Culinary Causerie

with Lesley Williams

HaPPI-ness

Sarla Langdon called…..‘Darling I’ve had a windfall – we must go out and celebrate by eating lobster’.

How many times have you had a telephone call asking you to give your banking history to a PPI claim company, and dismissed them as a nuisance call? I have to hold my hand up to that as will many of our readers, but Sarla had finally given in and engaged the services of a no win no fee company – and bingo they had come up trumps to the tune of several thousand pounds! So it was that we were about to eat, drink and be merry courtesy of the Royal Bank of Scotland. My next challenge was to find a restaurant that served lobster Thermidor as requested.

La Parilla in Mumbles seemed the obvious choice, as I had heard that they’re seafood display was pretty impressive, and after a quick phone call to manager Pascal our lobsters were booked. The newly opened bras-serie on the sea-front at Mumbles has almost 360 degree views from the first floor dining room. The décor really does have the wow factor (see pics above), and this is down to local architectural and interior design consultants Thomas Parry Design Partnership, who have created a wonderful space.

We watched a magnificent sun-set while we waited for the arrival of the king of crustaceans.

Lobsters are considered a luxury food and are generally sold according to weight – ours were just under £40 each – but remember this was a very special meal and not something we would normally do. Served Thermidor, the lobster is topped with a mustardy cheesy sauce and then grilled until golden and bubbling – just perfect for dipping big fat golden chips into. I like lobster fairly plain so opted for having it in a simple garlic butter sauce which was also the ideal chip dip.

We raised our glasses and drank a toast to RBS and the not so annoying PPI !

La Parilla, 147 Mumbles Road, Mumbles, Swansea, SA3 4DN Tel: 01792 360090


Number 6 Hundred

Just over three years ago Donna Edwards had a dream of opening a little café cum gift shop in Ynystawe. Some thought she was just a little bit bonkers to be setting up a shop that would be more at home in a Cotswold village, but Donna had a vision. Today Number 6 Hundred is a destination – people flock there to eat spectacular afternoon teas and to buy distinctive gifts. We popped in for lunch just before Easter when the shop was bedecked with bunnies and eggs and packed with people celebrating birthdays and entertaining holidaying children. It was all very festive.

Number 6 Hundred would have originally been a private residence and Donna has created a wonderfully cosy atmosphere by keeping the ‘rooms’ intact. You can sit at a mis-match of tables and chairs, from kitchen table-type to a velvet covered throne.

The menu is quite concise – a selection of sandwiches, soups and savouries along with an array of cakes to satisfy the sweetest of tooth. But what the menu lacks in choice it makes up for in the quality of the food. The chicken, bacon and mayonnaise sandwich was chock-a-block with freshly roasted chicken and bacon – this certainly wasn’t a commercially produced sandwich filling.

As I have probably mentioned on more than one occasion I love soup, but it has to be home-made. I can spot a tinned or carton version at 10 paces – they have, in my opinion, the same aftertaste as ready meals with maybe one exception – Heinz cream of tomato. So when a good soup is on offer it’s my preferred light lunch. Today’s offering was cawl – how could I resist? At Number 6 Hundred the cawl is served in a quirky little flowerpot – without the drainage hole I’m happy to report! Tender chunks of lamb in a broth thick with carrots, swede and potato served with a generous chunk of bread – a soup mam-gu would be proud of.

Pop along sometime and see what Donna has created – you won’t be disappointed.

Number 6 Hundred, 600 Clydach Road, Ynystawe, Swansea SA6 5AY Tel: 07789075488


SLICE revisited

Living just a couple of minutes walk from arguably the finest restaurant locally – it is rated number 1 out of 557 restaurants in Swansea, you would imagine that I would be eating there on a regular basis. But herein lies the problem – the restaurant is so tiny – just 16 covers, that it gets booked up for weeks in advance and you have to think ahead – you can’t just pop in for an impromptu supper.

