Afternoon Tea Smartbox by Buyagift which contained a gift card for an afternoon tea for two.  The gift card came in a stylish box containing full instructions and a beautifully presented booklet outlining all our options.

Booking was really easy.  You simply choose where you would like to take your afternoon tea and book direct with the venue.  Then, all you do is take along the voucher contained in your box and present it as payment in full.

Read on because there’s a chance for one lucky reader to win their own Afternoon Tea Smartbox by Buyagift (worth £34.99) which offers over 425 experiences to choose from.  You can also upgrade to an afternoon tea with bubbles for a reasonable extra charge (not included in the prize).

Set in the heart of the leafy village of Llandaff in the shadow of the cathedral, Jaspers Tea Rooms is everything you would expect of a traditional tea room.

Traditional wood seating, an old fashioned fireplace and plenty of antique teapots gives the place a relaxed feel, enhanced by twinkly blue fairy lights.

It’s the kind of place where you could spend all afternoon gossiping and putting the world to rights with the aid of a good, strong pot of tea.

There was plenty of pottery on show from the local pottery at Ewenny and quirky showpieces such as an eighteenth-century chair.

We were seated quickly and service was swift with a three-tier cake stand containing a lovely selection of goodies appearing in no time.  Tea was served via a decent size teapot and the staff at Jaspers will refill the pot as many times as you like.

Since the teapot is practically a shrine in my parents’ house, this was very welcome indeed.

The afternoon tea itself comprises a selection of moist finger sandwiches in ham and mustard and egg and cress.

This was followed by home-made scones, jam and cream.

I thought the scones could have been warmed, however, they were fresh and wonderfully crumbly.

We both initially doubted whether we could do justice to the impressive top tier of the cake stand.  Miniature Victoria Sponges dusted with icing sugar nestled next to little blackcurrant and cream jellies, mini eclairs, macarons and bite-size Welsh cakes.

Mum has a much smaller appetite these days but we managed to make our way through most of our afternoon tea.  The staff kindly supplied take-away boxes for one or two remaining treats to take home to dad which was a thoughtful touch.

One point to note, though, we booked our tea for 4 pm not realising that the tearooms close at 5 pm so double-check if you don’t want to be the last ones on the premises.

The Giveaway – Afternoon Tea For Two Smartbox

I have one Afternoon Tea Smartbox by Buyagift to give away worth £34.99 which entitles to bearer to one afternoon tea for two people at one of the locations detailed in the accompanying literature.

The giveaway is open to UK entrants only and ends at 11:59 pm on Friday 10th May.

The usual terms and conditions apply which can be viewed on my giveaways page.  Emails submitted will be used to contact the winner only and personal data is not retained.

Afternoon Tea Smartbox by Buyagift worth £34.99

 

Good luck!

Review: Park House Restaurant & Wine Bar, Cardiff

If you’re anything like us, you’ll have your favourite restaurants.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but you’ll probably find that you eat the same dishes every time you go.  Eventually, you might find yourself in a bit of a gastronomic rut.

If you’ve watched Masterchef, you might have found yourself bemused at Torode and Wallace’s rhapsodising over the textures and taste combinations presented in the contestant’s dishes and wondered how a dish could be ‘complex’ or offer layers of taste. We were about to learn.

The Husband and I were recently invited to dine at Park House Restaurant Cardiff and what an experience it was.

Park House, in which the restaurant is situated, is a somewhat gloomy gothic building that was designed by the architect William Burgess.  Completed in 1874, CADW considers the Grade 1 listed building to be “perhaps the most important 19th-century house in Wales”  It is certainly atmospheric and this adds all the more to the dining experience.

You have to ring the doorbell to enter and once inside are greeted by an enormous staircase and the kind of wooden panelled hush that is a blessing to my ears.  The staff are in black and white and are welcoming without being obtrusive.  The tables are clothed in starched and pristine white linen.

Diners are spaced well apart so that you cannot listen in to other people’s conversations (although, shamefully, I usually find this quite entertaining).  There is no pomp and ceremony, no ostentatious decor, just a simple flower ornament and napkins.

There is a taster menu but, the husband having returned from the States that day and fighting jet lag, we didn’t feel we could do it justice.  Instead, we chose from the A la Carte Menu and, as guests of the Park House, we were offered one or two extra treats to demonstrate the range and talent of Head Chef Matt Waldron and his team.

The Park House Restaurant Cardiff also offers taster menus for Vegetarians and Vegans, as well as 5 and 8-course taster menus and afternoon teas.

During his career in Wales and London, Waldron has worked under many influential chefs including Michelin starred Pierre Gagnaire, Helene Darroze at The Connaught and James Sommerin. He aims to present the best in Welsh produce and here in Wales, we are certainly spoilt for choice.

The Park House Restaurant Cardiff boasts an impressive wine list and I chose a 2016 Old Vine Zinfandel from the Bedrock Wine Company in Sonoma, California.  I could, however, have chosen from 100 wines!

As an appetizer, we were presented with pigeon legs and a cone filled with a dill creme fraiche topped with caviar.  I’m afraid I couldn’t bring myself to try the pigeon but the husband assured me that the meat is very tasty.  The dill creme fraiche on the other hand just melted in the mouth.

We were then treated to a cauliflower and oyster jelly topped with caviar.  This was a layered dish a light as air with the cauliflower giving a strong and slightly smoky taste without being overpowering.

We chose the Cardiff Salad for our starter.  A rather unprepossessing name, this was nevertheless my idea of a salad – spring vegetables, buffalo mozzarella and black garlic – lots of different tastes and textures with a dressing that complemented perfectly.  The leaves were grown and freshly picked from nearby Bute Park.

On to the main course and the husband chose the Welsh Truffle Risotto with black truffle oil. On first seeing the dish, I wondered if there would be enough variety in taste but Mat had no such qualms and enjoyed it immensely.

I had the Roasted Cornish Brill with carrot and fennel seed.  The brill is a fish that I rarely have but the dish was delicate and well balanced with the fennel complementing the subtle flavour.

Another treat was whisked onto our table – a yoghurt pannacotta with beer jelly and lime. This was a real delight.  The contrast between the smooth yoghurt and the beer jelly and lime had a real zing and was a great palate cleanser.

Our desserts were equally as memorable.  The husband chose treacle tart which came deconstructed style but with a great depth of taste and a really concentrated treacle taste.

My lemon tart was similarly presented but had a real kick of citrus that I have never found in the many, many (!) lemon tarts I’ve tried over the years, including one particularly memorable one in Amiens.

Coffee was served with home-made petits fours, each one a mini explosion of taste.

