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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Veganuary round up – vegan food in Cardiff

I’m sure you’ve heard of Veganuary; the challenge to go vegan – not eating any meat, dairy, eggs or any other animal products for the whole of January.

I’ve never been fully vegetarian but have been eating a mostly pescatarian diet for the last few years and after watching documentaries/mocumentaries such as Vegucated and Carnage I’ve become interested in eating more vegan foods. So when I heard about Veganuary it seemed like a great challenge. And more appealing than dry January!

Its easy to be vegetarian or vegan in Cardiff these days. There are some great specialist restaurants such as Milgi and it seems there are more vegan cafes and bakeries popping up all the time, such as Blanche Bakery and The Moos.

But I also wanted to see if I could cope without heading out of my way to eat vegan. If it’s something I’m going to continue I don’t want to be dragging meat-eating friends and family to specialist locations just to accommodate me.

Luckily most places have at least one vegan option and many more will provide one if you just ask. Here are my Veganuary highlights;

The Grazing Shed

Dirty Vegan Burger

I already love The Grazing Shed’s Vegan Wah Wah burger, with cashew cream and avocado and tomato salsa so I was excited to try their new vegan option, launched to coincide with Veganuary; the Dirty Vegan (£8.95). A curry patty with garlic ‘mayo’, mango chutney, chilli sauce and tomato tzatziki. It packed a spicy punch and was stuffed to the brim with toppings – there is no way to look attractive while eating this burger, but you definitely won’t miss the meat. I’ll be ordering this post-Veganuary for sure.

Cosy Club

Vegetarian Thai Burger

Picture taken from the Cosy Club’s Twitter feed

Another burger! I went for a meal with friends at the Cosy Club in January. A quick search online beforehand revealed that they have a vegan menu, which was provided as soon as I asked. There were plenty of vegan options available including a curry, risotto and tabbouleh (two friends even ended up choosing off my menu too!) and I went for the Thai burger (£8.95 including chips) – a quinoa burger with edamame beans, pak Choi and coconut sauce. The Thai flavours were stunning and again, I didn’t miss the meat at all!

Society Standard

Salt-baked celeriac

We went to Society Standard for a family Sunday lunch and I chose it as it catered for everyone’s needs; vegans, meat eaters, weight watchers and kids – hard to please! But this place hit the nail on the head. Everyone raved about their meals. There were two vegan options available and I went for the Salt-Baked Celeriac (£9.90) with butternut squash purée, confit potatoes, chestnuts, pesto and parsnip crisps. The dish was elegant and tasty and I didn’t feel I was missing out. However it possibly wasn’t as filling as the roast dinner. Luckily we also shared one of their ‘small plates’ of Roasted Cauliflower (£4.80) with spiced lentils, almonds and tahini, which was rich and hearty.

Wyndham Tea

Vegan afternoon tea

I met with friends for afternoon tea in mid-January. We chose Wyndham Tea, Waterloo Tea’s location in town. Luckily I knew they would cater for vegans, I’ve tried their vegan cakes in the past and loved them, the chocolate and avocado cake being particularly memorable. I called in advance to request a vegan afternoon tea and was told it wasn’t a problem at all. I was given vegan sandwiches with roasted vegetables and hummus and crostinis with avocado and beetroot. There was a vegan scone (this was probably my least favourite part of the tea; it tasted overwhelmingly of margarine. Still it was so nice not to feel left out while my friends tucked into theirs). I could chose my own cake and went for the lemon and lime; one of the two vegan options available. It was light and moist and I’ll be looking for that one next time I’m in.

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During the month I also had some lovely vegan sandwiches and salad bowls from M&S and Pret, great for those days when I was in a hurry, and a delicious vegan millionaires shortbread at Benugo in John Lewis. I was only intending to buy a coffee that day but when I saw their pre-packaged vegan treats I couldn’t resist!

I’m not planning to stay strictly vegan when January ends, but I’ll definitely be making more vegan choices. And with these options and plenty more to choose from, it’s not going to be difficult.

Have you had a great vegan or vegetarian meal in Cardiff lately? Let me know in the comments below or over on Twitter.

I paid in full for all the vegan food I ate during Veganuary and none of the restaurants mentioned were told I’d be blogging about them.

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!

2017 foodie highlights – lunch/afternoon tea

This is the second blog post in a series looking back at my favourite places to eat in Cardiff during 2017. If you missed it, my breakfast and brunch highlights are here.

Next up, it’s lunch.

Milgi Market

I finally sampled the wonderful Milgi market this year. It’s a small counter selling vegetarian salad bowls in Cardiff Indoor Market and is run by the same people at Milgi on City Road. Whenever I need to pop into town on my lunch break, I always make a detour via here.

Side note – if you haven’t been into Cardiff market for a while, take a look. It’s become quite the foodie haven; this blog post from blogger Gourmet Gorro details the market’s renaissance.

New York Deli

New York Deli would be on my ‘best places to eat in Cardiff’ list every year since I first ate there in about 2001. Their bagels and hoagies are immense; stuffed to the brim, just like you’d find in a real NY Deli. The quality hasn’t ever wavered. Quite frankly, it’s a Cardiff institution and if you haven’t eaten there you must make it your New Years resolution. Maybe not if you’re on a diet though (sorry).

The Grazing Shed

Two branches in town and a street food van popping up at loads of events means it’s impossible to ignore the Grazing Shed’s burgers. They do a fantastic veggie burger with various toppings (including goats cheese fondue, avocado mash or sour cream jalapeño) and a fully vegan option with cashew cream. The beef and chicken versions are epic too. Luckily my eldest loves it here and always requests it when we’re in town.

Waterloo Tea

Waterloo Tea added a new branch in Lakeside this year, in addition to it’s locations in Penylan, Penarth and Wyndham Arcade in town. While I haven’t visited the new branch yet, I’ve eaten at each of the others at least once this year. Their salads, soups and sandwiches are light and healthy, always ensuring you feel virtuous enough for a huge slab of cake afterwards. Great vegan, veggie and gluten free options too.

Afternoon tea at Pettigrew tea

I must admit, after sampling and writing about numerous afternoon teas since I started blogging eight years ago, I’d slightly gone-off the experience and hadn’t had an afternoon tea for ages, until I was given an afternoon tea for two at Pettigrew as a birthday present this year.

I’d forgotten how pretty it is in Pettigrew and we spent a lovely afternoon nibbling finger sandwiches, spreading cream & jam on scones (yes, it’s always cream THEN jam for me) and gorging on cake, while sipping earl grey from vintage china. Very refined.

Next in my series on my favourite places to eat in Cardiff this year……dinner and drinks.

To read the previous post on my brunch favourites from 2017, click here.

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.