Food blogger Jane Cook shares her selection of the best restaurants in Cardiff for any budget – how many have you tried?
Narrowing Cardiff’s ever-expanding, ever-improving food scene to just ’10 of the best’ is an immensely difficult task. There are some fantastic spots that I wrestled with the idea of including, but for various reasons they didn’t make the list.
So it’s best to view this selection less as a definitive guide and more as a starter for ten. Better loosen those belt buckles…
New York Deli
It makes sense to be kicking off the list with the iconic New York Deli; this place is the stuff of Cardiff legend. Specialising in enormous, American-style hoagies and sandwiches, this little shop has been delighting hungry Cardiff folk for more than 20 years. The massive Cardiff Devils hoagie, (£4.85, named after the local ice-hockey team) comes bursting with salt beef, cream cheese, secret ‘55 sauce’, gherkins and Tabasco – and if you can’t finish it in one sitting, they’ll wrap the remains up for your tea. Oh, and they stock proper American root beer and Mountain Dew, too.
19 High Street Arcade, Cardiff, CF10 1QR (Facebook page, 02920 388388)
Slap bang in the centre of Cardiff student territory sits Katiwok, a fast food restaurant serving pan-Asian cuisine with a twist. Kati (or kathi) rolls, are a type of street-food originating from Kolkata, India, but at Katiwok, they have been re-imagined as tasty paratha bread wraps filled with flavours from Mumbai, Kochi, Karachi, Desi, NepaI and Afghanistan. At £4.99 a pop, these tasty treats are hard to beat for a budget meal. Other street-food mash-ups on the menu include Asian pizzas and spicy masala fries.
53 Crwys Road, Cathays, Cardiff CF24 4ND (www.katiwok.co.uk, 02920 376222)
Part of the Cardiff foodie scene since 2012, Got Beef started life as a mobile food truck but has grown up to become the best of Cardiff’s ever-expanding bunch of burger joints. Award-winning Welsh black beef patties are cooked in the open kitchen before being lovingly smothered with toppings like jalapeño mayo, crispy bacon, and Monterey jack cheese. The Breaking Bad inspired Heisen burger (£7.95) is a popular choice, and comes topped with blue cheese and booze-fried drunken onions.
83 Witchurch Road, Cardiff CF14 3JP (www.gotbeef.co.uk, 02920 617534)
You can’t really say you’ve eaten falafel until you’ve had it home-made and served piping hot from the deep-fryer – at least that’s my opinion. Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and served with a dollop of silky smooth hummus; the guys at Falafel Kitchen have got it spot on. For £4.50, a generous handful of falafel comes stuffed into a freshly baked pitta, and is accompanied by a self-served salad. If you still can’t manage the thought of a meal without meat, the authentic tasting chicken shawarma would satisfy any appetite.
76 Crwys Rd, Cardiff CF24 4NP (www.falafel-kitchen.co.uk, 02920228228)
Over the last 15 years, Bully’s has developed a reputation as one of Cardiff’s little treasures. Located in arty Pontcanna, it offers a fusion of Welsh produce and French cuisine in a relaxed and eclectic dining room filled with quirky bric-a-brac and sturdy old books. The two-course Sunday dinner (£16) is especially good value; highlights include a delicate smoked duck breast starter and generous portion of topside Welsh beef for the main course. Regular ‘gourmet evenings’ also offer wines matched to seven courses.
5 Romilly Crescent, Cardiff, CF11 9NP (www.bullysrestaurant.co.uk, 02920 221905)
This quirky all-vegetarian bar and restaurant boasts a globally inspired menu, but uses local ingredients which change with the seasons – this goes for the cocktail list as well as the food. A DJ by the door, a yurt in the back, and a late-night license all combine to make this one of the most hipster-friendly hang-outs in Cardiff. My favourite dish on the menu is the refried bean tortilla stack (£9.95), but their Sunday dinner (£8.95) was runner up in the Observer Food Monthly awards in 2013, so definitely worth a go.
213 City Road, Cardiff, CF24 3JD (www.milgilounge.com, 02920 473150)
Recently named The Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of the Year for 2015, the team behind Bar 44 have developed a reputation for consistently excellent Spanish tapas. Classics like triple cooked patatas bravas (£3.30) and chorizo poached in red wine (£4.25) are perfectly executed, whilst more unusual dishes like seared fillet of hake with confit potatoes and spinach (£5.50) make a refreshing change from the typical tapas-menu regulars. They have a second Cowbridge branch just outside Cardiff, too.
14 Windsor Road, Penarth, CF64 1JH (www.bar44.co.uk, 02920 705497)
Take a short walk from Cardiff city centre and you’ll find Purple Poppadom, a fine dining Indian restaurant with an impressive assortment of gastronomic awards to its name. Dishes like spiced, slow-braised lamb shank with mint sorbet (£17.95) and crispy soft shell crab dusted with curry leaves and garlic (£9.50) offer an insight in to the kind of creativity employed by head chef Anand George and his team, and the seasonally changing menu offers the perfect excuse to come back time and time again.
185a Cowbridge Road East, Cardiff, CF11 9AJ (www.purplepoppadom.com, 02920 220026)
Fish at 85
This tiny 20-cover restaurant is also a fully functioning fishmonger, and if you couldn’t tell by the sight of so much seafood on ice, you definitely could by the smell. You shouldn’t let it put you off. After a guided tour of that day’s catch, customers can hand-pick their own specimen from the chiller and dictate how it is cooked and served. If you’re not really in the market for that level of creative freedom, you can opt for one of the chef’s specials instead – gurnard with curried mussels and samphire (£18.95) was last week’s offering, and very tasty it was too.
85 Pontcanna St, Cardiff CF11 9HS (www.fishat85.co.uk, 02920 235666)
Restaurant James Sommerin
By far and away the most hotly anticipated restaurant of 2014, tables for the first few weeks of Restaurant James Sommerin were booked up before the brand new building to house it had been finished. Sommerin himself is aiming for a Michelin star, and the decadent 10 course tasting menu (£85) certainly suggests that it’s only matter of time. Highlights include a slow cooked shredded oxtail with sweet onion and parsnip puree, served with pearl barley in parsley sauce and a single parsnip-skin crisp.
The Esplanade, Penarth CF64 3AU (www.jamessommerinrestaurant.co.uk, 02920 706559)
• Jane Cook runs HungryCityHippy, an award-winning Cardiff and London-based food, travel and lifestyle blog with an ethical / eco-friendly focus. You can follow her on Twitter @HungryCityHippy and @janechicomendes