A hot dog or a cold canine? Snufflers at Barocco, Cardiff City Centre.

As a competition lawyer (a country bumpkin subsidy control, as opposed to a  anti- trust/merger control city slicker, one) I oft have reason to question the names attributed to agreements I am ask to look at. Call it what you like, but if it is in reality something else then regardless of the moniker you put on it you can be on a decidely sticky wicket if you don’t treat it as what it really is for legal purposes.

As a lawyer I am paid to be a pedant (not a particularly easy gig when you are dyslexic and dyspraxic), but I am equally anal about food (in respect of which I pay rather than am paid) and tend to get my knickers in a twist about certain mischaracterisations.  I am a terrible bore when it comes to pasta with cream in it being called a carbonara, but it just really gets my goat (because it ain’t a carbonara is it) and don’t get me started on Montilla Moriles wines being called sherry (usually by people who really should know better- Bibendum , for instance, seem to think Bodegas Alvear make a fino sherry despite the bodega being in Montilla Moriles which is over 222km from Jerez🤦) or the use of vegan butcher/vegan beef/meat free chicken etc. which I find very irksome (mainly because it is gobbledygook).

In the context of food terms, some mischaracterisation matter more than others. Call a dish a carbonara when you add cream to it and you will irritate me, call a Deadly Webcap a chanterelle and put it in a mushroom risotto you serve up to me and you may well kill me. You can avoid reality, but you can’t avoid the consequences of said reality – oh and please don’t invite me round for dinner.

This bring me to the hot dog, one of the most wondrous (when done properly) of fast foods. To me a hot dog has two defining qualities, with these being the bun it comes in and the nature of the sausage in said bun. To be a hot dog, firstly the bun has to be the correct hog dog bun – a baguette just doesn’t (in hot dog parlances) cut the mustard.

Secondly and most importantly to my mind, the sausage can’t be any old banger. It has (at least in my world) to be a frankfurter/Vienna sausage, whose defining quality is the smooth consistency of the meat filling.

To me all hot dogs include a sausage, but not all sausages can be a component of a hot dog. As such, in my anal world, a british (course ground) banger in a roll is a sausage sarnie and not a hot dog.

Of course, many will disagree with this view but to be frank (see what I did there) I don’t care.

So (at last, you may say) to Snufflers, a new – ish indie venture operating from Barocco in Cardiff City Centre. Funny old name, especially if you look up the dictionary definition.

It is fair to say, before its latest indie incarnation, Barocco was a place that held little of interest to me.

Despite being a rather nice space,

the rather formulaic food and drink offering previously in play never much appealed to me.

No longer seemingly subject to the whims of the Brains’ bean counters, it now seems to have much more to offer for the likes of me.

The Plate Licked Clean (along with Gourmet Gorro, nearly aways first on the scene when a new place opens – I generally lag way behind these two in getting to places) put me on to the interesting change in direction of this place and thus gave me the required nudge to check it out (without which I would have been blissfully unaware).

I am always on the look out for interesting places for lunch on the days I am in the office (up to two days a week now – although I fear a new work from home dictat could be in the offing, which would potentially have a devastating effect on hospitality in the run up to the C word, especially if it is in conjunction with extended vaccine passport requirements) and this seemed to fit the bill nicely.

The food

Looking at the menu the first thing that caught my eye was the “the Hot Dog” in the Carnivore section.

Whilst the sourcing from J T Morgans Butchers (in the nearby Cardiff Indoor Market, must admit I tend to favour the chap at the other end of the market – K. Blackmore & Sons) is admirable (I am very much in favour of keeping it within the local supply chain where possible), my first thought as to the pork & black pepper sausage referred to in the description of “The Hot Dog” was “Is that really a hot dog or a sausage in a bun?”.

No matter, of course (bar from my anality), if a sausage in a bun taste good then that is great. After all there is nothing wrong with a quality sausage encased in a bun, be it a hot dog or otherwise.

My second thought was “What the bloody hell is Welsh Lady Mustard?“, before refocusing on the mustard in the moniker.

Based on my diatribe above and being a contrary git, I passed on “The Hot Dog” and “The Hotter Dog”  and instead went for the “Cowslip“.

This offered the allure of a beef and horseradish (match made in heaven in my book) banger, slow cooked onions, crispy fried radish (a very underrated vegetable that I have never thought to deep fry) and sausage gravy, with the promise of the latter really sealing the deal for me. Some way from your trad.  hot dog, I would say, but rather lovely sounding nonetheless.

