Sunday, 15 September 2013

Creating a Community Garden 10

In a series of posts I have outlined the process by which Nightingale Community Garden in Dinas Powys was created (links below). In June, I described how the garden was flourishing during its first summer. Among the verdant greenery, it was hard to believe that gardening had only started a couple of months previously. Some of the crops were entered in this year’s Dinas Powys Village Show (31 August); Giles Metcalf’s beetroot, for instance, won First Prize.

On Saturday 14 September, the official opening of the Nightingale Community Garden was held. Cllr. Keith Hatton and Elizabeth Millard, of the Dinas Powys Residents’ Group, welcomed everyone, outlined the history of the garden, introduced the special guests, and thanked those who had made important contributions along the way.

Keith had the original idea of doing something with the derelict piece of land, on the footpath that connects Sir Ivor Place and Nightingale Place, which was becoming a focus for anti-social behaviour in the area. With Elizabeth, they put together the first plan for turning it into a Community Garden. At an early stage they gained the support of Mike Ingram, one of the special guests at the event, who is the Operational Manager of Public Housing Services at the Vale of Glamorgan Council. Mike facilitated the smooth transition of the site, from unwanted public housing land to Community Garden.

The Finance Minister of the Welsh Assembly Government Jane Hutt AM placed the garden within the larger context of The Rural Development Plan, which is a joint Welsh Government and European Union strategy. In her short speech, she stressed the importance of finance from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, which along with Welsh Government funding enables projects such as this to happen. Jane also stressed the importance of supporting community-led initiatives.

The Welsh Government funds community projects through Councils. Cllr. Liz Burnett, another of the special guests at the event, is Vale of Glamorgan Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Innovation, Planning and Transportation. The money that comes to the Council for rural regeneration is in her portfolio. The Vale of Glamorgan Council funds its own rural development initiative: Creative Rural Communities.

Rob McGhee of the Community Foodie section of Creative Rural Communities, established to help communities grow their own food, has been involved with the Nightingale Community Garden project from a very early stage. He has been key in obtaining funding and helping to manage the project, including overseeing the contractors who have worked to transform the site. He praised the enthusiasm of the local communities he works with, both in Dinas Powys and in other places were similar projects have been successful such as Treoes. Rob is the one talking in the picture above, with Mike Ingram next to him.

BBC Wales’ weatherman Derek Brockway (above, with Keith) certainly bought the sun with him, which shone throughout proceedings. With a cheery “hello and shw’mae” he gave us an up-to-date weather forecast. Unfortunately, this involved windy autumn weather just around the corner. He noted how the warmest and driest summer for seven years had helped the garden be so productive in its first year. Below is a picture of Derek cutting the ribbon, with Keith looking on. Derek took time out from filming his current series of 'Weatherman Walking' for BBC Wales to open the Community Garden. You can find details on the BBC website, where you can also print out Weatherman Walking maps that enable you to follow in Derek's footsteps. He was right about the weather today (Sunday); though I am in the warm writing this, and he is walking and filmed up in the bleak Brecon Beacons!

Here’s a photo of Cllr. Keith Hatton, Derek Brockway, Elizabeth Millard and Jane Hutt AM.

During the speeches Keith and Elizabeth thanked several people whose energy and enthusiasm have contributed enormously to the garden’s success. We owe a big debt of gratitude to Stuart Hockley for, among other things, orchestrating the laying out of the plots and for erecting two large greenhouses and a shed in the garden. Merry Metcalf was thanked for organizing all the paperwork during the crucial stage when the plots were being allocated, and Lynne Squires was thanking for carrying on in this role.

Angela Peterken is the lead gardener of a Family Growing Group within the garden. This arose from her work as a Learning Support Assistant at Dinas Powys Infants School, following enquiries by parents keen to start growing vegetables with their children. Five families have been working alongside each other on the largest plot in the garden, including families with no previous experience of growing their own food. 24 different types of vegetables have been grown on their plot, including these pumpkins (a credible Third Prize in the Village Show), which are being lined up for Halloween.

