Culinary Causerie

With Lesley Williams

Summer loving

Al fresco dining is one of my favourite things to do in the summer. What could be nicer than sitting outside in the sunshine eating good food? Last month’s weather was so changeable but we still managed to find a couple of windows of opportunity to get out and enjoy the sun.

Croeso Lounge

With arguably one of the finest views of Swansea Bay, Croeso Lounge has a fab outside seating space, where you can sit and people watch from your own eyrie – it even has its own bar, so you don’t have to trek downstairs to place your order. We popped in for an early lunch and bagged ourselves a prime spot on the balcony, settled down into the comfy chairs and soaked up the rays. Lunch is usually a quick sandwich and a coffee, but today we had time to spare so could be indulgent. Tapas is always a good choice for me as I find it difficult to choose just one dish – and my eyes are usually bigger than my stomach. Croeso Lounge has a good deal where you can choose any three tapas dishes plus a basket of bread for around a tenner – perfect for a lazy lunch.

Halloumi cheese has recently become my favourite non-meat option. Its salty chewiness is very satisfying, and I happily use it to replace meat in salads or served with pasta or vegetables. It’s got a very high melting point, so you can grill or fry it without it melting into a puddle. Here it was served with a mixture of courgettes and peppers and was quite delicious. No tapas for me is complete without the addition of squid or calamari – here it was served salt and pepper style with a roasted garlic mayonnaise. Finally, my trio included buttermilk chicken with chipotle mayonnaise, which had a wonderfully deep flavour from the smoked paprika.

The twisted chicken club ciabatta was stuffed to the gunwales with tender buttermilk chicken; soaking the chicken in buttermilk tenderises it and gives it a meltingly soft texture; smoked streaky bacon, emmental cheese, guacamole, chipotle mayo, tomato and spinach. I said it was stuffed.

Next time you feel in need of a leisurely lunch with a view, pop along to Croeso Lounge and grab yourself a balcony seat – you’ll need to get there early if the sun is out!

Croeso Lounge, Oyster Wharf, Mumbles SA3 4DN 01792 367591

The Secret

I’m not totally sure how or why The Secret got its name as it is in wide view of everyone who travels along the seafront or Oystermouth Road. It used to be the site of the 360 café but has undergone an extensive makeover to transform it into a very smart beach bar and kitchen – it has retained the marvellous views across the bay.

I ate there on two consecutive nights last month, firstly with a party of thirty other business women at a monthly get together, and then the following evening for dinner à deux. The dinner à trente was expertly executed – everyone was served at the same time. The food was hot where appropriate and the service was slick and professional. Not an easy task when you are trying to find out who ordered what over the cacophony of chatter.

The following evening was a far more relaxed affair, but the service and food maintained the high standard of the night before. This time I had a chance to savour every mouthful of my katsu squid – tender pieces of squid served with a katsu aioli, chilli and coriander. Katsu is a type of Japanese curry – it’s much milder and sweeter than traditional Thai or Indian spicing. We teamed this with the crab hushpuppies. Before you worry that we were tucking into the sort of shoes favoured by art teachers in the 70s let me enlighten you – and believe me I had to do some research! A hush puppy is made of a corn-meal based batter formed into a small ball, which is then deep fried and generally served as a side dish to fried fish in the Southern States of America. I suppose our equivalent is a croquette or in Spain a croquetas. Here they have added crabmeat and created a savoury bite that makes an interesting alternative to the usual starters on offer. In fact, most of the starters on the menu are different and can be served tapas style as small plates. Beetroot hummus, za’atar chicken, watermelon and feta, Argentinean wild prawns, the list goes on and I will have to return to try them all.

The Welsh rarebit burger proved too hard to resist, when it came to choosing our main courses, I think it was the temptation of the addition of a wild prawn that sealed the deal. A good burger is a thing of beauty, and this one would have won a sash in any competition. The succulent beef was well seasoned and came with a mantle of good strong Cheddar and some great bacon.

I am a sucker for anything truffly; I love the earthy smell of truffle oil, so the tagliatelle with mushrooms had my name on it. Topped with a hearty sprinkling of cheese this was heaven on a plate. The portion size defeated me, but fortunately Simon was on hand to help a damsel in a dress that was getting tighter by the minute.

This is definitely going to be a favourite for us in the future as it is one of the few restaurants with a sea view.

I don’t think it will remain a secret for very long – great food, fabulous atmosphere, friendly and professional staff and great views – it’s a winning combination.

The Secret Beach Bar and Kitchen, Mumbles Road, Swansea, SA2 0AY 01792 439220

Yummy Garden

Just a five-minute walk from The Secret is a new Chinese restaurant, Yummy Garden. One Sunday evening last month, after a visit to the cinema that didn’t turn out as I thought, but what did I expect from Quentin Tarantino, I was, in need of sustenance in the form of noodles. They are my comfort food and I definitely needed comforting after all that violence.

Yummy Garden is on St Helen’s Road opposite a rather well-known ice cream parlour. The first time I passed by it was absolutely full of local Chinese families, so I had an idea that it might be worth dropping in. The décor is bright and airy with Chinese good luck symbols on the walls, and plenty of large tables – perfect for family dining.

Although it was after nine on a Sunday evening, we received a warm welcome and were seated at a table by the window. Drinks were ordered and delivered quickly, I could then begin to relax and give the menu my full attention. Everything that you’d expect to find on a Chinese restaurant menu was there – sometimes all you want is the familiar. So, it was quickly decided that we’d skip the starters and share three dishes; chicken noodles, pork with ginger and spring onion and king prawns. A portion of egg fried rice completed the feast.

The salt and pepper prawns were exceptionally good – great big and juicy with a crispy exterior – and plenty of them. The pork was succulent with a hit of heat from the fresh ginger while the noodles included lots of chicken and vegetables – we probably didn’t need the rice, but it made a good addition to the pork.

Yummy Garden has a takeaway and delivery service available that I might try one evening when I want to stay in and watch a film – and it will definitely not be a Tarantino.

Yummy Garden, 136A St Helen’s Road, Swansea SA1 4BL 01792 446520




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