Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Greenwood & Brown, Cardiff

Brains are diversifying. The Cardiff-based brewery recently bought the Coffee #1 chain and is now branching out into restaurants. Greenwood & Brown on Quay Street is a bold statement of intent.

At this week’s Greenwood & Brown bar grill preview tasting evenings they’re serving up seafood platters followed by two different steak cuts.

The seafood sampler comprised large meaty shrimp (crevettes), prawn cocktail, peppered mackerel pate, oak smoked salmon and a horseradish and dill sauce. The smoked salmon and the shrimp, in particular, impressed. I like horseradish with my oily fish, so the sauce was a little milder than I would make it. On the full menu, you’ll also find calamari, a kilo of Welsh mussels (with a choice of two sauces, £12), seafood chowder, sea bass and other fish specials at market prices. A fish platter appetiser will cost £16. If you really want to sail the boat out, the Fruits de Mer (for two people) is £58.00 (pre-order 12 hours notice required).

The steaks, served with green beans and steak chips, were tender and tasted like they had come from animals that had been well looked after. I thought the sirloin was really good, but the comparison showed why the ribeye costs that little more, as it was even better. The green beans and thick steak chips were very moreish, partly because there’s a fair bit of salt on them. On the full menu there’s a choice of rump, sirloin and ribeye (£12, £15 and £19, respectively, which includes one side dish), while there will be steak cut specials. If you’re a couple and want to go for it, the Chateaubriand steak with Béarnaise sauce might be for you (£48 for two people). Our preview steaks definitely left us wanting more.

The menu is limited in extent. However, it includes dishes such as the chowder and steak cuts that mark it out as unique. The philosophy is: simple cooking done well. Don’t expect fancy plating or extraneous ingredients. It’s not necessarily cheap, though lunches come in at a competitive fixed price of £7, but if you want steak or seafood off the grill then it should certainly hit the spot.

Greenwood and Brown will probably appeal to a fairly select clientele. The nature of the menu and the high tables will exclude children and families. There is little for vegetarians (apart from the risotto of the day and a falafel burger). My partner thought the atmosphere (meaty menu options, masculine décor etc) would make it a good place to entertain male business clients. It will certainly attract the discerning rugby fan (being only a penalty kick away from the Millennium Stadium).

The desserts are suitably grown up and there’s Costa coffee. The wine list features nine reds and nine whites, with a few roses, with additional choices on a wine specials board. Bottled beers, spirits, champagne and classic cocktails are featured.

It’s good to see an emphasis on Welsh products and local food sourcing. Welsh beef comes from Celtic Pride, free range eggs from Birchgrove Eggs, seafood from Swansea Fish in Swansea Marina, cheeses from Caws Cenarth, Abergavenny Fine Foods and Carmarthenshire Creameries, deli products from Capital Cuisine Caerphilly, and ice cream from Mario Dallavalle of Carmarthenshire.

Greenwood & Brown is located on the site of The Model Inn, one of Cardiff’s oldest pubs (On a 1600 map it’s called The Ship on Launch; it may have been renamed The Model Inn after a visit by Cromwell’s New Model Army). It was purchased by Brains in 1956 and renamed after the wine merchants who they bought it off. The major internal and external refurbishment means there is little evidence of the building’s history to be seen (though some of the metal columns look old). The modern décor centres on high chairs and marble counters/tables (a bit of communal dining maybe), bare brick and butcher’s tiles, with some chandeliers that don’t look quite right. The kitchen area is fashionably visible.

Music can complement the dining experience. In Cardiff, for example, the classical music in Wally’s Kaffeehaus and the classic rock in the New York Deli perfectly chime with the décor and food. At Greenwood & Brown, the overloud early-evening dance music did nothing to enhance my dining experience.

I had a pint of the Rev in the City Arms beforehand, a pub owned by Brains and one of the best traditional-style drinking venues in the city centre. The City Arms is practically next door to Greenwood & Brown (Casanova’s Italian Restaurant is sandwiched between them) and this was a key factor in the decision to convert the Model Inn into a restaurant rather than another pub. I suspect there will be a fair amount of traffic between the two Brain’s establishments.

Other Brains pubs in Cardiff city centre: Goat Major, Dempsey’s, Old Arcade, Cardiff Cottage, Barocco, Yard Bar and Kitchen, Kitty Flynn’s, Duke of Wellington, Westgate, Cardiff Arts Institute, 33 Windsor Place.

Greenwood & Brown:

Pub conversion reference:

Brains Brewery:

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