Tag Archives: eating

A Welsh food safari through Cardiff

Last week, I took part in my first ever food tour of Cardiff – a food safari, no less, taking in some sights, history, and a lot of tastes of the fair capital. Having lived here for as long as I have, I sort of presumed I had explored all of the culinary boltholes in the centre of it. How wrong I was!

We met Sian (who was leading the tour) along with fellow tour-attendees, Doug and Val in the cafe at the castle. Doug and Val had lived here between 1985 to 1990, then moved away. You can imagine how different the city is today to when they’d been here originally.

Cardiff Castle

Although we didn’t eat anything at the castle, Sian gave us a potted history of the castle through the ages. One of my favourite anecdotes was about how it used to be the Royal College of Music and Drama (as the council initially didn’t know what to do with it when it was handed over by the Butes) – Sian had music lessons there as a child. Imagine having music lessons in a castle!

Anyway, this was our first stop: bara brith and tea at Pettigrew Tea Rooms.

Pettigrew Tea Rooms
Pettigrew Tea Rooms

Andrew Pettigrew was Head Gardner for the Third Marquis of Bute , and the tea room is named in his honour. I am ashamed to say we ate the bara brith so quickly I didn’t manage to get a photo … (that’s the sign of some good cake!). It was really good too – super moist!

We then wandered through Castle Arcade. Although I must have walked through here hundreds of times, it was the first time I ever noticed the stag in the mirror (above the exit that goes out onto High Street – see below!)

Cafe Barker, Castle Arcade
Castle Arcade
Castle Arcade
Castle Arcade

It was then into Cardiff Indoor Market, taking a leisurely look around the stalls (I spotted some very tasty faggots and peas in a tupperware box that took my fancy!), but we stopped outside Ashton’s. You’ll know it as the fishmonger that’s at the entrance to the market from the Hayes side. Ashton’s is also the oldest limited company in Cardiff (fact!), and you can buy laverbread and cockles from them to eat there. Sian had baked some oatcakes and brought them with her, to make us small ‘tapas’ style morsels. They were absolutely delicious!

Ashton's at the market
Ashton’s at the market
Sian preparing our tasters
Sian preparing our tasters
Fish faces
Fish faces

We then went on to try some cawl and Welsh ciders! This was a definite high point. (My favourite cider was the Gwynt Y Ddraig medium dry, in case you ever want to take me out for a drink).

A bowl of cawl!
Cawl at Yr Hen Llyfrgell

From there, we went down to the bay. Doug and Val were most excited about this part of the tour, as the bay had been in its very early re-development when they left. No Millennium Centre, no Senedd, no barrage.

To give you some perspective, this is what it would have looked like when they left …


This is what it looks like now (!)

Big wheel and Pierhead building, Cardiff Bay

(obviously the locations are slightly different, but you get the idea)

We wandered around the bay a bit, and Sian imparted more historical knowledge. I live in Butetown but rarely spend time just wandering around, chewing the fat. In this case, chewing on the amazing Welsh cakes from Fabulous …

Millennium Centre
Millennium Centre
Fabulous Welsh Cakes
Fabulous Welsh Cakes
Sian outside Fabulous Welsh Cakes
Sian outside Fabulous

Our final course was in Ffresh. They’ve recently refurbished the inside with a load of copper coloured trees – beautiful!

Also the food. OMG the food. We stuck to deserts – I had a very nice and light iced pear, followed by this amazing shared cheese board. Per las … my downfall …


Iced pear
Iced pear
Food tourists!
Food tourists!

After dessert, I was so full I pretty much rolled down towards the water and into the Princess Katherine, one of the water taxis that runs between town and the bay. There’s actually an onboard audio guide that gives you information about the places you’re going past as you chug past them.


Aboard the Princess Katherine
Aboard the Princess Katherine

“We have many spectacular mountains, a stunning coastline and a little rain – that all helps to create an ideal environment for growing produce which results in award-winning food and drink!” says Sian, who’s been running food tours for a few years now (she also reads the news and used to present the weather, so gets recognised occasionally while you’re walking around with her!). She’s also fluent in French, Italian, Spanish and German as well as English and Welsh (feel like you messed around too much in school?? Me too!).

