Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
It has been a while since J and I met up for lunch due to various excuses, mainly from her, including skiing holiday (fair enough I suppose) work commitments (phah) and having her nails threaded and eyebrows painted (I may have got that the wrong way around and anyway what exactly is threading!?).
Thankfully this hiatus meant that J’s latest fad diet (something to do with cavemen, but I had previously glazed over and thought of bacon on hearing the swear word diet when she told me about it, so not entirely sure other than perversely bacon is OK) was on the back burner, so all options were open in terms of venue.
Now talking of bacon, I had heard that the Urban Tap House in Cardiff had on its menu a most wondrous sounding thing in the form of candied bacon (ooh just the thought of it makes me drool), as well as a fine looking selection of burgers and sides. I had been the week before for drinks and food in the evening and had on that occasion sold the venue to doubters on the promise of being able to sampling the fabled candied bacon, but it had sold out. In the hope that at an earlier time of the day some would still be left, J and I decide to go there for lunch.
Alas my wish for sugary meatiness was to remain unfulfilled as on enquiring at the bar I was told none had been made that day. The bar staff did tell me it was really intense stuff, with the candied element like the shell of a toffee apple (not helping guys).
The Urban Tap House is a delightfully industrial style bar on Westgate Street, Cardiff (opposite the Millennium Stadium) with a mightily fine and varied selection of proper beers, spirits etc. I had sampled a few on my previous visit and was rather partial to the Tiny Rebel Sonic Boom and Urban IPA. I had to skip the alcohol 😵 on this visit as long gone are the days of boozy lunches in my profession (damn you progress) on a work day. I had to settle, rather grumpily, for a soft drink with loads of lovely alcohol options in plain sight (booo).
On the food front there is a small but varied burger and sides menu, which includes a current favourite of mine deep fried pickles.
I was tempted by the Pork, Pork & Pork burger which was described as a carnivores dream with pork, black pudding and bacon finished off with an apple and cider sauce (I think it needs more pork – a slab of crackling perhaps!). Nice as this sounded, I had a busy afternoon in work that day (everyday!) and a meat induced coma would not have helped. I, therefore, decided on the Big Welsh ( a beef patty, with sharp cheddar, fried leeks and bacon). J went for the plain burger, despite professing to liking the sound of the jerk chicken burger.
My Big Welsh was a good burger with a nice soft bun that made it easy to pick up the whole thing, squeeze it, and shove it in my gob. The leeks worked well and the cheddar was nicely gloopy, sharp and tangy. The bacon was exemplary (not candied though!).
The patty itself had a nice crust and was well seasoned. It was a bit more done that I would have preferred, but in line with how most people seem to like their burgers cooked. I personally like a bit of pink (well alot actually) and there was no evidence of this at all. The meat was, however, tasty having a nice beefiness to it and the patty wasn’t in anyway dried out.
My only real gripe was the size of the patty in my burger. Bearing in mind the “Big Welsh” monicker and the menu describing it as “A feast of Welsh proportions” (I must admit I have never thought of Wales as being particularly big – punching above its weight yes, big no) it was perplexing that my patty seemed to be smaller than the one in J’s standard burger. This vexed me not because I wanted a massive burger, but because the description of the Big Welsh as against that of the plain burger promised much more than a smaller patty with added bits. I suppose it does suggest the patties are handmade and maybe portion control was a bit off that day.
J pronounced her burger as nice, but on balance she preferred the burgers at The Grazing Shed . As with the Big Welsh there was no sign of pink in her patty (which she very demurely cut in half before eating – I disapprovingly pointed out a burger is meant to be picked up whole and eaten – she ignored me), but this lack of pink was to J’s taste. At this point I was sulking that my burger patty was diminutive compared to her’s, which she found hilarious ( pointing it out on more than one occasion).
Each burger came with good skin on skinny fries, which were nicely seasoned, and a homemade red cabbage based coleslaw. The coleslaw needed, in my view, something else to add a touch of acidity as it was a bit too creamy for my taste.
We also ordered a portion of the deep fried pickles to go with the burgers. These were epic. Crisp batter encasing a nice sized cube of juicy salty pickle. Yummy. J had one, pronounced it very nice, and left me to scoff the rest. These bested the Meat Liquor version, with the chunky pickle cubes working better than a long thin slice.
Price wise, J’s plain burger with fries and coleslaw was £6.50, whereas my Big Welsh on the same basis was £7.75. The deep fried pickles were £2.50. I though this was pretty good value, although for the reasons stated above the plain burger was better value than the Big Welsh. The total bill, with soft drinks (a pint of fat coke for me and a half of brown fizzy water – diet coke – for J), was just over £20.
The Urban Tap House does a good burger. The patties were tasty and juicy (but a tad over for my bloodthirsty tastes). This allied to a nice bun, good fries, dynamite deep fried pickles and a stellar beer and spirits selection makes for a great place for after works drinks and food or a nice boozy lunch. My clean plate was testimony to the fact I enjoyed it.
I tend to agree with J’s view that the burgers at The Grazing Shed are a tad better and I have yet to try the very highly rated Got Beef . The Urban Tap House is, however, very much a bar that does food and whilst the food was good the booze does rightly takes centre stage. It is a place to drink beer with friends and soak up that booze with a good burger (a different proposition entirely to The Grazing Shed). I had been with work friends in the evening the previous week and we had a fine old time (well l did). I like it as a lunch spot, but it really comes into its own when you add its marvellous beers and spirits offering to the equation.
Would I go again? Yes, I have actually been twice and evenings are better as can take full advantage of their great beer and spirit selection. On the burger front, this was a good effort but the Dead Hippie at Meat Liquor still remains top of the heap. My only regret is that on both visits there was no candied bacon!!! I wonder if I can book it in advance? I may have to make some myself.
Urban Tap House
25 Westgate Street