Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Hayes, Cardiff

We are in The Hayes just in time for a preview night at Miller & Carter. They officially open this Friday, on the corner of Hills Street and The Hayes, in the building previously inhabited by Habitat (who went into administration in 2011). Enter the new steakhouse from Hills Street, where they have seating outside.

Miller & Carter
9-11 The Hayes CF10 1AH (2037 2344)
It’s bustling at the Tuesday preview night at Miller & Carter Steakhouse. Beef sourced in Britain is the thing here (tagline: ‘for the love of steak’) and so steak it is for us. After a slightly disappointing graze option, involving not-so-crisp home-made tortilla chips and a spinach and mozzarella dip, we are quickly won over when the main courses arrive.

I opted for a ribeye (12oz) and my partner a rump (8oz). At Miller & Carter, the steaks are served with a signature cheesy onion loaf (excellent), ‘seasoned fries’ (i.e. lots of salt) default (or jacket potato if you ask), and an iceberg lettuce wedge; we approved of this no-messing side-salad, literally a quarter of a fresh lettuce with your choice of dressing drizzled on top (bacon and honey mustard for me). In addition, there is a choice of steak sauces (me: peppercorn). Very tasty steaks, cooked medium to our taste (medium is rarer than it used to be, for those who remember Berni Inns).

Chefs at the grills serve up the meat on to plates, with wooden boards being reserved for the Chateaubriand (16oz), the most tender cut on offer, which is recommended for sharing. It’s the most expensive steak option (£43.95), but with 50% off the food bill on the night they were in demand. Options 'on-the-bone’ are T-Bone, Porterhouse and barbequed ribs.

Miller & Carter are owned by Mitchells & Butlers. This is the 34th Miller & Carter Steakhouse to open in the UK. There is already one in Cardiff:  a unit attached to the Red Dragon development in Cardiff Bay (across the car park near the Futures Inn). However, this prime city centre location puts Miller & Carter centre stage on the Cardiff dining scene.

We drank a rather nice bottle of Rioja from the ample wine list; though my partner thought they needed to work on their coffees that concluded our meal. We remember the Berni Inns of old, when the cream was expertly layered on top of the liquor coffee. Although Berni Inns (1955-1995, then sold to Whitbread and converted to Beefeaters and Brewers Fayre) were not an Mitchells & Butlers brand (though rival Harvester still is), Miller & Carter is what the British Berni Inn-style steakhouse has evolved into. We heartily approve.

Incidentally, the 1937 grade-II listed Hayes Building, which was originally home of the Electricity Board, has been sensitively redeveloped. There's a bar area, main restaurant and an upstairs mezzanine floor with a good view of the kitchen.

Eating steak is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me these days. Beef production has a major environmental impact, in terms of land use, water resources and greenhouse gases; far more so than chicken and pork production. A report published today in PNAS reinforces this. "The biggest intervention people could make towards reducing their carbon footprints would not be to abandon cars, but to eat significantly less red meat", says Prof Tim Benton of the University of Leeds, commenting on the findings in today's The Guardian. It's only occasional steaks for me these days - and those have to be good ones like they serve here!

Hayes Island
Outside, in The Hayes, can we just acknowledge the Hayes Island Snack Bar for taking over the running of the underground Victorian toilets that the Council closed; they are very convenient and of historical interest. You will shortly be able to ask them for a code to visit.

Bailey Carvery
9 -11 The Hayes CF10 1AH (2023 7755)
Part of the same recent redevelopment that has created Miller & Carter, this is the basement restaurant - entered by doors just before St David’s Hall - that was for many years La Fosse restaurant. Bailey Carvery offers breakfast buffet and an all-day carvery. Billed as ‘The Great British Carvery’, you can get traditional Sunday carvery here, every day of the week: slow-roasted beef, pork, turkey and gammon, with steamed fresh veg.

St David’s Hall
Working Street CF10 1SH (2087 8444)
Concert hall and conference centre. The main bar is on Level 3, where you can also catch some excellent Roots concerts. Food is sometimes served here, for example, at the lunchtime series of chamber music concerts. A Pimms bar is currently here for the Welsh Proms. The Art Cafe Celf on Level 4 is usually open during the day for sandwiches, coffee and cake. My next trip to St David's Hall is for some desert blues with Tinariwen from Mali – most appropriate given the current hot weather (Food Hygiene Rating 5: very good. March 2012).

Opposite, in the Old Library building:

Bar 1867
Old Library, 18-19 Trinity Street CF10 1BH
When we passed on the other side of the Old Library in my recent Trinity Street post, this was called the ‘Big Blue Sports Bar’. Then, I wrote that it would most probably have changed its name again by the time we got to it.

There has been a series of food venues in this northern part of the Old Library building, since the actual library moved out. It was once ‘Que Pasa’, and more recently ‘The Exhibition’. The restaurant called ‘The Old Library’ did some notable redecoration, but was also notable for being one of the first businesses in Cardiff to be awarded a zero Food Hygiene Rating, after they were first introduced by the Welsh Assembly Government in 2011.

Bar 1867 goes in for pub classics (meals for £6 and specials for £7.50): steak and ale pie, fish and chips, chicken curry, faggots and peas, burgers, jacket potatoes.

The Old Library building dates from 1881. The main Cardiff Library was located here between 1882 and 1988 (it is now located at the other end of The Hayes). Today, the building also houses the Tourist Information Centre and The Cardiff Story, a museum about the history of the city that is well worth a visit. The Cardiff Story has some interesting information about local food businesses (see link below).

See also:
The Cardiff Story opens

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