Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Grosvenor Casino - High Street

Unless you're a high roller in Las Vegas or Monte Carlo (which I assume you are not), eating in a casino may seem a little seedy. However this doesn't prove to be the case with the Grosvenor Casino on High Street, which is a great alternative for the adult diners in Swansea.

I've been going to the casino for the past ten years - not just to consistently lose £20 on the roulette tables, but to enjoy a decent meal in a lively, generally friendly and comfortable atmosphere which is guaranteed to be free from screaming children – usually the number one cause of indigestion in my experience.

The small, first floor casino is roughly split into three areas – the main space, filled with roulette, blackjack and slot machines, with a cordoned-off restaurant area and a bar space, where live sport is shown on the TVs. For reviewing purposes I went for the restaurant menu, served in the more stylish seating area towards the back of the room.

You'll find a pretty extensive menu, with a variety of steaks and grilled meats, alongside lighter salads and hearty pasta dishes. The bar menu also adds several burgers, pub grub and smaller snacks to this list.

Coconut shrimp (slightly blurry)

To start I went for the coconut shrimp, which was delicious. I rarely see coconut shrimp on a menu in Swansea (perhaps I am looking in the wrong place), but they were moist and meaty, with a crispy coating and delicate flavour of coconut, served with a tangy sweet chilli sauce. A decent portion size too, which made it a nice warm up for my main course. 

I looked at the Singapore noodles with beef to quench my hunger. The noodles were nice enough, although I'd have liked a few more vegetables than just green peppers and onions - mange tout or carrot would have livened it up a little. However the strips of steak scattered on top were superb – I was expecting a plain rump steak, but the meat felt very tender and had a freshly chargrilled taste.

After the prawns and beef noodles, I was full. My partner – who had sampled the mushroom and pumpkin ravioli for her main – found some room for a salted-chocolate caramel torte, which looked very rich and definitely satisfied her sweet-tooth.

Being a casino, there is plenty of scope for after-dinner entertainment – namely trying your luck on the array of gaming machines and croupier-run tables – although they have a range of themed evenings and live singers from time to time.

And though you have to be a member to gain access to the casino, becoming one is a pretty quick and simple process which involves bringing along your driving licence to prove your age and address.

Prices for food aren't the cheapest, but decent considering the quality. We had one starter, two mains, one desert and a pint of beer (the soft drinks are complimentary), which came to just over £30, leaving me with a little change which, naturally, I lost on the roulette machines! You can't win them all...

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Garuda - St Helen's Road

You may have walked past this one a few times and been put off by the location (I know I have).

Next to an empty building and some kind of convenience store, it never really jumped out at me as a 'must-try' restaurant. But on St Helen's Road, where Indian cuisine dominates, a genuine taste of Indonesia in Swansea sounded like it could be a welcome change!

Not the nicest of exteriors

I'd been convinced to give it a go by a friend of mine - the same one who informed me of the 'bring your own booze' policy. Sometimes I enjoy this, sometimes I don't - it depends on where you eat. Bringing your own can of beer to a posh restaurant, for example, can take the tone of the evening down. But as Garuda is quite 'rough and ready' (and that's not a bad thing) bringing my own beer felt right.

We decided to share a 4-pack of German lager, poured into tiny glasses!

As I mentioned, Garuda isn't a fine-dining establishment, and it shows in the simple interior. It's more of a cafe than restaurant in its decor, but the atmosphere was pretty lively and colourful, and comfortable to eat in.

Quite a basic restaurant design, but cosy enough

The menu isn't as extensive as other restaurants (especially Indians, where menus seem to go on for ten pages!), however the chef offers a few different dishes to give some choice.

To start we went for a portion of the Pergedel Java and the Vegetarian Pergedel. These are fritters made with potato and egg and filled with meat and vegetables. Hot and crispy, we found them very satisfying and a good warm up for the main courses.

The Pergedel Java

Unfortunately that warm-up cooled down quite quickly. In an overall enjoyable evening, the biggest negative was the wait for food.

Because the restaurant offers honest, tasty Indonesian food and has a good reputation, it gets pretty busy. And on the night we visited the place was basically full, with two large parties taking up a few tables.

Our wait for the main course was about an hour. One chef cooking for the whole restaurant is fine, but - like other restaurants seem to do if I'm in a big party - they could have taken care of the smaller tables before starting on the larger parties. The staff were apologetic though (unlike some restaurants I've been to!). Overall this is a minor quibble, but we did end up losing some interest in eating as we waited (and the canned beer flowed).

