Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Royal Arcade, Cardiff

Royal Arcade opened in 1858 and is the oldest surviving arcade in Cardiff. It was designed and built by James & Price, for the Cardiff Arcade Company, and connects The Hayes to St Mary Street.

We enter the Royal Arcade from The Hayes, with Dr Martens (boots) and Scribbler (greeting cards of dubious taste) on your left-hand side and Rossiters (Bath-based designer department store) to your right. Second on the left, though you’ll have to walk a few units to find the door:

Wally's Delicatessen and Wally's Kaffeehaus
38-46 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2022 9265)
This family-run delicatessen, currently owned by Steven Salamon, has been a feature of the Royal Arcade since 1981. The deli has expanded considerably since it first opened and stocks around 1,600 products from around the world. It’s great for those unusual ingredients and foods imported from continental Europe.  In 2011, Wally’s Kaffeehaus opened upstairs. This Viennese-style coffee house specializes in Open Sandwiches, such as the Tyrol (roast chicken breast, chorizo, shaved manchego cheese, Piquillo peppers, garlic mayonnaise, rocket, black olives and toasted sourdough) and the Baden (German smoked black ham, Hereford Hop cheese, chutney, balsamic onions and sliced pear, on wholegrain seeded bread). Vegetarian options include the Rohrbach (Grilled aubergine and Caerphilly cheese). The Aufschnitt comprise sharing platters of cold meats or cheeses. The menu draws on the deli produce downstairs, so if you particularly like something chances are you can buy it on the way out.

32 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2022 3158)
Fresh Baguette opened in 2000 and has established itself as one of the most popular independent sandwich shops in Cardiff. Gareth Lawton and his partner Samantha make good use of Twitter to promote the business, with daily specials often posted in the morning (@freshbaguette1). Yesterday’s was Falafel and Humous Baguette with salad and toasted cumin seeds. My most recent involved chicken, bacon, mayo, rocket, red onion and salami cracking. Easily the most creative sandwich-makers in the city; they are not afraid to be experimental, with novel ingredient combinations and spicy sauces. Regulars can also work through the 100-plus regular fillings for baguette and paninis on the menu. Service is friendly and efficient. Expect to see a queue outside at lunchtimes.

The alley across the way, Tabernacle Lane, links Royal Arcade with Morgan Arcade.

Vom Fass
28-30 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2022 9497)
Vom Fass Cardiff sells oils, vinegars and spirits from barrels.

The cupcake shop Velvet Ice (formerly 20 Royal Arcade), which opened in 2011, has closed. Has the inexplicable (to me) fashion for cupcakes peaked?

Further along this southern side of the arcade, there is a Health with Herbs (24 Royal Arcade).

I intended to take lunch in Harleys Coffee Shop (8 Royal Arcade) when my walking tour made it to the Royal Arcade. But, alas, this long-established coffee shop closed earlier this year after 13 years of trading in the arcade.

This side of the arcade also has a new Oxfam book shop, with vinyl records upstairs. At the entrance from St Mary Street, there’s a sign of the times: an electronic cigarette shop.

Cross to the other side of the arcade, which currently starts with a seasonal Christmas shop.

Royal Sweet Shop
7 Royal Arcade CF10 1AE (2038 7438)
Traditional newsagent with rows of those tall jars of old-fashioned sweets.

There are no further food-related units in Royal Arcade. However, of note along this side of the arcade is the very wonderful stationary and art supply shop Pen and Paper (where our eldest daughter has a Saturday job).

Further along, by the entrance to Tabernacle Lane, is the Ian Allen bookstore and model shop (31 Royal Arcade), specializing in books on transport.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Cardiff Marriott and River Cottage in partnership

The display featuring muddy carrots is not something you usually see in a hotel restaurant. Another clue as to what’s occurring are the shelves of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall books. We are in Zest, the restaurant at Cardiff Marriott, to sample the new menu created in partnership with River Cottage.

People increasingly like to know where their food comes from and how it is produced. In responding to diners’ interest in the provenance of their food, Zest has teamed up with Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage: an organization built around locally-sourced, ethically and sustainably produced, seasonal food.

Cardiff is one of only two Marriott Hotels to trial the partnership. If successful, it will be rolled out to more of Marriott’s other 50 UK hotels. The goals the partnership has set are ambitious ones.

For the menu, Marriott is committing to increase the use of local food, produced within a 60 mile radius of the hotel, to 80%. In Cardiff, Marriott is lucky. There is a wealth of Welsh food producers to choose from. The produce sourced for the menu so far includes meat from Graig Farm and Slade Farm, fish and shellfish from Gower Coast Seafood and E. Ashton, eggs from Farmhouse Freedom Eggs, cheese and dairy products from Calon Wen and Abergavenny Fine Foods, and vegetables from the Welsh Box Scheme and Ty Mawr Organic.

Because the menu is seasonal, the menu will change frequently. Daily changes are expected, so even regulars will find something different to order.

The amount of food wastage in the catering industry generally can be pretty shocking. Marriott’s are here committing to further reducing food wastage from their current low level of 5%.

By improving sustainability practices, Marriott’s hopes to improve its Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) rating in the two hotels trialling the partnership with River Cottage.

All the meat and vegetables on the menu will be organic, with the chicken also being free-range, and the fish and shellfish sustainably-sourced.

The partnership has involved staff from Marriott Cardiff taking part in training courses at River Cottage’s recently launched Chefs’ School, to acquire new skills relating to sustainable food procurement and other areas that complement their catering industry expertise.

On the table, the rosemary bread was very fresh, and there was a sprig of rosemary on the table (impossible not to pinch and smell). We started with ‘Parsley Salad’ and ‘Squash & Goat Cheese Salad’. Parsley was a feature of my salad, but the main interest was the crab meat, accompanying soft-boiled egg, and the intense anchovies hidden underneath. Crisp thin-sliced beetroot was the unannounced star of the other colourful salad.

For Mains, I opted for ‘Slow Cooked Organic Graig Farm Brisket’, served with anchovy and rosemary potato gratin and red wine sauce; the meat melted in the mouth. My partner had the ‘Slade Farm Lamb’, with mashed celeriac, chilli and thyme. The lamb had a subtle barbeque flavour.

The other vegetables, ordered as sides, were ‘Honey Glazed Carrots’ and ‘Kale, Chilli and Fennel Seeds’. The carrots had a wonderful intense flavour and looked great – orange, white and purple. The fennel on the kale produced a sensational effect, though the chilli was a little heavy for our taste in this context.

With sides this was not ‘small plate’, but rather ‘three good things on a plate’ (the title of one of Hugh’s books).

I’m afraid that for the ample puddings we opted for exotic options, with some ingredients what were probably not grown around Cardiff. My ‘Sticky Date Pudding’ came with homemade vanilla ice cream, and my partner’s ‘Almond and Orange Pudding’ came with a slice of pear cooked in red wine as well as the ice cream. However, a warm beetroot brownie, and apple and cherry crumble with custard, were also on the menu.

Local wine and beers are available, although they were not listed on the main wine and drinks menu. We had a bottle of Glyndwr 2012, a medium dry white wine produced on a vineyard established in 1982 by the Norris family in Llanbleddian, near Cowbridge, in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Generally, the local and seasonal approach can help produce a coherent menu, where fresh food items are used in different ways throughout to create a satisfying dining experience that also celebrates and supports local growers and artisan producers.

Zest actively encourages locals to join hotel guests in their dining room.

Marriott Cardiff:

River Cottage:

All food and drink consumed was kindly provided by Marriott Cardiff.