During our meal I found myself wondering about the kind of people who would most enjoy the Parkhouse.  It is an ideal place for quiet family celebrations but most of all it is a place for diners who want to enjoy local produce in taste combinations they may never have previously considered.  This is not pretentious dining.  There’s no Heston-style madcap bubbling desserts.  Not a sound was heard from the kitchen.

Instead, we enjoyed a meal in surroundings which allowed us to concentrate on food and talk about what we were actually eating.

And that makes a refreshing change.

For more information visit www.parkhouserestaurant.co.uk or telephone 029 2105 0662. The restaurant is available for private dining & hire and you can also book online here.

*We were invited to dine as guests of Park House Restaurant Cardiff.  All opinions are our own.




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Review: Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen at Jurys Inn Cardiff

We were recently invited to sample the Sunday lunch menu at Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen at Jurys Inn Cardiff.  Hopeful of the prospect of finding a traditional Sunday lunch actually in the city centre, we extracted Ieuan from the Xbox and set off.

The first thing to note is, that Jurys Inn isn’t where I thought it was.  No longer situated outside the Motorpoint Arena it is now in what was the Park Hotel in Park Place – a leafy precinct along which you’ll find the New Theatre and the previous home of my erstwhile employer, Morgan Cole Solicitors, now Blake Morgan.

Jurys Hotel Cardiff

Jurys Hotel Cardiff

This is, it has to be said, a much more pleasant location right in the heart of the city, a brief walk from Queen Street Railway Station and a slightly longer stroll to Cardiff Central through the shopping malls – never a hardship.  There are also plenty of multistorey car parks nearby, including Greyfriars Road which is literally a stone’s throw away from the hotel.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Cardiff signage

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen appears to be a new venture and there are three – Liverpool, Manchester, Brighton and, happily Cardiff.  Open to non-residents, they claim to cater for all tastes and appetites with plenty of “hearty British fare” such as traditional pork & leek sausages & mash or healthier options such as their Mezze Salad with spinach, feta, olives and roasted red peppers.

We awaited the Sunday lunch menu with interest!

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen - Caitlin & Ieuan outside

Mat & Linda Hobbis outside Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Cardiff

The place has a separate entrance right next to the main hotel entrance and is bright, airy and comfortable with a mixture of plush seating and rather hard benches for those of us whose rears are made of sterner stuff.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen interior signage

The decor is less quirky than I was expecting  (there are no socks and nothing particularly mismatching either) but Caitlin and Ieuan loved the name and promised to behave with the necessary oddness.  No change there then.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Cardiff bar area

Actually, Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen was a bit of a revelation.  Living nearby in Dinas Powys, Sunday is often our day to come ‘into town’ but a decent Sunday lunch has generally eluded us and we have found ourselves lunching in one of the many chains.  This means missing out on a ‘traditional’ Sunday lunch.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Cardiff interior

Of course, there are many quirky, exciting eateries in and around Cardiff but when you have two sulky tweens you just want good food, fast and with minimal fuss.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Cardiff - looking out onto Park Place

And, as an aside – for those of you who hate loud music in restaurants (my fellow tinnitus sufferers for example), the music was just at the right level to add atmosphere but not be intrusive.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Cardiff - print on wall

The Sunday lunch menu is reasonably priced and offers a select, but creative selection of dishes for starters, mains and desserts.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen sunday lunch menu

The Little Socks Kids’ Menu offers a great range of children’s favourites with a decent inclusion of fruit and veg.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Kids' Menu

The children choose Cheesy Toast Soldiers for their starter and these came piping hot in almost main meal size.  Ieuan,  who would never deign to eat ‘cheese on toast’ at home, was apparently fooled by the name change and wolfed his down.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Cheesy Toast Soldiers

Ieuan enjoying Cheesy Toast Soldiers at Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen

The change was midday ‘hangry’ to ‘more agreeable boy’ was instant.  I didn’t have too much luck getting either Caitlin or Ieuan to try the free and mustardy watercress garnish.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen - marinated tomato & mozzarella salad

I chose the marinated tomato and mozzarella salad and was pleased to discover that the mozzarella was a decent temperature (often it is served far too cold) and had a lovely almost crumbly texture.  The rocket pesto drizzled with olive oil which accompanied the salad had an almost garlicky taste which made the dish a far more interesting combination of tastes than a standard tomato salad.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Pressed Ham Hock Terrine

Mat had the pressed ham hock terrine with toasted ciabatta and pea shoots which was accompanied by a decent small chunk chutney.  The terrine was meaty and very tasty and was served in strips.

For our main course, Caitlin chose homemade fish fingers and Ieuan had the 4oz burger.  There’s a choice of mash, skinny fries or chunky chips and baked beans, peas or salad. You can probably guess what Caitlin and Ieuan opted for!

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen homemade fish fingers, beans and chips

The quality of both dishes was good and the portion size ample for children their size.  The meat in Ieuan’s burger was excellent – no standard, run-of-the-mill burger here.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Kids' Burger

Mat chose the sirloin of beef for his main course and it came in tender slices on a pile of roast potatoes accompanied by a large Yorkshire pudding, the sight of which made Caitlin’s eyes light up, and a red wine jus.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen - the sirloin of beef with yorkshire pudding and carrots

Not realising how generous the portion would be, Mat also ordered a side of root veg but he really didn’t need it.

All the mains with the exception of the pan-fried cod are served with a selection of vegetables & mashed potato.

I chose the vegetarian option, the goats’ cheese and spinach tart served with a white wine sauce.  The tart had a light pastry base and plenty of crumbled goats cheese on top.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Goats' Cheese & Spinach Tart

We were served mash, carrots, green beans and broccoli in generous side dishes served on a planchette and there was enough veg for all of us.  Even Ieuan had some carrots.  Well, I say some, approximately 3 pieces but progress is progress.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen - selection of vegetables in dishes

We managed to find some room for dessert and, with sticky toffee pudding being at the top of the dessert menu, it was a no-brainer for Mat.  It came piping hot and squidgy with a generous scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen sticky toffee pudding

I had the Madagascan vanilla cheesecake served with a raspberry purée.  The cheesecake was satisfyingly creamy without being too light.  The base was crumbly and the filling had a definite bite with the raspberry purée adding a nice contrast.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Madagascan Vanilla Cheesecake

From the Little Socks Kids’ Menu, Caitlin had Eton Mess, a blend of meringue, ice cream and strawberry which wasn’t too sweet and had a nice texture.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen Caitlin and her Eton Mess

Ieuan had an enormous chocolate brownie sundae (the brownie is mixed in with the ice cream) which he made short work of.

The service was great – Nicky and Lukasz looked after us wonderfully and were great with the kids.

We left feeling as if we had had a ‘proper’ Sunday lunch and at a very reasonable price.  It made such a nice change from pizza!  It was great to eat in relative peace and tranquillity compared to the often crammed restaurants in St. Davids 2.

