My Rockpool was populated with prawns, crab and salmon. I must say I’ve never seen a salmon in a rockpool, but then I am talking about a sandwich here. The Rockpool is a Gourmet Sandwich that can be ordered in Taste, a new species inhabiting Cardiff’s competitive café/sandwich bar ecosystem. The question is: Will it find its own niche in this environment and thereby ensure its long-term survival?
The original Taste can be found in Romford, Essex. Taste Cardiff is an independently-run franchise, and is only the second Taste in the UK, although the franchise is set to expand further. Taste Cardiff was opened on 1 December last year and, so, is less than two months old. Owners John and Penny have, according to their website, backgrounds in airline and industrial catering, so you would expect good things of their office meeting and party platters. John’s homemade coleslaw and relishes are features of the menu.
Taste is a take-away and delivery service, targeting the office worker market (e.g., fresh and delicious lunches for office workers too busy to leave their desks!), but the café has a good number of comfortable tables at the back, some seats at the front, and a few pavement tables (that are sure to be popular in the summer on this pedestrianized stretch of the High Street near Cardiff Castle), and it seems a good place for a leisurely coffee and sandwich.
Alongside the range of 14 Classic Sandwiches, there’s 8 Gourmet Sandwiches that offer something a little different. Rockpool is basically a prawn sandwich, with crab flakes; mine could probably have been enhanced with a little more smoked salmon in the mix. The lemon mayonnaise gave it a lively flavour, while the rocket leaves were fresh and about the right amount.
The dual pricing system on all the sandwiches is not for size but for bread type. There is “traditional bread” (white, granary, wholemeal, bagel or sub) and “speciality bread” (ciabatta, panini, baguette, wrap or bloomer), with a surprisingly large price differential between the two. Each gourmet sandwich comes with a suggestion for type of bread, though they can be ordered with any bread (in fact the whole menu can be seen as a guide given that so much flexibility appears to be on offer).
My partner went with the suggested ciabatta with her Bookmaker Melt (I should probably have gone with the suggested wrap come to think of it on my Rockpool). The Bookmaker was built around a slice of tasty sliced roast beef.
The Sweet Carrot Crunch (with houmous, grated carrot and sultanas) looks the best-sounding vegetarian option (although Taste is mainly catering for the carnivores and piscivores in the food chain). Other Gourmet Sandwiches included Cwmbran Banger (“Best on bloomer!”) and Italian Job (“The ideal panini!”), while the gauntlet is laid down with "Cardiff’s Best Tuna Melt" (contains John’s homemade tomato and onion relish).
There’s homemade soup of the day, good-value breakfast options, daily sandwich specials (a chili sausage today), jacket potatoes, and a salad bar. They serve large mugs of good no-nonsense coffee (not for single estate connoisseurs, but the vanilla and spicy cinnamon flavourings could hit the spot if you’re in the mood).
The décor is relatively neutral and slightly retro (branded with chocolate brown, lime green and white). They have made good use of the long narrow space. I like the large wooden-framed mirrors.
The distinctiveness of Taste derives from it not being a big High Street chain. It’s a little different, although maybe the food is not different enough to immediately set it apart from many other cafés and sandwich shops in Cardiff. However, there is a good vibe in the place, it feels friendly and welcoming, and if the owners can build a solid and loyal customer base, then I can see it surviving in the species pool for many years to come.
15 High Street