Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
I am a big fan of a fixed price lunch menu, which (at its best) offers the opportunity of eating at some of the best places without breaking the bank (which appeals to the miser in me). The trade off is that you get a more limited choice than on the al à carte menu.
The fixed price menu is also a challenge for the chef. With the prices fixed at a lowish level (at least relative to the al à carte), they have to be inventive in order to get the punters interested whilst still maintaining an acceptable margin.
It has been a thing on the continent for donkey’s years, with the Plat du Jour in France and the Menú del Dia in Spain and it is increasingly featuring over here.
In Cardiff the fixed price lunch options are slowly increasing, with the likes of Asador 44 and The Classroom leading the way in the City centre. It is, to my mind, a good way to get the punters in on slow days.
Out to the West of Cardiff, J has been telling me for ages about how good the Plat du Jour offer at Milkwood is (confirmed by, one of the doyennes of the Cardiff food scene, Gourmet Gorro). Very good offer, the Milkwood one, as they throw in a glass of vino for £17/2 course and £21/3 course price (£15 and £19 without wine respectively). The Heathcock has now also joined the party with a very nice looking offering.
Whilst tempting by both of these, I noted that Heaney’s also now have a lunch time offer and thought Mrs. SF and I would give that a go.
When we arrived, it was packed. Really nice to see this on a lunchtime service.
The fixed price lunch menu (£16/2 courses and £21/3 courses – in line (ish) with the Milkwood price, but sans the vino) is written in typical Heaney “minimalist” style
As we perused the short menu, we munched on some of Heaney’s signature sourdough bread and marmite butter (£3.50).
As good as ever and a dish I doubt I will ever tire of.
Choices made, both Mrs. SF and I went for the intriguing sounding Oxtail pie, potato, shallot to start. With oxtail you expect robust stuff and in a pie form I tend to think of a suet pudding type affair. What arrived was not a pie and certainly nothing remotely like a suet pudding, but a rather fine looking dish none the less.
Shallots two ways (braised and fried so they really crisped up) and puffed rice (I think) sat on a light potato puree (verging on an espuma) infused with dots of herb oil.
Under the puree/espuma was rich, shredded, oxtail in a seriously tasty braising liquor which exuded beefiness. Beautiful tender and full of flavour, with all the elements of the dish perfectly seasoned.
Really nice dish this, which combined great flavours with some pleasing textural contrasts.
For mains, I went for the “somewhat standard sounding, but with a sting in the tail” Goosenargh duck, leek, carrot and cod roe. At first blush a seemingly odd combo of duck and, in effect, taramasalata.
The duck was butter knife tender, with bags of flavour and cooked to my preferred blushing pink (no request was made or question asked as to cooking preference). It had a glaze on the skin (soy based I think) and a scattering of sesame seeds. My only slight quibble with the duck was the skin could have, perhaps, been just a tad crisper.
Whilst the taramasalata (not your usual radioactive looking number) seemed an odd addition, its saltiness actually worked quite well with the duck (sort of the equivalent of that classic combo of lamb and anchovy).
The veg. components were very good, with a slight smokiness to the chargrilled baby leeks and a beautifully smooth, but not overly sweet, carrot puree
The whole dish was brought together by a jus, with a nice touch of sweet and just a little sour melding well with the meatiness from duck stock (I presume).
Worked very well this dish – I really enjoyed it.
Mrs. SF went for the fish option of crispy pollock, sprouting broccoli and a tartar hollandaise.
A good size slab of pollock (from the cod family – a very underrated fish and good value) was encased in a beautiful crisp crumb (panko I would surmise). It sat atop a lovely rich and tart, yet, light tartar hollandaise and some pleasing al dente tenderstem broccoli.
The fish inside was cooked perfectly, with a lovely flake to it
I thought the crumb coating worked better than the batter one, that was the encasement used for the pollock on a previous visit,
as it didn’t get a soggy bottom.
Another good dish and about the right size portion side (as part of a 3 course meal).
On to the puds (which from previous meals here is an area in which Heaney’s excels), I opted for an old favourite in the form of the Salted caramel, yogurt and honeycomb.
A good as I remember, with a clever blend of salt, sweet and slightly sourness.
Mrs. SF went for the other dessert on the menu in the form of the “Chocolate, pistachio and blood orange”
A beautifully presented (and quite substantial size wise) dish, which consisted of a cocoa dusted rich chocolate mousse (verging on a ganache) and a lovely orange sorbet atop a pistachio crumb.
On initially digging in Mrs. SF was worried that this dish would be a bit too rich, but this worry was dispelled by the discovery of an orange gel core and a chocolate and pistachio base.
This made it like a very superior Jaffa Cake. Very nice dessert.
On the booze front we didn’t want a bottle, so it was to the “by the glass” element of the wine list we turned.
Decent selection of both white wines
and reds, by the glass, which are not just your usual suspects.
I went for a rather pleasant glass of the Prunas (a Portuguese number from Dao)
which was £7.20 for a 175ml glass. Packed with ripe dark fruits (predominately blackberry) flavours, it also had a pleasing touch of anis and wood smoke to it.
Very good with both the oxtail “pie” and my duck dish.
Mrs. SF went for a rosé (£7.20 for 175ml), a light fruity number from Italy (can’t recall where, as we were told it was not the Italian rosé wine detailed on the list). On the dryer side of the rosé scale, which is to Mrs. SF’s taste, this went particularly well with the crispy pollock dish.
One thing, on the wine front, I would like to see here is some wines in a carafe (500ml) size format, which I think is a good size for a lunch for 2 like this. A carafe option would operate to meet the “should I have another glass or not” quandry. I thought about another glass, but decided against it. If there was a carafe option, however, Mrs. SF and I may well have opted for that rather than just one glass each.
It is nice to see the sherry offering has been expanded
with 4 on the list. Still in dinky 75 cl (50cl for the PX) pours though and quite expensive. The Gonzalez Byass Amontillado (presumed to be a Vina AB) can be got retail for £8.85 and is on the list at a bottle price of, in effect, £50. The Villespanes (Emilo Higaldo) oloroso (lovely wine) can be got retail for as little £25.70 and sells here at an effective per bottle price of an eye watering £120. Both represent pretty aggressive mark ups to my mind. I drink a lot of sherry, but these prices put me off ordering it here.
Mrs. SF and I really enjoyed our lunch at Heaney’s, which delivered on both the quality and the quantity fronts.
We paid £64 (sans a well deserved tip – service was, as ever, very good), with the booze and little extras (bread and marmite, mineral water and a coffee) bumping it up a bit. If you don’t want to pay for mineral water my advice is stipulate tap water as asking for “still” will get you the £2.50 a bottle one.
I thought the total price represented good value for what we got.
Would I go back? Yes definitely – up there with the best in the now very competively fixed price lunch stakes in Cardiff.
The rather fine sounding Sunday lunch here
is next on the hit list.
The fixed price lunch offer is available Tuesday to Friday from 12.00 to 15.00.