In a nutshell
The third addition to the Bar 44 restaurant portfolio in South Wales is an almost subterranean bolthole on busy Westgate Street, in Cardiff city centre. Situated directly opposite the Millennium stadium, you’ll find Bar 44 dishing up their own unique twist on modern, Spanish tapas with an artisanal drinks menu to match.
From the moment you enter this cosy tapas restaurant, you just know it’s going to be good. The space is beautifully decorated in dark greys, exposed brick and warm woods, with huge legs of Iberico Jamón hanging above the ornately tiled bar, and in the corner, vast barrels of hand-picked, aged sherry.
It’s a varied menu, designed to be enjoyed slowly. Be sure to take the waiting staff up on their offer of bread and olives whilst you decide; the giant, green Gordal olives marinated in black pepper, lemon and parsley are too good to miss.
The main tapas menu is divided into fish, meat, vegetables and cheeses, and there is plenty on offer in each category. Highlights include the pulpo, a hearty portion of slow-cooked chunks of octopus served with potato puree; the bikini – a mini Jamón and manchego toastie served with a bright yellow, poached quail’s egg; and the garbanzos – crispy spiced chickpeas with a salad of tomatoes and zamorano ewes cheese that tasted like tiny, buttery gnocchi and would please even the most ardent meat-eater.
The wine list at Bar 44 is in keeping with the attention to detail exhibited across the board, with a selection of hand-picked cavas, whites, reds, and barrel-aged sherries by the glass available. Most impressive though is the Spanish gin and tonic menu. Each is served in a large goblet, and paired with its own tonic and blend of botanicals.
Dessert demands a choice between ice creams, sorbets, or a slice of traditional almond Santiago tart; but there are also dessert cocktails on the menu, the star of the show being the crema catalana – made with Liquor 43, Stoli Vanil and Contreau, and bruleed on top for a luxurious finish. For those with a more savoury appetite, a selection of Spanish cheeses with accompaniments includes a creamy monte enebro, 30-day aged goats cheese, and a Mahon paprika-rubbed cows cheese that should be eaten with a final glass of dry, amontillado sherry.
Bullseye: The baby octopus burger comes with a dollop of rich aioli and a creamy apple and fennel slaw, but the drama of the coal-black, squid ink bun is what makes this dish so sensational.
Total price: £60 for two with a glass of wine each.
By Jane Cook, hungrycityhippy.co.uk
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