A banging little joint? Sibling, Roath, Cardiff

This may come as a surprise to many (bearing in mine its use in the title of this post), but I absolutely hate the term “banging/bangin“. As I understand it, its roots (as a slang term for really good) are based on the horrendous noise you get from house music. To an old fogey like me, who likes a bit of Radio 3/Classic FM, anything associated with monotonous head-splitting garbage is about as joyous as having a nail banged into the temple (each to their own and I suppose that is banging?!).

For people as old as me, who are not down with the kids and have no intention of trying to be, the term banging is synonymous with the repetitive sound of a bed headboard (usually from the flat upstairs in my youth). As such whilst I hate its use in terms of food and drink nearly as much as the absolutely vile travel term”holibobs” (use of this other than to mock should be a life imprisonable, with hard labour and no chance of parole ever, offence), it is rather apt here as Sibling is located in a place that apparently use to be a knocking shop where plenty of said banging presumably occurred.  In a very childish way, I was rather disappointed it was located at number 39 rather than 69.

I was in the neighbourhood getting a family heirloom watch (a proper wind up one, which must be rare as hen’s teeth these days) fixed (very good job Roberts Jewellers did) and thought now was as good a time as any to try what sounded like the rather fine concept of wine, coffee and small plates on offer at Sibling (do rather wonder why it is singular rather than plural, as this is a brother and sister owned operation as far as I am aware – so which one is it?)

Inside it is all rather convivial

with a steady stream of people picking up coffees etc, the staff/owners very happy to chew the fat with me (fielding very politely my inane queries) and Elvis Costello playing (always a good sign in my book) at a reasonable volume in the background.

Nice looking selection of wines,

with the clear focus on natural wines. If these are you bag (I have a love/loathe relationship with such wines, with some belting ones out there, but also some desperately poor stuff too – “Like a seriously ropey cider do you? Well boy do I have just the £45 bottle for you!”) then this is clearly one to add to the list. For the likes of me, it was nice to see a couple of sherries (good ones too) up there.

On asking which wines they did by the glass I was told pretty much any one you like, although there was a suggestion that some had (a once opened) life span of a matter of hours (a gamay was one mentioned, with a it’s “still good” lifespan that makes a Mayfly seem like Methuselah it seems) and thus were not really suitable for drinking by the glass unless it is 6 glasses on the bounce ( i.e. drinking the whole bottle in one sitting).

I was driving and also working on the day in question and thus it was a non booze day for me. I was, however, quite hungry and this brought the small plates menu into play.

Small the menu may be, but rather sweetly formed I thought and certainly plenty on it to pique my interest. Mussels en escabeche is not something you see that often on menus and I was rather intrigued by the Islington saucisson (billed as London’s finest saucisson – I mean how many are there?), which presumably comes wrapped in a copy of the Guardian. Alas the latter was off (to the gite in Bordeaux with les petite saucissions and la nounou in tow, I presume) and I decided to favour the boquerones over the mussels. I also ordered the sobrasada on toast and the green salad with sherry vinegar and parmesan.

Not 100% taken with the boquerones and crisp combo if I am honest.

The boqerones were silvery slivers of the briney deep loveliness, with the curing just right,

but I am not convinced they needed any embellishment other than sitting in their own liquor (with a bit of bread for mopping up duties). I sort of get the idea of this making plain (olive oil fried) crisp into a superior salt and vinegar version, but the crisps under the boquerones had gone a tad soggy and once I had scoffed all of the boquerones I was left with quite a few plain crisps which had had no discernable contact with the cured fish. Perhaps with a glass of wine (a fino or manzanilla), or just some bread instead, it would have been better.

The iberico sobrasada was, however, a triumph.

Rich, meaty and spicy, as well as lavishly applied,the sobrasada brought a subtly in terms of  paprika piquancy that is lacking in lesser quality numbers. Honey added a nice counterpoint of sweetness to the piquancy and thyme leaves brought a pleasing earthiness to the proceedings (as well as a touch of refreshing mint and lemon). This all sat atop quality toasted bread. Just a great combo and I absolutely wolfed it down.

After the richness of the sobrasada, a light green salad was just the ticket.

Crisp romano leaves were adorned with a beautifully sharp sherry vinegar dressing, which worked well in cleansing the palate. This was all covered in a positive drift of good quality parmesan. The salty ying to the sherry vinegar’s acidic yang.  I could eat this sort of salad each and every day. So simple but so good, based on use of top quality ingredients. I really applaud them for resisting the temptation to keep on adding an extra ingredient, as it needed no more than those present.

On the drink front, as mentioned earlier, booze was off the menu for me. As a result it was coffee for me, with a Long Black from the interesting looking coffee board.

Perhaps I am being thick, but why are 4/6/8oz white coffees all £3?

Nice cup of coffee this.

Really smooth and rich, with a fruitiness and a touch of brown sugar.

In order to have more information to bore the pants off Mrs. SF and J with, I bought up the “So what’s the Long Black/Americano distinction?” and was advised the Americano is usually a longer drink (odd that the shorter one is the “long”), with the hot water being poured in before the espresso shot in the Long Black (rather than after with the americano). This is apparently to stop the coffee being scolded by the water (which cools ever so slightly in the cup when poured in first). Actually makes perfect sense that. 

This place certainly seems to know their coffee.

I also very much like the fact that water was provided without prompt

and topped up regularly without request.

The verdict

I really liked Sibling, with good food using excellent ingredient, a nice selection of booze and coffees and a very convivial atmosphere. This is exactly the sort of place I would love to have within a short walk from my gaff. We do have in my neck of the woods Usice in Pontcanna (only open at lunch on Friday and Saturday), Glass of Bandol in Whitchurch (lunch Thursday – Sat) and (the yet to try) VinesnWines wine bar and shop in Llandaff North, but they are all just that little bit outside of the lunch time stroll range. What I would give for one of these places on Llandaff High Street.

I do think (in these belt tightening times) a lunch time offer may be an idea. Perhaps three plates for £15 or two for a tenner. I suspect the mainstay of the small plates offering is the evening ” with the glass of wine” crowd, but an offer akin to Glory Stores’ Workers’ Lunch would certainly appeal to the likes of me.

I will certainly be back to give the wines a go, with the hope of a love rather than loathe natural wine being the result (and there is always the sherries).

The details

Address: 39 Lochaber Street, Roath, Cardiff, CF24 3LS

Website: https://www.siblingcardiff.co.uk/

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