Oddsocks Bar & Kitchen is definitely somewhere we will be visiting again.

Sunday lunch is available from 12 – 3 pm every Sunday.  You can make a Sunday lunch reservation by calling the hotel on 0044 161 774 2983.

An Evening At The Fox & Hounds Country Inn, Llancarfan

It’s been a while since I last reviewed one of my favourite pubs, The Fox & Hounds in Llancarfan – 2013 in fact and, since that time the pub has changed hands and branched out into B&B.

As I wrote back then, “there are some pubs and inns which become embedded in your consciousness as part of your history” and so it is with The Fox.

The Fox & Hounds in Llancarfan exterior

Blessed, as we inhabitants of The Vale of Glamorgan are to have beautiful countryside including many wonderful pubs and restaurants, it is always somewhat unsettling when one of your ‘sacred spots’ undergoes new management and things change from the long known and loved.

We haven’t stopped visiting over the succeeding years but in the last few months, The Fox seemed a little unsettled whilst the new management found their feet and decide how they wanted to take the place forward.  The menu became a little safe and just a little too “something for everyone”.

It was with some trepidation, therefore, that we returned last Saturday night hoping that The Fox would reclaim its joint crown with our other long-term favourite, The Bush Inn at St. Hilary.

Llancarfan itself is just so pretty even if the long track road from Five Mile Lane in Barry could do with some serious maintenance. The darkness, the stars, even the glow of Cardiff Airport in the distance all add to the romance of the descent into the village with its church and bubbling ford where the water of the Nantcarfan has caught more than one driver unawares when the river runs high.

The pub itself has seen some significant changes inside and despite being more spacious and accommodating more diners, has preserved the overall feel and atmosphere of the original nicely.  On Saturday the place was lit by candles and twinkly tea lights and both fires were roaring.

The new Fox and Hounds menu offers a pared down but satisfying selection of dishes and the specials blackboard is still in place where you can choose something seasonal and locally produced.

We were pleased to see the inclusion of the local pheasant as it seemed as if things were returning to the more ‘gastro’ experience we have come to associate with the place.

We’re not big on starters, preferring to have pudding instead so I chose from the main menu – the pan fried Salmon with an Autumn Ratatouille, Samphire, White Wine & Herb Cream which appeared piping hot and looking pretty as a picture.

Initially I wondered if the portion size was a little small and whether I should have ordered a side of extra veg but I needn’t have worried.  The salmon was cooked to perfection whilst the tomato in the Ratatouille offered a great contrast and the white wine and herb cream was delicate and didn’t overpower the dish.

The Husband chose the HPA Beer Battered Hake from the specials board.

Less picture perfect but it was a decent piece of fish with a crispy batter and the mushy peas had texture and were nice and hot.

If there is one area where I would have liked to see a little more choice it is the children’s menu.

To be fair, though, this is only an issue if you have a fussy eater like Ieuan.  There were no baked beans and while Caitlin opted for a side salad with her cod goujons this was a mix of leaves and nothing else. Ieuan had the same but stuck to the peas supplied – although we knew he wouldn’t eat many of them.

On to dessert and The Husband couldn’t resist Sticky Toffee Pudding with Stem Ginger Ice Cream and I chose the intriguing Chocolate Mousse with Black Cherry Sorbet & Chocolate Tuile.  The tuile was  crumbled through the mousse as well as decorating the top which added a nice texture.  The mousse was not too sweet and the black cherry sorbet was full of flavour.  The Husband’s Sticky Toffee Pudding vanished and was declared delicious.

The kids had a choice of either brownie, which Ieuan opted for or ice cream.  Caitlin chose Turkish Delight Flavour which appeared as just one scoop which was a little surprising as it was the same price as the brownie.

Both kids enjoyed their desserts though and together with coffee, two orange juice and lemonades, one beer and a very nice glass of Pinot Noir and a second scoop of ice cream for a certain young lady, the bill came to around £95.

Whilst the presentation isn’t as slick as it has been, the food was very good and our faith in The Fox has been restored.

The Husband travels widely with his work but The Fox & Hounds in Llancarfan remains at the top of his, and my list of favourite eateries.

Fox and Hounds Inn, Llancarfan

Tel: 01446 781287 enquiries@fandhllancarfan.co.uk

Open lunchtimes:  Wed to Sat from 12 pm to 2:30 pm; Sunday 12 pm to 3 pm. Closed Mondays

Dinner:  Monday to Saturday from 6:00 pm to 9 pm (8:30 pm on Sunday).

Note:  this is a completely independent review for which no payment was received.

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Relaxed Family Dining At Bill’s Restaurant, Cardiff Bay

I first visited Bill’s in Brighton just after my wedding in 2011.  I loved the eclectic mix of oils, olives and kitchen accoutrements and the simple, yet inventive menu with dishes you’d cook yourself at home. Fast forward 6 years and Bill’s has become part of the UK dining landscape with two branches in our home city of Cardiff, one in the centre and the other in Cardiff Bay.  We were delighted to be invited to dine at Bill’s Cardiff Bay restaurant.

Bill's Cardiff Bay Restaurant from the outside

We visited Bill’s Cardiff Bay restaurant last weekend.  Situated in the old Pilotage Building where Woods Brasserie used to run, the place has that slightly off-kilter feel that its town centre sister branch has.

Bill's Cardiff Bay Restaurant - an outside table

Caitlin and Ieuan outside Bill's, Cardiff Bay

Whilst the space is brightly lit and airy, there are lots of nooks and crannies to sit in, should you want some privacy.

Inside Bill's Restaurant, Cardiff Bay

On a dark and rather dismal Saturday night, Bill’s was lit by candlelight for its Candlelight & Cocktails promotion, however, our mission was, as ever, to feed the kids and get Ieuan out of his near-permanent state of ‘hangry-ness’.

Bill's Restaurant Cardiff Bay - interior - candlelit table

This has become more noticeable since he started playing football for Penarth Town Under 9s.  Caitlin is less worried about food as long as there’s ice cream and she has her lip balm with her.

Caitlin is 10 in November and Ieuan turned 8 in June so they are at an age where the children’s menu is often too small and the adults’ too big (or too expensive!).  Portion size is always a good test for us – as is the range and size of drinks on offer.

Partial shot of Bills menu

We’re not big on starters but are huge fans of olives so ordered some Giant Green Gordal Olives (£2.95).  These were plump, juicy and, mercifully, stoned. Mat decided to indulge his passion for calamari which came nicely covered in breadcrumbs with a tangy garlic mayo. Unfortunately, he failed to convert Caitlin and me to his cause.

