Purple Poppadom

Purple Poppadom is renowned Cardiff chef, Anand George’s, latest creation.

After opening in December, Purple Poppadom has excited Cardiff foodies, with its “nouvelle Indian cuisine.”

Ordinarily you would be sceptical of a place which makes such a claim, but Purple Poppadom has good reason to.

On their website they describe their style of cooking as: “traditional Indian cuisine with a modern twist” and this was clearly displayed not only in the taste of the food but also in the presentation.

My guest and I were treated to a new taster menu with wine, which the restaurant was giving a trail run to, in anticipation of Valentine’s Day.

The wines, which were all from the Bordeaux region of France, were provided by Fine Wines Direct, an independent company based in Cardiff. Before each glass we were talked through the wine and how it would accompany the various dishes.

The Bordeaux region is famed for its red wine but interestingly, the chosen wine only included one glass of red, with the rest either being white, rosé or sweet wine. This turned out to be an inspired choice and it is clear that the region offers a lot more than just red wine.

The menu consisted of six courses, with interludes in between. It was logical. We started with a plated trio of Broccoli florets accompanied by Broccoli croquette and Broccoli mousse.  The florets were excellent and made a seemingly basic vegetable very interesting. Purple Poppadom has a knack for this sort of transformation. The florets were crispy and still retained a degree of moisture in the broccoli, making it taste superb. They manage to turn a plain dish into something that looks and, ultimately tastes, spectacular. The broccoli croquette had a soft taste to it, which was set against a crispy outer layer. The mousse was fluffy and when added to the croquette and the florets, gave it a perfect finish.

This was then followed by Keralan spiced, pan seared Mackerel, with a mango salsa and a Mackerel Pakora with cumin and garlic flavoured green peas. The Mackerel was oily, which was matched, perfectly, by the cool mango salsa. Many people are sceptical of fish in Indian cuisine, but it is really worth a try. Fish, combined with interesting seasoning, is a must for anyone eating out at a good Indian restaurant. Indian cuisine, in particular, accommodates fish dishes, because of the spices it uses. They bring out the full flavour of the fish and add an edge to the overall taste. The cumin and garlic flavoured green peas combined well with the Mackerel Pakora and acted as a good accompaniment to the seared Mackerel. The Pakora looked like a simple side dish, but it became apparent that it was full of flavour and interesting spices. This completed the first section of the meal.

While sipping the remains of our glass of Château Marges Graves Blanc- a white wine which was probably my favourite wine of the entire meal, out came the next course. Chicken Lollypop accompanied by a chicken roulade and a chicken liver masala. The liver was exceptional. It had obviously been prepared in such a way that combined the rich taste of chicken liver with the spices that accompanied it. The Fennel Naan that came with the liver masala, proved to be a useful and effective tool for scooping up the liver masala. It was almost like a pâté dish and the Naan acted as a more exciting substitute for your basic slice of bread.

Despite its novel appeal, the Chicken Lollipop was tender and infused well, with a variety of Indian spices. The roulade was well prepared and combined with both the Chicken Lollipop and the liver masala presented a really well-rounded course.

The ‘Jewels of Venison’ were next to follow. This consisted of ground venison skewers cooked in tandoor, venison Chapli kebab and Venison cooked in rice and spices. The Chapli kebab was spicy, but still retained the taste, which was a constant feature throughout the meal. I have tried chicken and lamb skewers, but never venison. They really did highlight that venison is a wonderful meat, when cooked well. It benefited from the Indian style of cooking, again bringing out a variety of different flavours.

Another interlude passed. The desert was a white chocolate mousse, a warm chocolate fondant, with strawberry chocolate and served with a glass of sweet wine (the Château des Mailles St Croix du Mont). The warm chocolate fondant was cooked in its own little pot and was essentially a crispy layer of chocolate sponge, which covered a softer layer of gooey chocolate. The white chocolate mousse partnered the strawberry chocolate, which was a whole strawberry dipped in milk chocolate, in fondue fashion.  A nice way to end the meal.

The meal was well structured. It was a logical, step-by-step process, which offered a range of different dishes and without doubt, a range of different flavours. My guest even said, at the end of the meal: “That was the best curry I have ever had.” An ultimate compliment to the restaurant.

The atmosphere was pleasant and relaxed.  The service was good and the staff introduced every course with a clear explanation of what the plate consisted of.

The food was cooked well and well thought out. It was not a random array of fish here and venison there, it felt as though Anand George and his team had really made the effort to get it right.

Price: £45 per person (including matching wines)

Rating: 9/10

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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

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