I think it is fair to say some Cardiffians can view Newport a tad negatively and it does sit somewhat in the capital’s shadow, which has probably (at least in the past) been reflected in the food scene. Newport could have been argued to be to Cardiff pretty much what Cardiff is to Bristol (food wise).
I recall seeing, a while back, a Newport related riff on the Lion King meme with Simba asking his father
Well now Newport can stick two fingers up at Cardiff as it has a swanky new indoor market, with a host of rather fine traders, which on the face of it puts Cardiff somewhat to shame. Very much a case of up your’s Cardiff.
Both J and I have been keen to go for a while, but the faff of either driving or taking public transport (oh the horror) meant we haven’t got around to it. Enter mutual friend, George who is happy to drive as she is not fussed on drinking.
Now many people often look askew, with thinly veiled suspicion, at people who don’t drink – is it religion, are they pregnant, a serial killer or on their way to an AA meeting. Personally I don’t care (well maybe if are a serial killer), as to me someone who happily volunteers as the designated driver is basically a God send. I should add that George is far from teetotal (very far, when she puts her mind to it), but is one of those people that is happy enough not drinking.
Anyhow, back to the point, off we (5 of us crammed into George’s compact motor) pootled to Newport and I have to say the market itself is rather grand.
All very impressive on the outside.
I often think that modern design and architecture is put to shame by the past in terms of both beauty and durability (Wells Cathedral is awe inspiringly beautiful and has stood for nigh on 850 years and I doubt anything built today will be anything other than dust in 850 years time even if humanity is still here, again doubtful), but this structure is genuinely impressive. Reminds me a bit of the grand Victorian railway stations when they were in their pomp.
Lovely set up inside,
with the only problem being getting a seat. The place was absolutely rammed on the Saturday afternoon of our visit.
The list of traders in the food court is impressive, including a number of South Wales stalwarts as well as a few Bristol interlopers who have managed to sneak past border controls on the Bridge (sneaky buggers us Anglo – Saxons).
and we were certainly spoilt for choice.
Ordering is quite simple, once you get the hang of the QR code
Even an utter technophobe like me got the hang of it relatively easily. Amazingly I got an order in first, which caused J et al to basically fall off their seats (I think they expected me to get out an abacus rather than a phone – we then had our customary argument re Apple v Android, with it being clear to anyone with any sense that Iphones are shxte).
We decided on a strategy of covering as many traders as possible and sharing the spoils. We thus went off in digitally (and in some cases physically) differing directions.
Seven Lucky Gods
First up was the rather enticing offering of Seven Lucky Gods,
with some fine Korean fried chicken (£7) arriving first up.
Good heat to these with a nice sticky “finger licken” coating, with a lovely bit of chewiness (sounds odd but that’s what it was) and tender, juicy, chicken thigh.
The Seven Lucky God’s katsu curry arancini were even better.
Beautifully crisp shell, with no oiliness, a flavour packed interior and cooked on point rice. In effect you have a reconstructed/reimagined katsu curry here, with the rice, curry and crisp coating all there in arancini form.
Work of genius these.
Next up was Italian(ish) “dirty cluck“, being deep fried gnocchi, fried parmesan chicken, more cheese and aioli .
Not convinced by this, with it all a bit claggy (which got worse as it cooled) and the chicken just a touch on the dry side.
A big portion (perhaps too big, with cooling issue) it was one of our more expensive choices at £9.50.
Unlike the katsu arancini, I personally don’t think this riff on good old fashion gnocchi works particularly well. Other were more predisposed to this dish, so may be it is just me being fussy.
Not sure why but this just seems an odd name for purveyors of pan Asian food (“Kung Fu Panda” maybe),
but regardless it had a rather fine sounding menu with plenty of seeming goodies.
