I was a big fan of chef Lewis Dyer, when he was at the Heathcock in Llandaff, so when I heard he had moved on (sadly for Llandaff residents) to the recently opened Longhouse (at the Tumble, just above Culverhouse Cross), a revamping (under new ownership) of the old Treharne Arms, I was keen to try it out. A night out with a couple of friends provided the perfect opportunity to give it a go.
The online menu promised food a significant notch above standard pub grub, with some very nice sounding dishes.
Our visit was on a Saturday night and the place was packed (make sure you book). It is fair to say that this is a dining pub rather than a boozer.
Whilst there is a bar area with comfy seating and (rather bizarrely) a sheep (not a real one thankfully – would have been promptly dispatch to the kitchen if was, I suspect), everyone in there seemed to be eating or waiting to eat.
Inside it is split into three distinct areas. One with big leather sofas, an informal dining area by the bar and, through from the bar, a more formal dining area. Bar from a somewhat uninspiring actual bar, I rather liked the layout. I doubt I would just go for a drink, but it is a very nice set up for a bite to eat.
The menu on the night was similar to that on their website, with a few tweaks, and provided for that rather wonderful moment of indecision where there is so much on the menu you want to try
For my starter, I actually choose from the specials board
in the form of a cawl made from Welsh shoulder (£7). Not sure who Gareth is, but he makes a rather fine wholemeal loaf. Not usually a fan of wholemeal bread, but enjoyed this one dunked in the rich cawl broth. The lovely bread came with a heart attack inducing amount of butter. I love butter, but ever I thought it was a tad excessive.
The cawl itself was a richly flavoured, nicely seasoned broth, with plenty of tasty lamb and veggies. A very good cawl in my book. Huge portion for a starter.
One slight niggle was the “Caerphilly”cheese presented with the cawl. Caerphilly to me in a crumbly cheese whereas this had a much softer, more pliable, “edam style cheese” texture. I would be surprised if it was a Caerphilly and if it was it wasn’t a great example.
The other starter ordered by Mrs. SF and one of our dining companions was a braised duck dish (£7). Beautifully tender duck leg, sitting on nicely cooked lentils (not too mushy or chalky in texture), spiked with smokey bacon and finished off nicely with a well flavoured jus (presumed to be based on the braising liquor), got a massive thumbs up. A nice counterpoint to the richness of the duck came from a smooth carrot puree, with a bit of texture provided by a pistachio granola.
Lovely piece of cooking this (well according to Mrs SF, as I didn’t get a look in).
The photo didn’t come out of the other starter ordered, in the form of a Welsh rarebit, wild mushroom and poached egg number (£6.50). This again went down very well, with an all important properly runny poached egg.
On to the mains, we collectively ordered two pork and two lamb dishes.
The pork dish (I had this) consisted of two nicely cooked pieces of pork loin wrapped in sage and Parma ham (saltimbocca-esque). Pork loin is easy to overcook and can really dry out if not treated with due care, but here it was bang on the money. The pork cheek element was done as a deep-fried fritter, with a nicely crisp outer shell encasing lovely tender, slow cooked, cheek. The accompanying vegetables, in the form of iron rich kale and a sweet glazed carrot, worked well with the pork. The potatoes in the pan (a variety of new potatoes in a cast iron skillet) were OK, but I would have preferred them a bit crisper (they came out as just slightly dry new potatoes)
Strips of crunchy pork crackling added a nice texture to the dish. I mean, who doesn’t love crackling?
I did find the addition of a king scallop on the plate a bit perplexing. It was pleasant enough (and nicely cooked, with an interior just the right side of translucent), but I didn’t think it added much, if anything, to the dish. I wouldn’t have missed it if it hadn’t been there and to me that is indicative of an ingredient too far.
The lamb dish (£17) was pronounced a triumph (by those who ordered it). Lamb shoulder is not, perhaps, the most popular of cut as it is a bit fatty (a positive boon to me, but apparently not to all – fat is the best bit if you ask me) and requires low and slow cooking. I think it is a cracking cut of lamb (even better if mutton), being jam-packed with flavour and cut with a spoon tender if cooked properly.
Here the kitchen had done a grand job. What we got was a beautifully tender, richly flavoured, huge hunk of meat (with a rich vein of that all important fat). An added bonus was some lovely crispy skin.
It was so tender the bone slid out, clean as a whistle.
