Eating DIRT; Vegetarian supper club in Cardiff

My name is Katie and I’m NOT a vegetarian. I’m not vegan either, although you might have thought I was, as I’ve been posting food on instagram using the hashtag #vegan a lot lately. I’m what the media tells me is a ‘flexitarian’. Basically I’d rather not eat any meat if I can help it and don’t eat diary at all at home (watching documentaries like Carnage and Vegucated has really made me think about why we choose to eat animal products) but if meat is the only option on offer, or if my Mum has made her famous coronation chicken, then I’m having it. I realise that I’m privileged to live in a world where I have these options but I have always preferred vegan and vegetarian food anyway. As food critic Grace Dent says, it takes more skill to cook a delicious plate of vegetables, than to produce a lump of grilled meat.

So when I was invited to eat at the DIRT vegetarian supper club in Cardiff, I knew it would be a night I’d enjoy.

DIRT is run by John Cook (aka DIRTChef), formerly of Arbennig in Pontcanna. John says, “I’ve developed a real passion for cooking vegetarian food; it’s what gets me excited in the kitchen, and that’s what I want to share with people.”

The first in the series of John’s pop-ups was held at Milk&Sugar/Llaeth&Sigwr in the Old Library in the centre of town last night. Laid-back, light and airy the venue was perfect for a warm summer evening.

The first course set the summery vibe for the food too; Pettigrew Bakeries’ pesto bread, with nettle pesto and crispy kale and creamed beans was a fantastic start; the slightly soggy bread, paired with the crisp roasted kale was a great combination.

Next up was charred lettuce with green onion, potato, milk curds and sourdough sauce. The was one of the heartier dishes on the menu, thanks to the potatoes and sauce, and I loved the crispy onions and charred flavour on the lettuce.

The prettiest dish in the menu came next; smoked beetroot with pickled raisins and almond on chicory, with a pink beetroot powder. I would happily sprinkle those toasted almonds and the powdered beetroot over every salad I ever eat.

The next dish was my favourite of the night; courgette, ricotta, mint, cucumber and wasabi. A fellow diner was worried the wasabi would be too strong but I actually would’ve liked a little more. A slightly larger version of this, with a few more of the fennel crackers, would have been an ideal main course for me.

Dessert was strawberry meringue with buttermilk custard. The custard, rather than cream, made it a much lighter dessert and the lime-marinated strawberries were so refreshing.

To finish off, John brought round his DIRT Carrots. We had no idea what to expect, but what we got were carrot-shaped petit fours; one white chocolate and passion fruit and another dark chocolate, on a bed of cocoa nib ‘soil’. The white chocolate carrots were a little sweet for me, but perfectly balanced by the bitter dark chocolate ones. So lush.

Eating six courses is a little out of my comfort zone and it hurt my brain a bit not to have a ‘main’ course, but I loved trying all the different dishes and the fresh and light ingredients meant I came away feeling nicely full, rather than stuffed.

Real meat lovers who can’t do a meal without it probably would have been dissatisfied, but if fresh, seasonal flavours are your thing, I think you’ll love it.

I would recommend keeping an eye on DIRT, I’m excited to see what they do next. They have more pop-ups lined up and personally I’m keeping everything crossed for a permanent vegetarian restaurant coming soon to Cardiff.

The DIRT pop up menu usually costs £40 for six courses. I was invited along as a guest, however I was not instructed to write anything complimentary, this is an honest review.

www.dirtpopup.co.uk

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2017 foodie highlights – dinner and drinks

On to the third and final instalment of my foodie look back at 2017.

I enjoyed some great meals out in Cardiff this year and here are my highlights for dinner and drinks.

Asador 44

A late entry this one, as I only ate there for the first time in December. But I’ll definitely be going again in 2018. Bistro-style Spanish dining, with an amazing meat and fish selection, along with truly delicious vegetarian options – there’s something for everyone. And the cheeseboard selection was immense! The service was great too, attentive but laid back, we had a fantastic meal. I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t even take any pics, so I borrowed the one below from their Instagram.