To this I added the rather interesting side of triple cooked chips (huge faff to make if my homemade efforts are anything to go by, the right choice of potato being absolutely key), with leek dust (which  really sounds like a faff to make) from what was a very fine sounding selection of sides.

The sausage sarnie/bap, when it arrived, was a beefy specimen (if not much of a looker – bit of a 50 shades of brown vibe to it).

The sausage itself was a very meaty number,

with the beef really coming through. Personally I thought the horseradish was just a tad on the subtle side and I would have liked it to have had a punchier presence, but that is a personal taste thing.

In terms of the accoutrements, the fried radishes provided a punchy hit of pepperiness and the onions had been cooked down to a lovely caramelised sweetness. Top notch gravy added nicely to the mix and was strategically placed so as to avoid structural bun collapse. Can’t say I detected the advertised radish slaw, but with gravy in the mix I personally don’t think its absence was any loss.

The bun held together well, despite the liquid load, and had a nice texture to it. It hit the sweet spot between too soft and too crisp I thought.

The chips (skin on) had a decent crunch to them

and the leek dust brought a surpringly pleasant allium hit (reminiscent of the onion element of cheese and onion crisps). The slight down sides were the powder made some of the chips looks like they were from green potatoes and the cider vinegar was applied on a touch too parsimonious a basis for my tastes. 

Not quite as crispy as my triple cooked chips, but I am bias (I personally think keeping the skin on makes for a less crispy chip),

these leaned more to the chip shop variety.

They were, however, none the worse for it in terms of enjoyment  and there were some really nice crunchy scraps.

Will be interesting to try the Gravy Trough,

which adds cheese to the equation. Will that dial it up to the full cheese and onion crisp vibe, I wonder?

A second visit brought the Omnivore element of the menu into play.

Whilst the ribs certainly appealed (at a seemingly bargain £8), I was in the mood for mac & cheese and the reference here to a house rarebit rather appealed.

It was a chilly day and I had a sherry tasting in the night so filling comfort food was the order of the day and to me mac & cheese is the ultimate comfort food when done right.

Doing it right means not being stingy with the cheese

and this had a nice crisp cheesy crust,  giving way to a silky, rich, cheese loaded,  interior.

I particularly liked the nicely balanced level of mustard imbued into the cheese sauce, which gave it a pleasing piquancy.

The elbow macaroni was cooked bob on, with it still having just a hint of bite to it.

Nice hit of garlic to the bread, with the garlic had been properly cooked down so as to lose its harshness making it rather mellow in flavour when matched with rosemary here. 

Good mac & cheese this, that I really enjoyed. Very decent portion size I thought and just the job for these autumn (come winter) days. Definitely shows these chaps have more than one string to their bow.

My only qualm with this dish was the paper the mac & cheese was loaded on to. The bottom layer got stuck to the paper, which made it tricky to eat the last few bits (which, as it tasted so nice, I was keen to do). I would have preferred it served on a plate/in a dish.

On the drinks front it was a work day lunch, so no booze for me

I, of course, had a shifty at the wine list.  Whilst not huge, it had a decent enough choice of styles.

Not bad mark ups being applied here either, which is nice to see. By way of example, the rioja on the list retails at around a tenner and is £21.50 on the list. This is pretty good by UK standards.

With the sausages, all the the reds would probably work.  For the ” Cowslip” I had I would probably favour the shiraz, whereas the chenin blanc or the chardonnay would be the ones I would go to for the mac n cheese.

Personally I would like to see more wines by the glass on the list than just one red and white, but I moan about the lack of multiple by the glass options at most places.

The verdict

Was it a hot dog? Probably not (at least not based on my definition), but who cares (bar from me and my anality) when it tastes good.

Nice, inventive, flavours on display here, the use of fried radish was a revelation,  which made for two rather fine lunchtime treats.

Would I go back? Yes – lots of other interesting and reasonably price stuff on the menu to try. The ribs, for example, at first blush seems very good value to me and I very much like the sound of the Gravy Trough.

Do find it a bit odd that they don’t open until 13.00 at lunch time.

May be missing an element of the crowd that do lunch at 12.00. I tend to nip out at 12.30 and had to hang around a bit before they opened.

The details

Address: 12 Wharton, Cardiff, CF10 1AG

Website:  Oddly (in this day and age) they don’t seem to have one!

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