The special (lunch for) one – the Plat du Jour menu at Milkwood, Pontcanna, Cardiff

This post is in keeping with the current re-visit theme on the blog in terms of places I have posted about before.

Taken in the evening rather than the day.

I very much liked Milkwood and was (bar from their use of some very dodgy glassware for port – hopefully consigned to the bin by now – and a lack of any sherries on the wine list) ebullient in my praise of the place. It is nice to see it going from strength to strength, with it earning plaudits from all quarters.

I have, however, only visited it in the evening as opposed to at lunch time.

Everyone loves a good deal, especially a tight arsed git like me, and the blog focus is perhaps more on lunch than dinner. As a result I have been meaning to try the Plat du Jour lunch time offer at Milkwood for a while, but have never seemed to be able to find the time during the working week to get up to Pontcanna.

What it seems to do is offer quality, with great value thrown into the equation. J has been raving to me about how good it is for a while and it also got a very good write up from Gourmet Gorro (if he says it good then you generally know you are on to a winner).

I had a day off work when Mrs. SF was away and had tired the dogs out with a long morning walk. Said walk had resulted in me building up a bit of an appetite and I thought this represented an ideal opportunity to run the rule over the Milkwood Plat du Jour offering, especially as it includes a glass of wine (at a marginal extra cost). Would be rude not to partake of the full package I thought.

Whilst many people baulk at solo dining, personally, I have no issue with it as I am more than happy with my own company (especially if I am mid read through a good book).

I actually think solo diners are the ones that should get special attention (rather than being sat by the bog and viewed as the weirdo with no friends in the corner) in restaurants.

With a solo diner you can guarantee that they are there for the food and drink only (not there on a date – good or bad or as part of a group containing several people who wish they were somewhere else). The solo diner is also not going to moan that they didn’t have the starter when the bill arrives nor do you get with a solo diner the invariable tussle as to how the bill should be split (Murphy’s law dictates that with a group of 4 or more what they all think they should pay will not add up to close to the actually amount of the bill + a fair tip and often ends up with the staff getting stiffed on the tip).

Solo dinners are the keepers – the special ones – in my view.

I have to say I was treated as just that by Milkwood and looked after admirably. Good service, however, goes to waste if the food isn’t up to scratch and vice versa if the service is lacking.

Even the best food isn’t enjoyable if you are treated as if you are one of the Clampets. Based on an experience I had in a very high end gaff in Paris (unsurprisingly, to me, now closed), I can vouch for the fact that no matter how good the food is you will never eat in a place again if when you are there they view you akin to something they have trodden in!

Here the service was just right, so what was the food like?

The food

The Plat du Jour menu is short and sweet with three starters, two mains and a solitary pudding.

Nice sounding menu, although I assumed that the reference to buffalo in the first main was to mozzarella rather than a hulking bovine.

As I considered my choices (I was very torn, on the starter front, between the duck and the trout), a rather nice slice of, caraway seed studded, bread and generously salted butter was placed on the table.

I decided eventually on the smoked trout (over the duck ragu).

Lovely looking and generously proportioned (for a Plat du Jour) dish this.

The trout had been subject to a delicate smoke, so you still got the flavour of the trout, which was nicely complimented by a creamy horseradish cream. The latter added a touch of heat, but not a nasal clearing “taste bud obliterating” one as can often be the case.

The salad leaves it came with were grown locally in Bute Park (cycled over daily, so ultra low food miles) and were beautifully crisp and full of flavour. Whilst leaves this good are a joy to eat even undressed (the leaves not me😱), here a rather good French dressing was a welcome accompaniament.

Compared to bagged up (chlorine washed) supermarket salad leaves, these Bute Park salad leaves are the equivalent of a Rubia Galliga chuletón as against a scraggy bit of frying steak from Tescos that the dog would turn its nose up at.

