Culinary Causerie

With Lesley Williams and Sarla Langdon

Pier Pleasure with Lesley Williams

Oh how often I have complained that although I fancy a fish and chip supper, I don’t want to eat them out of paper, where the crispy batter has steamed into a soggy coating.

Hurrah! We now have a proper sit-down fish and chip shop on the bay. Copperfish, is part of the Mumbles Pier group and is right opposite the entrance to the pier. It’s on the site of the old Toby Bar but is totally unrecognisable after a complete makeover – the tables and chairs are stylish and, best of all, the tableware is in a pretty shade of sea green. One of my bêtes noires is cheap cutlery – please take note restaurateurs – part of the pleasure of eating is in the place setting and cheap metal forks are not pleasant to put in your mouth. A second hurrah goes out to the Bollom brothers in their choice of great quality silverware.

Anyway, enough shilly shallying – let’s cut to the chase – what’s the food like? Proper crispy battered fish – cod or haddock served with a dinky little bucket of proper chip-shop chips. They even do curry sauce – which is my guilty pleasure. If fried fish isn’t for you there is plenty more to choose from – salmon, beefburger and for the vegetarians a battered halloumi with sweet onion chutney. For those with smaller appetites there are crispy salt and pepper prawns or scampi – being greedy I had both. The prawns were huge and juicy while the scampi were perfect little mouthfuls – crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside; each came with a dainty serving of piquant tartare sauce.

The beauty of Copperfish is that it is accessible to all. Too often new eateries open up that have eye wateringly expensive menus – we are a seaside town for heaven’s sake – we don’t want to break the bank every time we take our family out for supper.

A takeaway service is also available and there’s plenty of parking.

Copperfish, Mumbles Pier, Mumbles Open 12.00 to 22.00 every day

Revisiting an old Favourite with Sarla Langdon

The popular The Favourite Cafe in Brynymor Road has relocated to spacious premises in the Marina. I have always found their genuine Beijing Chinese cuisine irresist-ible but the premises were a little cramped and stud-ent-y: now the Favourite occupies two luxurious floors with stunning views of the Marina moorings.

We were ushered into a light-filled atrium upstairs by the gorgeous chef patrone Gigi Gao and her team, all resplendent in dazzling cheongsams (tight-fitting Chinese gowns with hemlines slashed to the thigh). These glamorous yet gentle cicerenes led us through a really exciting menu, which featured unfamiliar dishes that begged to be tried out.

We chose spicy fried beancurd which turned out to be piquant stir-fried tofu noodles with a marvellous al dente texture, a starter I would recommend highly. The pork dumplings were robust and aromatic, each bite rewarding you with a burst of the stock it was cooked in — reminiscent of the large Beijing soup dumplings made famous by celebrated TV chef Anthony Bourdain but not yet available here. Our main courses of fried pork in a sweet and spicy dark sauce and an exquisite whole steamed fish, delicate, aro-matic and very flavourful made us resolve to return often to sample every superb item on the menu.

The lovely Gigi Gao explained that her menu is very authentically Beijing Chinese. Favourite’s noodles and dumplings are freshly made in house and the air of authenticity is amply vindicated by the sheer quality of the food.

Food writers bandy the word ‘umami’ freely. To understand what this word the eaterati use so fre-quently means, you need to visit The Favourite Cafe and taste this extra savoury dimension that they are able to deliver so deliciously.

Gigi Gao’s Favourite Authentic Chinese 18-23 Anchor Court, Victoria Quay, Maritime Quarter, Swansea SA1 3XA Tel: 01792 515230/653300

Oakhouse Foods with Lesley Williams

Hands up if you buy convenience meals from M&S or supermarkets and then freeze them for later. Hands up if you use a supermarket home delivery service. Hands up if you think that home delivered ready meals are only for the housebound and the elderly.

You can see where this is leading can’t you?

I’m sure I’m not alone in having the misconception that companies such as Oakhouse Foods are only used by th’ose unable to get out and shop for themselves or don’t have access to the internet.

So I was intrigued when a selection of their best sellers was dropped off to the studio for us to try.

The cooking instructions offer two alternatives, conventional or microwave oven. I must confess that I am not keen on microwaved food, as it always seems to lack that caramelisation that you get from radiant heat, so I opted for the fan oven. This of course meant that the cooking time was much longer but I think, worth the wait.

The chicken with ham hock and mushroom sauce topped with a puff pastry lid and served with sauté potatoes was the first out of the oven and my immediate reaction was – what a huge serving. I have been under the impression that portion sizes of ready meals were always on the meagre side – not this one, which would surely keep the hungriest man happy. Another plus point was the fact that the pastry lid had been cooked with the meat and sauce and was not merely a pastry disc popped on top. This meant that it wasn’t a dry crust but moist with the juices from the sauce. All in all it got the thumbs up from the tasting panel.

Next came salmon in a watercress and mustard sauce served with baby potatoes and green beans. There must be quite an art in the preparation of meals that are to be frozen and then re-heated before serving, as each component would ordinarily be cooked separately and then plated up. The salmon, potatoes and green beans were all perfectly cooked. The potatoes – complete with skins and looking exactly as they do when cooked at home – were soft and the beans had a slight bite to them. There was plenty of the watercress and mustard sauce to bring the whole dish together.

Other dishes that we tried were a chunky soup with chorizo, celery and leek, and a pesto pasta salad that was perfect for a lunch on the go. You would simply take it out of the freezer in the morning and let it defrost for 3 or 4 hours. We also tried a couple of desserts – salted caramel melting-middle puddings and a bread and butter pudding all of which met with murmurs of approval.

The variety of dishes on offer is vast with options for smaller portion sizes if your appetite isn’t that of a good trencherman. Another plus point for ordering meals through Oakhouse Foods is the range of everyday groceries that they also deliver – from breakfast cereal to bacon and eggs, to household products and pet food.

For more information visit or call 0333 370 3206 and request a brochure

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