The tasty red curry and special fried rice

Thankfully, when the food eventually arrived we were very pleased with the quality. I had opted for the Thai Curry Ayam - a Thai red chicken curry - which was generously portioned, and full of flavour: salty and spicy in equal measure. There weren't as many prawns in the special rice as I had hoped for, but it did the job.

My dining partner went for the Krengsengan, which was a spicy lamb curry. I had a mouthful and found it aromatic and the meat superbly cooked - the lamb was falling apart it was so tender.

The service was very friendly and attentive enough, even though the main attention was with the bigger parties. And, as we finished our meals, Ani - the owner and chef - came out to say hello to all the tables individually - nice to see that she cares about her food.

With no drinks to pay for (or corkage charge) we ended up spending £20 each on our starter and main course, which is reasonable for the quality of the food. I'd happily return to Garuda again in the future to sample some more exotic Indonesian cuisine in a friendly environment.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Woodman: Revisited

I first reviewed The Woodman back in March 2012 - the month Swansea On A Plate was born. So, two years on, I decided to head back and see what's changed.

A photo from 2012, though the pub rarely changes on the outside

When I say 'head back' that makes it sound like I haven't been there for a while. On the contrary, I usually pop to the pub for a meal, or a few pints of ale, at least once a month.

If you read my original review, you'll know it is one of my locals. And what a local to have. It's not just a drinking hole (although it does that job very well); they put a lot of attention on the food and have tried to become less of a pub and more of a restaurant recently.

A few months ago this actually appeared to be a bit of a downfall. A new menu had been implemented and the pub seemed to have tried too hard to become a restaurant. This threw both newcomers and regulars, who may have popped in for a quick bite to eat but ended up confronted with an expensive gourmet menu.

However the shrewd management have realised this wasn't the best way to go about things and I'm glad to say that the menu has been tweaked. Everything now seems a little more relaxed with no detriment to the quality of the food.

On the new menu we still find longstanding pub staples - the mixed grill, gourmet burger, brewer's chicken and - my favourite starter - the bubble and squeak cake (with bacon and a delicious hollandaise sauce).

The new pulled pork burger with sweet potato fries

There are now new additions such as the pulled pork burger - which is brilliantly meaty - the very tender smoked rib of beef and a lighter, but equally satisfying, dish of Mediterranean vegetable ravioli. An array of seasonal specials also come and go, usually game or fish dishes.

The little details are important when you are paying around a tenner for a main course, and I'm pleased to see the option of minted or mushy peas as standard. Don't get me wrong, I love a regular pea, but the addition of mint or mush makes them extra tasty!

Let's talk sausages. Several dishes on the menu use sausages and I was pleased to see a hefty Boroughbridge sausage as the sausage of choice - very tasty and crispy. You are paying for quality and thankfully getting it.

Criticisms? Not many, though I am not a fan of the onion rings. This is just a personal preferences. Despite my love of good food, I prefer the 'fake', cheaper onion rings as opposed to the thick cut ones. 

For desert I sampled the new chocolate orange truffle torte - a thick, but not overly heavy dish which made for a decadent end to a good meal.

I mentioned in my previous review that I'd had a love/hate relationship with The Woodman over the years. Thankfully the hates are now a distant memory as they've seemed to have found their niche. A higher-end pub, with great food, good drink choices, a friendly welcome and a cosy atmosphere. Well worth a visit!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Greyhound Inn - Oldwalls

A friend of mine had been bugging me to go to The Greyhound Inn in Oldwalls, Llanrhidian for quite some time. But I'm lazy. I want things close to my house so I can finish food then go and sleep immediately. Oldwalls is quite a drive...

However he was persistent enough, so on a drizzly Monday afternoon we headed off to the pub.

The pub in the rain

The main thing that convinced me to go was finding out that The Greyhound Inn is the official Gower Brewery pub, meaning they have a great selection of the increasingly popular ales on tap. I had a pint of the tried and tested (and enjoyed!) Gower Gold.

All well worth trying!

The pub is split into two rooms, a dark front room and a lighter back room. We chose to sit in the back room. The pub was relatively quiet, as you'd expect for a Monday lunchtime, although there were a few patrons enjoying a newspaper and a pint, as well as a few dogs enjoying the warmth of the roaring open fire.

It's a typical cosy country pub with farming paraphernalia adorning the wall, leather booth seating, tiled floors, wood, wood and more wood.

