Thursday, 21 May 2015

Urban Pop Up, Newport

If you’re out and about in Newport in the very near future, and are a big fan of good beer (yeah!) and locally sourced pizza (hell yeah!) then you need to get down to Newport Market as soon as possible.

For one month only (yes – I am fully aware that I’m super late and we’re nearly at the end of the May) the fab guys from Urban Taphouse, Cardiff have made their way down to open up a little sister Pop Up in Newport.

Urban Pop House is situated at the front of Newport Market, and it’s looking pretty epic. Featuring the same Taphouse vibes, it’s all bare brick walls, Tiny Rebel graffiti and empty kegs for stools. Unfussy, unpretentious and a great place to just kick back and chill for a while. Ceiling to floor glass windows and a little terrace makes it a pretty good sun trap, perfect for the bank holiday weekend we’ve got forecast.
With the booze coming from their Newport Tiny Rebel brewery, and the pizza ingredients all sourced from the adjoining market, it’s a thoroughly local affair and one that we should all be completely supportive of. Frankly I think it’s a bloody brilliant idea.

All pizzas are £10, and the menu changes daily with what they find in the market. With the same brains that are behind pizza fries and beer battered gherkins, you can’t go wrong. We had the garlic sausage and mint version, and it was more than enough for two to share.

Stringy cheesey perfection!
So, get down to Urban Taphouse Newport before it’s all gone on 31st May. Mine’s a Boho (just saying).

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Street Food Circus, Cardiff

Street Food Circus is one of the many nighttime street food pop ups that are appearing throughout Cardiff in the coming months.

Every Friday through to Sunday in May and June, numerous local street food trucks roll up (roll up) to the big top in Old Stable Yard, John St. For those not so familiar with Cardiff, that's behind John Lewis, over the road and under the railway bridge. As soon as you're under the bridge, you can't miss the Big Top tent.

It's a foodies dream. I dragged Mr P along last Sunday on the promise of lunch and cocktails. I'd been craving some Greek food for some time now, and there's a serious lack of it around here. I heard Meat & Greek were appearing, and the thought of souvlaki drowning in tzatziki was enough to get me out of bed on a bank holiday weekend.

Entering the Circus, you're faced with a few vans and stalls before entering the Big Top tent. Take your time and wander around, don't go to the first stall you fancy! As there are another bunch of food trucks waiting for you the other side of the tent, and believe me, you don't want to spend all your pocket money in one go!

My advice, sideline a couple of hours and go for the atmosphere, as well as the food. It's definitely got great Friday night vibes, dress casual, grab some food and a couple of beers from the bar inside the tent, and settle in for the night with some friends. Take as many as you can - it's a lot more fun to share!

Not listening to my own advice however, I made a beeline to the ever so friendly guys over at Meat & Greek. I finally got my favourite, a salad stuffed pitta filled with grilled pork souvlaki, topped with a more than generous helping of tzatziki.

It was definitely worth the wait, as those Greeks certainly know their way around a BBQ! However, not the easiest thing in the world to eat, just try not getting any yogurt on your face!

Mr P had a wander, and his first helping came from the Patagonia Steak Shack. He plumped for a roll with 48 hour slow cooked beef, topped with crumbly stilton and sharp salty gherkins. Definitely hit the spot.

A little breather ensued while we chilled out in the tent and rubbed our bellies, before we were ready to go wandering again. At the back of the circus is a cute little pink van, making exciting candy coloured 'Kooktails'. The sun had come out, and it was glorious out in the yard, so a lavender and rose infused gin cocktail was defintely the one for me.

Normally, I find flowery infused food and drink items are a bit like munching on a washing powder tablet, but this was lovely. Lightly flavoured with a good slug of gin, it went down a treat in the sunshine. At £7 a cocktail mind, you won't be on these all night! The Mr went for a tequila and toasted marshmallow concoction, which was too strong for my liking on the tequila, but the toasted marshmallows on the side were a lot nicer than the standard cherry or umbrella!

As soon as the sun had appeared, our 5 minutes of summer were over and the dark clouds descended upon us once more. Everyone dived back under the protection of the Big Top while the heavens opened above us!

Thankfully, with two well stocked bars, plenty of seats and some funky live music going on, no-one was in a rush to go anywhere. Least of all us. People hovered around the edges of the tent, grabbing umbrellas and making a run for it out to one of the trucks when they got hungry again.

Me included. I'd been nosing on everyone else's food as they wandered around me in the tent, and kept getting a wonderful smell from the Bao buns that passed by. I decided I'd brave the rain to go try one for myself. I'd heard good things about Hokkei, and with two Masterchef finalists at the helm, it was worth a shot.

