Friday, 15 April 2016

Urban Tap House, Newport

I love this place so much I kind of want to keep it all to myself so that I've always got a seat. But that wouldn't be fair on anyone, and besides, I talk about it way too much to keep it a secret.

Tiny Rebel and therefore Urban Tap House are easily the best thing to have happened to the 'Port in such a long time. Get your butt out of Friars Walk and up to the Market and try a pub where there's not a pint of Carling in sight and your dinner's ingredients are sat on a deli counter less than 20 metres away.

Mr P and I were after all of the carbs (as per usual) and decided on a pizza to share and some sides. I really fancied the breakfast pizza, but we compromised on the 'Signature' which was pulled pork, BBQ sauce and candied bacon dust (£9.95). Yes, I was sold on magical sounding bacon dust.

To cover all the necessary food groups we added some sweet potato fries (£2.50) and some pulled pork dough balls (£4.95).

In hindsight, the pizza might have been enough. Enough for three people that is. Gargantuan is the only adjective big enough to describe it. Oh, that and lush. The deep sweet and smoky BBQ sauce made with 'Dirty Stop Out' stout really elevates the pulled pork to another level entirely.

The sweet potato fries were the perfect balance of crisp and crunchy on the outside, but unlike so many other establishments who obliterate the potato element completely in the fryer, they still retained some soft sweet potato goodness.

Never ones to over dress or under order, us two. These dough balls had to come home with us and get devoured later on with a beer for tea instead, as they were just too much to fit in. Huge chewy doughy balls to pull apart and dunk in some more of that Dirty Stop Out BBQ sauce, filled with even more pulled pork.

The incredible Tiny Rebel beers are the other reason we keep coming back to Urban Tap House (both Cardiff & Newport). If you get a chance to try 'Stay Puft' when you visit, please do. It's a delicious marshmallow porter, and probably the most flavoursome pint I've ever had. It's glorious. It's like melted toasted marshmallows in an espresso. 

The menu will be undergoing a revamp soon, and as the majority of the produce comes from the Market next door there are always new specials to try out. There's a bunch of events coming up over the summer, and with a sizeable beer garden to soak up the sun, maybe I'll see you there eh?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Sunday Best - The Halfway House, Blackwood

Welcome to my new series - Sara's Sunday Best. I've recently had a lot of my friends and family asking about the best place for a good ol' Sunday roast and it set my blogger bells ringing. I decided to throw myself on the line for you readers, and set out to find the yummiest roast around.

My lovely arty husband helped me design the scoreboard below, and we chatted about the most important bits of a roast to be scored, and the ultimate score out of five. Out of five 'Nans' that is. I don't know if it's a Welsh thing, but the highest accolade you can ever get for a roast dinner is "That tastes just like my Nan's dinner" so the bar is set very high my friends.

Up first is The Halfway House, Blackwood (ish). Local for me, and only a few moments away from the Bryn Meadows Hotel & Golf Club. Thinking of where to go and get fed one weekend, we remembered the most amazing sandwich we'd had here a few years ago, and decided to go back and check out the full dinner.

We'd booked for 12.30pm, and when we got there it seemed almost deserted, and odd that although there were only the two of us, we were sat on a small 'in the way' table. However, by the time we sat and ordered, it soon filled up.

I was tempted by the pork belly, but in the end we both plumped for the roast lamb. Slightly odd to see such varying prices between the meats, but all in all reasonably priced for what came next. Cauli cheese was an extra at £2.50, which is a must for me when it's on the menu. Child prices are just out of shot, but they were £3 less than the adult price across the board.

Our food came out of the kitchen very quickly, and just kept on coming. Roasties, a crunchy stuffing ball, a yorkshire, carrot & swede mash and the roast lamb were plated up and given a lick of gravy to keep moist and warm.

Then out came a bowl of crisp cabbage, a mixed bowl of carrots and peas, an extra full jug of herby gravy and the cauliflower cheese. Mind your toes...

The lamb was faultless, plentiful and flavoursome. The carrots (both mash and boiled) were sweet, but I could take or leave the average peas. I'm not the biggest fan unless they're of the mushy or marrowfat kind. Cabbage was well seasoned and still had a bite to it.

The most important part...the roasties were pretty darn good. Not quite as amazing as our previous visit, but that sandwich held high expectations. Crispy on the outside, piping hot and smooth inside. The stuffing ball was different to any I'd had before, deep fried texture with a lot of spicing. A bit of a surprise, but a nice one.


The cauliflower cheese sauce was really flavoursome, and so pretty flecked with herbs. My only criticism was that it could have done with just a minute more under the grill for me.

Service was lovely and helpful, with offers of more of whatever we needed, but not intrusive. I do hate that I'm always asked "How's your meal" when I've inevitably got more than what's considered polite shoved in my mouth.

After all that food, we were full as eggs, but I started out the afternoon with ice cream on the brain and ice cream I was going to get. There were some interesting looking desserts on the menu, but we opted to share a mint chocolate sundae.

Pretty standard pub sundae affair, more than enough for the both of us at the £5 price tag. I didn't (probably stupidly on my behalf) realise that it came with chocolate ice cream too, which I hate, so I skirted around it and snarfed all the minty bits. 

Totally stuffed, the damage was £30.50 for the two of us, without drinks. I can't comment on the beer selection as we were both on driver duties, so cokes all round.

For the first time in the series... let's get the Nan Score!

(P.s. If you like the look of Mr P's handiwork, take a look here at what he gets up to when I'm blogging)