Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
Many in Cardiff have for a while been lobbying for some form of permanent street food (is that an oxymoron?) base of operations in Cardiff.
These places are ten a penny in the Far East (like the hawkers centres in Singapore) and are increasingly popular in Mainland Europe (places like the Time Out Market in Lisbon and the multiple offerings in places like Madrid and Barcelona).
The old Burger and Lobster unit in the Hayes and the mezzanine level of Cardiff’s Central market have previously been mooted as possible permanent locations for street food, but nothing seemed to come of these suggestions (although the latter now has the fabulous Ffrwnes Pizza in situ).
When hope of getting anything was all but lost, out of the blue has come Sticky Fingers Street food with a lightening fast redevelopment of the unit that use to house Chiquitos (a very ropey Tex Mex place) on the lower level, under Five Guys, in the Brewery Quarter in the City Centre.
The Brewery Quarter in Cardiff is not exactly a place renowned as a culinary destination in Cardiff, with the likes of Nandos (its fans are legion, but I am not one of them), the ghastly Bella Italia (about as authentically Italian as a ham and pineapple pizza) and Five Guys (why get ripped off by just one guy when Five Guys do such a good job?) amongst the current outlets.
On this basis, a surprise location perhaps, but none the less a welcome one.
Inside and out they have gone for quite an industrial look – corrugated iron, rough hewn wooden benches and old style school (as in when I was in school) chairs.
Lots of bright colours on the floor and street art on the walls.
Can’t say it particularly appeals to me or repels me style wise, but as a bit of an old fogey I am not really qualified to comment. My style criteria is based almost entirely on “Is it comfy?” and is singlarly lacking in bright colours these day (lots of browns and beiges though)!!
I think for street food it serves the required purpose and that works for me.
In terms of the food offering, they currently have five vendors who offer a nice mix of food styles. So what are they like?
A collaboration between two stalwarts (and innovators) of the Cardiff food scene, in the form of Phill Lewis (Dusty Knuckle) and John Cook (Dirt pop up, the Lamb & Flag Inn and formerly Arbennig), this was always going to be good.
The Hoof (£7) is a shredded (the only meat that can be “pulled” in my world is pork) flat iron steak sarnie (with bells on) using Welsh beef, pickled veg and hafod cheddar.
A more pimped up version is the Dirty Hoof (£9) which adds fries and a beef ragu.
I went for the basic “hoof” (£7)
which is a really nice sandwich (could be regarded as a burger, I suppose). The Welsh flat iron steak supplied by, Cardiff butcher, Martin Player was cooked, shredded, beef that was then given a nice caramelised crust on a flat top. Packed full of flavour it was nicely complimented by some sharp hafod cheddar (again keeping it pleasingly local) and some crisp, lightly picked, vegetables.
The chilli and herb sauce brought some piquency to the party and it all came in a really good Alex Gooch potato roll (nice texture to this and it held together right the way through the eating process, thus admirably serving its primary purpose). All in all a very superior sarnie.
It came tightly wrapped up in paper so can be taken out and eaten on the hoof 😁.
As a side I added fries (£2.50), which were nice and crisp and properly seasoned. Various condiments are available, but for me mayo is the only one for fries (I must have Belgium blood in the mix somewhere).
Decent size portion of these, I thought, which made it ideal to share (I did so rather than eat all of them myself).
The Hoof is basically the same price as a Five Guys hamburger and I know which one I would eat again. The Hoof is better by a country mile on all counts in my humble opinion.
They are also mixing it up a bit, with a new special of pig on a stick (slow cooked – 22 hours – sticky, sweet, chilli pork belly encrusted with sesame seeds) on this weekend (oh yes) and there is the promise of white truffle macaroni with braised pig cheek number going on the menu this week. Now these sound like they are really taking it up another notch!!!
Website: Click here
Another stalwart of the street food scene, Mr. Croquewich has been taking grilled cheese sarnies to the next level for many years. A combination of top quality ingredients and inventive use of said ingredients has always bought a “cheesy” grin to my face as I have tucked into their creations.
Here they has a very interesting looking menu, with classic grilled cheese numbers complimented by some seriously good sounding “dirty spuds” (can’t go wrong with a good Toulouse sausage, pots and cheese)
They also have a changing special, on my first visit a savour bread pudding number.
and the week after a very fine Croque Madame.
My friend had the latter and it was a impressive and very tasty beast.
Loads of lovely gooey cheese, good bread, proper ham, a nicely tangy rarebit sauce and a pleasingly runny egg. Some pink pickled onion acted as a nice counterpoint to all the cheesy, eggy, richness. It all hit the spot nicely according to my friend who had it. Very good value for a fiver I thought.
Website: Click here
Jon White (formally of Nine Yards) has spent the summer wowing the beach goers at Ogmore on Sea, with seafood cooked over open flame.
Here the offering changes from week to week with scallops in a half shell, plus samphire and garlic butter, mackerel burgers and Cajun grey mullet tacos on week 1 and week 2 the following:
and week 3 mixing it up again.
I was drawn to the Baller Platter – a mix of scallop, prawns and fries – but at £12 it was perhaps a tad too much for a Thursday lunch (based on the miser in me – could have shared it I suppose – if had popped on an extra scallop would have had an idea sharing dish). I, therefore, went for the fishcakes (£5)
Good size portion with an nice crisp exterior and a good fish (mackerel and grey mullet) to potato filling.
