I was in glorious Donostia San Sebastian all last week (more on that in posts coming soon), with its amazing pintxos scene and it is perhaps opportune as a result to look again at Cardiff’s our very own piece of Iberian magic in the form of Bar 44.
Whilst I have already reviewed Bar 44 (back in June) and returned many a time for dinner since then (as I absolutely love the place and think I may be able to claim squatters rights based on the amount of time I spend in it)), I had not (until now) been for lunch. Regular readers may view this as odd, bearing in mind the blog is perhaps more focussed towards lunch than dinner.
This oddity was, however, rectified when a friend and previous work collegue (who has moved on to pastures seemingly very much greener) was in town. Bar 44 was the perfect place for a few of us to go green with envy at his idylic work life compared to our, in comparison, salt miner/gulag work existences.
Whilst a very nice chap and a good friend, I do (on occasion) get the urge to punch him (repeatedly) when he regales us with tales of how amazing his work life balance is (well I would if I knew what one of them was).
As I have already blogged about the place I shall dispense with my usual formula and go straight to the food on offer at lunchtime.
Whilst all of the full menu at Bar 44 is available throughout the day, between 12- 6pm (Mon – Thursday) and 12 – 5pm (on Friday) they have an offer of 3 tapas for £10 (from a limited choice)
and a one pot dish of the day for £6.
We all decided to focus on these weekday lunch options rather than exploring the full menu (lovely as it is).
We started off with some bread and olive oil to share.
I have had this before and love it, especially the darker of the two oils, which has an intense grassiness to it. My friend Rachel raved about how good the breads were.
I went for the one pot option, which on the day of our visit was a Galician fish stew (£6.00).
This was a hearty stew with a slab of white fish (hake I would hazard a guess), mussels, prawns, squid (whole baby ones and pieces of larger specimens), potatoes and peas all sitting in a lovely broth/sauce. Being a Galician fish stew the broth/sauce the fish and vegatables sat in was, I believe, “ajada” (garlic sauce) which includes a fair bit of garlic and paprika (some hot as it had a bit of bite to it) in the mix. It came with some bread to mop up this lovely sauce.
Everything was cooked perfectly, with beautifully moist fish and the squid very tender.
It was a good sized portion (perfect for lunch) for the £6 price tag, especially bearing in mind the ingredients used.
The only slight issue, with what would otherwise have been a pretty much perfect dish, was a couple of the mussels had remained unopened and should have been removed prior to the dish going out.
All in alI I very much enjoyed this dish, as the picture below testifies
Others went for the tapas option of 3 for £10, with their orders involving significant duplication, despite my protestations.
The only variation from this theme was one person ordered the Puntillitas, lovely crispy baby squid with a fennel alioli (forgot to take a picture – sorry).
My previous blog post on this place covers the chorizo, croquetas and patatas brava tapas items also ordered and I can confirm they were, as with everything at Bar 44, delicious.
They also do a cracking Spanish style Sunday lunch (£13.95),
which includes some awesomely good roasties cooked in Iberico pork fat.
You can always start off with one of their tapas dishes before tucking into your Sunday lunch.
For a workday lunch, Bar 44’s supremely good booze offering is (for me) off the menu and so it is just the soft stuff.
In terms of the soft drinks offering
it is (to me) a shame it doesn’t include some Spanish classics such as La Casera (a sweet clear soda – drunk on its own or as a component part of a Tinto de Verano and sangria) or the delicious Valencian Horchata (a very refreshing tiger nut milk drink best served ice cold).
I went for a pressed apple juice that was very nice (but would have loved the option of a horchata).
With the Galician stew, a glass or two of the Albarinos or manzanillas on the wine list would have gone down a treat if booze had been an option.
Sunday lunch on the other hand is definitely a boozy one with the wine menu offering plenty of options (see my dinner post). On my Sunday lunch visit I went for Basque Sidra (very much along the lines of traditional scrumpy) which you pour, only in swiggable amounts into the glass from a height (to get aeration). The Basques do this from a ridiculous height and never spill a drop. I was much more conservative height wise and spilt alot.
It was lovely with the pork belly I had.
As it does for dinner, Bar 44 delivered fantastic quality food at lunchtime, making it a great option for lunch in Cardiff City centre.
The damage for 4 of us with drinks (and the extra bread and oils we ordered) was just over £50 (ex. tip).
The 3 tapas for £10 and, in particular, the £6 one pot dishes represent excellent value and is one of the better lunch time offerings currently available in Cardiff City centre.
The Sunday lunch is also pretty darn good and fairly priced I thought.
Plates rather than a board would be my preference for a roast with gravy/jus (I understand they have already sourced suitable sized plates). So minor quibble sorted.
Would I go again? Oh yes, place is already a regular haunt of mine for dinner and I will be back many more times for both week day and Sunday Iunches.
15-23 Westgate Street
NB. This week Bar 44 are celebrating International Sherry Week – with a fabulous range of sherry related events (in Cardiff, Penarth and Cowbridge).
If you haven’t tried sherry before, I urge you to give it a go this week – even if only for the Friday Fino and Fried fish for a £5 offer. I will undoubtedly be there propping up the bar that night that is for sure, but don’t let that put you off 🙂