I have written about the Heathcock on numerous occasions, with it probably at the top of my list of go to places in terms of eating out in Cardiff.
I love the local sourcing, the attention to detail and the innovation (always done with purpose and with flavour in mind rather than just to be clever). Above all I love the fact that they serve up damn tasty food and (when push comes to shove) that is what it is all about (despite what Instagram “it’s all in the aesthetics” may try and condition us to think).
A BBQ at the Heathcock is, for instance, far
from your burnt banger and burger affair.
This brings me to the latest event I attended there in the form of their al fresco summer tasting menu.
7 course (£70, with wine a round £100) is certainly not cheap, in these tighten that belt times (particularly as I am now self employed😬), but you always know with the Heathcock that you are going to get top quality stuff and plenty of it.
All nicely set up outside (the weather gods were with us),
the menu looked an absolute peach.
First up was a glass of prosecco, with the addition of a kick of seasonal fruit (liquor?).
Not really my thing, so I passed it on to J who enjoyed her double pour.
So to the food and first up was the intriguingly titled snacks. This could mean anything from the dire to the delightful and luckily we were in safe hands.
First up was an oyster, with a bloody mary granita.
It came with another 5, for our section of the long table, rather artfully displayed on a stand of other shells (wasted on me as I grabbed mine and took a pic of it solo before shovelling it down my gullet).
Lovely, plump, briney number this, with the bloody mary granita and cucumber garnish adding nicely to the mix. Pleasing to see the oyster was still the star of the show on the palate, despite the copious amounts of granita.
Next up was a really intense sliver of cured sardine, topped with refreshing orange and a sprinkle of punchy chilli.
Big flavour bomb this, with an initial hit of salt and heat, followed by intense oily meatiness and that distinctive sardine tang. Little in stature, but big on flavour, you wouldn’t want too big a slab of this.
The snacks just kept on coming, with a bowl of charred peas in the pod.
Lovely salty herby kick to these, which worked well as against the sweetness of the peas. Think these would make great summer bar snacks, with the added therapeutic benefits of the podding exercise (always de-stresses me a bit of podding).
A plate of home cured charcuterie, provide fat veined coppa and cured lamb.
Both top notch, but the lamb was an absolute bobby dazzler. It had a taste that was reminiscent of a distilled roast lamb dinner, mint sauce and all. Love to know what the make up of the cure used here was.
Cured lamb/mutton seems to be a rarity and I am wondering why based in how good this was.
Still the snacks kept coming, with a favourite of mine (not perhaps for the squeamish) in the form of bone marrow.
Herb and raw onion offset nicely the richness of the fatty, beefy, marrow and fat imbued crispy breadcrumbs. Few glum faces on the table at the sight of these, really missed a treat those that passed.
Heathcock homemade bread and butter finished off the initial stage of proceedings.
Lovely salt laden butter and a uber crisp crusted sourdough. The star of the show, however, was a fabulous focaccia. So good I ate both bits before J noticed.
On to the real meat of the menu, the first proper course was a delicate tomato consomme, enriched by intense, charred, oven roasted (low and slow) tomatoes and basil.
Sat in the middle were a couple of dinky home made riccota and spinach filled agnolotti. Very nice, although I would have liked the pasta rolled just a tad thinner if I am being ultra picky.
We went for the wine pairing and this dish was paired with a chardonnay (not sure from whom or where, but would say French).
Nice and buttery, but not over oaked, I enjoyed this.
Next up was a dish that may well turn out to be my dish of the year come my usual year end round up.
Perfectly cooked pair of scallops; with a caramelised exterior and a just past translucent interior; sat in a glorious butter laden chicken sauce.
Adorned on top were sweet broad beans (such an underrated veg), girolles (a prince among mushrooms) with a generous quenelle of mushroom puree and batons of air dried ham.
The piece de la resistance was a generous grating of Welsh black summer truffle.
Together it resulted in a lovely marriage of sea and land, with sea floor sweetness and forest floor earthiness. A triumph of a dish, with the balance just right so that each individual element shone but the whole became greater still than the sum of those lovely parts.