It was proper seasoned and really packed a flavour punch. It came with a very nice mango and chilli mayo (touch more chilli perhaps needed) and some decent salad leaves (more dressing on these would have pepped them up a bit more). Very good value for a fiver.
My friend had the grilled mackerel burger/ sandwich (£6).
A toasted brioche bun encasing a very nicely cooked bit of mackerel (hugely underrated fish), with a pleasing lemon and pepper mayo and some greenery. Again good value for the price.
We shared a very generous portion of fries, nicely seasoned with rosemary salt (£3 and easily big enough for 2), with the lemon and pepper mayo as our condiment.
All in all a very good offering and it is nice to see underrated fish like mackerel and grey mullet being used.
Website: click here
Twitter: @ thetwoanchors
A street food purveyor of whom I was (prior to my visit here) wholly unfamiliar with, having never tried their wares at any of the food festivals etc. They specialise in filled pizza dough, akin to a calzone (but with fillings that go way beyond just Italian inspired stuff) with gangster related nom de plumes (so you have the Dillinger, for example, but not sure which gangster the Nutella and Peanut butter dessert one on offer represents – is it perhaps Maurice “Peanut” King, a 60s gangster, who it was seems was a right Nutella).
My friend had the B- Boy (£7.50),
which was a fine looking beast from the outside
She was told it was best to eat it out of the bag as it was hot, hot, hot (steam billowed out when she first bit into it).
This was nice and very substantial, with lots of gooey filling (be warned if you eat it as suggested from the bag the filling tends to slide to the bottom of the pocket
My friend really enjoyed it and from the taste I had (its size defeated her eventually) it was a good combination of flavours, with juicy chicken, crisp peppers and a nice hit of oregano and lots of gooey stringey cheese.
It is nice to see they are flexible (they make them from scratch to order), and they were able and happy to acquiese to her request to hold the BBQ sauce that usually comes in the B- Boy.
Website: Click here
Another street food operator of whom prior to Sticky Fingers I was unfamiliar with, but one I was keen to try with my love of Malaysian food.
From the 3 dishes on offer, whilst tempted by the beef rendang, I went for the very nice sounding Tandoori Chicken Roti (£6).
The chicken was tender and juicy, with it being encased in a good light and crisp batter. The tandoori element was a bit subtle in terms of the chicken, but the accompliments added some nice Indian/South East Asian flavours.
I particularly liked the way they used mango chutney and pickled vegetables.
In terms of the roti itself, it was perfectly fine as a medium for getting the chicken etc. into the gob. I would, however, be surprised if it was not a frozen rather than scratch made one (not that they make any claim either way).
It was just somewhat less volumous and pillowy than the below (exemplary) number I had a Roti King in London not so long ago.
I certainly enjoyed this Makasih roti concoction, as something a bit different for lunch in Cardiff, and I am hoping in the future that they may do, one of my firm Malaysian favourites, roti canai (below again is an example of this from Roti King in London).
Cardiff possibly not quite ready for my other favourite, fish head curry.
Website: Click here
On the booze front there are cocktails
and beer (with the later being in the main, largest, bar area)
so pretty much all bases are covered.
Selection looks pretty good, although not sure about the wine offering as there are limited details available – red, white and fizz basically).
Each of my visits have been at weekday lunch times, so in each case I was on the soft drinks. Reasonable selection past your usually soda suspects. I had a ginger beer (£2) one week, a lemony lemonade (£2.50) the next and a Cawston Press apple drink (£2.50) the next
Nice to see these come with an ice and a slice (if requested) and that they offer not just the usual suspects for those not drinking booze.
I do like the fact that drink is an integral part of the offering here and can see this making it a good choice for a night out with good food to mop up the booze.
I think Sticky Fingers (not 100% sold on the name – as always associated the name with the Rolling Stones 1971 album rather than with food, although Bill Wyman has a London restaurant of that name which I have never been to and which has on its menu a ” Burger salad”, which I regard as a crime against humanity – not a burger, is it) is a damn fine idea and something that I have hoped for for a while in Cardiff.
The 5 vendors offer a nice variety of options and each of these vendor’s offerings I have tried were really good. Favourite to date is probably the Hoof, but there are no passengers here.
Great for lunch and even better (I suspect) as part of a night out – with the booze on offer then coming into the equation.
It is worth noting, stuff here is cooked to order, so it is not fast, fast (Macdonalds style) food (thank the Lord). It all takes a few minutes – so you order, grab a drink and a table and then wait for you food to be made.
Would I go back? Absolutely – 3 visits already and I think it will be a regular lunch time haunt for me.
On further visits I have tried (and very much liked) the “Dirty Hoof” and the “Pig Mac” – both deliciously dirty.
Really hope it succeeds and, judging from my experience, there is every reason it will if Cardiff knows what’s good for it.
I tend to pay with cash (old school me), but as far as I can see most (if not all) of the vendors and the bars take cards.
Address: Brewery Quarter (underneath Five Guys), Cardiff, CF10 1FG
Opening hours: Thurs – Sat: 12.00 – midnight ish and Sunday: 12.00 – 18.00 (20.00 in December).