Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
This blogging lark can be hard work. For some reason (touch of OCD perhaps, but if it is it certainly doesn’t cross over into any other aspect of my life such as my desk at work or car – not washed the latter for 5 years as suspect dirt is the only thing keeping the old jalopy together), I like to put out a blog post every week and do so at or as close to 08.00, on a Sunday, as possible. Funny thing habits, although the fact I take no notes with everything based on memory (not as good perhaps as it use to be) may have something to do with it – stuff doesn’t stay in the noggin that long.
When you only use a phone to write up a rambling post every week (I refuse to have a PC/Mac at home as I absolutely loath and despise my work PC – I firmly believe is stands for “Pretty Crap” – with an unbridled passion and suspect the evil, malign, bugger feels very much the same about me) it can be challenging (particularly when all forms of IT are your sworn and mortal enemy), but if I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t do it.
Sometimes I write about places and meals I didn’t enjoy, got to take the rough with the smooth in my opinion and I am not someone who tends to soft soap, but I much prefer writing about good meals in nice places run by passionate people. This post is thus not on the next (fab or not) new place, but about an old favourite. Somewhere I know is going to be nice and won’t let me down.
These to my mind are the best places to eat, as you know the food and the people and they know you (OK I clearly get much the better part of the deal here). Such a place (at least in my book) is Bar 44 here in Cardiff.
I love Spain and Spanish food and I love a roast dinner with all the trimmings, so a Sunday lunch that combines the two at Bar 44 is as much of a no brainer as it gets in my food world.
Neither Mrs. SF nor I (well actually me as I tend to assume cooking duties at the weekend) could be arsed to cook on a Sunday and were reminiscing about Spain (having spent Semana Santa last year in Corboba province). As a result we thought a boozy Easter Sunday lunch in town was in order.
A Spanish roast dinner is a rare thing, but I do recall with Spanish friends picking up chickens from the pollería, more rotissere chicken, with the juices basting potatoes below.
Typically Bar 44 has given this perennial British favourite a Spanish make over, with a sharing platter of beef (or pork). This fitted the bill of a roast, with an added touch of Spanish magic.
As I have in the past blogged about Bar 44 on a number of occasions, I shall eschew my usual formula and go straight to the food and booze.
We had pre – ordered the beef platter, which sounds a bit Toby Carvery/Harvester but most certainly isn’t (my advice is pre – order the roast platters, as they tend to sell out surprisingly early in the day, if you definately want it), and decided on a tapa with our pre meal aperitif (a rebujito) to kick things off.
Our tapa of choice was an old favourite in the form of a plate of Padron peppers (£4.50). Nicely charred and blistered, with plenty of rock salt, these always hit the spot nicely with Mrs. SF and I. Still not had one of the (mythical) really hot ones though!
What happened next was typical of the customer service that the Bar 44 group excels at.
Asador 44 had put on their Instagram feed reference to a weekend “special” of ortiguillas (sea anemones). I was keen to try these and rather cheekily (and totally in jest) asked if they could ship some over to Bar 44 as I was in there for lunch on Sunday.
As we sipped on our rather nice rebujitos, a plate of ortiguillas was delivered to the table.
This took us totally by surprise and really rather touched me. This is the kind of customer services that takes a place to the next level in my opinion.
Ortiguillas are not easy to deal with, as you have the stinging tentacles to address (bathing them in vinegar de-stings them I believe) and they have a very short shelf life. As a result it is rare to see them even in Spain (outside of Cadiz) let along in the UK.
Kudos to Asador 44 for bringing them over to Cardiff and a big thanks from Mrs. SF and I for letting us try them based on my somewhat cheeky (and totally not expected to be acted on) bit of instagramming!!
The ortiguillas were rather lovely, with a real taste of the seashore. Distinct notes of ozone and iodine made them akin to raw oysters in flavour, but with a nice textural contrast provided by the breadcrumb coating and deep fried cooking. The tartness of the caper and chive sauce (more a remoulade I would say) was the perfect foil.
