Sunday, 16 November 2014

Miller & Carter, The Hayes, Cardiff

Last Sunday, the husband and I struck up a bargain. He'd buy me lunch if I hung around with him at Cardiff Comic Con for a few hours. Pretty sure I got the better end of that deal, seeing as wandering around the Comic Con ogling cosplayers and spotting minor celebs is always a bit of fun.

Once we'd had our geek fill over at the Motorpoint Arena, we made a beeline for Miller & Carter in the Hayes, Cardiff. This restaurant has been open for a few months, but this was the first chance we'd had to dine here, and my first visit to any Miller & Carter establishment. Taking over the old Habitat unit, it's a huge open space, and in prime position on The Hayes.

Two things were clear from all my friends recommendations, big fat steaks and the onion loaf were the order of the day.

3pm on a Sunday afternoon, the restaurant was not even half full, however we were told we had a twenty minute wait. Not a problem, we went to the bar to get a drink. Five minutes later, we were in the middle of being served when our table became ready. Rather than take us to our table and then bring us our drinks, the waitress stood with us for ten minutes while the barman made our drinks, and then had to remake them because they were incorrect. Slightly awkward.

We were led upstairs to the mezzanine level, and chose a table overlooking the open kitchen area. After seeing the size of the meals being brought through, we decided to skip the starter and go straight for the main event. I ordered the 14oz T-Bone (may as well go all out...) and Mr P had the 12oz sirloin.

The prices on the outset might seem a bit expensive for steak and chips, the T-Bone at £21.95 and the sirloin £21.75, but you really do get an enormous amount of food. This includes the steak, chips, a sauce, a slice of the onion loaf and a wedge salad. We were so full after our meal, that dessert was definitely out of the question.

The steak was faultless, cooked to order (medium rare of course) and perfectly tender. The parmesan and garlic wedge salad was a really nice cooling crunchy side touch, and a decent size portion of chips on the side. Our salad arrived with our main, but it seemed other diners received theirs as a starter. Not entirely sure which, if any, was the correct way of serving, but no choice was offered to us.

I've got to be completely honest, I'm not at all sure about what the fuss over the onion loaf was all about. I was actually expecting a slice of a bread loaf, but it seemed to be just a big greasy mass of onion. More like an onion bhaji instead of a bread loaf, except soggier. Not the biggest fan of that.

I'd definitely recommend the beef dripping sauce though, a potent and beefy stock like sauce, it was just right to enhance the steak. the bearnaise however, was just too overpowering and buttery for us both.

I've got to give M & C credit for their range of 'mocktails' too. As I was driving, this time I was stuck with a virgin mojito, but it was prepared with the same love given to a normal mojito, and at £2.50, a nice change from the obligatory driver diet coke.

All in all, we had a lovely meal. It completely filled us up on a cold Sunday afternoon, for a reasonable price. The steak is what they're all about, and the steak is what they do well. A few little tweaks around the outside and it'd be wonderful. I'm not sure if it's somewhere I'd go for a romantic night out, as the food is too heavy and it's not a very private layout. The entire building is one big room, with a mezzanine level, but there didn't feel very much space between us and our neighbours.

However, for a little escape from the hustle and bustle of Cardiff and to provide some serious sustenance for a day out shopping, it's just the ticket. I'm sure we'll be giving it another go over the Christmas period.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Celtic Manor, Newport

For my anniversary present, my husband booked us a meal and an overnight stay at the Celtic Manor, Newport. Surprisingly, although we live pretty much up the road, we've never actually stayed overnight before, and I was extremely excited to see what all the fuss was about.

We couldn't actually stay for our anniversary, as a certain President was in residence, so we popped in once they had reopened. If it's good enough for Mr Obama...

As soon as we checked in, we raced to our room to get comfy and see the views from our balcony room. We were pleasantly rewarded with amazing views over the front of the hotel, and the golf course.

What a lovely little terrace! We weren't expecting such a large balcony, and it was in a beautiful position overlooking the green and the crazy golf course. The outside space was huge, and sitting outside sipping at something sparkling made me feel like I was in a little Italian courtyard, and not just 5 minutes from the M4.

After wandering around the huge expanse of hotel, we dolled ourselves up for dinner. We were given a choice between the hotels restaurants for dinner, and we decided upon Rafters. This restaurant is sat in the middle of the golf course, in the Twenty Ten clubhouse, which was built when the hotel hosted the Ryder Cup. The hotel provides a shuttle bus between the resort and the restaurant, and it's a short but pretty journey taking in wonderful views over the golf course and the Usk Valley along the way.

We were also lucky enough to see the most beautiful sunset over Sugarloaf mountain in the distance, but my fingers weren't snappy enough to capture it. You'll just have to go and see it for yourself.

Dinner at Rafters was excellent. Chilled out atmosphere meets fine dining, we had such a lovely evening that I got carried away with my food and wine and didn't get an awful lot of photos. Fortunately for your bellies, I did get a few foodie shots in.

The duck hash consisted of a lovely crunchy croquette outside and flavoursome duck on the inside. Complimented by a tangy sauce and some salty bacon mouthfuls, this was a wonderfully tasty dish to start the night on.

Mr. P had the "Triple cooked short rib of beef", which was out of this world. I didn't get a picture because I was too jealous. I'm not normally fond of having the same thing as each other, as I like to share as much of the menu as possible (greedy), but I still regret not having the beef.

However, I cannot fault the lamb that I chose at all. Served perfectly pink as I like it, with asparagus and a chunky slice of a thyme potato gratin. It's just that it's not the same after trying the beef. Promise me you'll have the beef if you go? So good.

One course I did however win on, was dessert. "Rafters Knickerbocker Glory" anyone? You can't go wrong with an old school pudding.


The honeycomb ice cream is creamy and sparkles on your tongue, before you fight your way through a thick disc of chocolate to the fruit and cake centre. Needless to say, I didn't make it to the bottom, but I gave it my best shot.

Once we'd given our food time to go down, or at least once we could move again, we jumped in a minibus back to the resort in time to chill out in Merlins bar. This fabulous little bar made me feel like I'd just stepped into Mad Men, in the best kind of way. Live piano music in the background and the most incredible cocktails.

Ranging between about £11-£14, they aren't cheap, but they are fantastic, and worth every single penny. The barman who makes them is mesmerising to watch, and I was extremely jealous of his cocktail corner.

The service by every single staff member we met at the Manor was top notch, and made us feel very special. On learning it was our anniversary, one of the bartenders brought us a glass of champagne each to celebrate, whilst we waited for our cocktails in the queue.


Somewhat blurry the next morning, we filled ourselves up on the breakfast buffet, packed our bags and headed down to the spa to try and shake the fog. A vigorous swim, lazy hot tub and a steamy sauna later and we were fighting fit.

Even enough to take on the dragons...


Not quite ready to leave just yet, we meandered around the grounds until we came across the crazy golf. Having barely picked up a real golf club before, this was a perfect way for us to join in the golf atmosphere without having to be any good.

There are two 9 hole crazy golf courses, one is a normal crazy golf theme, and the other a teeny tiny version of Ryder Cup holes. I take it all back golf, I'm sorry, I didn't realise it could be so much fun!


Eventually, we conceded defeat and headed on up the road back home. The Manor made us feel like we were miles away from home, and one night is just not enough to see everything there! It's somewhere you can spend a whole weekend at least without realising it. We didn't even manage to make it to the shopping mall, the high ropes or the extensive gym and classes!

We'll be back. Even if it's just so I can try that rib of beef...