For £5, we shared a 'Moo Bao' which was an Asian steamed bun, filled with slow cooked beef brisket with black beans and kimchi, topped with lots of zingy coriander and tomato. I've never tried a Bao bun before, and I've got to be honest, I found it a little bit slimey and not my favourite thing. However, the slow cooked beef with those light flavours on top was wonderful, and tasted as good as the smell had led me to believe.

But after that, and a few drinks, you could have stuck a fork in and called me done. All I kept seeing after that were crispy churros, from Mr. Churro, with gleaming little pots of chocolate dipping sauce. I really, really wanted some, but my jeans zipper was not going to allow it.

That's the beauty however, because all these stalls are on rotation for the next two months, so I'll be back for my Churros at some point!

So pop over if you find yourself hungry and in Cardiff within the next two months! It's open from 5pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2pm on Sundays. Sunday afternoons are the best to take the whole family. Make sure you take enough cash, and wear sensible shoes. While I'm at it with the dress code - wear loose fitting clothes, you're gonna need them.

Tag me in all your photos, so I know what to eat next time! And remember...

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Five Guys, Cardiff

I've never been much of a burger fan before, but the combination of starting this blog and the general explosion of great food places in Cardiff has definitely changed my mind. After discovering The Grazing Shed, the best burger I've ever had, there's no going back.

So I've been looking forward to the opening of Five Guys for some time, having heard a lot about them from various London blogs. An American export, this is true fast food. Placed in a prime position, it's in the Brewery Quarter, but only just, as it opens out onto Caroline Street. Or, for those in the know, Chip Alley.

A Saturday morning hangover and a sunny weekend promised, the Mr and I found ourselves with the perfect excuse to try out the new opening. In severe need of salty carbs and cheese, we drooled at the menu.

Luckily, I'd read up that the standard hamburger is actually a double hamburger, and that you have to order a 'little hamburger' for a single patty. I'm passing this important bit of information on to you, as I'd never have thought to order a 'little' anything, but it's actually just the average size. For me anyway!

In the end, I went for the little cheeseburger (£5.50) with little fries (£2.75). I found this to be pretty reasonable, about the same as a McDonald's (from what I remember). It was more than enough food for me, and you know I can eat. I've heard a few people say how expensive it was, but if you're ordering large fries and a standard burger, It'd soon add up.

All toppings from then on are inclusive, so this is where the 250,000 variations comes in. Apparently, there are over 250,000 possible ways to order a burger at Five Guys. This seriously appeals to the nerd in me! You decide on everything that piles into your burger, from standard burger toppings (lettuce, tomato, onions, gherkins) to relish, jalapenos, mushrooms and hot sauce.

I went for all the standard ones, plus a bit of mayo. I was suffering a little, after all.

I enjoyed the burger as a whole, especially all the toppings, which really helped make it a big juicy dribbly mess. The bun was the traditional squishy sesame seeded bun, which had become softer from being wrapped in foil. This cheered me up no end, as I absolutely detest the thick, dry white buns that stick to the roof of your mouth.

It's hard to say what the burger itself was like, as I'd got over excited at the huge toppings list. As a whole it came together well, but I found the patty was a bit dry and unexciting. For want of a better word, it was a bit like most other fast food burgers, 'grey'.

In the little paper cup, the chips were gorgeous. Crispy on the outside, with the skin left on, and fluffy and light on the inside, I couldn't get enough of these at first bite. The problem is that they are heavily pre-salted before given to you.

Now, I was hungover and in need of carbs and salt. I've also got naturally salty tastebuds, it's physically impossible for me to eat cucumber, chips or tomatoes without a liberal pinch or two. I always add more salt and vinegar to my chip shop bought chips when I get home.

And still, I couldn't finish these. Which was such a shame because I fell in love with them at first, but they were so salty that my mouth was starting to burn by the time I got to the bottom of the cup...

...and then I looked in the brown paper bag to see all these left in there. I don't think I've ever left chips before in my life.

Food aside, I haven't told you the best bit about Five Guys. The Coca Cola machine. I'm an unashamed Diet Coke addict, so this was the most exciting bit of technology ever. God Bless you America for this invention. With over 100 flavours possible, you could be here all day.

Under pressure from the queue behind me, I went for Diet Cherry Dr Pepper first time around, and then went back for a Fanta Grape. That was the hangover talking. It was the kind of sugar that I needed.

As far as the food goes, it's not in the same league as The Grazing Shed, and definitely doesn't use any local produce like they do. But it is what it is, a fast food dirty burger, and it does hit the spot. I want to go back purely to see if I'm man enough to have the biggest burger "all the way", i.e. with all the toppings, and to play with the Coke machine again.

Remains to be seen whether it'll beat good ol' Dorothy's cheese and chips when I'm faced with both on Chip Alley after a few shandies...