Soliciting Flavours

Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine

Dining in pastures anew – Pasture, Cardiff City Centre.

I am an unashamed carnivore and love a decent bit of red meat. Few things (food wise) are more satisfying to me than a bit of dry aged quality beef (seared on the outside, ruby red on the inside) and a glass (or three) of good wine.

It doesn’t have to be a “as big as your head” behemoth, but it must be quality meat cooked by someone who knows what they are doing.

Asador 44 has been the undisputed king of steaks in Cardiff since it opened back in 2015 (it is worth remembering they do so much more than beef steaks, but has anyone – veggies aside – been to Asador 44 and not had the steak at least once?), but a pretender to the throne had entered the field (sorry couldn’t help myself😀) in the form of Pasture.

Pasture is a Bristol based outfit, whose tag line is “Fire Meat Music” (was booze an afterthought – a tag line of “Fire Alcohol Beef” would have been FAB in my view). Its website promises local sourced dry aged meats (including from the excellent Oriel Jones in the case of the beef), cooked over coal (assume charcoal) and cherry wood.

Popular in Bristol, it has received some decent reviews from hard to please critics not least Grace Dent of the Guardian, its sights are now set on conquering the Cardiff market.

The opening up of Pasture(s anew) in Cardiff has been somewhat delayed by the dreaded C word, but finally came to pass in October. Still a brave (and thus to be appauded) move in the current climate.

Mrs. SF and I decided to take advantage of a day off by trying out the express lunch menu at the place.

We went for the express lunch option, firstly because I suspected most people reviewing this place will go the whole “tomahawk” (their signature dish it seems), telling a much better tale than I and thus would bypass the lunch menu, and secondly (and mostly if truth be told) because I am a tight git and the lunch menu prices are for the most part a lot lower than the a la carte ones. Having just had two weeks gorging myself on booze and food in Cornwall, I was in miser mode at the time of our visit.

On the lunch menu front it has very stiff opposition from the likes of Asador 44 (best lunch in Cardiff in my humble opinion), so it was interesting to compare.

Personally I suspect the biggest hit currently for restaurants in the City centre is the loss of the office crowd (Cardiff city centre has seen the largest percentage drop in footfall after London in the UK) rather than the coming into town for dinner lot (but I could be wrong with the newish rules in play, particularly the 10pm curfew, which seem to be killing the restaurant trade without any tangible benefit).

I fear this will lead to places simple not opening week day lunch times (saw that with pubs in Cornwall recently where alot seem to have given up on weekday lunchtimes), cutting the days they open or closing altogether.

This will make the city centre a lot less attractive to me (and I suspect others). This all creates a vicious downward spiral.

Despite the Covid related fears, I am trying to get back into the city centre in the day (socially and for work – when actually allowed to do so) and will eat out when I do.

The place

It has been a seriously long time in the making and it is fair to say little expense has been spared.

Lovely on the outside and very nice (if a bit industrial) on the inside,

it is a very pleasant space to eat and drink in. I do love an open kitchen where you see the intricate dance of the chefs.

The food

Whilst we had set out sights on the lunch menu, I couldn’t resist a look at the open display meat fridge (what a glorious display it is, with those hunks of beef).

With details of weights (a la Hawksmoor) on a blackboard,

it was all very tempting.

I had, however, made up my mind and this man is not for turning.

The lunch menu offers, perhaps oddly (with the place’s strapline of ” Fire Meat Music”), only 2 meat dishes.

To be honest, I didn’t care as it looked to have plenty of interest of a lunch time and there was nothing stopping me from ordering from the a la carte.

Before we dove mouth first into the express lunch menu (which was not provided until we asked for it), we did order a few items from the nibbles section of the al a carte menu (in lieu of starters).

First up were scallops sat in café de Paris butter, with deep fried roe (£6 each).

Very nice, plump numbers these, with a lovely sweetness. I do think my scallop would have benefited from a bit more caramelisation on the exterior, but bar from that they were cooked very nicely with a just past translucent interior.

The lovely café de Paris butter was crying out for some bread to mop it up with, which we neglected to order (tight arse mode was fully engaged at this point with the bread £4 a pop – potentially raising the price to a tenner for a solo scallop). The deep frying of the roe, which I was a bit skeptical about, worked very well.

Next up were some very good short rib croquettes.

Pretty as a picture, with a nasturtium leaf cap (I think) and a gochujang aioli base (for my tastes, perhaps, whoever was mixing the gochujang in should maybe have been given a nudge to drop a dollop more in and this is from someone who is far from a chilli fiend), they tasted even better than they looked.

A crisp delicate shell encased oddles of, tender as you like, short rib meat in a luscious gravy. These really were outstanding.

Less successful were the Padron peppers.

Ours needed just a tad longer cooking time (one side was nicely charred and blistered, but the other had a slight rawness to it) and to my mind all you need with padrons is copious amounts of sea salt. Not a hot one in this lot either – will I ever get one that makes me sweat a bit?