The Japanese chicken bao was a good looking beast (no ideal why they bothered with the undressed garnish mind),
with a good squishable bao and nicely spiced piece of juicy chicken thigh. Very good crisp coating (take note Fat Hippo) and a nice sour crunch from pickles and a bit of chilli heat. Not one to share perhaps, as apportioning it was tricky, but would definitely order solo. Very fairly priced at £6, I thought.
Next up was a quartet of pork gyoza (£5).
Despite being quite diminuative, these packed a punch flavour wise. Decent spicing, a nice light crisp (in the right places) shell and perky porkiness made these very moreish.
The final Greedy Bear dish was a veggie one in the form of a cauli moli bao (£5).
Enjoyed this, with the nuttiness of the cauliflower working well with the Asian spicing. Good crisp coating too.
Flour and Ash
Again a nice looking menu
and we had thought to order a pizza to share, they did look very good with the double pep and ox cheek and red wine ragu particularly catching the eye, but ordered sides first (eyes then proved bigger than stomachs).
Lobster arancini (£7)
had the requiste crisp outer shell and a well made risotto interior. Nice sweetness from the lobster, although one had a few pieces of shell in it which slightly detracted from my enjoyment.
Courgette Fritti (£5) were, however, rather disappointing.
The tempura batter was flabby and a tad insipid ,with none of the trademark tempura crispiness. The courgette batons had been oversalted and bar from a slap of salinity were rather bland
This all made for a rather flaccid set of members!
My brother in law decries courgettes as watery bags of nothingness and these would have done little to dispel that view (to which, here, I would only add salty).
The aioli dip was quite good though.
Meat and Greek
J was tasked with getting something from Meat and Greek and I was thinking in anticipation” Ooh will it be the pork or chicken souvlaki- oh I hope it’s pork“!
So what did she get? Halloumi fries (£5) x 2 that’s what!
It is fair to say I was rather crestfallen by this development, but despite my initial “What the fxck are these?” they were actually quite nice.
A decent outer shell gave way to halloumi’s trademark salty squeakiness, which made these rather moreish.
At this point most of us were pretty much stuffed to the gills so didn’t have room to try the seeming delights of the other vendors.
J and her cousin K, however, still had room for ice cream (hollow legs the pair of um).
from Castle Farm Shop which they pronounced very nice.
Next time will definitely try
The Simple One (very apt for me) at £5.5 from the Burger Boyz (looked like a properly good smashed patty) and the egg fried rice (£9.50 – £12 depending on protein) from Tasty Peninsula both sound right up my street.
The bar is run by the Academy Cafe Bar (of Barry fame I believe) and has a decent set of options in terms of booze. I had several glasses of Madri (£5.50 a pint), which was wet and fizzy (bar from sours I don’t drink much beer, so I am not really a beer aficionado).
Wine wise they have 5 whites, 1 fizz, 5 reds and a rose. Looking at prices the Me and You Tempranillo (Ribera del Duero) is £26 a bottle and retails at around £14 , so a very reasonable (for the UK) mark up. The mark up on the Matau Sauvignon Blanc is a bit steeper, with it priced here at £26 and retailing at around £8.74, but it is still not hideous for the UK.
They (of course – punishable by retail death if don’t) do cocktails. No idea if they are any good (quality or value wise), but they certainly seemed a popular choice on the day in question.
A number of the vendors also sell booze too, such as Meat and Greek and Mythos (£3.95) and Seven Lucky God and Asahi (£4.50)
If you are looking for a decent wine selection you can drink at the tasting table at Vin Van Cymru. You regrettably can’t take their wines to a table in the main dinning area (shame that), but presume can go up to the vendor counters and order food physically and then take it back to their tasting table. Definitely an option for next visit.
I think Newport Market is absolutely brilliant. Great space, with a fab food offerings. The stand out for me, on our visit, was Seven Lucky Gods. Those katsu arancini were my top order, closely followed by their Korean fried chicken
Would I go back? Absolutely, more vendors to try and others to revisit.
The set up here really does rather puts Cardiff to shame, have to say!
Address: High St, Newport NP20 1FX