Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
Update : I have just been told by the people at Curado Bar that they will, from early March, be opening on Sundays. That is excellent new.
I have an enduring love of all things Spanish – the wine, the food and above all the people (I have what I regard as a second family in Andalusia whom I have known since childhood – which I can tell you is a bloody long time ago).
Food and wine wise, Spain has so much to offer. On the wine front everyone has heard of Rioja (an old and ever reliable favourite of mine) as well as perhaps cava, the wines of Ribera del Duero and sherry (the best value wine in the world in my opinion), but there are also wines from Galicia (reds as well as whites), Bierzo (mencia), Rueda, Toro, Priorat and Montsant, Somatomo, Penedes, Montilla – Moriles Alicante/Valencia and Jumilla/Murcia – not forgetting the lesser known wines of the Canary and Balearic island – to name but a few. I am a Spanish wine nut and over nearly 30 years of buying the stuff have barely scratched the surface of what is on offer.
On the grub front, think amazing cured meats, such as jamon Iberico (the bellota stuff to me is the gold standard as against which all other cured meats should be tested and the pinnacle of what can be produced from that wonderous beast that is the pig and, regrettably, priced accordingly) as well as cecina (cured smoked beef – if you haven’t tried it do so – the top quality stuff is amazing), chorizo, lomo and salchichon, fantastic seafood (boy do the Spaniards love seafood), amazing charcoal grilled meat (few things are more satisfying than a chuleton/txuleton de buey chargrilled to perfection in a Spanish asador) and even the much maligned paella (only maligned if you haven’t had one done properly – a fantastic all in one dish).
For me the North of Spain holds a special place in my stomach (the South is where my heart – somewhat broken at the moment – lies), particularly the glorious food and wine culture of Pais Vasco (see my posts on pintxo, pintxo, wine and more) and the jewel in its crown Donostia San Sebastian.
It was, therefore, of great joy to me that one of the trailblazers in Wales (along with the lovely Bar 44) of Spanish food and wine – in the form of Ultracomida – finally made it to Cardiff with the opening of Curado Bar (curado being Spanish for cured as in cured meats – hence the post title) in the City centre.
Curado Bar is their take on the classic pintxos bars of my beloved Donostia San Sebastian
It is situated in the unit, on the corner of Guildhall St. and Westgate St. in the City centre, that use to house a Burger King.
They have done a nice job doing it out and it is the sort of place I would be happy to go to on my own for a quick beer or (more likely) a glass or three of wine with pintxos or with a crew of people for a more substantial night out.
At one end they also have a rather fine deli selling all the Spanish food classics and an excellent selection of Spanish wines, spirits and beers. Totally my kind of place.
On the food front, they have a nice mix of pintxos and more substantial dishes, up to a mighty Txuleton/Chuleton de buey (a 1 kg plus hunk of prime beef from old Galician milkers – best beef there is in my view)
My first visit, with a couple of chaps from work (for a work day lunch), was whilst they were still somewhat bedding down the processes and communication between the kitchen and front of house. We didn’t have to wait that long for the food we ordered, but got given gratis a plate of mixed olives and cornichons (even though we were quite happy chewing the fat – otherwise known as middle age moaning about life in general).
In terms of what we ordered, the patatas bravas (£4 ) were a fine example of how satisfying this simple dish can be. Crisp, but oil free, new potato halves came with a smokey mojo picón sauce and an aioli that risks consigning you to the spare room for days. Very nice, but not for the faint hearted.
A decent slice of tortilla (£3) came with the same punchy aioli (doubling likely spare room time). I really liked the nicely caramelised onion in this tortilla, which had a good flavour to it and was nicely (generously) seasoned (worse thing ever is an under seasoned tortilla), but I prefer my tortilla a bit more on the gooey side.
Star of the show (on this first visit) was some great cecina (£6 – if you love braesola, good cecina is even better). Wafer thin, with intense beefiness augmented by a nice touch of smoke. Add to that shavings of some lovely ewe’s cheese and good olive oil on top and what we got was absolutely top-notch stuff.
We finished lunch off with a Tabla Mixta, a plate of very decent Spanish charcuterie (£6), with some melt in the mouth jamon stealing the show.
My second visit was a solo affair (Mrs. SF was away), after seeing the rather good Rogue One at the cinema.
I was more than happy perched at the bar with a glass of wine perusing the menu
First up was a plate of gambas al ajillo (£6). Four nicely sized , juicy, “shell on” prawns, luxuriating in an oil olive based sauce supercharged with garlic, were perfectly cooked. My advice is sit near the napkins as it will get messy and make sure you rip the heads off the prawns and suck out the contents before discarding. If you don’t you are seriously missing a trick – best bit by far of a prawn in my opinion.
My only slight qualms regarding this lovely dish were it could have done with a couple of squeezes of lemon juice to cut the richness and it needed bread (to mop up the sauce) which, at £2, was a bit steep I thought (there was quite a lot of it mind) .
Next up, I went for a secreto Iberico a la plancha (£6). Secreto Iberico is a highly prized cut of meat in Spain (heavily marbled with fat, so full of flavour, and found between the shoulder-blade and the loin – not much of it per pig and it is therefore pricey stuff) from black-footed pigs that gorge on acorn in Spain’s dehesas. Happy pigs make for tasty pork and Iberico pigs are as happy as the proverbial pigs in …..!
I like my secreto Iberico cooked like a good steak – medium rare at the most (in El Portal in Ezcaray they served, Mrs. SF and I, it nigh on blue). Here it was a very tasty bit of meat with plenty of sea salt and a nice hint of thyme (with the addition of more of their killer aioli and padron peppers – have eaten probably thousands of these and am yet to have a fabled super hot one).
