No basket case! New bar menu at the Heathcock, Llandaff, Cardiff.
Whilst it is alway interesting (usually in a good way, but regrettably not always) to visit shiny new places, everyone has their go to joints which they return to time and time again. I would say in Cardiff, for me, those that I visit the most, month in month out, are Asador 44 (lovely to see fabada back on the menu), Bar 44, Curado, Franks (on the fast food front) and the Heathcock (the fab new and very shiny Vermut will be added to that list).
As my local, I have always had a soft spot for the Heathcock. It is a place that is an easy stroll from my house, which offers an enticing combination of really good food and drink (beers as well as wines, with a decent by the glass offering). It is also dog friendly on the bar.
All exactly what I have always wanted from a local.
Until recently, in terms of the food side, they had either a full blown offering in the restaurant (very good it is too)or bar snacks (albeit very superior ones) in the bar area.I was always more than happy to pop in (at the weekend) for a post dog walk pint and a couple of oysters (very civilised I always thought),but have often wondered why they didn’t offer something a bit more expansive in the bar for casual dining.
Lo and behold, I noticed on Twitter and Instagram the announcement by them of a bar menu offering just that.
In my youth the “bar menu” was quite often the dreaded “bollocks in a basket” – never actually that, but usually a non descript piece of saggy skinned chicken or a dodgy burger (probably with a bollock or two in it back in those days) and some pale limp chips.
Sad and bad fayre that thankfully these days has been mainly consigned to the (basket) bin.
Being one of my favourite places to eat in Cardiff, I knew that the Heathcock’s bar menu would be no basket case and was eager to give it a go.
A much delayed (on the day in question rather than in general, due to the incessant rain- god I am sick to death of it) dog walk one Saturday, took me (rather fortuitously – the dogs dragged me there, honest Gov)
past the Heathcock of a lunchtime and whilst inside (well it would have been rude not to) I spied the all new bar menu in all its glory.Really nice mix of snacky (beer battered hake – £6) and full blown pig out (sharing pie for 2 – £32) and lots in between, which seemingly operates to meet all tastes (size and price wise).
From the menu on the day, I very much liked the use of less favoured, but more flavoured, cuts of meat with ox tongue (shows a bit of we are way better than ” chicken in a basket” attitude) and onglet/hanger steak (although this seems very de rigueur these days and rightly so as it is a very tasty cut of beef).
This is the sort of vigorous nod to flavour that is so prevalent on the place’s restaurant menu and it is nice to see it being followed on the truncated bar menu.
After much deliberation, I decided on the steamed mussels and chips. Love a good bowl of moules me, but I am rather particular about my moules.
As with a carbonara, I have very strong (murderous) objections as to any references to cream in a dish that is advertised as “marinière”. To me a marinière sauce is the mussel juice, booze (wine, beer or cider – wine is always my preference), butter and shallots and that is it.
It seems I may not be entirely correct (we lawyers are never wrong, we just take an alternative position) in regarding it as a culinary crime akin to cream in a carbonara, but the addition of cream and still calling it marinière just really grates with me.
The menu description here was light on detail, with nothing more than a reference to steamed mussels and I assumed it would be marinière and thus sans the cream, but I was happy enough that it turned out to be à la crème (I have no objection to the use of cream per se, just the use of the marinere moniker if cream is present in the mix).For the £8 price tag (with chips), I was genuingly surprised at the generous portion size. Lots of mussels and a plentiful sauce were a very welcome sight for a damp me (after a very wet dog walk).
The mussels themselves were plump and meaty, with a proper taste of the sea and just a touch of sweetness. We really should eat more of these very sustainable bi – valves.The mussels had all been scrupulously washed so no manky beardie bits, sand or grit, which marrs many a mound of moules.
The sauce had a excellent flavour, with the touch of wine and the mussel liquor operating nicely as a counterpoint to the richness of the cream.
Rich yet tangy, this was a very good bowl of mussels (with no stray closed ones or those odd miniscule ones you often get hidden at the bottom of the pile).
The chips were proper chunky numbers that can in no way be identified as frites.
All very generously seasoned (chips have to have salt on them and lots of it – it is the law), these were rather lovely (crisp in the outside and fluffy on the inside) and their chunkiness operated as a better sauce mopper upper than the usual skinny frites you get with moules.
Much as I loved these chips, with the copious amount of sauce here I think I would have happily settled just for some bread (they make fab bread here on-site) to mop it all up with.
They very helpfully provided a spoon as I wasn’t going to let any of it go to waste.
Nice to see the provision of a bowl of water (with a lemon slice in it) for the hands and one for the shells. They do stuff properly here.
Seriously couldn’t fault it for £8.
A subsequent visit (dogs dragged me there yet again!) saw me ordering the beer battered hake (£6).
Lovely crisp, oil free and gossamer light, beer batter encasing pearly white hake (what a fantastic fish hake is) cooked on the money.
The generous goujons were complimented by a slightly tart homemade ketchup (I am not a fan of Heinz – far to sweet for me), which worked a treat.
Great fish hake (easy to see why the Spaniards – who know a thing or two about seafood- revere it so much), with a good favour and a nice firm texture.
Encased in the crisp light batter here it made for a great bar snack with a beer.
I went for a Shropshire Gold with the hake.Very pleasant,easy drinking session, number.
I think fino would be outstanding with the hake and a muscadet would work a treat with the mussel dish – both are availably by the glass here.
I have to say the Heathcock have really nailed it with this new bar menu.
Good food at a very fair price point always floats my boat and makes this new bar menu a cracking new feather in the Heathcock’s already rather well feathered cap.
Would I go back? Hell yes! It is ideal for me (with the dogs) on the weekend. Our Saturday walks will be push back to accommodate a visit here doggies.
Address: 58 -60 Bridge Street, Cardiff, CF5 2ENTel: 029 2115 2290
Website: click here
The new bar menu is available
Wed – Sat from 12.00 until 18.00.