An impressive array of food was on offer, all contributed by plot-holders, including a cake made by Angela. David Southall, who was thanked by Keith during the speeches for donating the large greenhouse to the garden, is seen here cutting the cake, with Mike Ingram and Elizabeth Millard looking on.

Below is a picture of Robin Harrison at the plant stall, selling seeds and seedlings. Robin is a fount of gardening knowledge and he teaches an Organic Gardening course at Murchfield Community Centre on Wednesday mornings (10am-12 noon) during term-time; part of Penarth Community Learning Centre’s adult education programme.

Below are some photos taken during July and August, since my last dispatch on the Community Garden, including one of the small wooden seats Giles made from felled timber and one of my own plot. Like many plot-holders, I had good crops of runner beans, potatoes and courgettes; along with rhubarb, peas and chard. As Elizabeth said, at the conclusion of the speeches, this is the fulfilment of a dream to turn an ugly derelict area into an attractive productive garden, which has really bought together the community in this part of Dinas Powys.


Previous posts on creating a Community Garden in Dinas Powys:

June 2013

April 2013

March 2013

Feb 2013

Jan 2013

Oct 2012

Aug 2012

Feb 2012

Jan 2012

Thursday, 12 September 2013

YAKITORI#1, Cardiff

Amidst all the chain restaurants in Mermaid Quay, down in Cardiff Bay, it is good to see a local independent starting up. Last month, in a unit underneath The Glee Club, Yakatori#1 started serving modern Japanese cuisine - with the focus on sushi, grills and noodles. This is Japanese food that reflects the owners’ travels around the world seeing how it has evolved in contact with other cultures, such as California.

We were fortunate enough this week to be invited along to Yakatori#1, as guests of owners Meng and Cheryl Yap. Meng founded Ethnic Cuisine in Swansea in 1994; the company grew to employ around 400 people and supplied ready-meals for J. Sainbury’s. He sold that business five years ago, and is now embarking on this restaurant venture.

The Malaysian-born couple have assembled a highly-skilled team of chefs, who can be seen in the open kitchen preparing beautiful-looking food. Meng explains that, just as he told his former workers to always imagine Sainsbury’s looking over their shoulders, he likes his chefs to be aware of the customers whose food they are preparing.

The range of sushi - maki rolls, hosomaki and nigri sushi – look great and, as Meng says, are designed to produce taste sensations. Therefore, the amount of rice is kept relatively small, to allow the other ingredients to shine. Bowls of avocados are prominently displayed in the kitchen, and thin slivers of avocado contribute a distinctive cool and creamy dimension to Yakitori#1’s maki rolls. Salmon, prawns, crab, tuna, and chicken are among the other favoured ingredients. Rainbow maki is a colourful flavour sensation, while avocado and mango maki provided an unexpectedly sweet and delicious taste experience. 

‘Yakitori’ means ‘grilled chicken on a skewer’. Yakatori, a term that can be also used to describe skewered and grilled food generally, is served in small informal restaurants and from food stalls in Japan.  The chicken yakitori here is therefore something of a signature dish, and consists of succulent flattened chicken breast pieces, coated with teriyaki sauce, and spring onion on small wooden skewers. Lightly battered king prawns and gyozu (a type of dumpling) with a sweet chilli sauce were other highlights.

The freshness of the ingredients is very important to Meng and Cheryl (and there’s certainly no MSG). The fish is sourced from Brixham-based Channel Fisheries, while vegetable ingredients are obtained locally. The nori (seaweed) is imported from Japan (where it is farmed, toasted and packaged as rolled sheets on a large scale) and there’s a choice of Japanese beers.

Yakatori#1 is family-friendly, not something you usually associate with Japanese restaurants in the UK. The children’s menu has ‘mini mains’ of ramen, wok-fried noodle and rice dishes, and a mild curry (and ice cream, of course). The menu also offers lunch and dinner specials, bento lunches and take-away options.