It was wonderful having Sian to guide us – she is incredibly knowledgeable about Cardiff and so passionate about food – she told us about everything from Welsh vineyards to the history of Italian food in Cardiff. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our food safari – and ended up discovering some proper hidden Cardiff food gems. Cockles in the market will be on the itinerary for every trip we ever make to town, forever!

Find out more about Loving Welsh Food



Lunch at The Pilot: venturing out of Cardiff

Just south of Cardiff lies the sleepy, seaside town of Penarth, which forms a nice stop off if you’re hiking the Wales Costal Path, or just want a slow-paced day out from Cardiff. There are plenty of nice eateries there, one of which is a pub that got a mention in this year’s Michelin Guide: The Pilot.

Today, it’s a bright and breezy boozer, part of the Knife and Fork group (that also own The Conway in Pontcanna), and sports white, wooden panel walling, and nautical themed details dotted around the place. There’s a restaurant area, a lounge, and tables outside for those brief moments when the sun’s out.


A few years ago, before it was taken over by The Knife and Fork I used to live just up the street from The Pilot, when it was a very different beast: full of surly locals, dark and dingy inside, and with the vague sniff of waccy baccy as you’d wander past, keys in hand (just in case, like). I only dared go in for a drink once, and it was the fastest pint I ever drank.

Today the place couldn’t be more different: it’s friendly and welcoming, and the day I visited, it was full of “ladies doing lunch” (any TV execs reading this – you should immediately be preparing for the ‘Housewives of Penarth’, right?), along with a couple of hikers and cyclists who had stopped for refuelling on their way. The restaurant area has a cosy wood burning stove and beautiful views over Cardiff Bay. What’s not to love?

There’s a special lunch menu, which mostly consists of baguettes / sandwiches for around a fiver (perfect if you’re just stopping for something quick), or you can order from the main a la carte menu. There are also daily specials. As we weren’t in a rush, we went for three courses (sharing the starter and pudding).

For a shared starter, we picked the squid and prawn with Asian slaw.


Looks delicious, right? It really was. The squid was soft and tender, and the prawns grilled to perfection.

For mains, there was a wide selection on the a la carte menu (salmon, lamb, and beef) but we picked the duo of pork and the beetroot risotto (obviously to eat sharesies). We also asked for a recommendation of wine to accompany the pork (I let my dining partner deal with this, as I’ve never been a wine drinker).

Duo_of_pork_The_Pilot_Lunch Beetroot_risotto_The_Pilot_Lunch

The duo of pork was a big winner: particularly the belly pork, which was cooked to perfection (especially the crackling …).

The risotto was a sweet main, with torn chunks of goat’s cheese to cut through the sweetness. Also some beetroot crisps on top. It was delicious (so if you’re a vegetarian, you’re in good hands in The Pilot!).

I could bang on about how nice it was (and it really, really was very nice), but it’s probably easier to just show you:


I did wonder whether we’d manage to stuff in anything else after that, but obviously there’s always space for pudding, right?

I was tempted by the Earl Grey creme brulee, but the bread and butter pudding was recommended so we picked that instead. I hadn’t eaten the old bnb since school (and didn’t have great memories of it from then), but it was light and fluffy, and served with some insanely good vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. If you can imagine me doing a Homer Simpson style face drool, that’s what happened here.


We just about managed a couple of coffees before falling into a food coma. Luckily, The Pilot is right on the top of the hill on the northern edge of Penarth, overlooking the Bay and Cardiff beyond it.


Photo by Ben Salter

If you’ve got a healthy appetite, you’re in luck here: the portions are generous, the food is delicious, the service is friendly, and it’s a lovely location to while away some long hours in the afternoon.

So if you’re on the Wales Coastal Path, just wandering vaguely across the Barrage, or looking for somewhere to get out of Cardiff, The Pilot comes highly recommended as a place for food or just drinks. They have a different ale on tap everyday, as they support a local Vale of Glamorgan brewery.

They do plenty of offers that chance on a weekly basis (for more info, check @ThePilotPenarth Twitter feed). Steak Wednesdays? Six Nations burgers? Yes please!

To see The Pilot’s latest menu, see The Pilot’s Blackboard

The Pilot, 67 Queens Road, Penarth CF64 1DJ