My ongoing theme of revisiting old haunt, now we have been afforded a whiff of normality by the powers that be, brought me back to Asador 44 – a City centre favourite of mine and part of Cardiff’s “Barrio de comida y berbida” (along with Bar 44, Curado Bar and Vermut).
Due to both Covid travails and now the new scourge of hospitality in the form of staff/skills shortages, it has (like the rest of the 44 group) opened a bit later than the date when the strings were loosened enough here in Wales to allow for indoor dining.
This all sounds like a nightmare for hospitality venues – it doesn’t rain it pours as the saying goes.
My heart really goes out to the people who run hospitality – a sector that brings me no end of pleasures – as if it is not one thing it seems it is another.
Back to the dreaded Covid, every effort seems to have been made to make it safe (I see it is now being suggested in some quarters that screens are not the panacea they were once thought to be – which would be just another case of “Sure you’ve shell out loads of cash on these things, but now we’ve had a think maybe you should have just opened a window – oh well never mind it’s not as if it’s our money is it!”).
Luckily it doesn’t seem to have detracted from the charm of the place and if you forget your mask (my mate did) they have spares for the 5 second walk to and from your table to the door.
It is certainly good to be back in the saddle eating out wise and to be able to visits these places again. Of those I have missed, Asador 44 has to be close to the top of my list of places to get reacquainted with. I mean what’s not to like – top quality meat and fish (and veggies) cooked over fire (on a parella) certainly ticks my boxes, especially when you add a rather fine wine list to the equation.
The menus have had a bit of a revamp, both in terms of the al a carte
a new La Ventana option
and the plato del dia.
Tempting as the al a carte and La Ventana (the clams and the seabass both sounded the absolute business) menus were, the plato del dia (available Thursday – Sat) fitted the bill for lunch very nicely – being great value in my opinion.
We skipped on the starters and went straight for the mains (time and tight(arse)ness waits for no man).
As the post title suggests, I went for the flat iron streak.
À point for me, cooking wise (in this place I just say “As the kitchen likes to cook it” when asked how I would like my steak – they never fail to nail it), this was a beautifully flavoured piece of dry aged beef. Tender, but with just the right amount of chew to retain interest on the mastication front (I have never really got the allude, at least to some, of fillet – most boring cut of steak if you ask me).
Perfectly seasoned and a nice portion size for lunch, it was as good as (if not better) than I remember.
My friend had the fish of the day, which on the day in question was hake (such a good eating fish, which the Spanish rightly revere).
Lovely, chunky bit of fish this, with a nice crisp skin and big white flakes of pearly white flesh. All complimented nicely by a very zippy salsa verde (I think), according to my fellow diner. Cracking bit of fish cookery this, with minimal intervention so the quality of the principal ingredient shone through.
On the sides front, there was a choice of olive oil fries and a tomato salad. We decided to order both and share.
The skin on fries, were nicely crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside (as any good chip should be) and bob on with the seasoning. I like salt and these were liberally doused in the good stuff.
The tomatoes had a pleasingly tangy dressing that work very well as against their natural sweetness. The addition of chopped herbs (a bit more of them, perhaps, would have been nice) brough a nice freshness to the dish.
Both very good sides.
I suspect the fries will remain on the menu at all times, but I assume that seasonality (an abiding principle here) will mean the toms. get replaced at some point as the season changes.
As a big drinker of Spanish wine, Asador 44’s and the wider 44 Group’s lists very much have me in “ A pig in sh$t” territory. In this instance, rather than diving into the main wine list, it was very much a quick glass and the “by the glass specials” on offer with the plato del dia were just the ticket on the day in question.
Nice to see stuff other than rioja and albarino (much as I love both) on offer, with a mencia (the red option) and a xarel-lo (the white option) by the glass (with a rosé from rioja to finish off the trio available). Mencia is a great Spanish grape, which is gaining in popularity here, and is a firm favourite of mine. Xarel-lo may (at first blush) be unfamiliar to many, but one of the three main grapes used in cava most will have been exposed to it (albeit potentially unknowingly). Here it was in its less well known guise of a still white wine.
I decided on a glass of the mencia with my steak.
Very pleasant drop this, with cherry and floral notes on the nose and a pleasing spiciness on the palate. Not too heavy, mencia is an idea red for our summer months to my mind. Here it worked very well paired with the flat iron steak.
It was great to be back in Asador 44 after all this time – has felt like eons since I was in previously. The food and booze is top notch as always and it is great to see the fabled lunchtime menu back in play. Fabulous bang for your buck and the best of its kind in Cardiff in my view.
My advice is come to this place for lunch and dinner and if the rumours are correct you may be able to stay overnight at some point and sample breakfast there. How good would that be!
It is very much a case of use it or lose it with hospitality these days and I for one don’t want to lose restaurants like this gem. I will most definitely continue to use it, along with Mercado 44 (some great wines and produce on there) – I mean why wouldn’t you when you can pick up absolute peaches, like this Remelluri blanco (one of the very best Spanish whites around in my humble opinion).
On a final note, be nice to the staff and don’t begrudge them a tip (automatically added as a service charge here) – they have been through the ringer for the past 16 months and are having to seriously adapt. Oh and if you book and can’t make it make sure you tell them in advance. Things are hard enough as it is in the sector without the ball ache and financial burden of no shows. It after all only takes a phone call.
Address: 14 – 15 Quay Street, Cardiff, CF10 1 EA.