Cardiff Prison opens a fine-dining restaurant

One of the most bizarre proposals I have ever heard of. Sounds absolutely amazing though!

Take a look…



St. John Bar and Restaurant

This is one half of a special comparative piece I am doing between one of London’s more established gastronomic restaurants (St. John) and one of Cardiff‘s most recent editions to its less established restaurant portfolio (The Potted Pig).

St John Bar and restaurant, founded by Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver in 1994, has a distinct feel of a butcher’s to it.

The walls were all white, with little decoration, apart from a few coat hooks. The lights resembled the kind you would get in an industrial slaughterhouse.

It felt as though I was eating from a meat-production line.

We ordered a selection of four starters (between three of us), which included: Widgeon Legs, Purple Sprouting Broccoli, Rabbit Offal and Braised Squid.

The Widgeon (a small duck) was rich and gamey. The Broccoli, by chance, complemented the more powerful tastes of the Widgeon legs and the Rabbit Offal (the cooked organs of a rabbit).

The squid was a nice addition, as a comfort dish.

A glance at the menu

While deciding which mains to have, we attempted to understand the seemingly straight forward decor, or indeed the lack of it.

We came to the conclusion that they had tried, with success, to recreate the atmosphere of a butcher’s.

The chef was in full view, preparing, or rather butchering, the meat.

Two of us, myself included, ordered the Smoked Herring, Bacon and Mash, while the other ordered the Lop Chop, Turnip and Trotter.

The Herring was also quite rich and oily. This was not a problem, I had clearly chosen a first and second course, aimed at a more resilient stomach!

Nevertheless, it was tasty and despite it’s rich taste, was not overly filling.

At some risk of over-indulgence, I ordered the Steamed Treacle Pudding.

This was merely average, but then when has a butcher’s ever claimed to make a perfect treacle pudding?

St. John boasts a Michelin star and with obvious justification. The experience and the aura of the restaurant, is what you would expect from such an establishment.

The modest building, St. John is located in, resembles that of a local butcher’s- a theme that is consistent throughout the dining experience.

Your local butcher?


St John will no doubt prove to be a fierce contestant against The Potted Pig, which I will be reviewing in just over a weeks time.

With a similar menu and, perhaps more trivially, a very similar logo The Potted Pig has a lot to compete with.



Rating: 8/10


Michelin star musings

It seems many people are eagerly awaiting the Welsh capital’s first michelin-starred restaurant.

Purple Poppadom is the latest creation of Anand George, described by Cardiff Bites (winner of the Wales Blog awards Best Food & Drink Blog 2011 category) as “Cardiff‘s closest thing to a celebrity chef.”

Mr George is famous in Cardiff, for setting up both Mint & Mustard and Chai Street.

His latest venture has received some very positive reviews from the website Trip advisor. One review even asks whether this could be Cardiff’s first Michelin-starred restaurant?

To be honest, I can’t wait to go!

“Could Cardiff get its first Michelin star here?”


The Swan Hotel

I must first apologise for this post. This is a review of a restaurant from over the border, in Gloucestershire, but I couldn’t resist.

If you imagine Fawlty Towers, you will be able to build up a good picture of what The Swan at Wotton-under-Edge is like. A hotel in the top half and a restaurant and bar area in the lower part.

My guest and I ordered a bottle of the house red while we chose from the menu.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t really mention what I had to drink, but this particular bottle caught my eye.

'Wine of the European Community'

‘Wine of the European Community.’ It seemed as though Monsieur Sarkozy and Frau Merkel had their fingers wrapped around my bottle of wine. Dave would have a few things to say about this, I am sure.

We ordered. I went for the beer-battered haddock, chips and mushy peas. My guest opted for the vegetarian lasagne.

The food was good. The batter did not fall off the fish, as it does in so often and the mushy peas were well made, with the correct consistency-I wasn’t left with a pile of green sludge on my plate, as I have had in the past.

My guest was also pleased with her choice. “It really does taste home-made, not like something that’s been taken from a packet,” she said.

Many establishments like the Swan Hotel, try too hard to be a restaurant they are clearly not. They offer strange plate combinations, which annoy rather than compliment.

The Swan, in that sense, is a pretty down to earth and straight forward place to go and eat. You know what you are getting, so there is rarely any disappointment.

Battered Haddock, chips and mushy peas

The Swan is a 17th century coaching inn and not much has changed.

There is a roaring log fire in the bar area, surrounded by oak furniture and beamed ceilings.

It has a real local feel to it.

Although I didn’t meet Basil Fawlty and Manuel had probably been deported due to new government rules about being able to speak English in the workplace, it was reassuring that there are still good, traditional establishments one can eat in.

The gastro-pub may be a feature of the modern-day restaurant scene, but there is evidently still space for the classic pub-style food that I thought had been lost forever.

Money Spent: £8.95

Rating: 8/10