To me the addition of shichimi (Japanese 7 spice) added little on top of what sea salt would have achieved and the cashew yoghurt base was just a bit bland. In terms of the latter, I don’t really know what its purpose was if I am honest. A case of less is more and it being better to leave the Padrons (cooked a tad more) alone to shine.

On to the express lunch menu itself, which unlike Asador 44’s is not a fixed price one, with prices ranging from £10.50 for the veggie option (why anyone would come here for the veggie option is beyond me) to £13.95 for the burger. Interesting that the burger is priced higher than the steak frites.

I went for the steak frites (£12.50 – which means it comes in at a mere 50p more than the current Asador 44 lunchtime steak offering), with the cut being stated to be rump (I would say it was rump cap/picanha).

Nicely cooked to my requested rare, it was a beautifully tender piece of meat with that full on beefy flavour you only get from properly aged quality meat (a given with Oriel Jones being one of the beef suppliers).

They had avoided the all to common error, with a rare steak, of a cold centre. If I was being über critical I would have liked a bit more of a exterior crust on it, but this is a minor quibble.

Really enjoyed this and it was complemented nicely by a zippy chimicurri sauce. Lots of fresh herbs and a nice backnote of sour from the vinegar and heat from the chilli. Great in cutting the richness of the beef.

Skinny fries were also included in the price

and very nice they were too. Not a flaccid member amongst them and plenty of lovely salt.

Slightly to my surprise (with no pressure from me – my inherent tight arseness conflicting with the benefit of a wider breadth of stuff to comment on) Mrs. SF went for the burger (at £13.95).

Fine looking beast this

with two big patties cooked a pleasing pink (hoorah) and said patties having a nice loose texture and oddles of beefiness.

Good bun that kept its integrity right until the end, as well as oozing Ogleshield cheese, quality bacon and a very good, tangy, burger sauce.

Nice to see they have resisted the temptation of an “everyone in the pool” approach to the toppings and I very much liked the fact that virtually all veggies were omitted (bar from some good pickles on the side, which are always a welcome addition, and caramelised onions). All about the patty here (as it should be) and all in all a very fine burger (challenging for Cardiff’s best I would say).

As I am a pig I couldn’t resist a couple of sides. Mrs. SF vetoed the mac n cheese (she reasoned we had had it the night before for dinner – my comment was so…., but I did as I was told), so we chose the cabbage (cooked in the BBQ coals) and topped with what was billed as bacon butter.

I love a bit of hispi cabbage and this was a great example of how good a bit of veg it can be, when not cooked to death. Lots of flavour from the char and the addition of bacon can never be a bad thing to my mind, I really enjoyed the bite that had been retained here.

If the cabbage side was good, the other side we had (in the form of the spinach and leek gratin) was an absolute dozzie of a side dish.

Not the prettiest (it smelt so good, we attacked it with gusto before I thought to take a picture), it was comfort food to the max. The iron rich spinach worked a treat with the copious amounts of gooey cheese sauce and the gratin top. Whilst the leeks were bit part actors here, they played an admirable supporting role.

Both the cabbage and the spinach gratin were absolute bargains at £3.95 a pop.

Notwithstanding the fact I was pretty stuffed after all that lot, I was intrigued by one item on the dessert menu.

The smoked (Basque style) cheese cake, with milk ice cream (isn’t that pretty much all ice cream, unless vegan?), pear vinegar (yes you read that right as vinegar) and sea salt was that item.

When it was delivered to the table, the server sprayed the pear vinegar over the dish. This assailed the nostrils with a massive hit of sarson- esque aromas that had no hint of pear. This to me had no logical reason for being part of this dessert, but luckily the vinegar spray (once it dissipated) seemed to have no impact on the taste of either the cheesecake or the ice cream – a case very much of style over substance to my mind.

Bar from the vinegar oddity, this was actually a rather nice dessert.

The cheesecake had just a hint of (pleasing) smokiness and a very nice ice cream, but I didn’t get any of the billed sea salt.

“Want salt and vinegar on your cheese cake” sounds odd, so it was probably a good job that this “chippy” combo was conspicuous by its absence on the taste front.

Mrs. SF had the salted caramel espresso martini (photo was after she had taken a few sips, which rather ruined its asthetics),

which she thoroughly enjoyed. On trying it, I thought it was sickly sweet and not for me at all (but I can’t abide sweet cocktails, preferring mine the battery acid side of sour). As a dessert rather than a drink it may work for most I suspect and Mrs. SF was certainly a big fan of it.

The drink

The clear focus is on red wine (unsurprisingly with the steaks), but there is plenty of interest across the board wine wise (beers and cocktails too).

The main wine list is pretty decent and the mark ups aren’t too bad at all.

Most prices come in at around double the retail price mark, which makes a nice change in the UK (3 x plus of retail not being unusual), and at the higher end are a lot less.

Even the mark ups on the cheapest red and white wines on the list are not hideous with the red Les Foncanelles merlot retailing at just under £8 and on the list at £19 and the white Saint Chinon Petit Paradis 2018 retailing at just shy of £11 and on the list at £19.