My only qualm was it was just a tad over (only a hint of pink) for my blood thirsty tastes.
I know us Brits can be squeamish as to less than well done pork, but if sourced properly secreto Iberico is fine pink or even rarer and should (to my mind) be cooked like you would a good steak.
I have yet to try the pintxos, but they looked very good
if not quite up there with Donostia’s finest
On the take out front, they have a nice selection of quality bocodillos and tostadas
as well as tortilla.
I have enjoyed both bocadillo and tortilla take outs (lethal on the wallet me visiting this place in the day as, whilst the bocodillos etc. are great value, I invariably come away with a bottle or two of wine – just can’t resist).
As an avowed hispanophile, particularly on the wine front, this place is “El Dorado” for me. Loads of stuff of massive interest from all over Spain.
and a really nice selection by the glass, kept in tip-top condition by the very nifty bit of kit below.
I also like the fact that a lot of their wines are sold in a 500ml (2/3 of a bottle) size . A nice “in between” size when a bottle is just a bit too much (at breakfast perhaps – I was once told by a Basque chap that the Basque wine Txakoli/chacoli was, in his view, a breakfast wine).
They have a very nice and wide list of house wines
I was lucky enough to taste all of these one lunch time (with the benefit of a spittoon) and they are excellent quality. Nicely priced too, especially the Gran Fabian Albarino (lovely drop for £18 a bottle or £5 for a 175 ml glass).
There is also the ability to really move up the gears quality wise. Some great wines from across Spain and an association with the excellent Bodegas Muga (a watch word for quality in Spain).
If you want to really push the boat out, Muga’s Prado Enea wine (sold retail for £44 and in the bar for £59, if I recall correctly, so a very fair mark up) is truly exceptional stuff. It would be great if they sold it by the glass, alas by the full bottle only at present.
On my evening visit, I started off with a lovely La Goya manzanilla pasada (bargain at £4.50 for a 150ml glass). Aged longer (8 years) than a standard manzanilla, this had lovely almond and floral notes (camomile – which is actually “manzanilla” in Spanish) on the nose and almonds, green olives, lime and a nice touch of salinity on the palate. Great on its own and just fabulous paired with the gambas al ajillo
With the secreto Iberio, I plumped for a lovely 2014 Ribera del Duero number from Emilio Moro.
Not cheap at £8 for a 175cl glass – £33 a bottle (it retails at £16.95 in the deli, so again a fair mark up). Drinking this is like being cwtched by a blueberry. A very good wine (I bought a bottle from the deli the next day) and a great pair for the secreto Iberico.
Wine prices on the list are very reasonable, no appreciable mark ups on the glass as against bottle price and most bottle prices are around 2 x the retail price (very fair as against the UK norm).
My advice is branch out a bit and try something different from your norm wine wise. By all mean drink their fab tempranillo wines (they have some lovely Rioja and Ribera del Duero wines), but why not try the great selection they have from other parts of the wonderous wine country that is Spain. Maybe a red utilising the mencia or monastrell grape or on the whites, that perfect pinxtos wine, txakoli/chacoli (shame, in my opinion, they don’t sell it by the glass here – mandatory that it is poured from a great height- as you would get in every Pais Vasco pintxos bar) or a godello. I may well pick up the Enrique Mendoza pinot noir they stock from Alicante on my next visit to the deli (pinot noir in Spain being a rare beast – not really suited to the climate – and must admit Alicante is certainly not where I would expect it to be grown, so curious to see what it is like).
For beer lovers they have a nice selection, including the intriguing Toro – a beer aged in sherry barrels.
I very much like the fact that they do these in a 20cl cana size. Great for a swifty, with a pinxto (in true pintxo bar hopping style, a further zurito – smaller than a cana – option would be nice) .
Yet to try the beers, as the wine list holds so much of interest to me, but am sure will get around to it.
Proper G&Ts and Asturian and Basque sidras (the sidras always to be drunk in small measures downed in one – never sipped – after being poured into the glass from a height) finishes off a truly fulsome Spanish offering booze wise.
On the soft drinks front, they have some interesting stuff on offer rather than just the usual soda suspects.
It you want something truly Spanish, try the Horchata (a very refreshing drink from Valencia made from tiger nuts).
So great if you fancy wine, beer,cider, spirits or are the designated driver.
Super addition to the Cardiff food scene, with great food and drink and a top-notch deli. What’s not to like!
On the food front it aren’t cheap (especially if like me you are used to Pais Vasco prices), but good things rarely are and I think the place offers fair value for what you get.
On the wine front, the prices are very reasonable, hitting that sweet spot of quality at a fair price from top to bottom (price wise) on the list. The breadth of what is on offer, from all across Spain, is also superb. Something to suit all tastes and wallets.
Would I go back? As you can probably tell I am rather enamoured with Curado Bar. I am a regularly visitor already and will continue to eat and drink in the bar and buy food and wine from the deli.
It reminds me of places in Donostia San Sebastian and you don’t get a much better compliment from me than that.
Only problem for me is they don’t open on Sundays, which would be my optimum day to visit.
With this place, Bar 44 and the soon to open Asador 44 all in close proximity to each other, Cardiff has the makings of its very own rather special Barrio.
Address: 2 Guildhall Place, Cardiff; CF10
Tel: 029 2034 4336
Opening hours: Tues – Thurs: 12.00 – 23.00, Fri – Sat: 12.00 – 23.45, Sun – Mon: closed.