Ciao bella –  Bacareto, Cardiff City Centre.

I have been a big fan of Grady Atkins ever since the old La Gallois days and have had many a good meal from him (never a bad one), not least during lockdown.

As such it is good to see him at the helm in terms of a new venture, with the people behind Spit & Sawdust, involving the rather fine Venetian concept of cicchetti (cicheti) – pronounced chi -KET-tee

Cicchetti/cicheti is Italian for a small snack/side dish and in Veneto they are served in bàcaros along with an ombra (small glass of, usually Veneto, wine – wine wise Veneto has so so much more to offer than just prosecco) as a typical aperitivo between finishing work and having your dinner. A very fine and noble tradition I think.

Cicchetti/cicheti is food eaten (generally) standing at the bar (with the fingers or a toothpick) and commonly includes bread or polenta topped with a variety of things (akin to pintxos in the Basque Country) and small sandwiches. In reality (like tapas and pintxos) pretty much anything goes, with size being the defining quality. 

Bacareto, clearly a play on the bàcaro theme, brings this most Venetian of concepts to Cardiff, with the added bonus of a more substantial meal offering.

A mix of booze and nibbles is what I tend to look for these days as I can no longer (at my age), or indeed wish to, just drink the night away. The UK is one of the few culture where booze is not automatically associated with food (my Spanish friends find the concept of spending a night out just drinking a completely alien one), but times are a changing with the tapas transistion now being followed by the cicheti change in our drinking habits.

Back in the office now more regularly (a mix of work edict and Sky broadband being crap), means lunches and after work drinks and nibbles are back on the scene and Bacareto seems to be the perfect venue for these whether in a group or solo .

I am an anti-social bastard when it comes to team dos and my new team in Cardiff now comprises pretty much of me – the other two in it tended to work away from the office even before Covid hit. As a result, team events are great as I get to choose where we go everytime. Obviously the slight down side is it is just me, but I rather like my own company if truth be told.

Back to Bacareto, it certainly has a nice look and feel to it (very continental)

and I was more than happy perched on my own on a stool at the bar.

It is one of those places where you (well me) can be equally happy in a group, a couple or solo.

Upstairs is just as nice, with a dining room and an outdoor terrace.

Seriously tardis like, once you get inside this place, such that at the back it abuts Cardiff’s Indoor Market.

The food

The cicheti menu is on a sheet of paper on the wall and is split between hot and cold items, as well as sweet.

For the hot and cold savoury items prices start out at a bargain £1 and top out at a very reasonable £3.20.

I was told orders come out as and when they are ready, which as I was flying solo suited me just fine.

I started off with a medley of cold cicheti,

with some lovely flavours on display.

First up was a full on devilled egg, with a salted anchovy on top that really perked up the palate.

Some seem to have found this dish quite potently salty, but I didn’t find that at all. Perhaps in the interim it has been toned down?

I really enjoyed the piquancy of the mustardy yolk, the saltiness of the anchovy and the cooling quality of the white. A total steal for a quid.

A simple named “cured meat and tomato” (£2.50) was again full throttle on the flavour front.

A quarter of fresh tomato had a lovely zing to it and sat, with sun blush ones where the flavour was really intensified, atop quality salami and nutty bread.

The final cold cicheti of my first pass was another doozy,

with the salty and slightly sour gorgonzola the ying to the sweet honey’s yang. The earthy rye bread and two hazelnuts added texture as well as flavour.

Moving on to the hot cicheti, the star of the show was a taleggio arancini (£3.20).

Big bugger this, with a beautifully crisp shell (nicely salted) encasing yielding, yet with just a touch of bite, risotto rice and oozing talaggio.

I could have happily scoffed a “camion” load of these beauties.

Less successful was a herb crusted buffalo mozzarella.

Whilst the coating was crisp and the mozzarella suitably creamy, it suffered from a cold centre and a lack of stringy ooziness.  If that is the intent (I doubt it) it is not for me, I suspect it needed a bit longer fryer time to reach its undoubted potential.

A second pass brought a couple more cold items and a final hot one.

Whilst not a looker, a baked tomato with grana (padana?) crumb continued the theme of full on tomato flavour.

The baking amped up the tomato’s flavour and sweetness, with the salty nutty grana boosting the flavour up a couple more notches up on the dial. A touch more crunch on the crumb, perhaps, would have lifted this dish even further.

An earthy piece of beetroot (£1.90) was coated in a blizzard of rockhill cheese (best vegan cheese I have encountered to date – can’t say I even realised it was plant based).

Toasted seeds (sunflower?) added crunch and a rich nuttiness to the equation.

The last hot dish, which due to a pending train, I ate mostly on the run.