In any case, the kids were happy with their Crispy Corn Tortilla Chips which came with nice fresh hummus and carrot and cucumber sticks.

Children’s lunch and dinner are served from 11:45 am and is priced at £6.95 for three courses to include an apple or orange juice.

Montage of starters at Bill's Restaurant Cardiff Bay

Both kids opted for an off the menu drink choice of orange juice and lemonade.

For our main course, Mat chose the lamb burger (£14.50) with whipped lemon feta, sweet chilli sauce, roasted red peppers, rocket, cucumber, red onion and tzatziki all served on a sesame bun with fries.  Mat added Smoked Streaky Bacon as an optional extra (£1.55).

Bill's Restaurant - lamb burger

The burger was tender, not overcooked and the bun was filled to bursting.

I chose the Bill’s Hamburger with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a secret sauce served in a sesame bun with fries (£10.50).  Now that the nights are drawing in (as my dad would say), I find the lure of the burger hard to resist and this one did not disappoint.  I would have liked a little extra side garnish but everything was piping hot and juicy.

Bill's Restaurant - Hamburger

Caitlin had Steak, Chips and a substitution of a side salad instead of peas.  We were impressed by the size of the flat iron steak she received.

Bill's Restaurant - children's steak and chips

Ieuan had Cod Fish Fingers with Fries and a salad instead of peas.  I have no idea what my kids have against peas but they won’t be swayed.  This does mean we would appreciate the option of baked beans but understandably, most restaurant chains try to encourage kids to at least try a vegetable or two which isn’t covered in tomato sauce.

Bill's restaurant - Ieuan eating cod fish fingers

The portion size was perfectly adequate, although I’m not sure Ieuan made much headway into the salad as usual.

That just left room for dessert and coffee for the adults.  Caitlin chose a Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae and Ieuan chose the Scoop of Ice Cream with a Bill’s Wafer. This was the one course where the kids agreed the portion size could have been bigger (no surprise there!).

Caitlin & Ieuan with their ice creams at Bill's

I chose the Banana & Honeycomb Cheesecake with Vanilla ice cream (£6.25) which the husband shared. The cheesecake base was nicely moist and the banana was a great complement to the ice cream.

Bill's restaurant - Banana & Honeycomb Cheesecake

Coffee rounded off a very relaxed evening and we had only to wander across the road to the multi-storey car park which, if you’re now as unused to wearing high heels as I am, is a blessing.

We really enjoyed our meal at Bill’s Cardiff Bay restaurant.  The kids’ menu is good value for money, although we would have liked to see a wider choice of drinks and possibly a double scoop of ice cream.

So what did the kids think?

Caitlin loved ‘everything’, but especially her steak – and the ice cream sundae. She loved dressing up with her mum and the candlelight made the whole experience quite special.

Ieuan’s take on the evening was that it was “awesome” and he loved the grown-up crispy batter on the fish fingers and of course the ice cream.  “I’d move in there”, he said solemnly, “imagine being able to have all your favourite foods all the time”.  Can’t think where he already gets that…

Big thanks to the staff who were lovely and attentive, despite the restaurant being full to the rafters on a Saturday night.

I’m hoping to find a babysitter so Mat and I can return to enjoy some cocktails by candlelight!

Bill's cocktail menu

For more information go to www.bills-website.co.uk.

*We were invited to dine as guests of Bill’s, Cardiff Bay.  Read more of our restaurant reviews here.

Time For G & Tea At Park Plaza Cardiff This National Afternoon Tea Week

It’s National Tea Week from the 14th – 20th August and the sound of cups clinking on saucers and the tinkle of pastry forks is likely to resonate through many a hotel.

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea at Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff

Afternoon Tea is one of those posh traditions which was introduced to the country by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford in 1840.  Anna found, quite reasonably in my view, that since dinner in her household wasn’t served until the fashionably late hour of 8 pm, she needed something to keep her going around 4.

Given our hectic lifestyles and the constant struggle to keep up with friends and family, afternoon tea is a great way of spending an hour or so in their company whilst eating beautifully prepared sandwiches and cakes. What’s not to like?

And the afternoon tea has been updated and made even more indulgent by the Park Plaza Hotel in Cardiff by the offering of the Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea.

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea - interior of Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff

Gin lovers will know that Hendrick’s is a distilled Scottish gin infused with rose and cucumber, as well as flowers, roots, botanicals and seeds from the world over.  It has a uniquely refreshing taste and the folk at Hendrick’s seem to revel in oddness and the unusual.

It’s totally fitting that a special afternoon tea should have been devised in its honour and one Sunday, the Husband and I went to test it to see if we could be converted to a tea with not a shred of caffeine (save in the gooey, chocolatey, coffee cake).

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea at Park Plaza Hotel, Cardiff

I always like walking into gleaming Park Plaza reception.  It’s usually calm but today the restaurant was absolutely buzzing.  We were ushered into one of the booths in the Laguna Bar where we were greeted by the very affable and incredibly helpful George.

I should mention at this point that, it being the school summer holiday, Caitlin and Ieuan were with us and on strict instructions to be on their best behaviour.  (No we didn’t give them gin).

George explained that our ‘tea’ would be the Hendrick’s Elderflower Collins, served in an elegant Hendrick’s teapot and cups and saucers.  The cocktail – tea is made from Hendrick’s Gin, St Germain elderflower liqueur, Maraschino liqueur, Lemon juice & soda served with sliced cucumber.

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea - pot, cups and saucers

The flavour is light and elegant with the delicate perfume of the elderflower which nicely balances the cucumber flavour of Hendrick’s gin.  It didn’t have a strong alcoholic ‘hit’ but it certainly revived us.

You can order the more usual tea beverage is you prefer and there is a selection of teas, both traditional and herbal, and coffee to choose from.

The food is served on a gleaming cake stand topped with two miniature lime jellies.  It’s quite a show stopper – quite enough to stop the kids in their tracks and start demanding a swop for a chicken goujon (no deal!).

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea Cake Stand

There is:

A selection of finger sandwiches (Severn & Wye Smoked Salmon, Cucumber, Dill & Cream Cheese, Free Range Egg Mayonnaise & Cress, Home Roasted Ham.

Freshly Baked Warm Sultana Scones served with Cornish Clotted Cream & Strawberry Preserve

Lime Jelly topped with mint & cucumber Chantilly cream

French macaroons

Chocolate Opéra gâteau

Strawberry tart filled with champagne pastry cream

George gave us his helpful suggestion to follow the sandwiches with the jelly as a palette cleanser and then return to the scones, French Macaroons and Chocolate Opera gateau, ending lastly with the strawberry tarts.

Everything was light and fresh – from the variety of breads used in the sandwiches to the subtle taste of the lime jelly.

