Monday, 15 September 2014

The Smoke Haus, Cardiff

Saturday was our 25th wedding anniversary. For a celebratory lunch with Meg, a friend of ours recommended a new restaurant set amongst Cardiff's urban sprawl, The Smoke Haus, an authentic American barbecue diner. Very fitting considering 25 years ago we were celebrating our nuptials with a roast beef dinner in the USA. 

John had been drooling in anticipation for days and was looking forward to getting the meat sweats! It didn't let him down. He chose the Smoke Haus Threesome. I wondered if that was a hint but I should count my blessings that he didn't choose The Homewrecker. The Threesome was a combo of pulled pork, slow cooked beef brisket and pastrami with sweet potato fries on the side. I had the pulled pork hoagie with a side of fries and Meg had the Philly Beef and Swiss.  Boy oh boy, the meat was succulent and plentiful and the thing I particularly liked most was that it was not swimming in sauce, just simply meat with all it's flavours intact and enhanced by, presumably, The Smoke Haus secret method of preparation. One likes to think it's a secret anyhow and I didn't want to spoil that illusion by asking. I'm drooling again just writing about it!

There's nothing fancy about The Smoke Haus. It's a clean wide open expanse of warehouse style interior with an authentic American feel, even in terms of the welcome which is most definitely warm and inviting. It was early so we were the first diners but within an hour the place was full.  The staff have the American ethos of service down to a tee, attentive, friendly but not invasive. The serving sizes are USA generous, so much so we ended up with a good sized doggy bag for Sookie. 

With drinks and sides lunch came in at £45 for the three of us. I see this place hopping on weekend nights, they did say they were fully booked that evening.  It's one of those places you hope make a success of it in amongst more than a handful of local dining establishments. It has a young vibe with a great menu. They even have an app you can download to select the music. I can't wait to go back. If there was to be a criticism, particularly for the American amongst us, it was that there was Soccer on TV, not American Football and with the NFL season having just started it would most definitely have been the icing on a great day's cake.

Meg surprised us with a weekend in London. We may as well move there as it will be our third visit in a month. Watch this space!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Oxford Street, London.

When Meg spread her wings back in 2011 (remember here) I thought my world had ended. The ties that bind, however, are thankfully strong and still living in Cardiff we see her quite often, but only maybe for a quick meal, to collect mail and occasionally when a shoulder to cry on is needed. When a free day coincided I came up with a cunning plan, a girlie day in London. All day together with no interruptions, bliss. We caught a mid morning train, planned to grab a quick lunch in St. Christopher's Place and then six hours of shopping before meeting with old friends for Dinner. 

On arrival we thought Prince William had a tip on our arrival as he was walking towards us on the platform, but alas no, he was on his way to Oxford. It was one of those moments when you ask yourself "is that?, yes it is". Before you know it, whoosh, its too late to get your camera out, gone in a flash! Oh well, we've seen him in the flesh, he's tall, skinny and, sorry Wills, bald.

Oxford Street was bathed in sunshine, intense and gleaming. I left Meg to do most of the shopping whilst I ambled along, sat on the stone benches along the way, people watching and taking photos. The street is a mixture of architectural styles, Gothic Victorian, Art Deco and then more modern due to extensive bombing during WWII. Remember to look up if you visit. London Fashion Week starts soon and so the windows were dressed with show highlights. My guess is next spring's style is all about colour.

After six exhausting hours we made our way to Berners Tavern, a place I've been meaning to visit for ages. It didn't let me down. There are lots of superlatives I could use for this place but one will suffice, exceptional. Greeting, cocktails, service, food, decor, ambiance, all exceptional. There were 5 of us in total and the bill came to £350. That included cocktails, wine (2 bottles) three courses and service. At £70 per head in such surroundings I thought it was good value. You'll need to book if you want to dine there, by 7pm there was not a free seat anywhere. It was a Monday night so I can only imagine how busy the weekends are. 

We caught a late train back and were home by midnight. Phew, what a great day out and one we hope to do often.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

City Meadow

Many years ago, Plymouth Park in Penarth Marina & Haven was a landfill site. Over the years it has had it's problems, yellowing grass, the replacement of underground pipe works, dogs becoming ill after playing there and an unsavoury issue with dog poop.  Last year the Vale of Glamorgan re-turfed and seeded with a wildflower meadow and this past week saw the first appearance of the blooms, cornflowers, daisies and poppies. I've been meaning to stop there every day to take some pictures but today was my first opportunity. The vibrant blooms coupled with the backdrop of clear blue skies made it a beautiful sight. What a joy and welcomed addition to the area.