Saturday night’s alright –   Milkwood, Pontcanna Cardiff

Many, many moons ago (June last year I think, but in some respects last year went at such a glacial pace it feels like it was 2021 BC, which was when I was at Uni.) J and I thoroughly enjoyed an evening of small plates at Milkwood and I had high praise for the rather inventive (lots of hits and only one notable miss – I wonder if, based on picture below, you can guess which one) dishes in the post I diligently wrote up (and didn’t proof read).

Just prior to me pushing the publish button they announced a cessation in their evening offering and after waiting until last month for it to become relevant again I binned the post.

Shortly after I deleted it, news came of the evening menu making a comeback on the Friday and Saturday nights that Lee Skeet’s onsite (upstairs) Cora is not open (great news that his Crowdfunder was a success).

After a quick for f’ff sake and cursing my decision to bin the draft post, I noted that Mrs. SF and I had one of our infrequent Saturdays coming up when we were both free so we decided to give the place’s weekend evening menu a try (after fully committing I realised it was the day England were playing Wales in the rugby in the later game – school boy error).

Rather interesting it was too,

with on paper a rather enticing sounding selection of snacks and small plates and something to suit all palates and persuasions (vegans, veggies, pescatarian and carnivores).

As we perused the menu and to aid our decision making process, we kicked off with a bowl of juicy, fat, gordal olives

and some rather interesting Hokkaido milkbread.

The latter had a distinctly sweetness to it, with a glazed top and a light fluffy interior. Very nice with the tangy cultured butter.

Proceedings properly commenced with a belting dish centred around mangalitza (god tier pork) black pudding (£6).

Big globules of fats, within the cubed black pudding, gave this a lovely rich flavour and there was a really good caramelised crust.

Lightly charred pickled onion added a welcome hit of acidity and a suitably runny egg (why people feel the need to say it’s a hen’s egg on menus remains an ongoing mystery to me) provided for the pleasing option of black pudding dunkage.

Really enjoyed this dish, with my only slight qualm being the lardo. This was somewhat lacking in flavour (to my jaded palate at least) and thus didn’t really add anything of note to the equation (odd as lardo is usually such a flavour bomb).

This did not adversely detract from what was a really good dish (just don’t think the lardo added much). Mrs  SF, who is not a black pudding fan, was certainly won over to the bloody cause by this.

Next up was a salmon dish, with the salmon cured and then subjected to the BBQ.

I am not a huge fan of salmon, but Mrs. SF is and she was paying. Actually I rather enjoyed this, with the salmon cooked on point to a just past translucent interior.  A beautifully crisp skin provided for a satisfying crunch – a very underrated pleasure is crispy fish skin.

Great flavour and nice textural contrasts to this bit of fish.

The crab (white meat heavy), cockles and seashore vegetables (sea purslane at a guess) brought a lovely fresh taste of the shoreline to the dish and it was a nice idea to have it all sitting on a sourdough crumpet

I also rather enjoyed the broccoli puree, which have a velvety smooth texture and a good flavour.  It worked surprisingly well with the crab and cockles. Could be the new sustainable (non Mexican drug cartel) avo this.

My only quibble with this dish was the crumpet, which was a tad on the dense side.

We continued with the pescine theme, with another rather fine fish dish

Perfectly cooked tranche of cod, with the umami hit of miso and a meaty but light chicken dashi complimenting the fish nicely.

A creamy cauliflower puree was well executed and was a fine adjunct to the fish, whilst lightly pickled hen of the wood mushroom brought both acidity and further meaty notes to the dish.

The dish included a generous pile of lumpfish roe, which looked nice but I question what it actually brought to the party. I wouldn’t have missed it had it been absent, which suggests to me it didn’t need to be there.

Next up was an interesting spin on a taco

with a nice mix of textures (tender slow cooked chicken leg, rather chunky pak choi, crisp pickled onions and a not quite free flowing, but still runny, boiled egg) and flavours.

I particularly liked the miso and aubergine smothered on the tortilla base.

They say that the only way to f’ff up beef short rib is to undercook it, but to me you need to start with decent beef. Without a quality base product the battle to enhance flavour is lost before you even start as there is naught to enhance. Here the beef was spot on in terms of quality and benefited hugely from a low and slow cook time (after crust formation)

A nice crust gave way to a soft yielding interior with bag loads of flavour. Shitake mushrooms added nicely to the meaty mix and charred lightly pickled onions cut through the richness.

Never had pepper dulce before, but it operated here as a really interesting seasoning for the beef. Distinct pepperiness and a touch of truffle to it.

The only seemingly out of kilter item was the lumpfish roe. Even more so here than on the cod, I couldn’t really discern what this added to the dish. Seasoning perhaps, but the beef seasoning was bang without the roe.

On the sides front, we opted for the french fries, with parmesan and truffle mayo (the latter making its presence felt, but not overpoweringly so).

Nice as these were (we ordered two lots), I suffered serious food envy when (after we had moved on to the desserts) the table by us had the hash browns (with rosemary and copious amounts of finely grated pecorino loaded on top) delivered. Boy did they look good, with Mrs. SF telling me off for staring!

On to puds, one definitely trumped the other in my book.

First up was a waffle, with milk and honey ice cream

Good waffle and I am a total sucker for honeycomb, which was generously scattering here, but the ice cream was too freezer hard and I didn’t really get the honey element.  Nice, but lacking the wow factor.

The second dessert, a pot of dark chocolate, set custard, with coffee gel and hazelnuts was much more on the money.

Really nice flavours here, with coffee and chocolates and nuts a tried and trusted formula for good reason.  Mrs. SF thought it a tad rich, but I loved it.

The Drink

The wine list is short, but has a couple of interesting items on it.

It is always nice to see German wine on a list (especially the rarely seen – in list here at least – weissburgunder/pinot blanc) and I have a lot of time for New York State wines (here from the well regarded Finger Lakes wine region).

We decided on the Baden weissburgunder/pinot blanc (£32 – retails at about £10) on the list.

Very pleasant, refreshing number this with apple and floral notes and a good level of acidity. Very easy drinking and good with the fishy elements.

With the meaty elements we decided on a glass of the malbec (from Languedoc) (£7 a glass, £26 for a bottle – retails at £11, so odd it is well below the Baden wine price on the list).

Not my cup of tea this, with it being rather flat and boring I thought. Tasting notes regarding this wine refer to “ripe plums, black fruit and virginia tobacco, evolving harmoniously to finish with liquorice, peppermint, vanilla pods and toasted notes“. Sounds lovely, but I didn’t get any of that.

The verdict

Despite a seeming tendancy here to sometimes add that one extra item (looking at you lumpfish roe) which was not necessarily required, Saturday (and Friday) nights at Milkwood are back with a bang and are definitely a bit of alright. That is more than alright from my perspective.

We had a pretty good cross section of the menu, with the black pudding, cod and beef the stars of the show.

No real duds and plenty of dishes to commend. We went large on both the food and wine, but portions are decent and it is perfectly possible to eat relatively cheaply here if you are a bit more parsimonious than we were.

Services was excellent, with good knowledge of the menu and an unobtrusive manner (which I liked). With small plates you don’t want to be asked with every dish if everything is OK.

Would I go back? Yes, good food and a nice atmosphere made for a very pleasant evening.

The details

Address: 83 Pontcanna Street Pontcanna, Cardiff, CF11 9HS


Evening menu is available Fridays and Saturdays only.



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