Culinary Causerie

With Lesley Williams

Positano

There’s a new Italian restaurant in town – Positano has opened in J Shed making this area of SA1 quite the place to come to eat.

Positano has made its home in the space vacated by Café Twocann at the end of last year. They have integrated the old arcade thoroughfare into the main body of the restaurant, making a large, modern dining room. But although this is a huge space which retains its industrial heritage, the décor is very much contemporary Italian with a pizza oven taking centre stage at front of house.

The food is very much what you would expect from a family run Italian restaurant. The menu isn’t vast but concentrates on delivering enough variety to please everyone.

There are platters of antipasto, Italian cheese with fig jam, mussels and deep-fried squid to whet your appetite – fresh calamari is a favourite of mine, especially as it was here, served with garlic mayonnaise. The light batter was exquisitely crunchy and salty which proved the perfect foil for the creamy unctuous mayo – I was happy.

Italian food can be quite carbohydrate heavy – and I don’t say that as a criticism – I love carbs. But even I struggle to keep up with Simon who can easily eat a plate of good pasta and then follow it with steak and chips. In Italy the structure of the meal is very different from a traditional English meal. Antipasto is the first course of something light to nibble on, my calamari is typical. Next comes the Primo; this will be a pasta course or maybe a risotto. After this comes Il Primo consisting of meat or fish possibly served with vegetables, then of course comes Dolce or dessert.

So, when Simon ordered a plate of spaghetti carbonara followed by steak and chips the waiter nodded and agreed that a primo and a secondo was good. The carbonara comes in two versions, Italian and English. I have often argued that a true carbonara contains no cream, just pancetta, eggs and parmesan. If you get the balance of cheese and beaten eggs right, you really don’t need cream to get the perfect light coating of sauce on the pasta.

My main course was spaghetti gamberi; pasta with king prawns. This was a luxurious dish full of sweet juicy king prawns in a light sauce of white wine and garlic – I certainly wouldn’t have been able to follow it with a steak or even a dessert.

Positano is definitely going to be a regular haunt for me in the future – and they do a 2-course lunch for just under £12.

Positano, J Shed, Kings Road, Swansea SA1 8PL Tel: 01792 462400


Gilligans

Sometimes when you go out to eat, what you really want is a proper home cooked meal, not something fancy that has been put on your plate with a paint brush.

Their mission statement from their website reads ‘Our aim at Gilligan’s Restaurant is to produce good quality, wholesome, tasty meals at affordable prices, where you can dine in a relaxed, comfortable atmosphere’. It also operates a ‘bring your own wine’ policy which can help to make the evening very affordable. The starters were good – fresh battered haddock goujons with a lemony garlic mayonnaise. These golden, deep fried miniature fish fillets had the perfect crunchy exterior with the soft but firm fishy interior. They needed nothing else.

I like the use of the word wholesome in their statement, it rings true with the cuts of meat that are on the menu slow cooked pork belly, braised beef, roasted duck leg – all need time to prepare. This simply isn’t fast food. They are cheaper to buy than the premium cuts, but you must bear in mind that they take much more time to prepare than flash frying a prime piece of steak on a grill, so what isn’t expensive to buy is time rich to make.

The braised beef had been slowly casseroled, I could have eaten it with a spoon. The buttery mashed potatoes were the ideal accompaniment for soaking up the rich gravy. Simon’s chicken in a brandy and peppercorn sauce was equally splendid – at least I am reliably told it was delicious – I didn’t get an opportunity to try it. All the main courses are served with generous side dishes of freshly cooked vegetables – all in season.

Desserts were offered but declined – we simply couldn’t have eaten another thing, but as this is a three-course set menu price we were offered the opportunity of having one to take away, which is how I came to leave with a box of two chocolate brownies for breakfast.

 Gilligan’s will also become a regular supper destination for us, especially as it is within a 5-minute walk of Bay HQ.

Gilligan’s 100 Eversley Road, Sketty, Swansea, SA2 9DF Tel: 01792 203767


Onwards, Upwards and Around the Corner for Wales’ First Micro Pub

Wales’ first micro pub, the Mumbles Ale House, has relocated to The Victoria Inn within Mumbles giving this backstreet public house a new identity and lease of life.

New owners Gerrard and Bronwen Armor (pictured above) have refurbished the 150-year-old pub located on the corner of Westbourne and Gloucester Place so that their popular micro pub format can be replicated within it.

The Mumbles Ale House was established in 2012 by Roderick Undy and his partner Karen McGeoch who took a former clothes shop and gallery at the bottom of Dunns Lane and transformed it into a micro pub serving a variety of ales directly from the barrel.

