To break the monotony of lunch at my desk I periodically meet up for lunch with a friend and fellow food obsessive (who I shall refer to as J) to bitch and moan and above all talk about all things food related.
Our requirements for these lunches are fairly simple, being:-
– good food (nothing fancy, just good wholesome grub);
– good value (not necessarily cheap); and
– good and quick service (it is after all a lunch hour).
Our venue of choice this time was Restaurant Minuet, a tiny (struggle to swing a cat) Italian situated in one of Cardiff’s lovely arcades. I have walked past this place hundreds of times over the years but never really felt the urge to go in, but it gets pretty good reviews on Trip Adviser (over 200 excellents last time I looked). J and I thought we would, therefore, give it a go.
Whilst it calls itself a restaurant, I would say it is more a cafe (not opening in the evening at all and thus strictly catering for daytime punters). As the name suggests it has somewhat of a classical music theme with a number of menu items linked to famous artists or operas (Tagliatelle Madame Butterfly, for example), music paraphernalia on the walls and classic music playing discreetly in the background. Must admit I quite like the classic music as it made a nice change from the muzak played in many places these days (must be getting old or as, J would probably say, even older).
There are tables outside as well as inside and with Castle Arcade being enclosed this provides for useful extra space even in the current inclement weather (if you wrap up warm). We sat inside and J’s comment regarding the size of the place was it would have been nice if she didn’t have to shove her bum in the face of the diner on the table next to ours to get to her chair (not one for subtlety is J).
We arrived at 12.15 to a warm welcome, being promptly shown to a table and given menus. At this time the place was already getting busy.
Make no mistake about it this is a no frills establishment. Do not expect proper table cloths, mats or fancy pants cutlery, napkins etc as you will be disappointed, but who cares if the food is good (for the price point).
So to the food. The menu is split into various section along the lines of starters, spinach dishes, pasta, rice, pizza, fish and meat and for the size of the place is quite big. It says that all food is prepared fresh on the day (so they must be busy bees prepping in that kitchen).
I went for the James Bowman (a famous countertenor apparently)
This is described on the menu as “Penne pasta cooked in a rich garlic white source (their spelling not mine) with spinach & tarragon, topped with tomato sauce ,cheese & a sprinkle of parmesan finished in a hot oven”.
It was a pretty big bowl of penne pasta which was creamy with a fair amount of spinach and it tasted nice enough especially for a price tag of £6.80. I ate it all and was happy enough, but there were a few niggles:-
– not enough cheese;
– the white sauce was a bit watery (either just cream rather than a white sauce or the spinach was not drained – bit of both I suspect );
– lacked a bit of seasoning, a few grinds of cracked black pepper and smidgen more salt would of sorted this; and
– didn’t get any tarragon at all and I love tarragon.
J went for Chicken Mephisto – a butterflied chicken breast in a tomato sauce with chilli (mild medium or hot options) garlic and mushrooms priced at £7.65. This was served with either chips or salad .
J’s view on this dish (I didn’t get a look in) was the chicken was lovely and a huge portion (more like a breast and a half) and the sauce was full of flavour with plenty of mushrooms and a fair old whack of chilli (she did asked for it hot). The option regarding chilli strength did show was cooked to order. The salad (she was asked if wanted dressing but declined – as on some weirdo diet ) was very fresh and whilst containing the usual suspects was not boring at all. The only downside was the promised mozzarella was deemed to be a wee bit on the miserly side.
Nothing was left on either of our plates , it was cheap (just over £17 with drinks) and we were in and out within the hour, so a result. Would we go again yes, but no burning desire to visit again immediately,
If you want a good value, filling and tasty meal then you could do a lot worse than this place in Cardiff.
42 Castle Arcade
+44 29 2034 1794