Thursday, 23 October 2014

Short message...

Hi everyone,

Sorry we've had a month or so without a new review. It's been a busy time with my recent book launch, and if I've been eating out it's been in the same old places! But I promise I will be back with some new reviews very soon.

In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for places you'd like to see reviewed on Swansea On A Plate (including revisits) just get in touch via the contact form or message me on Twitter or Facebook.

See you soon!


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Govinda's: Revisited

I released my original review of Govinda's on Cradock Street almost two years ago (in October 2012) and since then a few changes have occurred with the vegetarian restaurant, which inspired me to write a short update.

Firstly, if you are in any way observant you may notice the new sign and fresh paint job, which is much nicer than the old terracotta colour. That's about it for the exterior.

Inside they have modified the layout a little, primarily taking away the old buffet-style service areas and replacing it with some tables and chairs. Unfortunately this means there is no longer an all-you-can-eat lunchtime special - instead there are the standard 'made to order' dishes.

The new interior
Still, even with no all-you-can-eat offer, I would wholeheartedly recommend the 'Special', which is a single plated dish comprising pretty much everything that used to be available on the buffet line.

This includes two freshly prepared subji - one a kind of curry with mixed garden vegetables, while the second was a tangy tomato, aubergine and chickpea affair, which was lovely. This is served with a generous bowl of lentil dahl, a small wholemeal chapati and some white rice.

The bread is covering the second curry, but I promise it is there!

Very filling, pretty tasty and, I assume, much healthier for you than a greasy burger. The price has increased by £2 over the last two years, meaning you'll be paying £6.95 for the Special, but this is well worth your money for a very satisfying lunch.

Finally, being the only diners in there at the time, there wasn't much in the way of atmosphere. However, if you are after a little peace and quiet in the heart of Swansea it'll be the perfect place for you! 

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Bayside Grill Restaurant - Marriott Hotel, Marina

Despite never staying there (mainly because I live in the city), I found I had been to Swansea's Marriott hotel several times - usually for a wedding party or occasionally for a coffee in their bar - but never eaten in their restaurant.

Until now.

Tucked away towards the back of the hotel, The Bayside Grill Restaurant always looks very welcoming; casual and relaxed with a hint of elegance about it. The dining area is modern and bright while the large windows offer views out onto parts of the Marina, with the looming Meridian Tower dominating the near skyline.

Light and spacious - a pleasant environment to enjoy lunch

But enough about the views and onto the food!

For lunch we could order from a set menu with the price fixed at £7.95 for a main course, with an additional £3 for a starter and another three for a desert. Greedy by nature, I went for all three courses.

The chicken and chorizo croquettes were my choice to start and I'm pleased to say that they were perfect. A flavourful and meaty filling, which comprised chunks of chicken and sausage with an almost cheesy tasting mash, was shelled in by a crunchy coating of fried breadcrumbs, served with a tangy red pepper salsa. I could have eaten about ten of these! (Seriously).

The best starter in the history of starters!

The main course would always have trouble following such a fantastic starter, but it did well in satisfying me. I had the Parma ham stuffed chicken supreme, with truffle scented mash and a broccoli purée.

The chicken was moist and tasty, although the chunks of ham stuffed inside were a little fatty. The mash was lovely and lightly scented with pungent truffle oil. I could have done with a bigger scoop of the broccoli purée if I'm being honest, but the dish as a whole was filling enough.

Chicken main, with great mash!

I was pretty full following the first two courses, but who is going to turn down a desert for £3? The only crying shame was that they had nothing chocolatey to choose from! I'm not sure if chocolate is no longer in fashion, but no-one ever said no to a little chocolate cake.

Regardless, I ordered the strawberry rice pudding and mint tart with home-made cinnamon ice cream. While it was nothing spectacular, I can't complain - the strawberries were fresh and the pudding stodgy (in a good way), while the ice cream was a refreshing way to end a very good meal.

A pretty solid desert

Kudos must go to our waiter. Even though the restaurant was very quiet when we were there, the service was very attentive and polite throughout.

With good attention to detail, tantalising choices (apart from a chocolate option), good quality and a decent price, I'll definitely be heading back to The Bayside Grill Restaurant again - and hopefully very soon!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Swansea Beer Festival 2014 - Brangywn Hall

With a slight hangover after heading to the annual Swansea Bay Beer and Cider Festival at the Brangywn Hall last night, I've decided to share a few of my bleary thoughts before I go and find something to eat, preferably with piles of melted cheese.

For those unfamiliar with the festival - you pay £10 for entry (which includes a branded glass, programme and £5 worth of starter tokens), then can choose from well over 100 different beers and ciders which are available from bars that line the grand hall.

