My best soliciting (flavours) of 2022

So the new year has rolled in and it is time for my round up of 2022.

Some regard these round ups as a tad hackneyed/passé, but arguably so is old style blogging itself. I mean aren’t we all supposed to be tiktokkers (how the hell that would work I have no idea – I definitely don’t have a face for the visual medium) or micro istamaaaaazingram bloggers?

Each to their own as the saying goes and I am absolutely certain a lot more people read those than my paltry efforts (can’t imagine why a short, sharp, highly positive, review is preferred to my 8,000 word essays/moanalogues, it is truly a mystery 😉).

Regardless, I rather enjoy putting together my annual round up and that is why I blog in the first place (Lord knows it ain’t for the viewing numbers or any freebies that’s for sure). It is mostly a revisit of the year for my benefit, ailing memory and all for future reference for when they are force feeding me tapioca in my dotage, so you will simply have to suffer my distinctly old school (elongated, even for me) ramblings this week.

Any ways back to the matter at hand, 2022 was the first year for a while we have not been subject to lockdown at any point (that and bloody masks I do not miss one little bit I can tell you), although I did finally succumbed to Covid (pretty mildly, but it did stop me blogging for the one week – as was under house arrest and all booze tasted awful, something which having a jumbo gall stone and the gall bladder it was busily attempting to burst forth Alienesque from and a rather large neuroma in my calf removed had failed to do), and I have to say I ate very well in the UK in 2022 (again didn’t venture abroad, but Mrs. SF and I are booked in to go to the Azores in 2023 as our first foray overseas for what will be 5 years by then).

Breaks to Cornwall and Aberystwyth bought great seafood and my first michelin starred meal for a long while.

In Cardiff, the food scene continues to improve (enough to even cause Jay Rayner to have a change of heart), despite the ongoing post(ish) covid hangover and the income squeeze caused by raging inflation, with some really exciting young chefs producing fantastic food. I think it is fair to say it is bloody hard out there for hospitality and the old adage of use it or lose it has never been more pertinent.

Now working from home full time, as a freelance consultant, I have seen less of the food scene in the city centre and more of it in the suburbs. No bad thing that, as it gives me a more rounded view of what is on offer.

So here is my rather random round up of my year in food.

Best breakfast

I am not much of a breakfast person, with a coffee and a gitane (the latter not actually true, but it makes me sound edgy and avant garde 😄) starting the sputtering engine in the morning.

When I do have breakie though I like to go large and Cardiff now provides a plethora of decent options ranging from your standard greasy spoon (sadly a dying breed) to Turkish and Spanglish offerings.

Sen Bros on Cowbridge Road East in Canton, provided a spicy eggy pick me up

and Parador 44’s non resident breakfast  an intriguing (and delicious) Spanish riff on a traditional British fry up.

The latter’s olive oil “hash browns” you should put on your death row last meal order.

Milkwood delivered a pretty much pitch perfect steak and eggs (hugely underrated as a breakfast dish – actually breakie itself is hugely underrated as a meal),

but the winner for me was Ground’s superlative effort which introduced me to the joys of overnight bacon.

Everything about this breakfast was absolutely bob on. Bravo Ground, bravo

Best snack/ amuse bouche

One of the joys of a tasting menu is the little surprises you get and I have always been one who likes to graze whilst drinking (stops me falling over). I love a quality pre dinner snack and have had some really rather good examples of this genre this year.

The ever reliable Uisce has a fab early bird offer of top notch oysters for a mere two quid during their happy hour (17.30 – 19.00).

Lovely washed down with a wine from their extensive “by the glass” list and great as a prelude to dinner next door (at Heaney’s) or elsewhere.

The Heathcock excelled with the always underrated bone marrow

as a prelude to an all round great meal at their Summer tasting event.  Mystifys me why it repels some, as it is pure essence of beef in my view and how can that be a bad thing?

Talking of beef, the stuff in whipped fat form on a potato pancake at Nordik Kitchen’s pop up at Little Man Coffee in June

was a rather fine prelude to an excellent meal.

Crispy turbot fish skins at SY23 were an inspired mid meal interlude

and easily good enough to stand on their own without the somewhat OTT oscietra caviar it came with.  Vintage Champagne (as opposed to mere beer) snacks these.