The scones, dusted with icing sugar were warmed and light as air without the often present cloying ‘baking soda’ taste which sometimes coats your teeth. (I’ve eaten a fair few scones in my time – it’s my Cornish ancestry).

Hendrick's Gin Afternoon Tea Cake Stand

The Chocolate Opera Gateaux were squares of moist chocolate and coffee topped with a macaroon. The coffee taste was dark and strong which contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the macaroon.

Lastly the strawberry tartlets were light as air with a delicate champagne flavoured cream.

All of the food complimented the Hendrick’s ‘tea’.

I must admit that when I saw the cake stand arrive I wondered if we would be able to eat it all but, as afternoon teas go, the Duchess of Bedford would have been very happy with this one.

The Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea costs £21.95 per person but this National Afternoon Tea Week (14-21 August), Park Plaza Hotel Cardiff is offering a 15% discount of any spa treatment and use of the spa facilities at The Laguna Health & Spa

Personally I fancy a Laguna Hot Stone Back Massage and an Elemis Superfood Pre-Radiance facial.

To book an Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea, you can either book online or telephone 02920 111 103. Afternoon teas are served daily in the Laguna Bar from 1.00 pm until 5:30 pm.

*Mat and I were invited to sample the Hendrick’s Gin Afternoon Tea as guests of Park Plaza Hotel Cardiff

Review: Finding Iggy & Friends At Las Iguanas, Cardiff Bay

I have to confess I haven’t eaten at Las Iguanas for years and was a bit unsure what to expect.  Back in the 90’s (!) I remember lots of guacamole and refried beans.  Plus, there was now the additional challenge of two decidedly fussy eaters to consider.

Mat, Caitlin & Ieuan outside Las Iguanas Restaurant, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff
It’s July so obviously we have an umbrella & this is Ieuan’s “feed me now” face

Lured by the promise of one of the new limited edition collectibles from Aardman Studios, Iggy & Friends and the fact that kids eat free this summer when the adults choose a main course from the A La Carte Menu, we decided to try something other than pizza for a change.

Ieuan and Las Iguanas cocktail promo board at Mermaid Quay, Cardiff
No that is not a strawberry milkshake Ieuan

Las Iguanas in Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, is set on the corner of a run of restaurants and commands a great view over the bay and the crowds milling to and fro.  It is bright, airy and decorated in a kind of Brazilian feel with lots of wood and warm colours.

Interior of Las Iguanas Restaurant, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay
The restaurant was already full of lots of families with young children

When we arrived on a Saturday lunchtime, the place was already buzzing and we were given a great table right by one of the floor to ceiling windows.

The light, airy interior of Las Iguanas, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff

There is certainly plenty of choice.  In fact there is so much choice, it took us a good while to decide what to have. Luckily our server, Kasia, was friendly and patient, particularly when explaining to Ieuan that the cocktail he’d spotted with fresh watermelon in the glass was alcoholic and not served to 8 year olds.

I always think that kids menus can be a little unimaginative and our two are at the difficult age when, at 9 and 8, their appetites don’t always match the portion size of either the adult portion or the child’s. You are then faced with either ordering an extra side or an adult pudding to compensate.

No such problems at Las Iguanas.  The ‘Ninos Meal’ costs £5.90 and includes a main course, dessert and a drink.

The children's menu at Las Iguanas
The children’s menu

The kids’ menu has a number of vegetarian and one gluten free option (the Wacky Tacos) and in among the usual children’s favourites there are a fair few ‘different’ choices – for example they can have a ‘Crazy Quesadilla’ which is a tortilla, folded, chargrilled and filled with a choice of cheese and cherry tomatoes, chicken and cheese or garlicky chilli, thyme mayonnaise and melted cheese, served with corn chips.

Although there is a lunch menu served until 6:30 pm each day featuring smaller versions of some of the A La Carte dishes, the Husband and I opted to eat off the main menu to take advantage of the kids eat free offer.

There is LOADS of choice – and at various levels of spiciness.

We had some Peruvian Botija Olives (in a herby marinade) whilst we made our selection.

Peruvian Botija Olives at Las Iguanas

Whether you want a Taco Plank (tortillas served with various toppings), a selection of Tapas, steak or chicken from the grill, burgers, Mexican classics, Brazilian dishes or salads, there really is something for everyone.

Sample menus from Las Iguanas
Just some of the wide range of menu options

In fact, I’d say Las Iguanas is not really a restaurant you can fully experience in one sitting.  The Husband is already planning to return to try the Tapas.

I chose Blazing Bird (£13.50), half a succulent spicy chicken kept nicely moist by a tangy barbecue sauce, served with my choice of curly fries and a creamy slaw.

Blazing Bird half chicken at Las Iguanas restaurant
Blazing Bird

The Husband had fajitas with marinated steak strips (£17.50), freshly cooked to order in a mix of spices, onions and peppers.  It came sizzling with guacamole, grated cheese, soured cream, jalapenos, roasted tomato salsa and wheat tortillas.

The steak was lovely and tender and nicely complemented by the selection of spicy accompaniments. The four tortillas made it a very generous portion.

Steak Fajitas at Las Iguanas
Steak Fajitas

Caitlin chose Cod Bites – battered cod chunks with a creamy mayonnaise dip and fries, whilst Ieuan is going through a ‘cheeseburger phase’ and opted for the beef burger in a toasted buttery brioche bun, topped with melted cheese and served with fries and a ketchup dip. The portion sizes were certainly generous for our two.

Caitlin and Ieuan enjoying their kids meals at Las Iguanas
t’s safe to say the kids enjoyed themselves

The Husband finished his meal with coffee but I tried the Maracuya Mess (£5.00), layers of passion fruit mousse, berry compote and crushed meringue.  The kids opted for a Strawberry mini milk ice lolly and Raspberry Jelly.   Just enough after all we’d just consumed.

Maracuya Mess and kids desserts at Las Iguanas Mermaid Quay, Cardiff

The kids were introduced to Iggy and Friends designed by Aardman Studios. Iggy, is Las Iguanas’ mascot and he and his Latin pals; Tumble the Tapir, Banana the Llama, Mick the Jaguar, Mischief the Monkey and Santiago the Sloth, were all named by diners in a recent competition. They have now come to life as 3D collectibles, each with an unmistakably ‘Aardman’ expression.

Iggy & Friends Aardman collectibles from Las Iguanas
Collect Iggy & Friends

There are six toys to collect and younger visitors (suitable for the over 3s) will be able to choose one character each time they enjoy a meal from the Iggy & Friends menu from 22nd July while stocks last.

Caitlin & Ieuan outside Las Iguanas Mermaid Quay, Cardiff bay

And don’t forget that kids eat free if the adults choose from the A La Carte Menu.

