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Dark by Dusty Knuckle in a nutshell
The latest addition to the growing Dusty Knuckle family, Dark is a maverick younger sibling within a small site in Cardiff’s Castle Arcade, serving up award-winning pizzas, flatbreads, kebabs and small plates.
Who’s cooking at Dark by Dusty Knuckle?
Phill and Deb Lewis couldn’t have predicted how great an impact their makeshift pizza oven would have on the Cardiff food scene when they started throwing dough at local markets in 2014. Six years on and the sustainable pop-up has scored a permanent spot and grown to include Dusty Knuckle outposts in Pembrokeshire and Ogmore-by-Sea. The entrepreneurial couple have also joined forces with other indies to launch Nook (natural wine and small plates), Hoof (epic burger pop-up) and Bite Cardiff (alt food festival), fortifying the city’s quality dining options.
The new concept restaurant opened in December 2019 and, for the foreseeable, dough father Phill tends the flames of Dark’s graffiti-covered wood-fired oven.
What’s the vibe at Dark by Dusty Knuckle?
Dark and decadently devious. Charcoal-coloured walls, mahogany furniture and a statement logo make the 30-seater restaurant stand out from the crowd of independent shops and restaurants within the Victorian arcade.
Everything about the space is refreshingly niche: BoJo-stamped loo roll, a funky playlist and the word ‘DARK’ illuminated in neon on the ceiling bolster the don’t-take-life-too-seriously vibe. Look hard enough and you’ll find Bacchus, the Roman god famed for wild parties and boozing, overseeing the good times from the back wall.
What’s the food like at Dark by Dusty Knuckle?
After years of crafting crowd-pleasing dough, Phill lets his creativity fly at Dark. His daily menu continues DK’s sustainable ethos but this time focusses on the nose-to-tail aspect he couldn’t get past the family diners. Expect alt cuts such as lamb offal, pig tongue and ox heart, saved from the scrap piles of local butchers.
It’s not just in his choice of ingredients that Phill’s been ballsy – flavours are bold and not for the faint-hearted. A hot-from-the-oven flatbread thick with rich lamb offal, highlighter-pink threads of pickled onion, tangy yogurt and punchy fermented chilli paste knocks down every pin on the palate.
Plates such as the earthy laverbread topped with pleasingly fatty lamb shoulder and a sprinkling of seaside-sweet pickled cockles take inspiration from local delicacies; others, such as the simple dessert of homemade vanilla ice cream with fennel pollen, olive oil and orange, riff on dishes Phill and Deb have tried on their travels.
The best approach is to arrive with a crowd and order for the table until you need to tap out. This is a veggie safe space, too – the crispy-on-the-outside butter-soft-in-the-middle jerusalem artichokes served with silky ajo blanco and fermented leek tops are up there with the meaty showstoppers when it comes to flavour, texture and thrill.
Visit during the day for an unorthodox brunch of devilled kidneys on sourdough, smoked kippers with kimchi butter and pickles or chocolate espresso doughnut.
Dark by Dusty Knuckle, 42 Castle Arcade, Cardiff CF10 1BW
Words by Kathryn Lewis
Image credit: Dark by Dusty Knuckle