Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
As the Italian speakers amongst you will know, “affare” means deal/bargain in Italian and this post refers to the seemingly rather good value Sunday lunch offer at Porro in Llandaf (where I happen to live).
Now the Heathcock has seriously upped the Llandaf food game, including a top notch Sunday lunch offering, but what it ain’t (nor should it be for the quality it offers) is cheap (although I would argue it is still very good value for money).
I was, therefore, interested in what Porro (a self confessed Italian-ish place) could bring to the Llandaf ‘dining scene” table at £15 for a two course and £20 for a three course Sunday lunch.
At first sight it seemed like a pretty good deal, and friends who I trust on the food front had recommended it (since the ownership changed) albeit for their standard menu offering rather than Sunday lunch.
I have not eaten there for a while and not at all since the people behind Milkwood divested themselves of their ownership stakes in both the Potted Pig and Porro.
I was curious, as a result, to see what this not particularly Italian “affare” (Sunday lunch must be part of the “ish” bit) was like.
I have always liked the look and feel of Porro, with the exposed brickwork on the walls and parquet wood flooring.
On our visit it was packed, with lots of seemingly happy diners tucking into their lunches.
Service was very amenable, with tap water brought to our table without us having to request it.
The menu looked quite enticing, with the promise of traditional roasts and more eclectic starters
Whilst tempted by the mussels, I prefer them without cream and didn’t want to order a white and a red wine with our meal (school day the next day and all). I therefore plumped for, that Italian Nonna’s favourite, polpettes (meatballs). Here Welsh lamb, so a true Italsh/Wetlian dish.
A rather small portion (I thought – they were two somewhat diminutive, and certainly not jumbo sized, balls), but the meatballs were tasty, with proper seasoning. They also had a pleasing texture (not grainy like some meatballs can be) and with a hint of chilli spice. The sauce (not, as far as I could tell, the advertised red pepper and chick pea puree, but I could be wrong – often am) was a robustly flavoured number, with some nice herbs in the mix and a touch of chilli heat (which would suggest a Sicilian twist).
Not sure what the toasted bread added. It was quite hard (I would call them homemade melba toast) and a slice or two of proper, untoasted, bread would have been more welcome and effective in terms of mopping up the sauce. Nice, but a bit on the dinky size I thought.
Mrs. SF and one of our friends had the crab salad
Again quite dainty, but the flavours were there and the crab to the other stuff ratio was pretty good. I nicked a bit of the pickled fennel on the top, which had a lovely anise heavy sweetness to it. I would happily have eaten a bowl of that.
On to the mains we all stuck to the traditional roasts on the menu.
I went for beef, despite rather than because (on asking if it was rare) I was told it was cooked medium.
Notwithstanding the beef being overdone (at least to my tastes), the meat was quite tender (topside can be tough in the wrong hands) and had a decent flavour to it.
The slices did look a little regulation and it wasn’t a bit of beef where the flavour really shone through,
but you pays your money and takes your choice and I thought it was alright for the price.
The gravy was pleasingly meaty and not over reduced (I am finding some gravies these days are too sweet for my tastes)
The veg on the plate was a bit meagre, with two, not particularly crisp, potatoes (at least one more, crisped up, one would have been nice)
and a carrot and a parsnip (both fine and properly seasoned). The yorkie was decent enough, with a good rise and a quite light texture, but I could have done with some extra gravy to pour into it (to be a proper yorkie it needs to have a good pour of gravy inside it it my opinion).
In terms of other vegetables, cabbage and broccoli had a decent al dente bite to it
and were nicely seasoned.
The cauliflower cheese was OK, with the cauliflower not overcooked
but the cheese sauce was a bit wanting in terms of both quantity and cheesiness. This meant it was a bit on the bland side and it looked like the sauce had simply been poured over the cauliflower and then it being given a very quick blast under the salamander. I prefer it cooked in the oven as an integrated dish.
Mrs. SF and one of our friends went for the leg of lamb roast, which came with an annoying £4 supplement. I have said it in the past and will say it again, I do not like supplements on a fixed price menus (it is either fixed or it ain’t and if something needs a supplement added to it then it shouldn’t be on the fixed price menu).