The menu was massive; burgers, curries, pizzas and lighter snacks, as well as a specials board and extensive desert menu. Myself and my dining partner both went for the chicken and ribs off the specials menu. This came with a choice of potatoes (I opted for chips, of course).

After a little wait, the food arrived and it looked great. It consisted of a rack of about five ribs (clearly fresh and tender) and a nice sized and well spiced chicken breast that was meaty and moist. This came with a bowl of chips (not pictured) which were best described as "chip shop chips but slightly more crispy" - in other words, lovely.

Why I went for a desert I do not know, for I was full. However I went for a hot chocolate fudge cake, which was very decadent and chocolatey, served with some refreshing Joe's ice cream. If there is one criticism, it would be that the cake was not heated up - a minor quibble in an otherwise flawless meal.

I can imagine the pub getting very busy in the summer but the outdoor seating would allow you to enjoy the food, washed down with plenty of ale, in the Swansea sun/cloud.

In conclusion The Greyhound Inn is more than worth the lengthy drive from Swansea. A very friendly atmosphere, cosy country setting and perfect food.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Valentine's Day in Swansea!

My guess is most of the men reading this haven't booked a secret trip for themselves and their partners to Venice for a romantic night in a five-star hotel and a slap-up meal on a gondola?

No, instead you'll probably be rushing to book into one of Swansea's many restaurants instead.

But before you go ahead and reserve that table at McDonalds Cwmbwrla, take a moment to read through my list of the more romantic restaurants in Swansea you may want to consider this Valentine's Day.

Firstly, before you try to book for Friday night, realise that most places are probably already full. Instead, aim for Thursday or Saturday night - even Sunday - as an alternative. Some places jack their prices up for the 'big event' so you may avoid these by dining on a different night anyway.

The Gower Kitchen
This little Uplands restaurant oozes the romantic coziness that couples love, making it a great venue to head to for Valentine's Day. As well as a brilliant atmosphere, the food is "home-cooked" and, though pricey, worth the money. Check out my full review for more details.

The Woodman
Another on my 'cosy list' is The Woodman. This place may not know if it's a restaurant or a pub, but the food is great, the mood is rustic (in a good way!) and the staff are friendly. There's also a Dean Martin tribute act on Friday night to get you in the mood! And there's free parking. And a decent ale selection. How romantic! (Here's my full review).

Bizzie Lizzies
This subterranean family-run bistro is, again, very cosy (you can see the pattern emerging can't you?). I've not reviewed it for Swansea On A Plate yet, but have been many times in the past and have always enjoyed the food, which is locally sourced and well cooked.

Topo Gigio
Italian food is the food of love! If you can't get to Rome this weekend (and my guess is you can't...) Topo Gigio on St Helen's Road is the next best thing. Authentic Italian food in an intimate atmosphere makes this a great one to check out for a romantic evening. (Full disclosure: Even though it's not one I've reviewed on this site, I've visited many times before because my uncle owns it and my dad makes the bread!)

Patti Raj
There are many Indian restaurants in Swansea and curry is certainly something you can both agree on after a few drinks! While most will do the job, I'd recommend the Patti Raj for a Valentine's Day meal as the varied menu always pleases and the setting and decor is slightly nicer than others in the area - just what you need for a special occasion. (My full review of the Patti Raj is here).

Naturally there are many other restaurants you may want to check out - Wind Street will have plenty of them fishing for your attention with special Valentine's Day offers, but the location (i.e. a street full of piss-heads) may not be the most romantic setting. Choose wisely and have a nice night!

And if you stumble across a restaurant you think I should review, let me know via the contact page or on our new Facebook page! Buon Appitito! 

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Verdi's - Mumbles Road

With the weather being as bad as it has been this winter, there's no better place to while away the long hours of a Sunday morning than in one of Mumbles' many cafes. And one of the best known cafes on the sea front is Verdi's, just off Mumbles Road.

That's a terrible picture of it, I apologise!

It had been about five years since my previous visit and it's safe to say not much had changed in the cafe. There's a lazy conservatory feel as you are surrounded by glass. Although it may seem like it could be a cold environment with all the glass and tiled floors, it's actually pretty cosy - especially when looking out at the icy sea smashing against the Mumbles front!

The cafe offers a variety of Italian food - including pasta, pizza, focaccia and a good selection of home-made ice creams. So, with all this choice, I did my usual trick of ordering something, then regretting it straight away...

