Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
The phase “Making a pig’s ear of it” is intended to mean buggering something up (which, especially when it comes to DIY, I rather excel at). I, however, think this is a somewhat outdated use of the phrase as I love a good pig’s ear.
Crispy on the outside and gelantinously soft on the inside, it offers great flavour and a pleasing textural contrast when it is in its whole form. Chopped up it can be slow cooked to melt in the mouth tenderness or quick cooked for serious crunchiness.
Whenever I visit my beloved Donostia – San Sebastian, one of my go to pintxos is a crispy pigs ear at La Cucheria de San Telmo.
Ok, it ain’t much of a looker, but it tastes great (Mrs. SF is yet to be convinced, but I am working on it).
The fact that the Potted Pig has a dish including pig’s ear on its menu was an instant draw for me and, as a place I reviewed (regarding their lunch offering) many moons ago (prices have gone up just a smidgen to £13 for 2 courses and £17 for 3), is in keeping with the ongoing revisit theme on the blog.
With all the recent closures in Cardiff (it is a very difficult market out there with razor thin margins),
Latest place to close in Cardiff.
I think it is important to keep talking about the already “in play” operators as well as the shiny new ones. Big up and more importantly go to your old favourites, with that all too true saying of ” Use ‘Em or lose ‘Em!”.
So back to the Potted Pig which has been a stalwart of the Cardiff food scene since 2011 (gosh it is that long and hence the “ate” – a deliberate rather than the usual inadvertent typo – years in the title).
It’s menu (true to the place’s name) focuses on the bountiful feasting beast that is the pig, which offers porcine delights from snout to tail. These include the aforementioned pig’s ear, pig’s cheek, other bits of the pig’s head, potted pig and pork belly and ham hocks.
As a party of more than 10 we were on a slightly downsized “fixed price” party menu, but one still with lots of pigginess on it.
Obviously I started off with the pig’s ear, which came as an adjunct to a pork jowl.
Not the best picture as the light wasn’t very conducive to photos and I didn’t want to look like a knob (OK, more of a knob than usual) by using the flash, but this was a nice dish with a beautiful tender, well flavoured, bit of cheek (one of the best bits of a pig if you ask me). The cheek sat on a very good celeriac remoulade (lovely crunch to it), spiked with thin crispy strips of pig’s ear.
Normally I am not much of a fan of a garnish (usually they are utterly superfluous), but here the freshness of the pea shoots worked well in cutting the richness of the pork.
The only thing missing was some bread to mop up the rather good residual sauce in the bottom of the bowl.
For mains I went off “the piggie” piste and had a steak.
Usually I rile against any item on a fixed price menu that attracts a supplement, here £5 (shouldn’t really be on there if it does, in my view), but in this instance I wasn’t footing the bill (work was) so thought what the heck may as well fill my boots 😁.
Very decent bit of beef this with the flavour that comes from dry aging (28 days in this instance).
It was cooked à point for me, with a lovely ruby red interior and a nice char to the exterior.
Nice to see retention of some lovely crispy fat – should have left more of it on though in my opinion.
People so often give the fat on a steak a miss, but to me it is the best bit. Where there is fat there is flavour, as the saying goes.
The chips, which came with the steak, were an exemplary (triple cooked I think) example of their kind. They had a super crispy exterior and a fluffy interior.
Nice to also have some ultra crispy scraps in the mix too.
The side salad was a mix of crispy fresh leaves and was properly dressed (far too often this vital ingredient to salad leaves is omitted).
Not perhaps up there with the very best steaks (am thinking of the behemoth Mrs. SF and I shared at Goizeko Izzara and Casa Rufo in Bilbao and, before I started the blog, one I had at Etxebarri deep in the interior of el Pais Vasco) I have had, but a very pleasing bit of meat nonetheless and the chips were ace.
On the dessert front I opted for the lemon posset.
Nice with a good citrus hit, but I am not convinced it needed all of the accoutrements that it came with (less is often more in my book). Crap picture again (I blame the light, everyone else can blame the inept photographer).
On the booze front this place puts a lot of emphasis on gin (a surprisingly, at least to me, good pairing for pork), with a very large and interesting selection (split into various styles of gin).
I have only just found out you can sit in their “Gin lounge” and avail yourself of something(s) from their small plates menu (can’t find a small plates menu on their website though so not sure what is on offer). Do quite like the sound of that.
I, as ever, was more interested in the wine list. This offers a reasonably varied selection and as a table of ten we ordered a bottle or two of both a white and a red.
On the white front I choose the Pazo Torrado albarino (£32 on the list, with it retailing at £13 so not a hideous mark up). Gluggable rather than outstanding with less “peachy” expressiveness and minerality than many of the top albarinos I have had over the years. I only had a small sip and it was perfectly serviceable and fine with the cod (according to others who had that dish as a main), but didn’t wow me.
In terms of the red, which I was predominantly drinking,
this was an Austrain number (Austrian whites are increasingly seen on list here in the UK, but their reds are much less common – which is a shame as they are invariably lovely and remain very underrated – same with German reds) from the Zweigelt grape.
Nice little number this (£30 on the list and retails at just under £13, so again not too big a mark up), with lovely juicy cherry notes on both the nose and the palate. Pleasant easy drinking red this, which worked well with both my piggy starter and main course steak. Nice to see wines like this on the list.
It was really nice to see a place that offers stuff as interesting as pig’s ears packed on a Wednesday night. It seems to be chugging along nicely (fingers crossed) amid the current carnage on the high street in the UK.
It certainly is as good as I remember and well worth bearing in mind if you are looking for a good meal in the city centre. They also catered very well for our party of 15.
Without booze my meal (with the supplement for the steak) was £40. This makes the party menu, possibly, a touch on the pricey side, when you put it up against the likes of Milkwood (where a three course meal sans booze would be £37 if you go for the priciest options on their online menu).
Also you do seem to get stiffed a bit if you are a veggie on the party menu, with the basil gnocchi £17.50 on the main menu, as against the steak I had which is £27.50. The steak is, therefore, a whopping £10 more on the al a carte than the gnocchi yet only £5 more on the party menu. To compound this other dishes on the al a carte menu, which also figure on the party menu, are much more pricey than the gnocchi (the cod dish is £23 and the pork dish £22) but seemingly the same price on the party menu.
Not sure I get that, as if you are going to supplement up the steak surely you should supplement down the gnocchi on the menu price (i.e. minus £5 as against the steak’s plus £5)? Can’t have it both ways surely?
My view is neither discount one nor uplift the other and have a true fixed price menu which includes no supplements. If you can’t make money out of it putting it on at a fix price than simply dont’ put it on is my (oft said) view.
So would I go back? Notwithstanding my slight whinge (let’s face it I rarely don’t) above, yes I would. Good food and service (they coped with our largish party very well) without ridiculous wine mark ups, made for a nice venue for a big party like ours.
Finally, with the market so tough and margins so tight such that every unrecoverably cost counts, if you book this place or others either turn up or call to cancel in good time. No shows coat the industry as a whole dear.
It only takes is a phone call to cancel and surely that is not too much to ask is it?
Address: 27 High Street ( underneath Zizzi), Cardiff, CF10 1PU
Tel: 029 2022 4817
Twitter : @pottedpig
Tuesday – Sunday
Lunch : 12 – 2pm
Dinner – 7pm – 9 pm