EARLY THIS YEAR I RESOLVED TO CHALLENGE OLD ASSUMPTIONS AND TRY OUT NEW CULINARY CONCEPTS WHENEVER POSSIBLE. MY RESOLUTION WAS GREETED WITH DERISION WHEN I REVEALED THAT I HAD NEVER BEEN INSIDE A McDONALDS EATERY OR A GREGGS IN MY LIFE
No more a McDonalds Virgin
BAY’s intrepid friend Ann Jones MBE led me firmly into the McDonalds in Langdon Road (named after my late husband) and introduced me to the intricacies of fast-food dining etiquette.
I must confess I was impressed by the smart and spotless interior of this much-maligned restaurant (café?) and nimbly avoided ordering any food involving the rather flabby and unappetizing bread. I sat down with a very good and very fresh crisp chicken and bacon salad, washed down with a delicious ice-cold frappe which had inexplicable bits of chocolatey grit in it.
Very impressive too, was the service, the counter staffed by smart and utterly efficient young people who handled long queues with aplomb. The rather mystifying drive-through service seemed to work flawlessly as well.
Greggs, in the best British tradition, bakes everything — it is impossible to go wrong with their toothsome range of time-honoured pies and pastries. Our editor Lesley’s contribution to my culinary education was to march in one afternoon with a large and hearty chicken bake from Greggs, bursting with chunks of meat in a creamy white sauce. I love robust, traditional food and I salute Greggs’ savoury master-pieces. It is deeply disappointing, though, to learn that they do not have a sit-down restaurant or café in Swansea.
Another gastronomic discovery that I must share with you is the very delectable Blue Monday cheese made by Alex James, a member of the band Blur. Blue Monday is a fine, creamy, veined blue cheese with a depth of flavour and a perfection of texture that ranks it among the most sophisticated dessert cheeses —- though I was quite happy devouring it for lunch with some dark and heavy Russian rye bread and a bunch of black grapes.
I found Blue Monday at the I found Blue Monday at the delicatessen counter in Sainsbury’s; they also make the dense rye bread that is so excellent an accompaniment for their cheeses, fine cured hams or some good smoked salmon with a dollop of crème fraiche.
My attitude to Sainsbury’s has mellowed a little because I have noted a certain improvement in their service and prices. Long may it last….
NEW – The Sea Side Great Hall Café-Bar and Restaurant
Swansea University’s magnificent Bay campus is the venue for the new-est restaurant in Swansea. Located in the Great Hall, the iconic gold-en edifice at the entrance to the complex, the spacious high ceilinged restaurant is on the first floor balcony commanding fabulous sea views with the sandy sweep of a wide accessible beach as a splendid backdrop.
The airy restaurant is open all day, serving an excellent selection of tapas, sandwiches, shared platters and sweets in addition to more substantial meal-time specials and Sunday lunches.
Bowing to my love of fried foods, we brunched on the Swansea Bay sharing sea-food platter which included squid, sole goujons, tempura prawns, warm sourdough toast and a little pot of tartare sauce— a perfect choice for our marine environment. The day was sunny and warm, the balcony doors were open with a waft of balmy sea-breezes enhancing the milieu.
We ordered an exotic Fever Tree tonic water—very refreshing and unusual—and a slice of Eton Mess cake with coffee to finish. The waiter popped menus of daily specials, rack of ribs and home-made banana cake, as an incentive to return and try them out I imagine.
Lunch at the Great Hall restaurant is a rewarding experience which could quite easily turn into a tradition. The Swansea University signature nightmare of parking is allayed somewhat by twenty parking places allocated for restaur-ant customers — a very welcome ruling.
The whole experience was pleasant and rather novel, the food delicious—though the choice is severely limited if you don’t eat beef and don’t like the bread. On the plus side, everything is fried and that has to be the tastiest way of cooking food.