Sunday, 21 October 2012

Creating a Community Garden 4

In a series of posts (links below) I am following the creation of a Community Growing Area in Dinas Powys, on an abandoned play area between Sir Ivor Place and Nightingale Place.

This project was initiated by Elizabeth Millard (Chairperson of the Dinas Powys Residents Group) and Councillor Keith Hatton. The project is supported by Creative Rural Communities (Vale of Glamorgan Council), with Rob McGhee being the Rural Regeneration Officer involved. More specifically, the Dinas Powys Community Growing Area falls within the Community Foodie initiative, which aims to identify, develop and support community food growing activities.

Rob (pictured) came to Dinas Powys on Saturday (20 Oct) to give an update on progress. The meeting, in Youldon House, was attended by over 30 people. Keith outlined the history of the project and introduced Rob, who summarized achievements to date (see previous posts) that include identification of the site, fund-raising, community engagement, and an initial plan for the site that takes into account all skill levels and includes raised beds for those with restricted mobility. He also talked about successful community growing projects in other parts of Wales.

Funding is in place and a contractor (Gerald Davies) is due to start clearing the site later this month. Security fencing will be erected, top-soil put down, and water pipes extended into the site. A communal shed will be erected near the electrical sub-station.

A tour of the site was followed by a discussion back at Youldon House, in which everyone stuck post-it notes with ideas on the proposed plan (pictured below). Suggestions included a brick BBQ, the use of wood from the felled trees to make benches, water butts, communal compost, solar lighting, increasing the proportion of raised beds, establishing links with schools and the recently-established Food Bank in Dinas Powys, a play area for young children, and a skills database.

The meeting was used to identify those who want to serve on a Growing Group, which will help to drive the project forward. Further meet-ups, including a clearance day, will be held on-site in the coming months. I’ll keep you posted.

This well-attended meeting was a significant step forward in raising awareness and channelling enthusiasm for the project. Elizabeth’s vision of turning this ugly derelict area into an attractive community gathering and food-growing area, where she can come to sit in the sun and read a book, became a step closer to reality.

As a footnote, an upcoming date for your diary: Paul Mobbs (author of ‘Energy Beyond Oil’) will be speaking in Lee Hall Dinas Powys on Thursday 22 Nov (7pm). There will be a small entrance fee to cover costs. Greater community self-reliance, in which growing areas play a significant part, is a key theme of the Transition Town Movement that is planning for the post-oil future. Linda Ware, the organizer of this talk, has initiated another community growing project in the village - the Dinas Powys Orchard Project.

Previous posts on Dinas Powys Community Garden:

Aug 2012
Feb 2012

Jan 2012



Friday, 19 October 2012

filini, Radisson Blu Hotel Cardiff

I went along to filini at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cardiff this week for a ‘Taste of Italy experience’.

The new ‘Amazing Grazing’ menu has been designed to be served both in the restaurant and in the nearby bar and lounge areas.
Executive Chef Mattias Wenngren invited us into the kitchen, where he demonstrated how some of the dishes are made. He even got us cooking.
Anti pasti are served on oak boards and are for sharing. Here Mattias applies the finishing touches to a meat and vegetarian version. Ingredients include roasted vegetables (e.g., aubergine, courgette), buffalo mozzarella, sundried tomatoes, olives, rocket and parmesan. This starter is accompanied by chunks of great-tasting bread with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dip.

This sausage dish was made using, among other things, chunks of Sardinian sausage, passata, fregola (round pasta beads from Sardinia), chicken stock, chilli flakes, toasted pine nuts and butter. Rich comfort food indeed.
The risotto had al dente rice and was topped with wild mushrooms and truffle oil; garnished with rocket and a shaving of parmesan. A small portion delivers a big hit of flavour.
Hanger beef is used as the main meat event. This cut from the underside of the animal is not often seen on restaurant menus, but is full of flavour. Here it is cooked rare and succulent, with plenty of pepper.
I helped make the two salads that accompany it. The first has onion (chopped, though it was supposed to be sliced!) in balsamic vinegar mixed with strips of roast red pepper. The other salad is grated courgette mixed with lemon juice and grated parmesan. Simple, but very effective.
On the Amazing Grazing menu you’ll also find minestrone soup, sea food (Fritto misto di mare) and desserts (including tiramisu). Caesar salad, burgers and pizza are also always available at filini (they like their lower cases).
The set price for the Amazing Grazing menu includes wine, beer or a soft drink. Prosecco is on tap – a first in Wales.
Hotel restaurants can find it difficult getting non-residents through their doors. In part, this is due to an outdated image of what constitutes restaurant food and a reluctance to negotiate hotel lobbies.
Filini specializes in a distinctive style of Italian food. The versatile Amazing Grazing menu should appeal to those who fancy some back-to-basics Italian food. And filini is not hard to find, it’s just up the stairs by the front door to the first floor.

The Amazing Grazing menu: Two courses with a drink £18.95 (three courses plus drink £22.95).
Radisson Blu, Meridian Gate, Bute Terrace, Cardiff CF10 2FL
Tel (029) 2045 4777

All food and drink kindly provided free of charge by Radisson Blu.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Andrew Buchan, Albany Road, Cardiff

It is not often you find a new bar just serving drinks. The trend seems to be for new pubs to look more like restaurants than traditional “locals”. The opening of The Andrew Buchan last month (Sept 2012) therefore bucked the trend.

This real ale bar is the first Rhymney Brewery pub to open in Cardiff. Rhymney Beers are on draught (Rhymney Bitter, Rhymney Dark, Hobby Horse, Rhymney Export, Bevan’s Bitter). Ciders, wine and other drinks are available, but food is pretty much limited to packets of peanuts.
Alcohol licences have become harder to obtain in this area. In their Premises Licence application (to convert the old Choices Video Store), Rhymney Brewery stressed that the bar would not be aimed at young people and that there would be no loud music. They stated that there would be no alcopops and no pool table, just good beer and good conversation; recreating a good old-fashioned “local”.

Their stated target audience is the over 50s. This appears to be based on the age of clientele in three of their existing bars: The Winchester in Merthyr Tydfil, The Prince of Wales in Aberdare, and the bar at their new brewery and visitor centre in Blaenafon. However, among the objections submitted against the application (mainly concerning drink-related anti-social behaviour in the area), one questioned the likelihood of the over 50s being the customer base on the Albany Road. 
I must admit, as a member of their target audience (just), this was my sort of bar. The beer is good and the welcome genuine. Children and U21s are discouraged. The lack of clattering cutlery (and not waiting while someone makes a complicated food order before you can get a pint) is a pleasant change.

Will The Andrew Buchan become a good old-fashioned “local”? In many respects the signs look good. However, the large TV screens showing Sky news and, presumably, sports, do not correspond with my memories of good old-fashioned locals; they are certainly not conducive to good conversation, and the place risks becoming a sports bar. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a rack of newspapers and some well-chosen background music provides for a more relaxing drinking experience.
Of course, to be a good old-fashioned local you need to have locals and also I believe be a focus for some community activity (such as a village pub has a darts or soccer team). It will be interesting to revisit The Andrew Buchan in the years to come to see how well it’s carving out such a niche.

The Andrew Buchan, 29 Albany Road, Cardiff CF24 3LH
See also:
A walk along Albany Road:

The Andrew Buchan is named after the founder of the original Rhymney Brewery in Merthyr Tydfil in 1839. By the 1850s, it was the biggest brewery in Wales. Andrew Buchan died in 1870, aged 77.
Rhymney Brewery: