Jay Rayner restaurant review

I thought I would share the latest restaurant review by Jay Rayner (the Observer) of the Potted Pig in Cardiff. Although it’s a little above my price range (!), it’s good to see quality restaurants are starting to spring up in Cardiff…

 

Opposite the Potted Pig in Cardiff is a branch of High and Mighty, the clothes shop for vast men with their own measurable gravitational field. It was a touching sight in these bland pedestrianised streets at the heart of the Welsh capital, about which nobody will ever write a sonnet, as if it were a marker for largesse in the immediate vicinity…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/nov/20/jay-rayner-potted-pig-cardiff

 

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Salt ‘N’ Pepper Grill

An ‘all you can eat’ buffet is a bit like a conversation with your grandparents. You have them from time to time, but there comes a point when you just can’t take any more.

This is very much the feeling at Salt ‘N’ Pepper.

The restaurant is on City Road and is surrounded by a range of other curry houses and takeaways. Inside, is a large and spacious dining area, with a central counter from which you choose your food.

"Authentic" Salt 'N' Pepper

The food was in a series of metal containers, which were positioned around a small area where the chef was preparing some of the  dishes. A nice touch.

The first plate of food I got comprised of Sag Aloo, a chickpea ‘mash-up’, Seekh Kebab, Naan bread and multi-coloured prawn crackers, which were just bizarre.

I tentatively went up for seconds. The next plate of food I got consisted of Chicken Chilli Masala, which just resembled a basic chicken stew. Also on the plate were fish Pakora‘s and Pilau rice; the only redeeming components of an otherwise disappointing buffet experience.

Usually, at an ‘all you can eat’ buffet, you stop eating because you cannot physically eat anymore. But there is a part of you that feels guilty for not exploiting the offer. Perhaps because you feel you are wasting the opportunity.

But at Salt N Pepper, I wasn’t full and there was no part of me that felt guilty for not taking advantage of the unlimited amount of food. I just wanted to go home.

My friend said to me afterwards: “Yes well it did the job.” A meal out for £9, shouldn’t just “do the job.” I wasn’t expecting a fine dining experience, but I was expecting a meal which I didn’t regret.

This all culminated with the waiter charging us for the use of a glass for our ‘bring your own booze’! Unbelievable.

Indian buffets can be brilliant and I have been to a few which really are, but if the food is sub-standard with the prices still fairly competitive, as ‘all you can eat’ buffet prices go, then it just falls flat on its face.

Money Spent: £8.99 ( plus £1 for the glass)

Rating: 3/10

Chai Street

I thought reviewing Chai Street would be a good idea, as it is the sister restaurant of Mint and Mustard. I wanted to see how it compared to its “fine dining” bigger sibling!

Chai Street is situated on the same road as Mint and Mustard, but serves a very different purpose. The restaurant is aimed at people who are on the go and want fast service and those seeking good-value authentic food, which the menu really does reflect.

An example of the snack-style food

I ordered the Chicken Thali Lunch and at just £5.95, I was intrigued as to what it would consist of. There were four dishes: a creamy appetiser, a moderately spicy chicken curry, a Dal dish (lentil based stew) and a potato dish mixed with a variety of spices.

These dishes were all small portions, accompanied by a compact mound of rice and delicious Chappati bread, all served on a large platter.

A mini feast!

The chicken was cooked well, but the sauce lacked flavour. I resorted to mixing the chicken with the creamy sauce I was given on the side (pictured on the far left). I moved on.

The vegetable dish  was excellent. It was a Bombay potato-styled side dish, which not only complemented the chicken, it would also have been just as flavoursome on its own. This was accompanied by the lentil stew, which added variety to the rest of the platter.

Afterwards, I spoke to the restaurant’s manager, Vipin Vasueevan, who told me the concept behind Chai Street was to mirror the style of street food, commonly found in India. He explained: “Street food in India is more tasty, more authentic and cheaper.”

I was certain Chai Street was aimed at the professional man or woman, in a rush on their lunch break, but he rightly pointed out that Chai Street was not just for the professional, it was also highly popular with the student population as well. “Here, you can have a good meal for £10”, he said. They also announced a 10% student discount, last week.