 

We really enjoyed our meal and are looking forward to returning.  I’ve never seen Ieuan clear his plate so quickly.

 

More information:  www.lasiguanas.co.uk.  Book online or for the Mermaid Quay branch

tel: 02920459165.  Email mermaidquay@iguanas.co.uk.

 

*We were invited to try the new kids menus by Las Iguanas.  All thoughts and experiences are, as usual, uniquely ours.

Review: Treat Your Valentine At Beefeater Grill

Now after a certain number of years with your partner (months if you’re a celebrity), the romance may well fade slightly and, come Valentines Day, the onus is on the least romantic partner to pull their socks up and prove that they still know how to show their loved one a good time.

Beefeater Walston Castle Wenvoe

If you are a parent and the number of babysitters in your area is somewhere in the region of zero to one, this rekindling has to be done with the kids in tow.

Outside the Beefeater Grill Walston Castle
Ieuan is still firmly in his Harry Potter phase

Luckily for the Husband, we were invited to review our local Beefeater Grill, the Walston Castle in Wenvoe in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Menu outside Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Conveniently situated next door to a very reasonably priced Premier Inn, the Walston Castle is just a stone’s throw from Dyffryn Gardens (National Trust) and just a short drive away from Cardiff and Cowbridge with its designer boutiques and shops.

Founded in 1974, Beefeater is one of those brands that has been around for so long that I suspect it may not always be first choice when thinking of somewhere to eat, particularly given the competition from other food chains like Cafe Rouge, Prezzo, Zizzi and the fast food companies.   It had been such a long time since we had eaten at a Beefeater, we weren’t quite sure what to expect.

The large car park is well sign-posted and it is possible to park close to both the hotel and restaurant entrances – always a bonus if you have prams or wheelchairs to think about.

Once inside, we found the restaurant to be spacious, clean and well set out.  There was also some quirky artwork on the walls to give the place a more personal feel.

Artwork Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
Don’t worry it’s true.  Ieuan’s checked.

Ieuan’s first question to Jane, our server, was whether it was indeed possible to eat there until the cows came home.  Cue a discussion about what time cows come home.  Nipping a discussion of modern dairy farming methods in the bud (since we stayed at Hollings Hill dairy farm last summer, Ieuan regards himself as an expert), we took a look at the menu.

Artwork Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

As you might expect, steak is a speciality of the Beefeater, although there are some vegetarian options such as the Veg-Out Burger (£8.99) or the Baked Veggie Enchiladas (£9.79).  We found the menu to be extensive with something for everyone.  You can check the dietary elements of each dish on the Beefeater website which is very handy.

There are a number of choices that are ideal for sharing with your date.  There’s Sharing Potato Dippers (£7.99) – potato dippers with melted cheese, spring onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, sour cream & chive and red onion. Or how about Freshly Grilled Tear & Share Flatbread (£4.49) in Chimichurri, Garlic or BBQ Pulled Pork varieties and the Ribs & Wings Combo (£14.49) – sticky duck wings, spiced chicken wings, bourbon BBQ ribs, chunky slaw and chilli & lime seasoned mini corn on the cob with piri piri and blue cheese dips.

On the basis that foregoing a starter entitles you to dessert the Husband ordered the 8oz fillet steak with chunky chips (£19.49) and a herby Chimichurri sauce on the side.  There is a good choice of sauces, for an extra 99p.

Filet Steak & Chips - Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
The husband was in far too much of a hurry to get to his steak to take a decent picture for me!

All Beefeater steaks are served with half a slow roasted tomato, grilled mushroom, lamb’s lettuce, salad and unlimited triple cooked chips or skinny fries.  There is no excuse for not sharing your chips and a very good excuse for your partner to help you clear your plate.

Each steak is hand-cut each and aged for 21 days and Beefeater trains all of their chefs in their very own steak academy.

I ordered Smothered Chicken Melt (£11.29) – chargrilled chicken breast glazed with smoky BBQ sauce and loaded with streaky bacon and Monterey Jack cheese. It came with triple cooked chips, chunky slaw and a side salad.

Smotherd Chicken Melt - Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

I was also tempted by the Signature Slow-Cooked Beef Chilli (£9.49) – slow-cooked beef in a mildly spiced chilli sauce served on a bed of basmati rice with spring onions, red chillies, guacamole, sour cream and crisp corn tortilla chips and the Oven-Baked Seabass (£14.49) – seabass fillet steamed in a pouch with courgettes and cherry tomatoes and served on a bed of thinly sliced potatoes with a crunchy Greek salad.

For the children there is an extensive Mr Men inspired menu from £4.49 with plenty of choice. There’s also a 16 page activity booklet to keep them quiet whilst you reminisce about your great romantic highlights.

Kids menu Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Caitlin and Ieuan had strawberry and chocolate milkshakes and they both had garlic bread to start.

Milkshakes Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Ieuan eating garlic bread Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

For their main course, Ieuan chose Mr Perfect’s Popin Chicken with chips and baked beans and Caitlin chose Little Miss Trouble’s Tomato Penne Pasta.  I particularly liked that there is a range of items you can substitute the chips and beans for (although good luck with that) such as an option to have mashed potato or peas.

Mr Perfect's Popin' Chicken Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Having cleared our plates we turned our attention to desserts – and there is a fabulous selection – many just right for sharing. The Husband is always wary of sharing a dessert with me because he claims he only ends up with about 20% of the pudding.  I refute this absolutely.

Anyway,  he chose the Raspberry Bakewell Tart with custard (£5.49) – a slice of bakewell with a light pastry base, raspberry jam, pistachios and almond flavoured sponge, served warm with custard.

Raspberry Bakewell Tart Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

I had the Warm Chocolate Brownie (£4.59) – served with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.

Warm Chocolate Brownie Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Both were delicious and I must confess, not a lot of sharing occurred. There is a large selection of sundaes though which are just right for two spoons.

Sundae menu Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

From the Kids’ Menu, Ieuan chose Mr Jelly’s Wobble Jelly and Ice Cream and Caitlin picked Funny Face ice cream which came with mini smarties and strawberry laces.

Caitlin eating Funny Face ice cream Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Caitlin eating strawberry laces Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
Probably not ideal date behaviour

We really enjoyed our meal at the Beefeater Walston Castle.  The food was fresh and was piping hot. The restaurant was clean and the atmosphere nicely relaxing – no blaring disco music to ruin the intimacy.  The staff were friendly, attentive and good with the kids.  (Big thanks to Jane and Eddie).

Our meal came to £75 for 4 which included a sparkling water, a large glass of Malbec wine (I don’t care what the Daily Mail says), two Costa coffees and an extra milkshake each for the kids.