Husband and wife team Gerrard and Bronwen took it over two years later, continuing the winning formula, stocking ales from different micro-breweries in a friendly, welcoming environment free of music, TV and slot machines.

Having built up a loyal following of local customers as well as attracting visitors and holiday makers, the Mumbles Ale House was named Swansea CAMRA Pub of the Year in 2016 and featured as a ‘little gem’ and ‘must visit destination’ in the Sunday Telegraph, Evening Standard and Observer newspapers.

“The opportunity came up to buy the Victoria Inn and so we jumped at it” says Gerrard Armor. “It’s a great building with old world charm and more space for a greater number of customers to enjoy all that the Ale House concept has to offer, plus it’s only 150 metres up the hill and around the corner from where we are now.

“We have put our own design stamp on it and have kept the original well, used in the mid-19th century for brewing the pub’s own beer, intact as a quirky historically significant feature.”

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), more than a quarter of Britain’s pubs have closed their doors since the turn of the millennium, with numbers falling from 52,500 in 2001 to 38,815 in 2018.

It reports that landlords on the outskirts of major cities are most likely to have called last orders for their final times and small independent pubs have borne the brunt of the decline, disappearing in droves as large commercial chain venues have grown in number.

“Chains have certainly made their mark on the village of Mumbles but I think that’s been positive and if you offer something good, a little bit different and what the market wants then there’s room for everyone,” adds Bronwen who also runs a local PR and copywriting consultancy, Good With Words.

“By relocating the Ale House we now have more room so are selling a wider selection of wines and spirits, and have created a dog-friendly lounge area ideal for community-oriented events like quiz, poetry and film nights.

“Our two and a half years of running the Ale House and a large holiday home also in the village has shown us just how important a good pub is to the local community. We know that a quick pint or two as part of someone’s daily or weekly routine can help to beat loneliness and encourage social interaction particularly for older people and which is great for mental health and a sense of well-being.”

Local councillor Will Thomas commented: “It’s great to see such an historic pub brought back to life and in a climate where so many pubs in Mumbles and across Gower have had to close. I wish Gerrard and Bronwen well with their plans which I’m sure will prove a big success.”

Mumbles Ale House @ The Vic is open daily from 4pm Monday to Friday and from 12pm over the weekends. The original, smaller Ale House on Dunns Lane is now permanently closed.

For more information and news, visit www.mumblesalehouse.com or @mumblesalehouse on Facebook and Instagram and @alehousemumbles on Twitter.


New Foodbank in Sketty

I was contacted at the end of last month by the organisers of a foodbank that is being set up to serve those living in Killay, Sketty Park and Tycoch.

Every day people in the UK go hungry for reasons beyond their control. Delays in benefit payments, rising food costs, low income, and under-employment are some of the reasons why increasing numbers are being referred to foodbanks for emergency food supplies. In Swansea today there are families having to choose between putting food on the table and paying their utility bills.

HOP Foodbank is a Christian charity that is manned by volunteers from all different backgrounds. They mainly cover the Killay, Sketty Park and Tycoch areas but rely on the goodwill and support of local people to donate food and some basic toiletries with donations from individuals, local businesses, churches, schools and supermarkets.

They provide a three-day supply of non-perishable tinned and dried foods that have been donated by people in the local community. Referral to the Foodbank is mostly through the issue of food vouchers by various statutory and voluntary organisations such as Social Services, Health Service, Housing and CAB’s but if a needy person turns up at the foodbank without a voucher they will be issued with a one-off food parcel. They also aim to assist those who come to them by signposting them to other organisations that can help them with specific problems.

The Foodbank is based at Sketty Park Community Centre in Heather Crescent SA2 8HS and is open every Wednesday from 11am to 1pm. A café at the centre also provides free refreshments and snacks.

How can you help?

+  By donating food such as cereals, baked beans, biscuits, UHT milk, fruit juice, instant custard, rice, noodles, soup, pasta, tinned meat, tinned fish, tinned puddings  and tinned vegetables. They also welcome donations of other items such as shampoo, toothpaste, washing up liquid, sanitary items and nappies. The best time to deliver at the Community Centre is between 10.30 and 1.30 on Wednesdays but if this is inconvenient please telephone 07790 972407 to arrange a suitable time.

+  Volunteering. They need regular volunteers and those who can give occasional help. Regular volunteers need to be able to offer their time at least once a month at the Foodbank to help with various tasks such as welcoming those who come for help making refreshments, preparing food packs, sorting donated items.

Volunteers are also needed who are not able to help on a Wednesday but are willing to pick up food from organisations/collection points at other times. Occasional help is also needed with supermarket collections and fundraising events.

Please email for further details at hopfoodbank@gmail.com HOP Foodbank (House of Prayer Foodbank) Tel: 07790 972407  

 

 

 

All Articles