Looking for some hot stuff this (Donna Summer) evening? Sticky Fingers, Roath, Cardiff

I have, on my various trips to the Far East, always been very much enamoured with the concept of hawkers (street food vendors to us) and in Singapore they congregate them in “centres” where you can browse a multitude of offerings, with your “cheap as chips” orders delivered to your table (including from a Michelin starred stall).

As a result I have always liked the concept of Sticky Fingers (less so the name), with it operating to bring together under one roof a number of quality street food vendors and adding booze into the equation.

When it was in the Brewery Quarter I was a regular visitor, but with the move to Roath (I could always see the logic of that move to studentville, even if it was less than convenient for me) and subsequently Covid induced imprisonment I haven’t visited for a while.

The somewhat perverse beauty of this enforced absence, for me, has been a whole new roster of vendors to explore.

Inside it is a much more swish/ less utilitarian space than the old site. Much more a place to linger in my view.

J and I both got fooled by the rather low backed and deep banquettes. I laughed as she careened backwards and then preceded to misjudging my initial sitting attempt even more spectacularly (much to J’s amusement).

The food

With the two of us, we decided the best approach would be to sample the wares of all the vendors on the night and share. It would be churlish to tramp over to the Eastside (traffic was bloody awful due in part to there seemingly being 9 bazillion sets of traffic lights on Crwys Road) and leave a vendor’s wares unsampled I though, alas my IT incompetence and time constraints meant the “slam” of all four just alluded us.

Fowl & Fury  (Nashville Hot Chicken)

We started off by ordering the hot nashville chicken – well I thought I did until I realised I had not pressed the pay button. Second successful attempt made after J asked me to double check (after 10 mins) I had actually made the order (she knows me all too well).

I have bemoaned the lack of decent fried chicken in Cardiff in the past, but things have certainly changed, with Milkwood, Chronic Fried Chicken and Mr. Croquewich having entering the fray.

I love a good bit of fried chicken (loathe a bad one) and from what I have heard (from the ever reliable source that is Gourmet Gorro) Fowl and Fury’s wares are “hot” stuff (I didn’t take that quite as literally as, perhaps, I should have) . 

Instagram pics. from other sources suggest a fine looking offering, but “the gram friendly” asthetics often flatter to deceive and it is flavour rather than the look that always interests me. 

I would rather eat dubious looking food from a dustbin lid than beautiful food on bone china if the former has flavour and the latter has none

The menu introducing an interesting concept of different spice levels,

with these ranging from County (no spice) to Fury (you are gonna need some milk and a new lower intestine).

J and I have (according to J at least) very different tolerances to heat – she is much more a heat fiend and I am most definitely a bit of a chilli wuss.  I like spice, but if you can’t actually taste what you are eating I just dont get the point (other than pure masochism). As such there is a line in the molten lava flow which I don’t want to cross. Came close to it here (as my face melted)!!

As we were sharing we compromised (thank the Lord) with the medium spice level and went for the tenders.

Holy moly these were hot – with both of us very much taken aback by the heat levels.

The medium did coming with a “They may make you cry” so we can’t say we weren’t warned!

Even the pickles (thought they would bring a touch of respite) were damn hot, but the combination of sweet sour and heat worked rather well despite my initial “oof size large” reaction.

My reaction to just the heat of the pickle!

The home sauce did somewhat help to assuage the ferocious heat of the frankly evil looking coating (it exuded menace),

but only a bit.

We did feel we had inadvertently fallen into a “Man versus food” challenge as we battled the increasing heat with brows needing to be mopped constantly and a fear (on my part) of instant death if I went to the loo!!

The chicken was (despite or maybe because of the heat) great. Tender and juicy, with a coating that had a good crunch and some decent gnarly bits to it. These, however, are not for the faint hearted!!

Good portion size – struggling to recall cost, but think it was £7.50.

Personally not sure of the point of the standard white slice.