The Husband often visits steak restaurants when working away in London and was favourably impressed with the quality of the steak he received at Beefeater.

Valentine napkins Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe
Save money on Valentines Cards – get the kids to make them.

We thought the meal was very good value and we would certainly consider going there again. It’s a great date-night venue. Beefeater Grill is certainly back on our list of places to eat out.

Now if only I could find that babysitter …..

Linda & Ieuan Hobbis at Beefeater Grill Walston Castle Wenvoe

Further information about your local Beefeater Grill is at www.beefeater.co.uk.  For the Beefeater Walston Castle, telephone 02920 593896 or you can book a table online.

There is also a reward club where you are entitled to a free meal on your birthday, 5 points for every pound spent and 300 points on activation of the card.

Brewers Fayre, Barry – A Real Family Affair

Now when you have an extra teenager (lovely cousin Georgia) staying, as well as my very own Dennis the Menace and Minnie The Minx (Ieuan and Caitlin), it’s nice to find somewhere that caters for all tastes and appetites.

This is particularly important since Ieuan has the eating habits of an 80 year old, toothless dowager duchess and Caitlin is still in the throes of her ‘ice cream with everything’ phase. (Please remain calm dental hygenists – the riot act is read regularly about the risks to your teeth about enjoying desserts a little too much).

Happily we were invited by Brewers Fayre to reacquaint ourselves with our local restaurant just a stones’ throw (unless you’re rubbish at throwing, like I am) from Barry Island (or Barrybados as we almost locals like to think of it).  It is also, handily, right next door to a Premier Inn.

What I like about this particular Brewers Fayre is that it is spacious, immaculately clean and the staff are friendly, upbeat and genuinely look like they are happy to be there. The restaurant is designed with clearly designated areas, a ‘zone’ for coffee or fizzy drinks, a large bar and a separate area for the carvery.

The menu is vast and it took us a good quarter of an hour to decide what we’d like.  This was also because the kids were happily colouring their Beano Comics and regaling us with the jokes inside.

Because it was a Saturday, the weekly meal deals were not available but even so, everything was reasonably priced.

The kids menu is very good value and, sensibly, is priced according to the number of courses.  Given the generous portion sizes, this means that you’re not ordering food that then goes to waste.  You can have a main meal for £3.99, 2 courses for £4.49 or 3 courses for £4.99.

Caitlin chose a strawberry Starslush (like a Slush Puppy) and Ieuan had a chocolate Yazoo (which, 80’s pop fans, made me think of Alison Moyet).  Caitlin had tomato soup with crusty bread as her starter and Ieuan had the Gn-achos, cheesy nachos with a tomato dip.

 

Is it just me or do other parents only discover their kids’ tastes in meals have changed when they go out to eat?  Caitlin’s soup was rapidly dispatched whilst I sat there saying “but you don’t usually like soup”. “Well,” she announced, “I have had it before you know”.

For main courses, Caitlin had Popin Chicken (chicken, chips and baked beans) and Ieuan had the Cod-apult (love the Dennis The Menace inspired names) which was crispy cod bites, chips and beans (substituted for peas).  Both meals came piping hot and with a generous portion size.

Cousin Georgia chose the Ultimate Sausage & Mash from the main menu which was a giant Yorkshire filled with Smithfield pork sausages, mash and caramelised onions, all served up with cabbage and gravy (£8.29).

The Husband had Hand Battered Atlantic Cod & Chips, the fish being hand battered to order and served with tartare sauce and a choice of garden or mushy peas (£8.99).  The fish came wrapped in its own paper which I thought was a fun touch.

I was feeling rather delicate and it was one of those days when only comfort food would do so I chose Sausage, Egg & Chips, 3 sausages, 2 fried eggs, chips and garden peas (£6.49).  The sausages were good quality and meaty and the eggs fried just the right side of runny.

For dessert, Caitlin had a strawberry sundae (of course) and Ieuan has the Tricky Mini Doughnuts which came with a dish of melted chocolate sauce and a dish of sprinkles (or hundreds and thousands as we used to call them before we unfortunately had to go metric).  This was also a surprise as, usually, nothing but a chocolate brownie will do.

Georgia had been beaten by the Ultimate Sausage & Mash so I had a cappuccino and was allowed to share the Husband’s treacle tart which came nicely warmed and was served with vanilla ice cream (£3.99).

We also had a Diet 7-up, a Diet Coke and the Husband had a pint of Stella. My Diet Coke came with unlimited refills, as did my cappuccino (which was a Costa coffee).

Ieuan pretending to be Usain Bolt.  

 The total bill came to £54.17 which, for 5 of us was very good value indeed.

If I had any quibbles at all, it would be that there are a couple of vending machines aimed at kids which meant that Ieuan had a minor strop because we wouldn’t let him play with them, and the radio is piped into the Ladies Toilet quite loudly which is ever so slightly off-putting, although singing along to Katy Perry is a bit of a novelty in that situation.

I would definitely recommend Brewers Fayre as a no-fuss, clean and welcoming eaterie for the family – including the kids!  Good food and great value.  We’ll be back.

Further information is available on the Brewers Fayre website at www.brewersfayre.co.uk, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/brewersfayre or on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brewersfayre.


We were invited to dine as guests of Brewers Fayre but all opinions are our own.

A Quick Lunch At Zizzi Cardiff Bay

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon today so we extracted the Husband from his working quarters (our loft) for a lunch at one of our favourite family eateries, Zizzi Cardiff Bay.

Now, hands up, I did intend to do a more thorough review than this but we were, in all honesty, hungry and anyway, it will be no hardship at all to return to Zizzi’s.

Anyway, this should give you a flavour of the place and because it seems to be a little quieter in the day than neighbouring Pizza Express, it’s well worth having Zizzi’s as what I like to think of as a reserve in your “will put up with your offspring” restaurant arsenal.

Zizzi Cardiff Bay interior signage

Zizzi Cardiff Bay is to be found in Mermaid Quay and is bright and airy with a fabulous view over the Bay.  I love it when the sun sparkles on the sea.  It makes the Bay feel quite continental.

Zizzi Cardiff Bay exterior signage

Zizzi Cardiff Bay restaurant interior

Zizzi Cardiff Bay menu blackboard promoting summer cocktails

With his usual quest to sit somewhere with the most risk to his personal safety, Ieuan decided we’d sit on the high backed, blue pastel chairs but they were surprisingly comfortable and, happily, he didn’t fall off.

The children’s menu came on a printed sheet with colouring and puzzles to keep them occupied.

Ieuan at Zizzi Cardiff Bay

Ieuan and Power Ranger at Zizzi Cardiff Bay

I think the barman may be coveting Ieuan’s Power Ranger.