Chai Street may be run by the same managerial team as Mint and Mustard, but the style of the food served at Chai Street is very different. Chai Street resembles a cafe more than a restaurant and prides itself on casual service, but at the same time delivering the sort of fast, tasty food, which people on the go can enjoy.

You may wonder how many people on Whitchurch Road are ‘on the go’ and compared with the city centre there can’t be a lot, but word is spreading quickly about Chai Street and about what it has to offer. This is the sort of establishment, which should become very popular in the next few years. Cheap food, yet a justified sense of authenticity.

Cafe rather than a restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Money Spent: £5.95

Rating: 8/10

iSpice

In case you are yet to read the informative, critical and smartly-written blog that is iSpice, I attach the link to the site:

http://www.ispice.org/

The latest review of the Red Pepper Indian restaurant in Adamsdown, really isn’t one to miss. If you, like me, are a fan of Indian cuisine then a look at iSpice’s latest review should tickle your palette (or not as the case may be!)

 

‘iSpice’ (a James Chapple creation)

 

An extra portion of Mint and Mustard

I have had a number of responses from readers about my review of Mint and Mustard. I feel I need to clarify my general point about the food and about the restaurant.

The food was excellent. There was nothing I could fault about the food itself, but the way the restaurant describes its food, as “redefining Indian cuisine“, is misleading.

If Mint and Mustard has redefined Indian cuisine then the future of Indian cooking will be bleak and short-lived.

This may seem like a pretty brutal attack on the restaurant, but it is not. I am purely quoting Mint and Mustard’s slogan and suggesting they change it to something more appropriate! It builds up a false sense of high-class dining in the prospective customer’s mind.

I recommend going to Mint and Mustard, but I would rather you went there expecting very little instead of far too much. This way you will be pleasantly surprised.

Mint and Mustard

Mint and Mustard was set up in 2008 and classes itself as a restaurant, which “redefines” traditional  Indian cuisine.

This is a bold statement for any restaurant, let alone one in Cardiff.

The location of a restaurant is important and even essential to the experience of fine dining and Mint and Mustard is no exception.

The front of the restaurant

The restaurant is located on Whitchurch Road, which is not a poor area in Cardiff, but neither is it in a prosperous or expensive area. The restaurant is a modest and fairly small building, with the interior decor resembling a middle of the row takeaway.

I decided to order the Nadan Kozhi curry, with the Kesaria Pilav rice.
I was expecting a disc of rice and finely cut strips of chicken, drizzled with a colourful and perfectly measured amount of sauce, yet I was given what looked like a fairly bog-standard curry, the sort you would order after a night out. Panic.

The chicken was perfectly cooked. It was flavoursome, tender, with an interesting range of Indian spices and the sauce complemented it very well. I was surprised, but nevertheless, impressed.

I wanted to know more about the restaurant, so I asked the restaurant manager, Prashant Shankar, what sort of atmosphere he wanted to create in the restaurant. He replied: “a friendly atmosphere, but at the same time one that’s casual.”

This description seemed to fit with the restaurant, but to be honest, it could fit with most restaurants in the world. I asked another question.

What made you choose this location? “We want it to be relaxed and out of the way of the hustle and bustle of the city, said Mr Shankar. Fair enough.

I kept getting responses such as this, which was fine, but it didn’t really convince me. Mr Shankar also insisted on telling me about the numerous awards Mint and Mustard had won, which are undoubtedly impressive, but I have eaten there first hand so I didn’t need to know about the various accolades. I can look them up on the internet when I get back if I want to.

The food was brilliant and I cannot fault the expertise of the chef (who is trained in one of India’s top culinary schools, The Oberoi Vanyavilas), but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it has “redefined Indian cuisine.”

The food was tasty, but it lacked the first-class creativity, which would really promote it to the top of Cardiff’s restaurant scene. It seems as though the management are more concerned with the awards they get, than the food they serve.

The food was fairly pricey, but for the quality of food you are getting, it was reasonable. I suppose. For instance, a group of students who came into the restaurant as I was waiting for my curry, looked at the menu and immediately left.

It is more of a place to treat yourself to, on occasion, rather than a place to go after a few drinks with the lads. I recommend it, but don’t expect to be eating in Cardiff’s new, top restaurant. You will be disappointed.

Money Spent: £14.25

Rating: 7/10