Beautifully simple, these Sicillian chickpea fritters of Arabic origin may well become my new favourite bar snack. Touch of crispiness on the outside and soft and almost gooey on the inside, with a good hit of pepperiness, the addition of a squeeze of lemon really lifted these

Absolute bargain for a quid, I wrapped two up in the napkin and ate then as I ran for my train (only one an hour after 18.00!)

A second visit for lunch brought the day time menu in to play

as well as well stuffed sandwiches, typical of bàcaros, called tramezzini and cakes

Our visit was part of Bruce and Oscar’s (Bruce being  J’s new dog and Oscar mine and Mrs. SF’s) “get to know each other” weekend and again they got on famously.

They were also, thankfully, very well behaved.

It is great for dog owners (like Mrs. SF and I and J) that the bar and the terrace areas are dog friendly (the dining room isn’t, which is fair enough) and the staff were all very welcoming of our dogs.

We started off with a round of the  tramezzini (between £1.50 and £1.90 per half depending on the filling)

with some really interesting flavour on display (njuda and cream cheese, chickpea, basil and pumpkin seed and tapanade).

Very much not you average sarnies and each very good in their own right, with the nduja and cream cheese (with the former packing a punch) probably my favourite.

Next up we shared a starter of farinata (a chickpea based dish),

which came with some stunning roasted peppers imbued with fresh mint (£6.90). The mint worked really well with the peppers (not a combo I have tried before) and I really enjoyed the textural contrasts between the soft farinata, the cooked down peppers and the toasted seeds. Cracking veggie dish this and a good size to share.

On the main we went for both those on offer (choosing the arrabiata – £9 – over the pomodora) and shared.

The pasta (casarecce) was cooked bob on, with just a touch of bite to it, and the sauce coating rather than swamping the pasta. The sauce was rich, sweet and intensely tomatoey, with touch of chilli bite on the palate.

The second pasta dish (again exactly how I like pasta cooked) was full on vegan with a cashew nut based herb cream and crisp breadcrumbs (£10).

Really good flavours here and the fact there was no meat or diary element didn’t faze me at all. With flavours this good, I am more than happy to eat veggie/vegan stuff and if you are if that persuasion there is loads to entice here.

Because J and I are pigs we had cheese and desserts.

Creamy and slightly fruity taleggio came with a really good sour plum chutney,

and rye bread (£5).

We finished off proceeding with a couple of cakes (both £3).

A seriously rich chocolate torte

and a fragrant almond and orange cake

The boozy fig with the latter was great.

The drink

On the booze front, there are plenty of options with wine,

cocktails,

beer and other stuff.

Wine options include a house (on draft) white (trebbiano)

and a house red (montepalciano)

I started off with a 175ml glass of frappato (£5.90), a fruity red from Sicily with a touch of pepper spice to it.

As time ticked on, with my Transport for Wales’ train waiting for no man, a small drink with my panelle was in order and the diminuative ombra (still a decent pour) of the house red was just the ticket.

Nice enough montepulciano, with red cherries to the fore. It is good to have the option of this ombra size, if one is looking for a cheeky wine.

On my second visit, we had a glass of the grillo (touch of peach and herbs, as well as good acidity), the frappato, the non –  alcoholic spritz

and a neropasso.

The neropasso (a Veneto wine) was a fine drop, a sort of mini amarone, with rich dark fruits, including sour cherry and plum, and a spicy finish. Great with the pasta (particularly the arribiata).

It is great to see local Veneto wines such as soave and valpolicello, in its various forms including the glorious amarone, on the list here.

My only quibble with the wines on offer was that they are not all “by the glass“. Personally I would like to see all or at least the vast majority of the wines on offer by the glass, carafe and bottle.

If you are not up for the booze (designated driver or just don’t fancy it), the non alcoholic spritz was surprisingly good and made for a fine alternative to boring sodas.

Continuing the non alcohol theme, unsurprisingly the coffee

on offer is rather good.

The verdict

I really enjoyed Bacareto. It is a great bar with superior snacks, which makes it ideal as somewhere I would happily sit at the bar solo or with Mr. SF and friends any day of the week.

The more substantive (but short) dining menu, had some really interesting and tasty stuff on it and made for a lovely alternative Sunday lunch.

The place is very dog friendly, with Oscar and Bruce being made very much at home.

For me this really ticks an awful lot of boxes and I can see me being a regular visitor.

Bravo Bacareto, you have created a fabulous place here and one that I will happily visit any day of the week (well not Monday – Wednesday as aren’t open then).

The details

Address:  14 Church Street, Cardiff,

Website: https://m.facebook.com/bacaretocardiff/

Current opening hours: From noon Thursday to Sunday.

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