Caitlin at Zizzi Cardiff Bay

Zizzi Cardiff Bay printed summer specials menu

Mat and Linda Hobbis at Zizzi Cardiff Bay

Zizzi Cardiff Bay kids' menu

 The kids’ menu is £6.75 for three courses and both our two opted for the mini pizza.

Caitlin's drawn upon menu at Zizzi Cardiff Bay

Caitlin’s latest masterpiece.  Ieuan did his customary Incredible Hulk green angry scribble.

The children’s starter, dough sticks, come with carrot and cucumber batons.  Yes.  That really is Ieuan eating carrot.

The Husband chose the bruschetta as his starter and had polished it off before I had a chance to wield the camera!  I can tell you it was light and fresh with sweet baby tomatoes and a generous helping of cheese.

My main course was the Skinny Pizza Pollo Roquito – chicken, roquito chillies, Fior di Latte Mozzarella, sliced asparagus, baby watercress and fresh oregano.  Under 550 calories (still quite high but still…) plus 25p of the cost of the pizza (£10.25) goes to Cancer Research UK.

It came with a lovely fresh side salad with spiralized beetroot and radishes.

One slight oddity about the online menus is that you have to click to bring up the prices and select your local restaurant.  I’m not quite sure why the prices just aren’t displayed next to the dish unless there is considerable regional variation in prices across the country, which I can’t imagine a chain such as this doing.

The Husband chose Strozzapretti Pesto Rosso (£9.95) – spicy piccante chicken, red pesto, creme fraiche and spring onions which were creamy and delicious with just the right amount of ‘bite’.

Caitlin had great fun decorating her mini pizza with her chosen toppings of olives and ham.

 This is where the cunning plan went a bit wrong.  Just as I was about to reach for the dessert menu (and the kids could have chosen ice cream or a Zizzi Bambini Cone), the pair of them vanished out of the door, having spotted the Cardiff Bay Beach with its fairground rides.

This left me to pay the bill whilst the Husband legged it after the miscreants.  We have just invested in a Tastecard which gives 50% off the bill or, here in Zizzi’s 2 for 1 on main courses.  The total bill came to £44.40 which included one large glass of rose wine, a small beer, a glass of milk and a diet coke.

Now you see them,  now they’ve legged it to the fair.

Oh well, never mind.  I will just have to go back to check out the desserts.  All in the name of research of course.

Further information: Zizzi’s in Cardiff Bay is based in Unit 8, Mermaid Quay, CF10 5BZ.  Tel: 02920 462232. You can tweet Zizzi @WeAreZizzi and they are on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wearezizzi.

This is a completely independent review.  You can find more of our restaurant reviews here.

Review: Ed’s Easy Diner, Cardiff

Ed’s Easy Diner in St. David’s Shopping Centre, Cardiff.  A little bit of Americana here in the UK, although Ed’s started in Soho, London over 25 years ago.  Its interior lures you with shiny chrome and a red and white colour scheme.

There are neon lights a plenty, a retro jukebox from which you can select your favourite 50’s classic (and the money goes to charity) and the chance to blow the diet and indulge in comfort food as pleasing to families as I suspect it is to students suffering from the night before.

Leaving aside the risk that listening to “Tell Laura I Love Her” might dampen your enthusiasm for giant portions burgers and steaming hot fries, the atmosphere when we went (a Saturday lunchtime) was buzzing. Incidentally why do so many of the 1950’s classic love songs involve dying horribly in accidents?  Just a thought.

I may be hiding in this picture somewhere

What I love about Ed’s is that is does not pretend to be something it is not.  Aside from a nod to ‘gluten free’ and a small selection of salads,  this is food to expand the waistband and reassure you that ice cream does indeed solve many of life’s little problems.

The staff (clearly unaffected by the more mournful ballads) were cheerful and upbeat.  There was a queue outside and a fast turnover.

Drinks arrived swiftly (diet coke, sparkling water, lemonade and milk) in generous sized glasses, whilst the kids were kept occupied by the obligatory kids menu / puzzle sheet.

The kids menu differs from the others we have tried (for example, Prezzo and Carluccio’s) in that menu choices are priced individually.  A Junior Burger, Puppy Dog (junior hotdog) or Chicken Tenders are £4.45 and come served with a choice of Fries or Salad.  Desserts are Junior Sundaes (two scoops of ice cream with a choice of sauce) at £1.95 or there are junior milkshakes (£2.05) or a choice of soft drink and milk.  This is slightly more expensive in that drinks are not included but the main and dessert comes to a pretty average £6.40.

Caitlin had the Chicken Tenders and Ieuan chose the Puppy Dog.  Both dishes arrived piping hot with generous portions.

Ignoring the fact that Dr. Ranj would probably have palpitations if such a meal were a regular occurrence, the kids dug in.

The Husband chose the monthly special burger – a Cajun Burger (regular at 5oz) at £6.95 with an extra order of classic fries – £2.95, onion rings at £3.45 and coleslaw – £1.

In his usual style, this was made short work of.  The quality of the burger was perfectly acceptable and a step above the standard burgers served by other well known fast food restaurants. The salad garnish was fresh and the cajun mayo was well spiced.

I had the Pulled Pork Sub Plate – £10.95 – BBQ pulled pork in a large sub roll, chunky fries, BBQ sauce and coleslaw.  The roll was smothered in cheese sauce.

This was absolutely delicious.  The pulled pork melted in the mouth and the onion rings are deliciously sweet.  I could have done with marginally less cheese sauce but the BBQ sauce was tangy and the coleslaw fresh.

On to desserts.  Ieuan has a passion for chocolate brownies so he had an adult size portion of Brownie Points (chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s Chocolate Sauce) – £4.65, whilst Caitlin and I had a strawberry Junior Sundae each (£1.95) and the Husband had his favourite, pancakes with maple syrup and ice cream at £4.95.

Obviously I couldn’t leave Ieuan to eat all this unsupervised and I can report that the brownie was moist and gooey and just the right temperature.

The ice cream and strawberry sauce were good quality and did not have a synthetic taste.

The Husband reports that his pancakes were hot, tasty and went down a treat.

We had a great time at Ed’s Easy Diner.  It’s a fun dining experience, ideal to give the kids an occasional treat.  The place was clean and the staff were lovely.  One small comment, there are no toilets (you know me by now!) on the premises, however, a quick scoot back out into the shopping centre and round the corner brings you to the public toilets which were, on this occasion, full of young girls preparing themselves to see One Direction later in the evening.  Ieuan was most impressed by this.  We would certainly visit Ed’s again although I really hope someone has told Laura he loves her by then.

Further information can be found at www.edseasydiner.com.  We visited as guests of Ed but the opinions in this review are our own.