This was paired with a muscadet sur lie. Pleasingly dry, but with much more body and weightiness than I usually associate with a muscadet (from being on the lees perhaps) that meant it wasn’t over powered by the dish
Nice lemoney note, with a good hit of apple (less tart than I would expect from a muscadet). I thought it was a Loire Chenin Blanc (because of the less than tart appley notes, which I think would have worked very well here) before I was told otherwise (not a million miles away geographically at least I suppose).
Next up was possibly my least favourite dish of the night in the form of duck with cherry and chicken livers.
Don’t get me wrong, it was very nice in it’s own way. The skin of the duck, however, wasn’t crisp and thus a touch rubbery and whilst the chicken liver pate was good (as a standalone dish) it’s potency somewhat overpowered the duck. Not sure it needed to be there to be honest. Good cherry based sauce and I enjoyed the sweetness of the carrot (didn’t get much of the advertised smoke though). I think this perhaps suffered a bit from following the superlative scallop dish.
The wine pairing here was odd, being a Sancerre (Loire sauvignon blanc). When my eyebrows raised a notch or two at this pairing I was told to hold judgement as it had surprised them all at a supplier tasting (they use Berkmans – very good they are too) they had had.
Nice enough wine that would have been great with the scallops, but (to me) it didn’t work here with the rich duck and cherry sauce completely overwhelming the wine. To me, with the cherry element, it had to be a pinot noir pair.
They call turbot the king of the sea and with good reason in my book as it is one of my favourite fish.
Here they did the king proud, with the chunky flakes steamed to just a smidgen past translucent. Spot on bit of fish cookery this.
Sat atop the fish was herb flecked (fennel fronds), hand picked, buttery native lobster that had a lovely sweetness to it. A smooth aniseedy fennel puree added nicely to the mix, as did the sauce.
Wine wise an albarino (Galcian white) brought us back on track pairing wise.
Nice citrus hit, with melon and peach coming to the fore as it lingered on the palate.
The final savoury course was another belter. A lovely slice of lamb saddle cooked on point, with a crispy skin and properly rendered down cap of fat sat on a decadently rich sauce and a refreshingly sharp and saline (touch of the salt marsh to it) herb puree.
Good as the saddle was it was outgunned, on the flavour front, by the braised shoulder nestled in a deep fried courgette flower (with a molecular thin batter).
Cooking of the highest order here, this will undoubtedly feature in my best meat dishes in my end of the year round up. On any other night it would have been the star dish, but here it was bested by the scallops (just shows how good that scallop dish was).
With lamb it has to be Rioja in my book and thankfully on this one we were in sync.
Nice classic Rioja flavours of black fruit, cherry and vanilla spice. Just lovely with the lamb.
Dessert was proper old school with an artic roll.
Good, light sponge, properly vanilla ice cream and a nice ring of jam was complemented by zingy, macerated, summer fruits.
Proceedings were finished off with a trio of superior petit fours. J is jellyphobic (the gelgot), so I had both of these tangy numbers.
Nougat had that nice chew, rather than tooth breaking rockiness, and the macaroons were absolutely bloody lovely.
I could have ceded both macaroons to J to make up for me stealing her focaccia (it was so good J 😂) and me having had the two jellies, but one look at them and there was more chance of my energy provider contacting me to say they have decided to considerably reduce the amount they will be taking via my direct debit going forward than that happening.
The macaroons were a fitting end to a very fine meal.
The Heathcock just keeps on getting better and better and deserves all the plaudits (and not just from no marks like me, but from the likes of J. Raynor) it is getting.
Will I have a better meal this year? Doubtful, but if I do I will be a very happy chappie as it will have to go some to top this.
The Heathcock is just such a great pub, serving wonderful food and good booze. We are very lucky people to have it here in Cardiff.
If you haven’t been go and if you have go again is my advice.
If you don’t live in Cardiff, they do B&B (rooms look lovely). Book and eat here if you fancy a city break.
Address: 58 – 60 Bridge Street, Llandaff, Cardiff, CF5 2EN