It you seem them on a menu, my advice is give them a go if you like seafood
On to the main event,
the sides of a cecina Yorkie (good to see this is beef infused and only served with the beef – nice to see Bar 44 on my side of the “what you have a Yorkie with” debate, take note J), jamon fat roasties, truffled manchego cauli. cheese and hispi cabbage (with jamon) sold it to me even before the “drool inducing” mention of dry aged sirloin.
Rather a fine spread as dish after generous dish hit the table,
with Mrs. SF very wisely (she knows me all too well and despite that we are still married😁) insisting I wait until she had taken her fair share before I descended, ravenous vulture like, onto the assorted dishes.
The beef was cooked exactly how I like it with a ruby red core and bags of flavour. Loved the cap fat on the slices that Mrs. SF left me.
Beef can so often be disappointing in this country, especially if gotten from the supermarkets (always get it from a proper butcher is my mantra), but this was seriously good stuff cooked by a kitchen that knows exactly what it is doing (when it comes to good sirloin it is minimal intervention, with the key being to let the beef do the talking).
The roasties, a very generous bowl full, were crisp (with lots of gnarly bits) on the exterior and fluffy in the interior. Perfectly seasoned, the liberal quantities of roasted garlic, thyme and rosemary added nicely to the mix.
These are what my home cooked roast potatoes want to be when they grow up.
Somethings just go together (sherry and me springs to mind) and what a fine pair cauliflower and cheese makes when done properly (in a cheese sauce rather than committing heresy by just sprinkling cheese on it – that’s just cauliflower and cheese not cauliflower cheese).
Bar 44’s version comes with the addition of truffled manchego which provided a really nice earthy nuttiness that complimented the inherent nuttiness of the cauliflower rather well. Lovely thick, punchy, molten cheese sauce covered some nicely cooked (still had a bit of a bite to it) and generously proportioned cauliflower.
Hispi cabbage was served lightly charred after a quick visit to the grill (nothing worse than over cooked cabbage) and, as a result, retained a pleasing amount of crunch. Jamon crumb (jamon tends to make anything and everything better) was a welcome addition.
A glossy red wine infused and flavour packed gravy
and a rather fine jumbo sized yorkie
which I begrudgingly had to share with Mrs. SF, made for as good a Sunday lunch as I have had in a long while.
Meat platter and sides demolished, we moved on to the puds. I haven’t got that much of a sweet tooth (stop that chortling in the back in work- I eat all the chocolate and cakes merely because they are there not because I necessarily like them 🙄) and more often than not go for cheese. Here there is a short, but interesting, selection of Spanish cheeses.
I went for the La Peral (£5), a semi soft blue from Asturias in the North of Spain.
This, with some nice crisp breads and some PX soaked raisins, hit the post platter spot nicely.
Mrs. SF went for a rhubarb fool (£5.50), which she enjoyed. I had a taste and it had a nice tartness to it.
On the booze front I am always up for a vermut on a Sunday (use to be a pre – Church drink in Spain – the nutters)
and the selection here is rather fine. I had, however, already partaken of a couple (at Curado Bar – we forgot all the shops are closed on Easter Sunday so got in far to early and had an hour or so to kill – where on Sunday’s a vermut comes with a free pintxos)
so decided on something different.
As the weather was rather balmy, I went for that most refreshing of sherry based drinks in the form of a rebujito
Bar 44 do an excellent one (£4.50), which was just the ticket to cool Mrs. SF and I down on what was a pleasantly hot Easter Sunday.
With the beef platter, it was always going to be a big red
Lovely drop this (a blend of predominately cabernet sauvignon and syrah, plus a touch of merlot, tintilla de rota, tempranillo and petit verdot), with ripe black fruit, black pepper, vanilla and liquorice to the fore. It worked a treat with the beef.
I have always been a fan of Bar 44 and it is fair to say I am rather enamoured with their Spanish twist on Sunday lunch. The fact that they got me the ortiguillas was the icing on an already rather handsome cake.
Tbe bill was £98 (sans a very well deserved tip) and did involve a fair bit of booze.
For the quantity and quality of what we had I thought this was good value
Would I go back? Absolutely – good on every count, I think this is one of the best Sunday lunch offerings in Cardiff at the moment.
Address: 15-23 Westgate Street
Tel: 03333 44 40 49
Open on Sunday’s from 12.00, with the roast platters available until they run out.