The name suggests that there could be at least a Yakatori#2 to come. On the evidence of the food we tasted, that would not be too surprising.

Yakatori#1, Unit 10 Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff CF10 5BZ (Tel: 2049 5050)

All food kindly provided free by Yakatori#1
Photos in this post courtesy of the restaurant.

Friday, 6 September 2013

The Hayes, Cardiff

Previously, on this walking tour of Cardiff, I left you at the corner of Caroline Street with the Duke of Wellington pub.
Facing across The Hayes, pedestrianized when the St David’s extension you see in front of you was being built, and to your right is the new Cardiff Central Library building. There’s no café inside the library itself, but you’ll find tea/coffee and crisp/chocolate bar vending machines on the Second Floor. Today, in the entrance lobby, you were confronted by rows of Jamie Oliver's books, because staff from the nearby Jamie’s Italian are doing cookery demonstration at the weekend (7 Sept). On the outside ground floor of the St David’s extension:
Jamie’s Italian
LG 69/70 St David’s, The Hayes CF10 1GA (2002 7792)
I remember watching the TV series where Jamie Oliver toured Italy, which was relatively short on new insights into that country’s food. In hindsight, it was obviously a research trip for this popular venture he started in 2008 in collaboration with Italian chef and restaurateur Gennaro Contaldo. There are now around 35 branches of Jamie’s Italian in the UK. The Cardiff branch opened in late 2009. There used to be a chef making the daily fresh pasta in the front window, but he is now mainly confined to the open kitchen. Pasta dishes are a feature on the menu (e.g., sausage pappardelle with slow-braised fennel sausages, wild rabbit taglionini, and crab spaghettini). There are two types of vegetarian ravioli and two featured risottos (wild truffle, land and sea). Mains include burger, steaks, and ‘Jamie’s favourite turkey milanese’. You won’t find pizza here. As you would expect from someone who has campaigned for better school dinners, there is an effort on the kid’s menu to raise the bar from your average chicken nuggets and chips. You can buy Jamie’s books, planks (the slabs of wood on which much of the food is served), balsamic vinegar and so forth by the till. The outdoor seating sprawls across The Hayes, making you wonder where the property actually ends (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2013).
Across the way:
Duke of Wellington
42 The Hayes CF10 1AJ (2033 7190)
Brains-owned pub that was once considered a bit of “a dive”. It is that no more, being smartly refurbished  and re-opened in July 2010. This red-brick building was originally a Post Office and dates from 1892. Breakfast (to midday), sandwiches, burgers, ploughman’s lunches, and traditional pub food (e.g., fish and chips, pie of the day, Sunday roast) sit alongside more contemporary choices (e.g., Pear and fig savoury cheesecake) on the menu. We ate here today. I had one of my pub favourites, sausage and mash, which here takes the form of Welsh lamb dragon sausages (a bit of chilli in there) on plentiful mash with gravy. It was served on a deep plate, though most of the food comes on planks (or old breadboards as I have called them before; being a plate man myself); however, these sit fairly comfortably with the sandwich and ploughman’s aesthetic in the Duke of Wellington. My partner-who-always-choses-best went for a very fine warm steak baguette sandwich (on a plank) with separate bowl of gravy and ball of stuffing. The standard Brains range on draught (mine’s a Reverend James) and Brains craft ales on tap and in bottles, plus ciders and wine. There’s an outside seating area on The Hayes, contained relatively closely to the building (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. May 2013).
Next door is The Tabernacle Welsh Baptist Church (built 1821, rebuilt 1865). Then:
38 The Hayes CF10 1AJ (2022 0077)