This (despite or perhaps because of the supplement) was the weakest of the mains. The lamb was a bit gristly and overall Mrs. SF was a tad disappointed by the quality of the meat. It was also over cooked for her tastes, without the slightest hint of pink. It didn’t, in her view, warranted the supplement.
Personally I am not in favour of a yorkie with a roast dinner other than beef, but that is the old fuddy duddy in me (and, to my mind, the fact it should be made using beef dripping harvested from the beef itself). It appears, however, that I am (as ever) very much in the minority as it seems it is people’s preference to have it with every roast. Each to their own I suppose and, to argue against myself, I am not at all adverse to a toad in the hole.
The last main ordered by our party was the slow roasted pork belly.
The person who ordered pork said it was nicely tender and the favoursome fat surrounding it had been properly crisped up, allowing for a nice, crunchy, crackling, edge. I would be tempted to order this over the beef if I visited again.
For non – roast fans, there was a fish and veggie offering on the fixed price menu, as well as a paired back version of their al a carte menu being available (operating outside of the fixed price deal).
On to the puddings, Mrs. SF had the sticky toffee pudding.
The sponge was well made and nicely moist, with a plentiful, rich, toffee sauce. A decent vanilla ice cream finished things off nicely.
One of our friends and I had the interesting sounding raspberry and pomegranate mousse on a pistachio base with mixed berries.
What arrived (on my plate) looked unfortunately like a bite had been taken out of it, but on closer examination a chunk just appeared to have been knocked off (aesthetically, it probably shouldn’t have made it past the pass though, but nothing intrinsically faulty about it).
Whilst it was OK, I didn’t really get the pomegranate in this and the pistachio base was a bit uninspiring flavourwise. The “mixed berries” turned out to be the Model T Ford of mixed berries, being raspberry, raspberry and (you guessed it) raspberry. I suffered a bit of food envy as against Mrs. SF’s sticky toffee pudding.
The final dessert ordered was affogato
which did what it said on the tin (with a decent vanilla ice cream and a pleasingly strong shot of espresso).
The wine list is, unsurprisingly, Italian focussed and goes a bit beyond the usual suspects.
A reasonable selection of whites, with the Gavi probably the pick to my mind (mark up is a bit leery though, with it retailing at below a tenner) as it states who the producer is (Cantine Volpi). The rest don’t seem to state the producer and quality can vary enormously depending on whom the producer is (just look at the difference between a Pieropan Soave and a bog standard Soave number).
In terms of the reds, it offers a short but reasonable selection across the length of Italy. Again the lack of detail as to producer and vintage makes it tricky to judge value.
A wine friend, who loves Italian wine (he knows more about it than anyone I know), despises merlot and would probably be horrified by this wine. I don’t mind the merlot grape in wine (although I don’t like it if it is too jammy) and I love nero d’avola. This was alright for the £26 (retails at around £9 so a not too hideous mark up for the UK) price tag
Whilst merlot is (I believe) the dominant grape in the blend, I got some typical nero d’avola characteristics of licorice and a touch of tobacco along side the plumminess of the merlot. It went well with all our roasts and my meatballs I thought.
We paid £118.50 for four 3 course meals, a perfectly acceptable bottle of wine and a beer (sans a tip, but including the accursed supplement on each of the lamb roasts ordered).
I though this fair value.
OK, on the quality front it doesn’t compare to the Heathcock’s Sunday lunch offering,
but it is a lot cheaper (more than 50% less).
With the food, the wine and the good company it made for an enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
Personally I think in Llandaf the Heathcock is a step up in class from this place and I don’t see this place getting in my top five for Sunday dinner to Cardiff (can potentially see a post on that coming up soonish). For the price, however, it did the job of filling us up nicely.
So would I go back? Yes – a fair “affare” (rather than, perhaps, an “affare” to remember) I thought😁.
Address : 22 High Street, Llandaff, Cardiff, CF5 2DZ
Tel: (029) 2056 5502
Reservations can be made online, as well as by phone.
Opening hours : Sunday lunch: 12.00-15.30