Is it a way to avoid finger contact with the 🌋tenders, I wonder?

Gawd knows what the “Hot” and the “Fury” ones are like – brings tears to my eyes just thinking about them.  May as well just cut out the middle man and sit on a red hot poker.

In the words of Donna Summer if you are “looking for some hot stuff” this is definitely the vendor for you.

As J and I contemplated the pending ruination of our lower intestines, we moved on to rest of the stuff we had ordered.

Bao Selecta

With me being a big fan of the bao (here £7.50 a piece), it was a no brainer to move on to this place next.

Bao Selecta’s classic pork belly (gua bao) number

was on the money flavour wise, with a good lean to fat ratio (fair bit of fat in the mix is always good in my book – you can go for a lean option here, but frankly if you do we can’t be friends).

Nice spicing to the pork, with the whole ensemble standing up favourably to the baos I have had at Bao in London.

I was (in hindsight – looking at the gua bao here) rather pleased with my plating skills in terms the gua bao I made from the make at home Bao kits a while back.

We also ordered their fried chicken number which was a positive monster size wise (the filling dwarfing the bao itself).

and an absolute belter on the flavour front.  Lovely chicken, with a crisp yet gooey coating and punchy (tame as anything compared to the tenders that preceded it) spicing. Really enjoyed both the flavour and the textural contrasts on display here.

Keralan Karavan

The seeming perpetual nomads of the Cardiff food scene, I don’t know anyone in Cardiff who doesnt have a soft spot for the “Karavan of (food) love”. Great people, who constantly smash it out of the park on the flavour front.

We ordered the Great (or was it big?) Raj (£10), which came with a frankie roll, a samosa and their trademark rainbow poppadums (same every month) adorned with a mango drizzle.

As always with KK, the flavours were there in spades. Beautiful spicing and a very abundantly sized portion for a tenner.

My only slight quibble was to me the Raj is an ideal size for sharing, but the frankie roll element was very tricky to split without total disassembly. A tighter roll in the foil and cut in half maybe would make it easier to for share – but that is just me?

We didn’t get around to trying Reaper Food, a new vendor to Sticky (offering Tex Mex food, with the likes tacos using there own brand hot sauces), as by the time we tried to order from them they had shut up shop. 

The table across from us had one of their tacos and some padrons delivered and both looked mighty fine I have to say. Next time definitely.

The drink

On the booze front there is plenty on offer, with a decent selection of beers

and cocktails (good value at 2 for £10).

We both fancied wine and I spied this number on the list at £26 (retails at £10 plus so fair – ish mark up).

Decent drop, with cherry and blackberries and a finish of cranberry acidity and crunch. Once my taste buds had reset after tenderaggedon, it was very nice with the food.

The verdict

Really enjoyable night at Sticky Fingers, with an excellent array of food and booze in a rather nice setting.

Whilst the chicken was über hot, I actually enjoyed it and my fear of a bad case of the “Johnny Cash” the next day thankfully failed to materialise.

Medium is definitely at the top end of my (and J’s – her chilli fiend aura shattered) heat tolerance. If you go for the “hot” or the “fury” then you are a braver person than me and quite possibly need sectioning for your own safey!

The other venders were as reliably as ever and all in all it made for a great evening, with plenty of heat related bants.

It was really busy (we could only get in at 19.45), which was great to see.

The ordering and payment system, via Yoello through a QR code on the table, worked very well (my IT incompetence aside) and made (set up is a bit of a faff, but only needs to be done once) ordering a very easy process.

Would I go back- absolutely. Love the mix of venders and the ability to mix and match Tex Mex with Taiwanese.

Would I try the “Fury“? Absolutely not – definitely a medium man me and no more!! I would, however, pay good money to see someone attempt it – would even order the ambulance for them!!

The details

Address: 199 – 201 Richmond Road, Roath Cardiff CF24 3BT.

Website: https://www.stickyfingersstreetfood.com/

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