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food/drink


JAMIE’S ITALIAN **** St David’s Centre, Cardiff. 029 2002 7792


I walk past Jamie’s Italian most days. It’s always a hive of activity, with waiters strutting round and smug punters proudly sipping Messina outside. They’re not really smug, actually – it’s just that, more than six months since it opened, there’s obviously still a buzz about Jamie’s Italian. And I wanted to go. I wanted to scoff at its faux-rustic decor and mock its overpriced pasta. I didn’t want to like it. We started with an antipasti plank of cured meats, cheeses, pickles and Italian coleslaw (£6.65) and a bowl of manchego olives (£3.60), which arrived on ice. The plank was pretty good, but the olives were amazing – huge, pea-green beads with a caper and anchovy tapenade. My partner and I fought over them. We didn’t share our mains. She went for lamb chop lollipops (£13.95): huge slabs of Welsh mountain lamb cooked under a brick. I was intrigued by the fish in a bag (£15.95), which consisted of lots of fish, clams, mussels and cracked wheat, steamed in a bag. Jamie’s is the only Italian I’ve been to where they routinely cook things under bricks or in bags. I was pondering a request for Goat Roasted In An Old Tyre or Lamb Blanched On A Yard of Rope when our mains turned up. My partner devoured the lamb chop lollipops hungrily; I worked my way through the fish. It was beautifully cooked, and the juices were fantastic with the cracked wheat. The bag got in the way a bit. But it didn’t really matter. Jamie’s Italian really is very good: reasonably priced, unpretentious and just about detached enough from the celeb chef to prevent it from being nauseatingly ‘pukka’. BEN BRYANT


SEQUOIAS *****


New House Country Hotel, Thornhill, Cardiff. 029 2052 0280 When wedding planning two years ago, we considered the New House as our recep- tion venue, but due to numbers it didn’t work out. I decided at the time I shouldn’t visit the venue as, after hearing such amazing things about it, I knew I’d fall in love with it, take a hacksaw to our guest list, and un-invite several family members. As we turned into the drive of the hotel and looked to our left to see the most amazing view of Cardiff I’ve ever seen, I thought, “I definitely should’ve bumped off the aunties.”


Redecorated in late 2009, Sequoias brings modernity to an elegant and traditional setting with a tasteful balance that isn’t often found. Immediately noticeable is the wide variety available on the menu, and it took some time for us to decide, but thankfully we weren’t rushed as we relaxed in the lounge room before being taken through to the restaurant. To start, we opted for the grilled portabella mushrooms with Welsh goat’s cheese and garlic gratin (£4.95) and pea soup with poached Thornhill farm duck egg and truffle oil (£5.95). Both were extremely delicious and I don’t think I’ve ever tasted goat’s cheese so good before. For our main course we had braised Usk Valley beef ‘short rib’ with horseradish & mustard mash (£15.95) and poussin with king prawn and asparagus with fondant potato and prawn bisque (£19.95) with a side portion of seasonal vegetables (£2.95). Again the food was faultless. The poussin was so moist it fell off the bone and the short rib simply melted in the mouth. Possibly the best meal we’ve had in Cardiff since moving here six years ago, I highly recommend Sequoias not only for the amazing food, but for the spectacular location and view. ANGHARAD BROWN


MALTSTERS **** Cardiff Road, Llandaff, Cardiff. 029 2033 3096 In the current climate, it’s the bars and restaurants that provide good food at affordable prices that will win the battle, which in turn ensures customer loyalty and repeat business, this is the key to survival. Thankfully, Maltsters in Llandaff has more than achieved this by offering an ever changing daily menu coupled with reasonable pricing and an overall good experience. One glorious afternoon last month we ventured to their pleasant terrace and, with a couple of glasses of dry white wine, settled in for a smoked salmon and citrus crème fraiche bagel with hand cut chips (£6.25); deep fried blanchbait (whitebait to you and me) with homemade tartare sauce (£4.95); followed by lemon and lime cheesecake (£4.95), a stem ginger pudding with custard (£4.50) and a chocolate and peanut butter terrine with vanilla cream (£4.75). Yes, it was as fattening as it sounded, but delicious. Dishes start from around £4.95, going up to £13.95 for steak. A stress-free atmosphere allows a more relaxed way of dining, which is a refreshing change. Maltsters prides itself, after its recent refurbishment, as an unpretentious haven where simple home-cooked food is prepared brilliantly every day. After several visits at various times I can say that the quality of food, service and price is always excellent, staff are very friendly, and the menu choice is enough to please even the most difficult diner. Whether you’re spending a romantic evening with a loved one, celebrating a family birthday, a rowdy lunch with the girls or a business lunch, you won’t be disappointed or feel ripped off. Another plus point: no TVs or music. ANTONIA LEVAY


BUZZ 36


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