Cen at the Celtic Manor

Also vying for my favourite meal of 2017 was our anniversary meal at Cen.

If you’re looking for amazing Asian seafood and fantastic service, Masterchef contestant and former Hokkei Box owner Larkin Cen’s venue at the Celtic Manor is the place.

Café Citta

My birthday meal at Café Citta on Church Street is also a stand-out. Authentic wood-fired pizzas and hearty pasta dishes, topped off with the best tiramisu I’ve had, I’ve never been disappointed here.

Sushi Life

I ate at the Wellfield Road restaurant and ordered take away in 2017 and it’s definitely Cardiff’s best sushi.

The Crunch California Maki Roll is the BEST.

Thé Pot

Finally tried Thé Pot Bistro’s two courses and wine for £20 deal earlier this year. Really enjoyed the summery risotto and the lovely neighbourhood vibe of this restaurant.

Drinks

If you’re like me and your main criteria for a night out in Cardiff is ‘well-made cocktails, quiet enough to talk (I’m old) and a bit of class’ then you can’t go wrong with;

The Dead Canary

Not such a secret bar anymore, but it’s still worth navigating the bins of Barrack Lane to ring the bell and visit this speakeasy-style bar. The menu consists of Cardiff-themed and classic cocktails, or just tell the knowledgeable mixologists what you like and they’ll mix one up for you. Book a table if you’re visiting on the weekend.

Penny Royal

Next to Barker on High Street and masquerading as a bottle shop, Penny Royal serves apothecary-style cocktails with some of the most unusual ingredients I’ve seen. (Milk reduction and edible flowers anyone?) Great wines available too, if you like to stick to what you know.

Handsome Jacks

I’m pretty sure this used to be the Wine Press circa 1994, but if you remember that, put it out of your mind immediately. A classy cocktail bar hidden amongst the chaos of St Mary’s Street, escape from the hen do madness and into cocktail heaven.

If you missed parts one and two of my 2017 foodie round-up, you can read them here and here.

Follow me on Instagram to see more of the same in 2018!

November highlights

Top row (L-R); The best margaritas in Cardiff* at Wahaca / mouthwatering halloumi ‘fries’** at the Brass Beetle on Whitchurch Road / Stunning autumnal runs along the Taff

Middle row; We travelled around Cardiff and the Vale hunting down the 43 snowdogs and during November we ticked the last few off our list! This was our final one – Chocolate Sundae at Penarth Pier. If you didn’t manage to catch all of the snowdogs, they’re on display in the Capitol Centre from this weekend (8-10 December). Details here.

Bottom row; Getting our hygge on with a delicious brunch at Brød bakery. Their coffee is AMAZING.

Follow me on Instagram @CardiffGirlBlog

*in my opinion. And I’ve tried a fair few in my time…..

**lets not kid ourselves, it’s just fried cheese. Delicious gooey fried cheese. Calling them fries is just a way to make myself feel better about ordering (and finishing) them AND a full pizza.

September highlights 

Loads of fun snowdog-hunting (get the app here) / gorgeous food from Masterchef contestant Imran Nathoo at Lost Lands outdoor cinema, (check his upcoming events here) / getting sweaty at hotpod’s new studio in Canton / addicted to Milgi Market’s salad bowls – find them inside Cardiff Market / sad to see trees down everywhere along the Taff Trail in the wind / ran our first ever family race at the Cardiff Half Marathon festival of running 

Afternoon tea at Pettigrew Tearooms, Cardiff

It’s been a while since I’ve done an afternoon tea post, probably because I’ve tried most places in Cardiff now. But judging by the searches that lead people to visit my blog (‘afternoon tea Cardiff’ is consistently the most-searched term) afternoon tea is still as popular as ever. 

My lovely Auntie bought me a voucher for afternoon tea for two at Pettigrew Tea Rooms for my birthday, so we took advantage of it earlier this month, when we had a rare free Saturday. (No kids parties to attend – whoopee!)

