Many of you may be thinking “Hasn’t this place already featured on this blog (on more than one occasion) before?” and you would be absolutely right.
To me, however, the blog is about places I eat in be they the shiney new ones or old favourites as they evolve.
I missed many places during the purgatory that was full lockdown and have been slowly ticking off my post lockdown list of places I have missed the most.
The top three, in no particular order (I love them all equally), are probably the Heathcock, Curado and Asador 44.
I have ticked both Curado Bar (along with Vermut) and the Heathcock off the list and that left Asador 44.
In town, Asador 44 had been pre – lockdown (and will continue to be post this Covid shit show) my go to place (particularly for lunch) for a proper sit down meal.
During lockdown it was a no brainer in terms of buying vouchers which became something to look forward to when we were let out of our gilded cages.
So when relaxation came (albeit it now seems we are going backwards rapidly to the serious detriment of the hospitality business – I may be being thick, but I simply cannot fathom the logic of the 10pm curfew) I duly booked in to the place for a long lunch to spend my vouchers.
The menu has, since pre – lockdown days, been tweaked and very nice those tweaks are too.
We (Mrs. SF, J and I) stated off with an old Asador 44 classic in the form of their charred sourdough with jamón serrano butter and olive oil
Lovely creamy whipped butter, with oddles of salt (I am firmly of the view that butter lacking salt is an “assault” on the very fabric of society by the forces of evil) and generous nuggets of that flavour bomb that is jamón serrano embedded in the mix. The oil had a lovely grassiness to it, with a nice peppery hit as it lingered on the palate and the bread a pleasing chew.
Eating this was like getting a hug from an old friend you havent seen for a while.
Next up was one of the new additions to the Asador 44 menu, with a changing menu item of shellfish on the parilla (£10 a pop). On the day in question, it was mussels – a firm favourite of mine, with great sustainable credentials (lots of shellfish do) for those interested.
We decided on sharing two portions between the three of us.
Good portion size which, with the bread, made for more than enough to share between the three of us.
Gorgeous plump bivalves that had a lovely lick of smoke added to them by dint of being cooked on the parilla.
Whilst it was strange (at least to me) to have a bowl of moules with no liquor, the smoke really worked and enhanced the flavour of the mussels – really simple, but clever stuff. A great addition to the Asador 44 stable this.
On to the mains, there are more tweaks, with the addition of wider (and in some cases cheaper) choices on top of the big hitting aged Galician Blond (still on the board by weight) should you wish to indulge.
A very welcome addition to the mains menu is that of Presa Ibérica de bellota (£20) – a personal favourite of mine.
A cut from the shoulder of acorn feed ibérico pigs (these, along with the sheep pig mangalitsa – the true Babes, are to me at the very the top of the pampered porcine pyramid) it can be piggy perfection when cooked properly.
You never have to fear that the cooking of anything will be off at Asador 44 and here the pork was cooked absolutely on the money, with on point seasoning.
It just had so much flavour, exuding so much pigginess it almost oinked.
Pork really doesn’t get much better than this and my advice is forget any inbuilt adversion you may have to pink pork and try this stuff – it is the absolute business.
When you are in Asador 44, the steaks are the thing that always tends to be the draw and for very good reason.
The menu’s new options include a Welsh flat iron steak (£16) and a sharing plate of 7 year old dry aged ex dairy (à la Pais Vasco) cow (£18 pp) makes for a cheaper option than the big boy Galician blond beef steaks.
Nice big portion (easily enough for two), cooked on point, this was a lovely bit of beef (you would expect nothing less from Asador 44).
A great,well salted, crust encased a glorious ruby red interior resulting in sychronised drooling from all three of us.
Beautiful rich flavour to this beef, which was wonderfully tender thus requiring minimal mastication. This is beef as it should taste like, at a surprisingly affordable price.
The sides now operate slightly differently so, rather than as was the case with many dishes on the old menu (which came with sides included), you now pay extra for these.
We added some of the asador peppers (£4.50)
which had a lovely lick of smoke to them and a really nice sweetness. Perfect as an accompaniment to both the pork and beef.
We also added the Asador 44 olive oil fries (2 portions, at £4 a pop, between 3 was more than enough),
which are as good as ever with a crisp exterior and a fluffy interior. Really fine chips these – they are what my chips aspire to be when they grow up
J was rather disappointed to see blue cheese sauce no longer features on the menu. Personally my view is beef this good should be adorned with nothing other than a generous scattering of good quality sea salt (anything else is just a distraction from the beef).
Despite my protestations to this effect, my view was ignored by Mrs. SF and J (an all too common occurance) who ordered the peppercorn sauce – very nice it was too they said (J still morns the demise of the blue cheese number though).
We passed on the puds,
even with the siren call of the sublime Asador 44 Santiago tart.
On the wine front, I have always been a Spanish wine nut with a good 70% of my wine collection (upwards of 400 bottles now, even after an element of denuding during lockdown) consisting of Spanish wines.
As a result the list here has always held much of interest to me, with lots of goodies from the more well known DOs (Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat and Rias Baixas) as well as stuff more off the beaten track areas in Spain (Ribeira Sacra, Penedes, Somontano, Montsant and Jumillia to name but a few). There are some real doozies on the list (albeit some that are a bit pricey) if you have deep pockets.
The Remulluri Blanco is, in my opinion, one of Spain’s greatest white wines.
There are lots of other wines on the list at much lower price points (it starts at a pretty reasonable £21 a bottle).
It is always nice to see a decent selection of wines by the glass and carafe.
and Asador 44 doesn’t disappoint on that front. They have higher end stuff by the glass, utilising the wonder gadget that is the coravin.
There is also a lovely selection of sherries and the lesser known (but equally as good) Montilla Moriles wines (great to see these MM wines starting to get the recognition they deserve).
I think the Alfonso oloroso would work a treat with both the beef and the pork, but I spied on the list a Mallorcan number (with the dominate grapes in the blend being local Mallorcan ones in the form of callet and fogoneu) which you rarely see over here.
12 Volts (and the 4 Kilos bodega behind it) has always been a firm favourite of mine, with its lovely nose loaded with dark fruits and an interesting earthiness.
On the palate, there was more of the dark forest fruits, as well as liquorice and a nice hit of spice (mainly vanilla). Great with both the beef and the presa iberica.
On the list here at £49 (it retails at about £20 – £24 mark , so a pretty fair mark up by UK standards), it seems I snagged the last 75cl bottle of this beauty (sorry guys – couple of magnums left if you are quick), with the list being slightly rejigged.
Shame that, as the Volt 12 is a crackerjack of a wine (hard to sell a Mallorcan red in Cardiff though I suspect and kudos to Asador 44 for at least trying).
Plenty still of interest on the list, especially if you are happy to push the boat out just that little bit.
They say distance makes the heart go fonder and that applies to time as well as space.
The lockdown hiatas has made me appreciate even more what a great place Asador 44 is. Fab food, fab wine and great service – what more can you ask for from a city centre restaurant.
The menu tweaks made during lockdown at Asador 44 are evolution rather than revolution and I think they work rather well.
It would be remiss of me not to mention that the fab Asador 44 menu del día offer is back in play
and so is #mercado44 for your at home goodies needs. I think the tehnical terms for this is huzzah!
In these troubling times, it is places like Asador 44 (and Bar 44) that we must cherish and preserve. They are an integral part of what makes Cardiff a great city to live in.
So my advice is eat at Asador 44 and Bar 44 (and other indies) and eat at them often – we truly need places like these to be still there once the current Covid shit show is finally behind us.