Giovanni’s restaurant was established in 1983. It is a family-run establishment serving authentic Italian food. Owner Giovanni has been photographed with many Welsh sporting and entertainment stars, who have frequented his restaurant over the years, and he was involved in establishing the Café Quarter in this part of Cardiff. The cooking is described as provincial Italian. On the extensive menu are starters (e.g., Polpette della casa); pasta main courses and specials (e.g., Lasagne emiliane fatte in casa); poultry (e.g., Pollo al Pepe Nero), veal (e.g., Vitello ai funghi porcini), Welsh beef and Welsh lamb (e.g., Misto di carni alla griglia), and fish (e.g., Branzino cartoccio) dishes; pizza and salads. The two-course lunchtime special menu is probably the best value; you could have opted for sardines followed by pollo tarragon today. Wines include Chianti and Barolo. There is a take-away menu. They have not succumbed to the fashion for planks, last time I looked (Food Hygiene Rating 3: generally satisfactory. June 2013).
Next door is Dr Martens and then the entrance to the Royal Arcade. Directly opposite is the entrance to St David’s, past which you’ll find:
Starbucks Coffee
LG 59 St David’s, The Hayes CF10 1GA
One of two Starbucks in St David’s (the other is on the link bridge between the original and newer malls). Currently promoting a new Ethiopian blend, and giving out free samples in The Hayes.
Cross back, past the entrance to the Royal Arcade and further on are the two entrances to the Morgan Arcade. You will see a statue of John Batchelor (often with a pigeon perched on his head) at the start of the island in the middle of The Hayes. John Batchelor (1820-1883) was a Liberal politician and one-time Major of Cardiff who campaigned against slavery.
Hotel Chocolat
4 The Hayes CF10 1AH (2022 0007)
The Cardiff outlet of Hotel Chocolat opened in December 2012; the first in Wales. Founded by Angus Thirlwell, the shop sells artisan chocolates with intense flavours. Chilli, alcohol and botanical ingredients are a feature. I recommend the chocolate amaretto sultanas. There are also chocolate-flavoured drinks and a culinary range; I have some of their balsamic vinegar with chocolate nibs (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2013).
Hayes News
2 The Hayes CF10 1AH
Newsagent and confectionary (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. Oct 2011).
Waterstones next door marks the end of The Hayes as it is today on this side. In the centre of The Hayes, before the Old Library Building, is a snack bar and some of the best-preserved listed Victorian public toilets in the UK. These toilets were renovated in 2009. They were a very useful public amenity and of great historical interest, being the first public toilets in Cardiff opened in 1898. Cardiff Council shamefully closed these Victorian toilets earlier this year in a round of petty budget cuts.
The Hayes Island Snack Bar
The Hayes CF10 1HA (2039 4848)
The original building in the centre of The Hayes was built in 1911 as a parcel-collection office, on Cardiff’s tram route. It has been run as a café for over sixty years. Currently operated by First Cafes, it remains a distinctive Cardiff landmark. Seating is outside, under the trees, with shoppers streaming past on two sides. Typical orders include tea, coffee, bacon butties, baguettes, burgers and chips (Food Hygiene Rating 4: good. Jan 2013).
You can sit and watch the large screen on the side of St David’s Hall while having a snack at the snack bar. Today the Council were also setting out extra seating for the showing of the Last Night of the Proms (live from the Albert Hall) on the screen this Saturday evening.
St David’s Hall is at the start of Working Street. La Fosse, the restaurant alongside it closed recently. At the end of The Hayes, on this side, is the building formerly occupied by Habitat. A planning application has been submitted to split this fine building into three units with a communal entrance area.
Backtrack down The Hayes to the entrance of Royal Arcade. I’ll see you there next time.
Previously, on the Walking Tour of Cardiff:
The Old Brewery Quarter
Caroline Street
Mill Lane and Wyndham Arcade
St Mary Street
High Street
Castle Arcade and Castle Street
Womanby Street and Quay Street
Westgate Street
Cathedral Road
Pontcanna 2
Pontcanna 1
North Canton
Cowbridge Road East 3
Cowbridge Road East 2
Cowbridge Road East 1
Bute Park
Cathays Park
Cathays Terrace
Salisbury Road
Woodville Road
Crwys Road
Wellfield Road
Albany Road
City Road