A nicely chewy bit of toasted sourdough added a pleasing textural contrast to proceedings and bulked things up nicely

For my main I went for the fish as I know this place (or is it plaice) is a dab (sorry couldn’t resist 😁) hand at cooking a bit of fish.

A generously proportioned block of cod, had a beautifully crisp skin and nice large flakes of just past translucent flesh.

Great flavour and perfectly seasoned, it was cooked à point for me.

The chickpea and pepper stew had a lovely depth of flavour, with a nice smokiness to it (from the chargrilling of the peppers and some smoked paprika in the mix, I think).

The chickpeas (which are hideous if cooked under or over) were cooked so they weren’t bullets nor did they collapse into mush. They had absorbed the flavours of the stew, making them little flavour bombs as I bite into them. Lovely with the fish, as were some vibrant spears of Wye Valley asparagus.

I know many on the Continent rate white asparagus, but English green asparagus is simply the daddy of the asparagus world. These spears were a fine example of the simple pleasure of asparagus, which had been cooked (steamed) just enough so they retained just the right amount of firmness.

Overall a first rate dish, especially on a Plat du Jour menu, and a decent sized portion to boot.

For an extra £4 you can get pudding and it didn’t take much to tempt me to indulge in a third course.

A rather fine tarte tartin, with the apple beautiful caramelized and yielding to the spoon. It all sat on a good, thin pastry crust and was complimented by a slightly tart tarte crème fraîche. The latter helped to take the edge off the caramel sweetness.

It was cold and I would have preferred it warm, but in reality your are not going to get a made to order tarte tartin at these prices. As such it being cold was fair enough and it was a very nice dessert.

All in all a strong set of dishes at a very wallet pleasing price.

The drink

Whilst it is common on the Continent for the Plat du Jour/Menu del Día to include a glass/half bottle of the local vino in the deal, a glass of wine with a fixed price lunch menu is quite unusual over here.

Curado Bar do it with their Menu del Día in the city centre and it is nice to see Milkwood also providing a glass of wine as part of their deal.

It is a choice of the house white or red

both from the Languedoc region.

I had the white, which was a pleasant enough zippy little number that worked fine with the trout.

With the cod it was perhaps a touch overpowered by the robust flavours of the chickpea and pepper stew.

Whilst not the most complex of numbers, for the £2 extra (it bumped up my three course from £19 to £21) it was very good value. Decent sized pour too, I thought.

If you don’t fancy the house wine there is other stuff of interest on the list, but I do think they should offer more (actually all, in a World within which Coravins exist) by the glass.

Couldn’t see any sherries on the menu (I moaned on about this in my previous post on the place), which is a shame as they are such versatile food wines. A fino en rama or a manzanilla pasada would, I think, have worked a treat with both the trout and the cod dishes.

Update : must have missed it (old age and failing eyesight, but there is a manzanilla (Rodriguez La-Cave Manzanila Barbiana) on the list.

I didn’t indulge with a further glass of wine with the dessert, but think the Chateau Filhot on the list would have been a good pair.

I wonder if they picked up the Filhot (I did) in the M&S clearance sale a couple of months back when a 75cl bottle was going for a £10.50?

Not a bad return on that investment, if so, with the 50ml per glass price on the list here equating to £75 per bottle!

The verdict

I thought the meal I had was excellent value, being very good on both the quality and quantity front.

Service was also very good and, as a solo diner, the interaction was just at the right level.

It all made for a very pleasurable experience.

Would I go back? Absolutely – it is one of the best value fixed price menus in Cardiff (would be nice if they added few more sherries to the list).

Hearing very good reports about the Sunday lunch offering here also, so that has gone on the “to stuff my face” list.

The details

Address: 83 Pontcana St, Cardiff, CF11 9HS

Tel: 029 2023 2226


Website: click here

Twitter: @milkwoodcdf

Instagram: @milkwoodcdf

The Plat du Jour menu is available Wednesday to Friday from 12.00 until 15.00.


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