So good to be back Basque’ing in the bar! Curado Bar, Cardiff

If I am honest there are few things I have missed about not being in the office, with me having adapted surprisingly (old dog and new tricks) easily into home working (Mrs. SF on the other hand is most distressed by my much greater prevalence at home- I create mess apparently), but going out for lunch or for a drink/food after work in town is definitely one of them.

Prior to Covidaggeddon, I would have a sit down meal of a lunch time once or twice a week and the blog was pretty much born (and been on  incubator support ever since) out of these lunch time sorties into town.

With things getting back to a semblence of normality, seemingly inevitable oncoming backsliding aside, I am back in the office at least one day a week. To me this is the perfect opportunity either at lunch time or after work to avail myself of the wares of one of Cardiff’s city centre bars or restaurants.

It seems my days of going into the office 5 days a week are never to return, not regrettably due to having enough cash to retire or go part time (if only), due to the latest edict from my work being it’s going to be 2/3 days a week in the office max (for ever more it seems) with the rest of the working week undertaken from home.

If this were to be replicated across the office sector this would at first sight look like very bad news for the hospitality sector.

I, however, see the days I am in the office as an opportunity to go into town and eat out. As a result I intend to eat out as much as I ever did even though I will be in town less and I hope I will not be alone in this.

Use your time in town to treat yourself to lunch or dinner or a few beers/a bottle of wine, I say.

One of my days in the office led me to one of my favourite pre covid haunts in the form of Curado Bar.

Its offering of Spanish food and drink, including the Basque speciality of pintxos, has always been a strong draw to me.

As I walked through the door I was greeted like an old friend and by God it was good to be back at the bar.

Curado Bar has been one of my happy places since it opened and absence has definitely made the heart grow fonder. Great to see all the gang behind the bar etc.

The food

Whilst the pintxos menu remains in play, the wider menu has been tweaked with it being sub divided between meat,

fish,

and veggies

as well as the cheese and charcurtie plate option

The menu has had some interesting new dishes added (come winter weather – probably August – fabada will be very much on my list), as well as the disappearance of an old favourite of mine in the form of the £30 sharing Rubia Gallega  steak (shame that).

Outside of the El Bulli inspired Michelin starred molecular gastronomy, the strength of Spanish cuisine is its simplicity and pan con tomate is a case in point. With just toasted bread, tomatoes, olive oil, salt and a rub of garlic it is so much greater (when done well, with top quality ingredients) than the sum of its parts. Anything other than top notch ingredients would make it a symphony of blanality – a real food coma – but with the right ingredients it just sings.

Curado’s version (a bargain at a mere £3) is a very generous portion, with two large slices of lightly toasted crusty bread (pan de Alfacar/pan de barra?) slathered with full on flavoured tomato pulp, sea salt and good olive oil.

This is one of those dishes that you can eat for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner and at any time in between.

Perfectly simple and simply perfect, this is a belter.

In terms of new stuff on the menu, the Spanish “up market” version of ham, egg and chips in the form of jamon iberico, patatas fritos y huevos (sounds so much more sophisticated doesn’t it) at £10 was what drew my eye in the carnes section.

Lovely slivers of quality jamon iberico drapped over crisp, smoked paprika dusted nuggets of potato, all capped off by a fried egg with a laced filigree crispy bottom and a perfectly runny centre to dip the pots in. The heat of the egg and potatoes melting the fat to silky lusciousness.

My only regret was the lack of a second egg and the additional runny yolk that would have come with it

The drink

On the booze front, the expansive bar menu covering beer, wine, vermut and a myriad of other things is assessible with a QR code. It pretty much covers all bases.

There was also a paper menu, with weekly specials by the glass.

Nice mix of styles and prices, I thought. The Triga (a stunningly good wine from the little known in the UK – surprising really bearing in mind how many Brits go there – Alicante DO) was very tempting, but I resisted (just).

Worth highlighting are the Rare and Iconic wines,

which include some corkers for those with deepish pockets, the wide selection of vinos generosos (nearly all by the glass – decent pours too)

and the fact that they do the beers in a multitude of sizes from a dinky cana to a whopping jarra.

Personally, I love a cheeky cana,

which is just enough to wet the whistle. Great if nipping in for a quick pintxos or as an appertiff before the main event booze and food wise.

One of the joys of Curado (for a hispanophile like me), is their range of vina generosos (not just talking about sherries here, with a wider selection of Andulucian wines on offer).

I am a dreadful bore when it comes to sherries and Montilla Moriles wines, but if you are nuts about them like me we are blessed in Cardiff with the likes of Curado, Vermut, Asador 44 and Bar 44.

It is (outside working hours) rare for me to visit Curado and not have a vino generoso and a recent visit was no exception with a rather delightful Piedra Luenga amontillado.

Lovely initial hit of honey, followed by wood smoke and tempered by a dash of citrus, at the end, on the nose. On the palate there was a nice level of spice, then red berry fruit and a finish of citrus. Really interesting wine and quite distinct from sherry triangle amontillados.

Very much a case of something to suit everyone’s taste on the list here, with some lovely wines in the mix.

The verdict

I loved Curado Bar right from the minute it opened and it is great that it is back up an running.

Great food and booze to eat and drink in and great food and booze to take out from their deli is a heady combination in my book.

Whilst I love a good rioja, it’s success (and that of Albarino on the white side) can distract from the wine on offer elsewhere in Spain which live under its (their) shadow. Curado admirably champion producers from the length and breadth of Spain and have a very interesting and diverse selection both in the bar and the deli.

My advice is keep on drinking the rioja (and albarino), but try some wines from other regions in Spain. I guarantee, for those that rarely move outside of ordering rioja/albarino, you will be pleasantly surprised by what else is on offer and Curado (along with Asador 44 and Bar 44) is a perfect place to expand your Spanish wine horizons.

Bought this beauty in the deli after my most recent visit.

Would I go back? Absolutely, one of the joys of things finally getting back to a semblance of normality is to be able to visit places in town like Curado Bar (and joy of joys actually eat inside).

I do hope pintxos Monday returns at some point in the not too distant future – that would definitely tempt me back into the office on a Monday.

Being in the office rarely brings a smile to my face, but I rather look forward to my days in the office these days as it means lunch out (and also seeing, my work wife, Rachel – it is mainly the lunch though😀).

The details

Address: 2 Guildhall Place, Cardiff, CF10 1EB.

Website: https://curadobar.com/

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