I had earmarked a few beers that I wanted to try, but I decided to pick a random one to start the night and ended up with a glass of Indian Summer from Cheshire-based brewers Tatton. Not a bad start - quite tasty with a dry finish, but nothing spectacular.

With a big interest in American craft ales I decided to focus my attention on that style of beer for most of the night. The Deliverance APA from Llantrisant brewers Hop Craft was my next choice and it was amazing! Very flavourful and hoppy, and I instantly knew it would take some beating.

Next was a glass of Infinity from Blue Monkey (Brecon) - a lovely, fruity-tasting pale ale, again brewed with American hops for a flavour which was very 'different' (or so I noted in my programme). Then came a good Swansea classic in the Oystermouth Stout from the Mumbles Brewery, brewed with real oysters! There's no fishy taste thankfully and any hint of the sea is very subtle.

Myself and some friends enjoying the atmosphere (and the beer, of course)

By this stage I was getting quite merry and loud, but - as far as the little ticks I scrawled on my programme indicate - I tried Nelson's Eye (a very drinkable ale from Denbighshire brewery Heavy Industry), Frisco (a Californian style craft ale from Welsh beer brewing giants Brains), some Independence (another US style craft ale, this time from the Bristol Beer Factory) and finished with La Tene (from Celt Experience, Caerphilly). This last one was the weakest in strength (3.3%) but didn't skimp on the flavour.

No wonder I have a bit of a hangover today...

Overall, the beer festival was another success. It seems to be growing in popularity every year! I was so enthused (and pissed) that I finally became a member of CAMRA and had a free copy of their Good Beer Guide as my welcome gift. Roll on 2015!

My beer guide, application form, programme and glass.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Varsity - Wind Street

Whereas many of Swansea's bars come and go, there are a few that stand the test of time. One of these is a Wind Street staple which, happily for me, doubles up as a good eatery in addition to its primary function as a late-night drinking establishment.

Varsity, the British student-focused pub chain, sits in a grand neoclassical building - once upon a time a bank - at the top of Wind Street. And despite being home to hundreds of revellers on the weekends, the atmosphere on a Monday lunchtime wasn't dingy in the slightest.

It's quite a cavernous room, but it's bright and there's no lingering smell of stale beer. In fact - apart from a few sticky patches on the floor - it's quite a pleasant environment in which to eat, helped by staff who were efficient and polite when it came to service.

They used to offer a massive menu full of 'big eats', which has now been toned down a little, although there's still plenty of pub grub to choose from, including sandwiches, burgers, wraps, pastas and 'things with chips'.

This time I went for the safe choice of a Southern-fried chicken burger and curly fries (an optional upgrade), along with a glass of Coke (they do serve plenty of beer but it was a Monday lunchtime after all...).

My satisfying chicken burger.

The food has always been pretty solid in Varsity and this visit was no different. The chicken was hot, moist and had enough of that peppery southern-fried taste, while the brioche bun was robust, if a tiny bit dry. The chips were equally as appealing, with a portion size that satisfies any lunchtime belly.

My dining partner had a Mexican chicken wrap of sorts. I'm not sure what the exact name of it was, but I was assured that it was very enjoyable, served with chips and a small salad garnish.

The Mexican wrap (of sorts)

So in all, I deem Varsity well worth a visit. It's nothing spectacular, but when you're paying around £8 for a tasty and filling lunchtime meal with a drink, there can't be too many complaints.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Mumtaz - Mumbles Road

Maybe I should rename this blog 'Curry on a Plate' to reflect the amount of curry houses I've reviewed? I do love curry.

But, attempting to introduce some variation on the theme, I decided to move away from the 'curry quarter' that is St Helen's Road and ventured towards Mumbles, where I enjoyed a cosy evening out in Mumtaz.

Firstly, you can't miss it. Sticking out like a curry-stained thumb, Mumtaz is a massive cream building on Mumbles Road, right on the sea front with great views of the sweeping bay (providing you can grab a window seat)

On such a busy road there's no street parking, but if you are arriving by car there is a convenient car park directly opposite or just behind (you have to pay and display for both though unfortunately). Or just get a taxi.

Inside there's a relaxed feel about the place. It's light, bright and aesthetically pleasing, with plush seating (possibly the most comfortable seating in a curry house ever) and a good dose of luxury. I noticed a grand piano and am aware that there is often a live pianist playing, although they weren't around the evening I visited.

The menu is pretty much what you can expect from most curry houses. There are other Indian restaurants in Swansea that offer more variation and maybe a little more adventure, but Mumtaz still provides several pages full of choice. I do applaud their 'Health Conscious' section on the menu, which includes salads and more vegetable-oriented dishes for those watching their weight.