Afternoon tea at Pettigrew Tearoom, Cardiff

Pettigrew Tearooms in Bute Park opened in 2012 and has been popular ever since. Set inside the West Lodge in the Castle Walls, at the entrance to Bute Park, it’s a unique and beautiful setting.

The interior is cute and quirky, with authentic tiling on the floor, copious amounts of bunting and dainty mismatched vintage china.

We pre-booked for afternoon tea and the place was rammed, including a hen do. Afternoon tea definitely seems to have become a pre-bridal staple activity.

Banana and passion fruit cake at Pettigrew tearoom, Cardiff
Scones and a pot of earl grey at Pettigrew tearoom

The afternoon tea is £15.45 per person, which includes finger sandwiches (you choose your fillings on the day and there are plenty of vegetarian options), scones (again you can choose plain or fruit) and a slice of cake of your choice. I went for the banana and passion fruit cake, which was recommended by our waitress and it was yummy! Decadent yet light. I could eat another slice of that right now…..

The afternoon tea is also accompanied by a pot of tea of your choice. I really wanted the lavender Earl Grey but they don’t do it any more *sad face* so I went for the regular Earl Grey, which was delicious. 

Both six-year-old J and F who’s almost two came along for tea and both enjoyed the experience too, the staff were really welcoming. 

Toddler F enjoying her first ever afternoon tea!

My only tiny gripe is that the manager was rather rude when I said I only had my gift voucher displayed on my phone and hadn’t actually printed it out (hello, it’s 2017). So word of warning, take your voucher with you if you have one! 

If afternoon tea is your thing, read my post on the best places for afternoon tea in Cardiff. 

www.pettigrew-tearooms.com

I was given my afternoon tea for two as a birthday gift. We paid in full for all additional extras and the staff at Pettigrew were not aware I’d be blogging about them. 

The Cardiff Bucket List – Pop-Ty pop up restaurant

You’d be forgiven for not knowing about Pop-Ty in Pontcanna. The brainchild of teacher and aspiring chef Angharad Elias, Pop-Ty (which means bakehouse or oven in Welsh) operates on selected days at St Catherine’s Church Hall. I was recommended to try it by a friend, and the fact that Angharad only cooks pescetarian meals (which means fish, but no meat) was a real draw. (My husband Gavin is also a pescetarian, which means he often misses out on having plenty of choice when we eat out.)

So how does it work? To book you need to like the Pop-Ty Facebook page. When Angharad announces the next pop-up dates, it’s first come, first served. It might all sound a bit cloak and dagger, but this really adds to the exclusive ‘secret supper club’ feel.

Angharad then emails you closer to the time with a menu (three choices of dish for starter, main and dessert), you pay your £20 deposit and choose what you’d like to eat a week beforehand.

On the night we were first to arrive at the church hall, which looked really beautiful. The attention to detail was fantastic, with candles, fairy lights, vintage china and bunting making the old hall look very special indeed. The attention to detail continued with the table settings, with an imaginative use of conkers for place settings and menu choices written on old fashioned flower cards. Even the toilets were beautified for Pop-Ty with a walkway of candles leading the way, candles and vintage mirrors in the loo itself, and even a game of solitaire laid out for the those who need something to do in there!

One long table was set up for 20 people and we were quite unsure at first about sitting with people we didn’t know. But it actually added to the atmosphere and everyone was chatting quite freely by the end of the night.

Hedydd, the waitress offered us a plum and apple spritzer cocktail on arrival, which went down very easily. Then we were on our own with the booze, we’d been told to bring our own drinks. We took a bottle of wine we had left from our recent trip to France, which was a lovely reminder of our recent trip.

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First course was an amuse-bouche of beetroot ‘cappuccino’. A small espresso cup of beetroot soup, with hints of orange and a good chilli kick. This was a lovely surprise as I was expecting to go straight into the starter and it was my dish of the night too – I could’ve eaten bowls of it. The other diners seemed to agree, with lots of ‘Mmmm’ sounds going on!

