Culinary Causerie

With Lesley Williams

The River House

Oh, the joy in being able to get dressed up and have a date night. So many celebrations have gone uncelebrated, birthdays and wedding anniversaries that have all been marked with a cursory nod to the occasion. A proper night out on the town was in order, and a table was booked at the River House in SA1; I donned my high heels and trit-trotted across the sail bridge.

What a pretty sight the River House is when viewed at night, with its twinkly lights and warm glow – it’s a far cry from its original use as a Victorian ice house serving the docks. The welcome we received was also warm and once the track and trace details had been taken, we were shown through to the main restaurant.

Fortunately, this space is vast and can safely accommodate a good few tables with all the necessary social distancing. The restaurant was busy and to hear the sound of other human souls chattering and laughing was a joy. It’s this sort of thing that I have missed so much – the interaction with other people in a social setting. The mood was happy – not just the diners but the staff too were smiling.

Crispy fried cockles were the perfect appetiser along with our drinks and had just the right salty hit – I’m not that keen on cold cockles but once they are deep fried they are a different creature altogether. But then again, there’s not much that can’t be improved by deep frying until golden and crunchy.

Moules, plump and juicy in a creamy garlicky sauce with plenty of bread to mop up the juices and tagliatelle with a creamy mushroom sauce topped with truffle and Parmesan were just the thing to satisfy our hunger – the weather was being unseasonably chilly for June. Mr W is a sucker for a rib-eye steak and when it is served with thrice cooked chips nothing I say will make him change his mind and try something different. Rib-eye is the cut of steak favoured by butchers and chefs alike. It has the perfect ratio of fat to meat that makes it tender and great for grilling and serving medium rare. On the other hand, brisket is a cut best cooked long and slow – here it was served with marinated prunes and confit shallots that brought a good deep rich flavour to the meat. A side order of mashed potatoes and green beans made this the ultimate comfort food.

The service was excellent – attentive but unobtrusive and best of all with a friendly smile. If you’re uncertain about eating out again, I can assure you that The River House will make you feel confident that things are returning to normal and that we can once again eat out and celebrate.

The River House, Kings Road, Swansea SA1 8AW Tel: 01792 649060

Sous Chef

One of the Covid related things I miss most isn’t just the lack of travel abroad, but more importantly being able to shop in foreign markets. All of my souvenirs are food related. I always buy the local salt, tins of tuna belly from Portugal, chorizo and saffron from Spain, olive oil etc. and keep them in my cupboards to cheer me up when I need foodie inspiration.

One of my favourite chefs at the moment is Sabrina Ghayour, she cooks Persian inspired food and I like her relaxed way of cooking – lots of flavour with not too many ingredients. I follow her on Twitter where she shares what she is cooking. One ingredient she uses in lots of her recipes is Aleppo pepper or pul biber as it is also known. It’s a dried chilli that has a mildly salty flavour. It isn’t a fiery flavour but much more subtle. The problem was that I couldn’t find it in Swansea; however, by the power of social media Sabrina answered my request for where to buy it (once we’d ascertained that we were in a Waitrose desert here in Swansea) and suggested I go to Oh boy, you can see why The Telegraph calls it “The Aladdin’s Cave of Secret Ingredients”.

Sous Chef was set up in 2012 by Nichola and Nick Carter and it remains a family business. They source those hard to come by ingredients from around the world, and to make it an easy to use, website items are listed by each countries cuisine. I found my pul biber easily and then of course got carried away ordering the sort of things that I would normally have picked up in a local Portuguese or Spanish market. I also found some morels that have been on my wish list for some time – a click of my mouse and they were on their way. Sous Chef also has a great range of cookware and tableware – I have my eye on their range of quirky cheese plates.

So, if you’re having withdrawal symptoms from a lack of those store cupboard ingredients that brighten up a dull day, hop on over to and wander around their market.

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