Chefs Adam Bannister and Chris Harris share the kitchen, while Chris’s wife Lindsay looks after the front of house. The service is great and proves that fine dining doesn’t have to be served in stuffy surroundings. Its entry in the Michelin Guide 2018 is testament to how good the food is. “Fresh ingredients, capably prepared: simply a good meal.” Michelin inspectors don’t gush – they just say it like it is.

The menu changes every six weeks or so and uses the best of all available local produce. There’s always an amuse bouche – this time it was a little pot of warm humus which was perfect for spreading on the freshly baked bread – not that the bread really needed anything more as it was deliciously salted and oil infused.

Although the choice for starters and mains is limited to three, it is still always a challenge to make a decision – inevitably we each choose a course and then share! The dishes are very complex and are made of so many elements, each requiring a huge amount of attention to detail. The flavours in my starter (right) of poached quail breast and braised leg, herb gnocchi, king oyster mushrooms and tarragon sauce, were perfectly balanced. The hint of aniseed flavour of the tarragon was very subtle.

Some time ago I went on a seafood course at Rick Stein’s cookery school in Padstow, where I learnt to fillet and cook all manner of fish. On the day I was there the mackerel catch was very poor so they substituted them with another fish that is plentiful off the Cornish coast, gurnard. These are pink in colour because their diet is rich in crabs and prawns. Here the chefs had barbequed fillets of gurnard and served it with a cockle linguine – the smokiness of the barbeque gave the otherwise pretty bland flesh another dimension.

I have to admit to turning to the internet to find out about one of our main courses – Galician beef fillet with ox tail “cottage pie” onion puree and purple sprouting broccoli. The beef was, to use a hackneyed phrase ‘melt in the mouth’ tender and the oxtail had that deep beefy flavour that only comes with slow cooking. It was the Galician description that flummoxed me. Apparently, Galican beef is the new Wagu – it’s from a breed of bulls and cows called Galician Blond that are over eight years old and from Galicia in north west Spain. Well I’m not sure about all the hype but it certainly was a good steak.

Whenever possible, I prefer to eat fish when we go out to a restaurant – mainly because a skilled chef will prepare it far better than I ever will. Here the fish was roast brill and langoustine with burnt leeks, radish, langoustine beurre blanc and friseline (left). Brill is similar to turbot, in that it is soft and has a delicate taste, here the addition of the shaved radishes and friseline gave a slight bite to the dish. Again it was all about the balance.

The dessert is always a course too far for me, but if I hadn’t wimped out there was a very pretty pear and almond tart or a vanilla cheesecake with poached rhubarb.

As usual the whole experience was one of great pleasure – both the food and the service were faultless. My fear is that Adam and Chris will be wooed away from Sketty to set up a bigger establishment that I won’t be able to walk to.

Booking is essential – be prepared to have to wait several weeks for a table.

Slice, 73 – 75 Eversley Road, Sketty, Swansea SA2 9DE Tel: 01792 290929


Market Plaice

Market Plaice, the fishmongers at Unit 57B in Swansea Market is under new ownership. Rhys Williams (above left) took over from Paul Raeburn last month and is looking forward to welcoming customers, regular and new.

Rhys will continue to stock the best fish available and at reasonable prices – locally sourced wherever possible. I have always found the fish at Market Plaice to be of the highest quality – and the friendly members of staff are always happy to help prepare your chosen fish ready for cooking. Look out for the blackboards with the day’s special offers.


Gower Ice Cream

Arriving later this month is a brand new ice cream made in Wales: Gower Ice Cream is the new venture of Wales’ international rugby player Ryan Jones.

The ice-cream is made with fresh Welsh milk and double cream and is gluten free – it comes in four flavours, Langland Chocolate, Rhossili Straw-berry, Mumbles Mint Choc Chip and Three Cliffs Vanilla.

The eco-friendly plastic-free packaging features distinctive graphic illustrations of Gower locations.

Available from selected outlets towards the end of this month – look out for a new ice-cream parlour opening in Newton Road too.

www.gowericecream.com

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