Alas I have given up my dreams of a six-pack so I went for a Prawn Balti with a mushroom rice and a tandoori roti. As a table we also ordered the traditional 'poppadoms and chutneys' to nibble on while we awaited our main course.

I'm glad we did go for the appetiser because, unfortunately, we were waiting ages for the main course. I know it was a Saturday night, but I've rarely had such a wait before for a curry. I assume the takeaway orders were pouring in and swamping the kitchen, but regardless the slow arrival of our food was a little disappointing. I also noticed a few similar complaints from other tables, so this is something worth noting.

I crammed it all on the plate to get the photo!

My meal when it eventually turned up was very enjoyable. The Balti itself was tasty, not too oily and freshly cooked. I do regret ordering the roti - I found it a little dry, and was envious as everyone else tucked into their buttery naan breads. You live and learn I guess!

One custom I enjoy in Indian restaurants is the post-meal hot wipes and I was thrilled to find real flannels in Mumtaz (instead of the pre-packaged wet-wipes). So thrilled, in fact, I took a photo. The small things...

There's nothing quite like an actual flannel!

After such a good flannelling it seemed everyone on my table was keen for desert. I rarely opt for something sweet after my meal, but fancied one this time so chose a 'mint bombe' of sorts, which was nice and refreshing (almost as refreshing as the flannel).

A rare desert for me, but satisfying.

In all I will definitely be heading back to Mumtaz in the near future. While I've enjoyed better food and quicker service in other Indian restaurants, the atmosphere and attentive staff were brilliant and made for a very enjoyable evening in the heart of Mumbles.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Favourite Cafe - Brynymor Road

I eat out in Swansea a lot, as you may have guessed by now. And when it comes to Eastern cuisine I probably choose Indian over Chinese in a ratio of about 20:1!

So last week I decided to ditch the Saag for Sweet n' Sour, and checked out a relatively new Chinese restaurant that's been on my list for a few months, The Favourite Cafe on Byrnymor Road.

A simple exterior

It's a place you can probably walk past twenty times before actually noticing, but you'll be glad when you finally take the time to investigate. It's one of the new breed of Chinese eateries that seem to be cropping up in the centre, with the focus on authentic Chinese cuisine instead of the more familiar Cantonese style.

The small restaurant offers a modern and relaxed atmosphere, with plenty of traditional decoration which is familiar, yet tasteful (think more bamboo, with less golden dragons and waving cats).

The seating, as far as I can remember, is primarily wooden benches. Quite relaxed and comfortable, although the benches were considerably lower than the table, so I had to prop myself up on some cushions (like a little baby).

Nice and relaxed atmosphere, washed down with a refreshing beer!

The waitress took our order pretty quickly and was happy to reassure us that the dishes we were ordering were spicy but not lethal, which we were thankful for! So I went for the Kung Pao chicken and fried rice, while my dining partner settled on the Sizzling Pork. We also split a side dish of steamed dumplings and the intriguing 'Traditional Chinese Meat Pie'. (The full menu can be found here).

As our drinks arrived (they serve a couple of beers, though we went for a Chinese favourite in Tsingtao), we were also given a small plate of diced cucumber in a soy and chili sauce. A nice complimentary snack while you await the main event.

My Kung Pao chicken, which was delicious

I must say the Kung Pao was lovely. Everything I enjoy in a Chinese meal - moist meat, crisp vegetables and a fresh sauce with a bit of a kick. This also had cashews and peanuts and proved very filling, along with a dish of fried rice on the side.

I mentioned that we ordered steamed dumplings and 'meat pies' (which turned out to be a kind of dumpling/pasty hybrid). Both were tasty and quite generously filled, and made for a nice accompaniment to the main meal, although I preferred the meat pies (not pictured) to the dumplings, which were a little too stodgy for me.

Steamed dumplings - maybe I should have taken a photo of the vibrant filling instead of just the dough...

Afterwards we shared a hefty pot of jasmine tea which was very fragrant and - despite the searing heat outside - quite refreshing. Not as refreshing as a cold beer, but still a nice way to end the meal.

Overall a portion of Kung Pao chicken, rice and two dumplings along with a bottle of beer and a few cups of tea came to £15, which is a very wallet-friendly price for the amount of food you enjoy.

Jasmine tea to finish

It seems like a popular little place and became pretty busy by the time we left. I will certainly be checking out some of the other similar Eastern cafes in the area very soon, and if they are anything like The Favourite Cafe I won't be disappointed.