To start, I’d chosen the Brazilian lime fish stew, a creamy stew with a perfectly cooked fillet of fish, it was really delicious.

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Then it was pallet cleanser time, with a good old lemon sorbet, before moving onto our scrummy beetroot risotto main. I overheard a couple of diners saying they felt their main portion was too small, but I thought the sizes were perfect, it just meant I had room for dessert. And I’m so glad I did; I’d chosen deep fried sticky rice balls with coconut and mango. They weren’t the kind of thing I’d usually choose as my dessert (and I did have food envy for Gavin’s white chocolate and raspberry tart) but I really enjoyed trying something different. The rice balls were also served with some sort of iced tea drink – it had a taste of what I think was matcha green tea and mango, which was really refreshing.

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Finally we were offered teas and coffees before Hedydd passed around the coffee jar for us to pay our remaining £15 per head.

By the time we’d left it was after 11, so we’d spent almost four hours enjoying a leisurely meal in lovely surroundings.

I very much enjoyed trying Pop-Ty and we’ll definitely be going again. This was the first thing I crossed off my Cardiff Bucket List and what a good start!

You can read more about Angharad and Pop-Ty in this article on Wales Online.

The meal at Pop-Ty cost £35 per head and Angharad and the team did not know I’d be blogging about them.

Motley Movies outdoor cinema

Hey you guys! Last night we FINALLY got to go to Motley Movies outdoor cinema in Cardiff.

The guys at Motley Movies have been showing films on the rooftop garden of Jacob’s Antique Market (next to Cardiff Central Station) since May. They’ve been putting on an awesome selection including Human Traffic, Wayne’s World and Bridget Jones. Last night was one of my childhood favourites The Goonies. The website says showing the films on the roof is as much about the atmosphere they’ve created as watching the film and they’re dead right. The location, overlooking Cardiff as the sun sets, made for a great evening anyway, but watching one of my favourite films (and many other people’s judging by the laughter and cheering at the crucial points) was great fun.

The food at Motley Movies was amazing
The food at Motley Movies was amazing

The rooftop is fully licensed and opens at 6, where they have music and amazing drinks from the Two Fingers guys. I tried the One Eyed Willy cocktail, rum, ginger, lime and chilli (£5) which was gorgeous and veeeery strong, before moving on to the safety of the wine.

Two Fingers Drinks at Motley Movies, Cardiff
Two Fingers Drinks at Motley Movies, Cardiff

And the food! Motley Movies have food pop ups at each event and last night was Hang Fire BBQ an extra bonus for me as I’ve been dying to try their food for ages. The Truffle Shuffle sandwich (pulled pork and truffle slaw. £6) was absolutely immense. The Babe Ruth dessert (caramel, peanuts, marshmallows and huge lumps of chocolate. £2) was the most sugary thing I’ve eaten in ages. In fact, I think I’m still buzzing. Chunk and Sloth would’ve loved it.

Truffle Shuffle sandwich from Hangfire BBQ
Truffle Shuffle sandwich from Hangfire BBQ
Babe Ruth bites from Hangfire BBQ
Babe Ruth bites from Hangfire BBQ

As the sun set over Cardiff, the film began. It did get chilly, luckily we wrapped up warm and took a blanket, but they also had blankets to hire, so it was nice and cosy. We were quite lucky as the weather the previous night (where they showed Wayne’s World) was apparently awful. That’s the gamble of the Cardiff weather I suppose.

Sunset from Motley Movies, Jacobs Market
Sunset from Motley Movies, Jacobs Market

A few years back Gavin and I went to an outdoor cinema in LA. It’s a really established event there where people queue for hours to get in (and of course they have the weather and access to Hollywood Stars, many of whom talk before the movie) but I can see Motley Movies becoming almost as popular. We’ll certainly be making it one of our summer must-dos.

Goonies never say die!

Tickets to The Goonies at Motley Movies were £10 each.

We paid in full for everything and Motley Movies were not aware I’d be blogging about them.

http://www.motleymovies.co.uk