Good as these were, the winner for me was a little number from Gorse. Tom Watson, the talented chef behind Gorse, did something simply obscene(ly good) with carrots.

Crisp, micron thin, pastry with beautifully sweet caramelised slivers of carrots. This is what we pay the money for, for talented chefs to elevate the humble and seemingly mundane to super star(ter) status. This was a great start to a great meal.

Best meat dish

Lamb seemed to feature in many of my more positive blog posts in 2022 and there is nought wrong with that.

The Heathcock’s summer tasting menu brought a beautiful lamb loin and shoulder dish.

The loin was cooked bob on, but the star was the shoulder wrapped in a courgette flower and deep fried.

Lamb again excelled at a fabulous evening at SY23 in Aberystwyth,

with a right bobby dazzler of a number.

As good as the lamb dishes were it was game that shot (I really am wasted as a lawyer😄) to the top of my meat chart,

Pigeon at Bully’s

hit all the right notes as a birthday treat, but the winner for me was a beautiful bit of venison from Gorse.

Everything about this dish just worked beautifully. Cooked on point venison, a rich glossy sauce, salty damsons and a cracking hazelnut puree provided for such a harmonious balance of big flavours. Absolutely heavenly stuff.

Best seafood dish

Good as the meat I have had this year, the beat dishes were definitely decidedly fishy.

Fresh as a daisy Lobster from Dan Dan the Lobster Man in Porthleven

was beautiful in its simplicity

Gorse again delivered with a delectable scallop and pear (inspired combo) dish

and a stonking monkfish dish

The ever reliable Heathcock brought to the table a corker of a scallop dish (with a scattering of earthy summer truffle, pickled chanterelles and salty Monmouthshire ham working a treat as a foil for the sweet scallop)

and a fantastic turbot dish (topped with super sweet lobster).

The winner for me, however, was SY23 with a superlative turbot dish (cooked in the Basque style)

and a wonderful scallop dish.

Tricky to split the two, but the scallop dish with a caramelised crust on one side and barely seeing the heat on the other was just a triumph and a worthy winner.

Best veggie/side dish

To be honest I was expecting this category to be seriously thin (i.e non existent – I suppose I have sort of cheated by including “sides”), but I have some really good and interesting veggie based (rather than necessarily vegetarian or, God forbid, vegan – veganuary can get in the bin) dishes this year.

A potato dish at a Nordik Kitchen pop up was a revelation in terms of elevating the humble spud (with fermented wild garlic and the silkiest of purees)

to unexpected height. A hug in a bowl this.

Another spud dish, this time from Bully’s,

was about as far from veggie as you can get, with silky potato swimming in butter and topped with bucket loads of bacon.

A king oyster mushroom karaage, at Matsudai Ramen,

brought a surprisingly meaty hit to proceedings and (with everything at Matsudai) lovely spicing, as did miso tare and butter slathered corn on the cob.

Another corn dish from Nordik Kitchen,

bought the ying of salt and the yang of sweet together wonderfully well.

The winner, however, was another dish from Gorse in the form of a vegetable riff on a sal e pepe dish.

Daikon is not a vegetable I eat much of, but judging from this dish I really should. The slight bitterness of the al dente daikon, the fruity heat of the Sarawak pepper, the oddles of buttery goodness and the umami hit from the aged parmesan made this veggie dish (ok not a vegetarian dish) properly special.

Best bargain

With money tight for everyone these days and prices rising inexorably, who doesn’t love a bargain. Certainly the tight arse that I am appreciates saving a few quid.

The Classroom offered a fantastic three course lunch for a merely £12 (back in April, now £15 I believe – bloody inflation) on their student take over days.

Serious quality and quantity for a meagre price.

Good as this was, perhaps oddly, a trip to London brought the winner of this section.

Blacklock, Soho providing a belly busting bargain for lunch in the form of the “All in”

They did it for one regardless of what the menu states

after an arduous pitch meeting.

The “All in” was all in £22 (now £24), which is some bargain for the quality and huge quantity of the meat consumed, made all the sweeter by it being an off the cuff visit.

I had originally booked into the Humble Chicken (cancelled by them due to Covid induced staffing issues) and I was somewhat peeved about that. Flailing around somewhat in terms of getting into an alternative at short notice, Blacklock came to the rescue and rather made my day that day (won the pitch too)!