This dish was advertised as being cooked in liquorice, which put me off ordering it if I am honest. I was worried this would overpower, but a deft hand was at play and the liquorice added nicely to the party rather than bullying the other invitees into submission flavour wise.
A delightfully smooth sweet potato mash and some nicely cooked cavolo nero, finished off the dish nicely.
Despite really enjoying my pork dish, I did suffer a little bit of food envy on seeing Mrs. SF tuck into this dish (she did give me a taste though).
I was full after my main course (course sizes are pretty big and I seem unable to eat as much as I use too – at least in one sitting), so decided to pass on puds (hoping Mrs SF would order one and that I could then steal some of the hers).
Interesting dessert menu which lots to entice.
The choice was made and two clafoutis ordered. We were warned these would take up to 20 minutes as they were cooked from scratch.
The clafoutis (£7) came with some nice sharp rhubarb imbedded in them (bit more would have been nice) and a good custard, but was a bit too loose and eggy for Mr.SF’s tastes (I had a taste and agreed – possibly pulled out of the oven a smidgen too soon).
On the booze front, whilst pursuing the menu, we fancied an aperitif and asked, the chap serving us if they had any fino or manzanilla. By the look on his face I may as well have asked for unicorn tears. When I expanded this to “Any sherry?” he said “Oh yes, I think we have some Harvey’s Bristol cream”. Not having even a Tio Pepe is a bit poor, in my book, for such a food orientated pub (sherry is such a good food wine)
Mrs. SF then tried her luck with a “Have you got any white port?” (wildly optimistic I thought) and got a “umm I don’t think so”. I gave up and asked what beers (rather than lagers) they had on tap. This was met with a slightly panicked look and a ” we have one made locally” – think he called it rosemary. Without getting up and actually going to the bar I wasn’t going, it seemed, to get much more so conceded defeat and asked for 2 pints of that and 2 G&T’s . Luckily a choice of gins was offered, with a single Hendrick’s and tonic £4.30.
The beer was quite nice (slightly sweet) and surprisingly cheap at £3.40 a pint (a mistake, I wonder), but I didn’t really get the rosemary connection (maybe I misheard).
The wine list was a little disappointing and I struggled to find anything at the sweet spot of quality at a fair price.
Marks ups levels are a bit inconsistent and in some cases quite high. The Lopez de Haro crianza on the list retails for under a £10 and is sold at the Curado Bar in Cardiff City centre for £19. The £28 price tag here was, therefore, somewhat excessive in comparison. The Albarino Reveleste on the list at £30, can be had retail for under £8.
After much humming and harring, but for the opposite reason to my indecision regarding the food menu, I eventually went for a bottle of the Morande Pionero Pinot Noir (£26) from Chile.
A nice enough wine, if a little limited, it was a bit overwhelmed by the lamb (which was crying out for a good Ribera del Duero – none on list – or Rioja number – I refuse to pay £28 for the Rioja on the list when it can be had for £19 elsewhere in Cardiff). It did, however, work well enough with the duck starter and pork main.
No dessert wines on the list (or the dessert menu), which is a bit of a shame. A light sweet wine, like a Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, would have been nice with the clafoutis.
The food was very good and, whilst not cheap, fairly priced to my mind. The wine list and drinks in general, however, disappointed a bit. I understand they are revamping the list very soon, so fingers crossed this will be rectified.
Bar from the lack of knowledge re drinks, services was good. Our bill was, however, way off (£196.90 as against the £161.45 it should have been). A large number of unordered “additional” drinks were on it – the wine we ordered was OK, but we certainly weren’t going to pay for it twice.
To add to the confusion some stuff wasn’t loaded on the system, so the “special” in the form of the cawl was down as ricotta (nowhere on the menu, so a mystery as to how it got on the bill ) and the poached egg Welsh rarebit number was down as a third duck starter. Result – a bit of time and hassle sorting out the correct bill. Teething problems no doubt, but I would suggest paying more than lip service to the bill’s content when you get it here.
We weren’t the only people on the night struggling to reconcile the presented bill as against what they had ordered.
Would I go back? Yes, good food and a nice ambience made for a pleasant meal – good company always helps. I very much like the sound of Sunday lunches here.
They, however, do need to give the wine offering a bit of attention (I understand they are in process of addressing this). The very good food on offer certainly deserves better than what was on offer wine wise on our visit.
Address: The Tumble, St. Nicholas, Cardiff, CF5 6SD
Tel: 02921 157754
Website: Click here
Opening hours: Mon – Sat: 11am – 11pm, Sun 11am – 6pm.