The revival of Church Street in Cardiff continues apace, with the likes of Beelzebub (joining long term resident Cafe Citta) already there and Pho, Honest Burger and Mowgli Street Food to come (last time I looked). One of the already in situ. new places (only recently opened) is Head of Steam, a mainly Northern based pub chain (specialising in craft beers) owned by a real brewery, Camerons Brewery (not familiar with any of their beers, but not a huge beer drinker so no surprise there) rather than venture capitalists.
As ever I was attracted to the place by dint of a lunch time offer
With us all a touch brassic post Christmas, this “all in” price suggested reasonable value (especially as it included booze albeit from a limited choice). As a result myself and the usual suspects from work (me clearly being the mastermind, Keyser Soze 🙄) decided to give it a go.
Sited in the old Harvester site (so anything other than a nuclear waste dump would be an improvement), it looks inviting enough on the outside
and is a lot bigger on the inside than I was expecting.
There is plenty of eclectic seating and beer and rail paraphernalia in the place. We sat in a booth which will bring back memories to all the oldies (like me) of train travel in bygone days (as sh#te then as it is now, if truth be told).
Comfortable enough and a nice enough place for a pint and potentially food.
The food offering is extremely wide and I must admit I am away a bit leery of places that have massive menus. It is difficult to see how you can sustain quality in terms of both cooking processes and demonstrating any level of provenance in terms of ingredients with such a diverse menu. I always suspect there are constant microwave pinges in the kitchens of places (and a Brakes Brothers van outside) with huge menus
Leaving this concern aside, the lunch time offer looked pretty good value if you go for booze (not so much if you don’t). A decent sized sandwich with a side and a drink (including some alcoholic numbers) for well under a tenner is a good deal if (and only if) it is reasonable quality. As I have said on many an occasion – cheap rubbish is still rubbish.
I think the offer, as presented online, is slightly ambiguous (this is the lawyer in me coming out) as the sandwiches on the menu comes with fries and the offer on the website refers to sandwich + a side + a drink. On this basis you could argue (not their intent I am sure) that the + a side refers to something in addition to the fries (which come with all sarnies as standard). Before we ordered we all wagered that what was on offer was not a side and fries.
I ordered the fish finger wrap (£6.95, with fries, outside of the lunch time off) with tartare sauce. As predicted it came with just chips as the side and we didn’t argue the toss (we are lawyers, not complete arses – although many believe the two are intrinsically linked 🙄).
Despite it not being much of a looker, this was not bad at all.
The fish (not really a finger, unless you are a chippy – they have in my limited experience very wide, flat fingers due to hammer related accidents) was in a crisp, light, batter (rather than crumb) and had nicely steamed in said batter. The tartare sauce was pleasantly tart, with a good ration of caper and gherkin to mayo. The only things that let the side down was the tortilla wrap (could have been toasted/griddle a touch more/to any extent at all – the other option was ciabatta roll, but I sometimes find these can be a bit hard work and I was feeling lazy), as it was cold and a bit flabby in texture, and a rather limp side salad (it was thankfully dressed though).
The fries were decent with a nice crisp to them. Mine were not overseasoned, others where a bit too salty even for a salt junkie like me.
Other dishes ordered were the Röad Crew beer sausage sandwich, which looked a bit non descript and eerily reminiscent of Richmond sausages. The two chaps who ordered this (one in wrap form – sausage sarnie in a wrap, heresy I hear you say – the other in a ciabatta roll) said the sausages were actually quite nice, despite my early description of them, with a decent flavour to them. The final sandwich ordered was a pulled spiced salt beef (isn’t all salt beef spiced to some extent or other, plus I prefer it sliced and in my world you can’t pull beef – only pork and someone’s leg) sandwich. From the small taste of this I had it lacked a bit in flavour, whilst oddly being a bit overseasoned and sweet. It was OK, but overly sweet for me.
On the booze front, they have a formidable selection of beer in terms of cask,
bottles and cans (the most expensive of which is over £87, albeit for a mighty 3 litre bottle – love to see that ordered at 23.30 on a Friday night).
Looking at the list on the website, there seems to be something for all tastes if you are a beer drinker. The wine list, on the other hand, is a tad limited and pedestrian. I suppose it isn’t a wine bar so that is fair enough, but it looks a very unimaginative list written by a bean counter.
In terms of the lunch time meal deal, booze is rather gratifyingly included and we all partook. On asking, the choices were lager (Tuborg or San Miguel – I think), cask (Mötörhead Road Crew American Pale Ale and Strongarm Red Ale), keg (Steamer Smooth and Mötörhead Road Crew) and cider (Symonds).
I went for the Strongarm Red Ale (usually £3.75), others the Tuborg (£4.45 ) and the Mötörhead Cask (£4.00).
My Strongarm was a pleasant enough beer, if a little unexciting, with nice malty notes and a caramel finish. Easy drinking stuff I thought, but not a beer to get the pulse racing flavour wise.
Not a bad lunch time offer, with the food doing the job of filling us up nicely and being of acceptable quality.
If you choose the booze option with the offer you get a pretty good deal value wise, with savings ranging from £2.75 to £3.45 over the price of the food and beer if bought outside of the offer. I would, however, question the value of this offer if you go for a soft drink rather than booze as whatever you order (drinks wise) generally needs to be £2 plus to make it worthwhile.
It is fair to say the food here isn’t going to set the pub grub world on fire (it ain’t no Heathcock that is for sure), but the place is a boozer that does food and it does that job well enough. I think I prefer the likes of Beelzebub next door to it (it helps somewhat that I get 10% discount as I Crowdfunded that place) and Tiny Rebel , but this place is nice enough for a beer and that food is decent pub grub. Fact it is dog friendly (as is Beelzebub and Tiny Rebel) is a big bonus for me, with mutts often in tow at the weekends
On the booze front, for a beer novice like me the selection on offer is a bit bewildering (I don’t now a saison from a sour, if I am honest) with so many different styles of beer on offer. They were, however, very happy to engage in terms of what was on offer and if you are looking to expand your beer horizons or are already a beer geek this place seems to fit the bill.
Would I go back? Yes. I think if you go for a beer with your sandwich you get a pretty good deal at this place. Wonder if they will be maintaining this deal over the 6 nations? It seems to apply at weekends, but I somehow doubt it.
Address: 18-19 Church St., Cardiff, CF10 1BG.
Tel: 029 2037 2852
Website: Click here
Opening hours: Mon – Sun: 11:00 – 00.00
Lunch offer – Everyday until 17.00.