Where has the time gone?? February and March seem to have flown by, and it’s so lovely to see the daffs out and the sun breaking through the clouds on a (semi)regular basis. It’s been a busy few months since The Big Move; between getting our lives transferred from London to Cardiff and a lovely few weeks visiting friends in Canada, there’s hardly been any time to be out and about, let alone write about it. However! Hopefully now it will settle down a bit and I can crack on with the very important task at hand of eating and drinking my way around the city.
I did manage to squeeze in dinner at The Potted Pig a few weeks back; RC suggested we go out for a nice post-Valentine’s Day dinner and probably even before the suggestion was out of his mouth, I’d booked us online. I’ve never been one to let an opportunity for fine dining go by.
I’ve seen The Potted Pig mentioned on a few different blogs but also am frankly rather taken with the name – not only the alliteration but also the promise of potted meat, so rarely seen outside of a Christmas menu. Plus, once I’d seen on their website that they “love cooking, eating & gin”, I was sold on this being my next special occasion destination, with cooking, eating and gin being three of my very favourite things (next to brown paper packages tied up in string, of course).
The restaurant is located just near the Castle (I love that my local directions now include castle proximity), in what used to be a bank vault. They have made great use of the beautiful sweeping arches in the dining area, with exposed brickwork, dim lighting and wood detailing all in keeping with the overall ambiance of the reclaimed space. The bar was well stocked and beautifully arranged, including with the promised extensive gin selection. When we arrived around 7pm it was fairly quiet, with only one or two other couples nearby; by the time we left every table was full – definitely one to book in advance.
Once seated, I thought I’d make it easy on myself (why not?) and opt for the PP’s gin and tonic of the week, served long and garnished with orange peel, cardamom and star anise. I’ve become a bit of a G&T snob enthusiast of late (I blame the London Gin Club’s History of Gin Tasting event, tasting menus and unshakeable belief in delightfully oversized copa glasses), so the gin menu and chosen accompaniments were very welcome indeed.
RC and I decided to share a starter – potted pig, what else? The ham hock main had caught his eye and, given the menu stated it would be enough for 2 to share, we thought we’d be somewhat sensible where starters were concerned. The potted pig (the starter, not the restaurant) was served in a wee little Kilner-style clip top pot, accompanied by a long slice of crusty toast and some tart pickled veg (beetroot, carrot, and fennel, if I remember correctly). The meat was beautifully fork tender and fatty as a potted meat should be, easily spreadable on the toast, and the acidic pickle cut through leaving us with the sweetness of the pork. Unfortunately- and this is showing what a newbie blogger I am- but we were finishing up the last scraps before I realised I had neglected to take a photo! Whoops… so you will have to imagine (or better yet, book yourself in). It was enough for two to share although I also would have happily eaten the entire thing myself.
The potted pig was swiftly followed by mains. As previously mentioned, RC opted for the ham hock, which came looking overwhelmingly crispy, delicious and huuuuge, served on a board with a side of coleslaw. That looked big enough-yet there was more to come, with enamel bowls of new potatoes and steamed greens set down before us, and it all became clear why the menu recommends sharing this one! The hock looked just gorgeous, and tasted divine -it came away easily from the bone and, like the potted meat, was melt in the mouth tender and full of flavour.
Personally, I opted for the lamb rump and boy, was I glad I did. Whilst not as massive substantial as the ham hock, the rump was exceptionally cooked with a salty crust on the outside and deliciously pink in the middle, full of flavour and perfectly textured. It was paired beautifully with a smoky aubergine purée (still dreaming about this one) and a delicious concoction of lentils cooked with bacon. It also came with a side of braised tongue….
Now, I really am not one for nose to tail eating (it’s a texture thing mainly) and to be honest I was going to order the meal sans tongue before RC convinced me to leave it in as he was keen to try it, yet once the food arrived he was a little less on the keen side! Trying not to let it go to waste, I thought I would give it a go and sampled a little slice. I have to say flavour-wise, it was surprisingly nice, really meaty (I don’t know why but I was surprised it tasted like lamb…makes sense really); but to be honest I didn’t manage to go past that one bit, the texture and the illogical mental squeamishness of it all got the better of me. I have noticed that the menu has been updated since our visit so that the lamb rump now comes served with a piece of crispy belly, which sounds much more up my alley (and what a lovely excuse to go back again, eh?)
We were so stuffed after finishing as much as we could (we didn’t even quite make it through the hock) that dessert wasn’t even an option. Instead, we pretty much rolled on out of there with very contented tummies and some good memories. Overall, it was a delicious meal in an elegant surrounding, and definitely in keeping with the three loves of cooking, eating, and gin.
Until next time Cardiffians- let’s hope this weather sticks around!