Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
As readers of this blog will know, I am rather fond of a glass of wine. To me a glass or two of a good wine and a plate of cold cuts/ charcuterie and /or cheese to nibble on is pretty much my idea of heaven.
As such I see the recent permanent opening of Wright’s Wine/Food Emporium here in Cardiff (in Castle Arcade) as a real boon for the city.
Cardiff, in my opinion, is a bit lacking in proper wine bars (cocktail bars seem to be ten a penny, but proper wine bars…) or even places serving decent wine (rather than stuff in a pub that has been sitting under a spot light for 3 weeks).
Granted we have the excellent Bar 44 and Curado Bar (as bars selling wines from my beloved Spain) and restaurants like Asador 44 (cracking list of Spanish beauties), Casanova (very interesting selection of Italian gems – sold retail as well as in the restaurant ) and the Park House (that place has a truly world class list which runs to over 200 pages!), but the more the merrier I say.
Wright’s Food Emporium in Llanarne(y) has a wonderfully eclectic mix of wines from small scale artisan producers, with a focus on natural wines and they have brought lots of these to their tiny (but well appointed) establishment in Cardiff.
I have been itching to try it, but their somewhat limited opening hours and the fast approaching financial year end in work (a rather stressful time of year, with the need to hit targets, budgets etc.) has meant little spare time in the day. A window, however, emerged last week and a work mate and I trundle up that way for a gander and a spot of lunch.
Located on the balcony level of Castle Arcade, it is a rather stunning (if somewhat out of the way) setting. Have very rarely been up there, but it is lovely on the balcony level.
Inside it is compact and bijou.
A tiny space, with wine and other goodies all around you.
Chairs and tables are totally higgledy piggledy and it is all rather quaint (like someones 50s dining room).
The food prep area is barely big enough to swing a cat (a manx one at that).
The food offering is short and sweet, so don’t expect the fulsome board that is on offer at the Wright’s mothership back in Llantharne(y).
What is on the board here though has instant appeal to me and is the sort of stuff that is just the ticket with a glass of vino to my mind.
We started off with some wafer thin coppa (£5)
Great flavour with lots of all important (to favour) fat. This came with a lovely celeriac (punchy yet refreshing) remoulade (think coleslaw with knobs on)
Good size portion and I thought a good price for the quantity and quality.
Next up was a “carne salate” with parmesan and olive oil (£5). Lovely rare beef, with a few gulgs of a decent olive oil and salty nuggets of parmesan (usually slivers, but I quite liked it in nugget form). Lovely umami hit to this dish.
Again a generous portion and great value for the price charged.
The final dish we ordered was a silky ball of burrata, with a wild garlic pesto
It came whole, but I dug in before I remembered to take a picture (a school boy error, but it was too tempting to resist).
It was a globe of wobbly, silky, white loveliness.
Fantastic texture and flavour, complemented perfectly by the punchy wild garlic pesto that came with it.
Simple stuff, but done really well.
Bread is top quality and comes with proper sea salt and good quality olive oil. Just this was a joy to eat and I would happily just eat that with a glass of the wines on offer.
On a subsequent visit I had a lovely heritage tomato and burrata salad (£4.50 – so rare to have tomatoes that taste of actual tomato these days)
and, that stalwart of Wright’s, the rare roast beef tonnato (£5.50).
Both were stunningly good – I could eat that tonnato every day for lunch.
This is happy food – stuff that puts a smile on your face as you eat it. Simple, but when you use ingredients of the highest quality there is no need to muck about with them. They do all the talking on the flavour front, without the need for further embellishment.
I couldn’t fault any of the dishes I had over my two visits.
Wright’s are well known for championing the natural wine cause. By natural wine, I mean wine made from organically grown grapes with no weedkiller, fertilizers or other synthetic products used. The grapes are hand picked and intervention in the process is kept to a minimum (sulphite use is either removed in toto or kept to an absolute minimum).
This can result in wines that are very different to those made on a mass produced commercial basis. Generally no bad thing in my view, but there is a quirkiness to some of these wines. The result is you get some that are good, some that are not so good and some that are very much an “acquired taste”.
Wright’s has built up a portfolio of interesting stuff from a wide range of quality, small scale, producers and there are some real gems on the list. Not come across a dud one on the list yet.
They have a selection of wines by the glass each day and as I understand it you can buy a bottle off the shelf and open it there and then in the place (with a corkage charge of £7 only – a great value option especially if there are a few of you).
Prices (per glass) range from £5 to £7 (natural wines are not cheap as production levels tend to be very small).
I went for a Loire Valley number (£5 a glass, with a very decent pour), which was recommended by the very amicable chap serving us.
This Chinon (made with 100% Cabernet Franc) was a pleasingly juicy number with some nice hedgerow fruits in the mix. Easy drinking stuff and very pleasant with the charcuterie and cheese we had.
On a subsequent visit I went with their recommendation of a Teroldego from Northern Italy (£6 a glass)
A lovely refreshing drop, with its mouth watering acidity making it very food friendly. Cracking stuff with the tonnato and the burrata and heritage tomato salad.
Plenty of other stuff on offer to drink in and take away.
Water was provided without us having to ask.
I like that.
I loved this place. Quality charcuterie and cheese, with interesting wines are things that really floats my boat.
I think prices (whilst not cheap – quality stuff rarely is) are pretty good when you look at the quantity and quality of what you get. We paid just over £20 for enough food for two and a glass of wine (a little less on my second solo visit).
This place is exactly what I have been waiting for in Cardiff and is a must for wine lovers and lovers of quality food and drink in general.
They are perfectly happy for you to have just a drink or some food or (if you are sensible) a bit of both.
They are also happy to make recommendations as to what wine to have with the food you order. As the wine is far from your bog standard stuff, it is worthwhile taking advantage of the staff’s knowledge.
Super addition to the Cardiff food and wine scene in my humble opinion.
Would I go back? Hell yes, exactly my sort of thing and I have already made a return visit (one of what will be many I am sure).
Address: 7-9 The Balcony, Castle Arcade Cardiff City Centre.
Website: click here
Opening hours: Weds, Fri – Sat: 12.00- 18.00; Thurs: 12.00 – 21.00; Sun – Tues: Closed.