I went for the mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and pesto toasted sandwich. This was ordered with caution because any time I seem to order a sandwich of this nature, it turns up soaked in grease. And, unfortunately, in Verdi's this was no different.

Naturally sun-dried tomatoes are oily, as is pesto, but the sheer amount of oil seeping from the bread made it unpleasant to eat. I'm not sure if there is a way cafes can avoid the grease, but this is the last time I ever order a sandwich with that filling!

So. Greasy.

So we know I was disappointed with my sandwich. However my dining partner enjoyed her baguette which was filled with prawns and rocket (with the marie rose sauce on the side). Glancing around at other people's tables I could see plenty of good looking food. But I live with my mistake and will have to return and try something else next time.

I did enjoy my drinks however! Verdi's is the only place in Swansea I know that does an Amarena Soda. This simple drink features a dollop of Morello cherries in syrup topped up with cold soda water - it's sweet, tasty and refreshing. I also enjoyed a nice strong cappuccino after the meal.

Amerena Soda - a must-try drink.

The wonderful location and sweeping views means food and drink doesn't come cheap, but I guess £2.30ish for a cappuccino is about right these days. The sandwich (*shudder*) was around £6 and the Amarena Soda was £2.50ish. Not a bargain, but it's expected for Mumbles.

The service was nice enough - it's a cafe at the end of the day, so you don't have a designated waiter, even though the setting feels like you should. The speed the food and drink came out was great too - very fast. However you don't get the rushed feeling like in other places - Verdi's is a cafe people visit to enjoy a relaxing few hours, and lingering almost seems encouraged.

Can't beat the views

Overall I feel I would need to return to Verdi's soon to try another item off the menu. While the greasy sandwich was disappointing it wasn't enough to ruin my experience of a nice Swansea cafe, which has plenty to offer in all seasons.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Smoke Haus: Revisited

Back in November 2012 when I first published my full review of the then brand new Swansea restaurant The Smoke Haus, I didn't expect it to be as well received as it was. In fact, with over 12,000 pageviews, that review is by far the most read on this site.

So I decided it was time to pay The Smoke Haus another visit.

Since first eating there I have only been one other time - that was a few months later, for lunch, where I was actually pretty disappointed. I had a hotdog which was lukewarm and a little burned, along with a basket of soggy chips. I felt I'd paid well over the odds for a mediocre lunch.

But that was over a year ago now and I decided they deserved to see me again (lucky them!). I made my way back for another lunchtime visit to see if they could rekindle my love for the Man vs. Food inspired fare.

The restaurant was empty when myself and dining partner walked in, so we were seated at the window table next to the bar, with a good view of the basketball on TV and the Wall of Flame (photos of those mental enough to have completed the hot wing challenge).

The Wall of Flame in the distance

I was very happy to see that the restaurant had introduced a lunchtime special in addition to their regular menu. The offer is two meals for £12 and, while the selection is limited, there were enough choices to satisfy me - hotdogs, burgers, sandwiches and chillis.

The friendly waitress took my order of a New York hotdog and the cheesy fries (an additional £1). While I enjoyed the complementary basket of salty popcorn, I was a little tense anticipating my meal - sometimes lunchtime offers tend to skimp on the quantity based on the price being lower. However, when it arrived...

Hello hotdog!

Yes... well, it was massive. They certainly didn't skimp on the hot or the dog. I made my way through the beast, punctuated with regular dips into the bowl of cheesy fries. The sausage was a good quality frankfurter on a bed of sauerkraut and covered with warm salsa and American mustard. A taste sensation!

My dining partner made his way through the Nacho Burger - a burger topped with nachos, guacamole, salsa and sour cream. He accompanied his burger with a portion of the sweet potato fries, which were an extra £1.50 on top of the regular price - this is fair enough.

The Nacho Burger

Both meals were served with a pot of 'slaw, which was creamy and a nice addition. Apart from spilling salsa on my fleece and mustard on my jeans, it was a very satisfying lunch. I ate it all apart from a chunk of bread and a few fries - food won on this occasion!

With a glass of Pepsi, my bill came to just under £9 which is brilliant for the quality and quantity. Mind you, you'll need to dine with someone else to make use of the £12 lunchtime deal (or order two meals...).

Long live America - long live The Smoke Haus!

I left with my faith restored in the restaurant which promises so much. I can see why my initial review was so popular and why so many people head to The Smoke Haus for a novelty, but quality feast!