Best newcomer (at least to me)

One of the most welcome new trends (to me at least) has been the proliferation of independent neighbourhood wine bars in Cardiff, which don’t just do wine.

The likes of Sibling,

Glory Stores

and Nighthawks

offer great options for both a booze free lunch and pre dinner drinks and nibbles.

Glass of Bandol took things up a notch or two with wine on “tap” (interesting, rather than genetic, stuff too)

and cheesy delights.

Newport market was a revelation, putting Cardiff somewhat to shame,

with top quality vendors across the board (including the stellar addition of Babhaus to the roster post my visit).

Notwithstanding my love of wine and street food, my favourite new place in 2022 was Matsudai ramen in Grangetown.

Lovely sides

and flavour packed slurping noddles, this is a seriously good new addition to the Cardiff food scene.

I am looking forward immensely to my next visit on the 18th January for their collaboration with Tim Anderson.

Bravo, you changed my mind

Food wise there are not many things that I find tricky to eat, but tripe is one of them (particularly the smell of it cooking). Bao’s outpost in Shoreditch, however, turned my revulsion for tripe into a pretty positive experience.

I am a stubborn bugger who rarely admits he is wrong (too long a lawyer I suspect means it is pretty much hard wired now) so that is it for this category.

Biggest disappointment

Limp chips at Smashed,

gawd awful frickles at Fat Hippo

and sad enough to make you weary of the world waffles at the Grazing Shed

were all piss poor, but had the excuse of being part of overall mediocre meals.

My two biggest disappointments were strangely elements of overall fantastic meals (my top two meals of the year).

The cheese course at SY23 was too much of a good thing (the drift of truffle just overpowered) and was overpriced (£15 supplement on top of £120 price tag for the tasting menu).

It smacked of unnecessary ostentatiousness to impress the Michelin inspectors.

Likewise the dessert at Gorse, which whilst undoubtedly technically brilliant in its construction, was the weak link in an otherwise very fine meal.

Oddly devoid of flavour, it was just not very pleasant and so weirdly out of place amongst the brilliant, flavour packed, dishes that proceeded it.

When it arrived my expectations were so high and that it so spectacularly failed to meet them was my year’s biggest food disappointment.

Best overall meal

It has been a good year in terms of eating, with some seriously good meals

A collaboration between Nordik Kitchen and Hirath set the bar high

and was followed by a fab solo effort from Nordik kitchen.

Old favorites in the form of the Heathcock (at their summer tasting event)

and Asador 44 continued to excel,

but there were two stand outs for me both at the latter end of the year.

SY23 richly deserves its michelin star,

with a heady mix of theatre, invention and above all top notch flavours

It was joined by Gorse in November as the clear front runners.

Both brilliant (if not flawless), I think on balance Gorse was my favorite (bit cheaper and easier to get to too and all a one man show rather than produced by a full brigade).  Very talented chef is Tom Watson and it is great news he has secured a residency at Ground  (every Friday and Saturday from the 20th January).

What an addition to the Cardiff food scene this is and my advice is just go.


I have eaten rather well this year and despite the somewhat gloomy outlook for us all, the future looks bright in terms of good eating in 2023. Hirath in Llyswornry, Cowbridge (have a voucher from their Crowd fund) and Tom Watson Gorse residency at Ground are top of my list of places to eat in 2023 in Cardiff and surrounds. I am also always interested as to what ever Grady Atkins had up his sleeve.

Further afield I am intrigued by Azorean cuisine (lapas and cracas look rather interesting) and wine for my first foray abroad in eons.

Despite the temptation to hunker down in Jan, why not (if you can afford it – am sure plenty still can) visit a local restaurant and your local pub (my January and all year around mantra is eat and drink better not necessarily more). Tryanuary, not the dismal Dryannuary and Veganuary (hardly what hospitality needs right now are they), for me this month.

So thanks for reading the blog (amazingly people from 107 countries read it in 2022  – I had no idea my Mum travelled so extensively?!) and thanks to those who have fed me so well. Here’s to lots more good eating in 2023.

My top booze highlights of 2022 will follow next week. Two weeks of passé posts, you lucky, lucky people😄.


One comment

  1. Happy New Year. An interesting 2022 round up. Somes fantastic restaurants in Cardiff. let’s continue to support our local eateries.

    Liked by 1 person

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