If you move up the gears price wise, there is a Sassicaia 2011 (an outstanding wine) which retails at £170 plus and is on the list here at a “mere” £220. If you have even deeper pockets and an eye for a bargain then the Stag’s Leap, Case 23 2010 is on the list at £240 (less than retail – £300 plus if you can even find it), so worth buying to take home to cellar (if any left). I know someone who has done just that!

There is a decent selection of fizzes,

but it is a shame no Welsh ones (bearing in mind their usual support of local suppliers) are on there.

On the white wine front the selection has a decent breadth of styles (again shame no Welsh ones though).

Always nice to see a German wine on a list, especially a rarely seen pinot blanc and I had a glass of that to start.

Rather fine drop this (£8 for 175 ml glass, £28 a bottle – retails at around £17),

with orchard fruits (predominately pears) and a lovely minerality. Great with the scallops and with enough oomph to cope with the padrons and the croquettes.

On to the reds, there is again lots of interest.

at fair prices.

We decide on a bottle of the Torres Purgatori 2015 (£42 on the list, around £22.50 mark retail).

It is a wine I am rather fond of, from the lesser know Spanish DO Costers del Segre (in Catalonia) and which featured (first on left as you look at picture below)

in a rather fine tasting of wine from the East coast of Spain (and hinterland) I did at the Jeroboam Club (in Bristol) back in the halycon days of 2019 (dear Lord how I miss 2019).

Nice back story to this wine, with the bodega located in an old monastery where errant monks were sent to do their penance and ended up making wine (much of which mysteriously disappeared – taken by Angels allegedly – right, pull the other one Father 🙄).

Made from a blend of cariñena, garnacha and syrah it is a lovely wine with rich dark fruit (blackcurrant and blackberry) and a touch of chocolate on the nose.

On the palate it is all dark fruit and spice (vanilla), with well integrated tannins. Very nice wine and great with the rump cap (picanha) steak and the burger.

In terms of dessert wines, I noticed on the online list for Bristol that there is a dry sherry (oloroso seco) on as a dessert wine!?!

On asking for the dessert wine menu, I was told they didn’t have one yet (even though the above is online) in Cardiff. I asked what they had dessert wine wise and was told they had ports (ruby and a tawny – both good with certain desserts) a recioto della valpolicella (good with chocolate desserts) and sherries

🚨 sherry moan klaxon 🚨

When I interrogated them on the latter (a nice PX or cream is right up my street paired with a dessert) it turned out these were an oloroso (a Higaldo) and an amontillado.

Neither of these sherries are sweet wines. It is no longer legal to label olorosos in Andalucía (so covers both sherry and Montilla Moriles wines) as dulce/sweet – those that were are now required (since 2012) to be called cream, so all oloroso are now dry and amontillado is a dry style of sherry.

Oloroso (I suspect the one here is either the Faraón or the Gobernador) is actually a wine that would work very well with the meaty elements of the menu and I had a rather fine oloroso paired with a steak as part of a tasting menu at La Carbona in Jerez.

They did acknowledge, when my eyebrow shot up through the ceiling, that the oloroso and amontillado where not really dessert wines.

No biggie I suppose, I just know not to come here for my sherry/MM wine fix. As we in Cardiff are more than adequately served on that front by Bar 44, Asador 44 and Curado/vermut, this isn’t really a problem.

The verdict

On the booze front, bar from the heinous sherry crime, the list is pretty good. Nice selection, with fair (for the UK) mark ups.

Sort out the sherry sins (put the oloroso and amontillado on the main wine menu, not the dessert one where by all means put a PX) and more of the higher end wines by the glass (invest in a Coravin or two) would make it a rather fine list.

On the food front, the lunch menu offers excellent value and they certainly know how to cook beef. The nibble and sides were also (bar from the slightly misfiring padrons) very good.

Our bill was massively inflated by the booze which made up nigh on £60 of the just over £111 total. We also went large on nibbles and sides as well.

I think if you are sensible you can eat here very well of a lunch time for a fair bit under £20 a head (steak frites + a beer or glass of wine ). Add a side or up the ante re the wine and you can still come in at under £25. I think for the quality and quantity of what you get at Pasture that is very good value indeed.

Would I go back? Still think the Asador 44 lunch menu is the best in town (I am probably a bit bias, as I am a total hispanophile), but yes I would.

I think this place makes for a nice alternative and the booze offering is quite compelling (sherry aside).

A fine addition to the city centre lunch scene – now we just need people back in the offices to go to this place and the likes of Asador 44, Bar 44 and Curado/Vermut (to name but a few). It saddens me that places are being forced already back into limited opening.

Respecting the current (if somewhat odd) rules (how kicking people out of a restaurant, potentially all at the same time, is going to help is beyond me if I am honest), go to these place (before we are all welded into our houses – nothing would surprise me anymore).

If we don’t use them we will lose them.

The details

Address: 8-10 High St. Cardiff, CF10 1BB

Tel: 07511217422

Email: cardiff@pasturerestaurant.com

Website: Click here

Instagram: pasture_cardiff

Opening hours (currently, whilst under curfew, at least): Mon – Sat: 12.00 – 22.00; Sun: 12.00 – 19.00

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