Your Last Mouthful

Cardiff based food blog

Marriott Cardiff’s Zest Restaurant in Partnership With River Cottage

Zest, Cardiff

With the arrival of our little one last year, it’s been a while since Mr V and I have been out for a meal. I’ve observed the new partnership between Marriott Hotel and River Cottage with interest and enjoyed reading the reviews. I’ve been dying to try it out and now it’s our turn with an invitation for lunch at Zest Restaurant.

The unusual pairing is being piloted in two Marriott Hotels, one of which is Zest in Cardiff and if successful will be rolled out. Zest’s chefs have been trained at River Cottage and are creating dishes that use locally sourced ingredients and minimise waste. Menus change daily making the most of the produce available. The concept behind the restaurant really appeals to me and it is great to see a large chain taking on the River Cottage ethos.

Despite entering through the Marriott’s reception, once inside Zest we are pleasantly surprised by how un-hotel like it is. It’s welcoming, modern and casual with cosy booths or a more formal dining area. The only give away that we’re in a hotel is the very typical patterned carpet and air conditioning vents on the ceiling.

Arriving for lunch, we find out that we are the only diners. Zest currently only opens for evening service but as we have been invited as guests they have accommodated us without question. We are immediately brought freshly made bread as our waitress happily talks us through the menu and local producers which are proudly displayed on a chalk board behind us. Tick! Attentive staff and bread and water as standard. How it should be in our opinion. As we browse the menu we are already chatting excitedly about coming back before even tasting the food.

local suppliers, Zest, Cardiff

The menu is printed on paper because it changes so often mirroring the River Cottage ethos of sustainable cooking. Personally I love ever-changing menus because I always like to try something new. It keeps me coming back. There’s nothing on the menu that doesn’t appeal to me but we narrow our starters down to Marinated Rabbit Salad with pine nuts raisins and basil and Slade Farm Smoked Venison with winter leaves, horseradish creme fraiche and beetroot mousse. The descriptions of the dishes are kept simple and down to earth rather than pretentiously listing every ingredient which is all too common now.

Presentation, like the menu descriptions is appetising but without the pretence. Served chilled, the venison looks and tastes fantastic. The smoke is subtle and the mousse is delicate and creamy. Roasted garlic adds some texture.

Slade Farm Smoked Venison

The rabbit salad is fresh and nutty with a good balance of sweet and sharp.

Marinated Rabbit Salad

The mains are seasonal and heart warming. My choice is the Pork Loin Steak with sautéed potatoes, home cured bacon and leeks in a chestnut mushroom sauce. Everything is cooked perfectly and the sauce is rich, sweet and meaty. A lovely dish.

Pork Loin Steak

Mr V opts for the Beef Brisket with roasted Jerusalem artichokes, January King Cabbage, dressed in a mushroom jus. Marinated for 10 hours and then slow cooked for 10 hours the meat is stunning! A side order of honey glazed rainbow carrots is a nice accompaniment to both dishes.

Beef Brisket

Rounding off the meal we order desserts. I have had mine picked out from the beginning, I’m going for the rather unusual sounding Apple and Potato Pudding. It’s doughy pancake quality is filling but still light.

Apple and Potato Pudding

Mr V’s Sticky Date Pudding is moist and sweet as you would hope.

Sticky Date Pudding

Chatting to the chefs after our meal, it is clear that they are very enthusiastic about the partnership and relish the opportunity to have free reign on the dishes they create rather than being restrained by a corporate menu as they were previously. I love the concept and I think it could be very popular when it is rolled out. The only thing that I think might hold it back is the fact that it is so obviously based in a hotel. With so much choice when it comes to dining out, will people see a hotel restaurant as a contender?

Entering through the hotel’s main entrance isn’t ideal. Zest isn’t visible from the outside and I don’t like walking into somewhere I can’t see. It lacks an identity of its own which is a shame. It needs to become an establishment in itself rather than just part of a hotel. Park Plaza has achieved this with Laguna Bar and Restaurant and it has a solid reputation independent of the hotel.

If Zest can establish itself as a restaurant in its own right I think the partnership will go far. The concept is fashionable and ethical, the food is great and the price is right at on average £5.95 for a starter, £14 for a main and £5.50 for a dessert.

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Loving my Felicity Fox mug by Miri Studio

Hopefully it won’t  surprise you that my kitchen is my favourite room in the house so it goes without saying that I’m into my kitchen ware.

I don’t believe in matching mugs so I have quite an eclectic collection and I have just added this little beauty from  Miri Studio in Cardiff.

Miri Studios

I love that it’s designed locally too. Check out the online shop.

Foodie Penpals- January 2014

I heard about Foodie Penpals from fellow Cardiff food blogger Babettes Ffest. Originally started in the US and brought to the UK by blogger This Is Rock Salt, Foodie Penpals is a way to connect with food lovers and bloggers through monthly parcels of food.

Every month participants are paired with two different people. They must send a food parcel to one and will receive one from the other. Those that take it seriously will find out about their penpals likes and dislikes and put together a thoughtful parcel of goodies. Everyone then blogs about it at the end of the month.

This was my first experience and being a bit of a geek and a food lover, this was so much fun! I really enjoyed putting my parcel together and loved receiving mine from Kelly Parish in Manchester. Unfortunately Kelly doesn’t have a blog for me to link to.

Kelly was very thorough in finding out what I like and put together a really thoughtful parcel. I told her that I like Moroccan food so she included some Ras El Hanout spice and included a recipe for her own Chilli and Lime Halloumi which uses the spice and because I also listed Halloumi as one of my favourite foods. I also got a North African herb grinder.

I told Kelly I like children’s sweets so she included some Mexican sweets. I like to collect unusual sweets (yes, I realise how sad that sounds) so I was particularly pleased with these.

Sticking with the Mexican theme I got some Salsa Verde along with some basil oil and some African chutney. Best of all, Kelly included some elderflower rice pudding which looks amazing. This was because I said I liked floral flavours. I’m really looking forward to trying it.

My first Foodie Penpals was great fun. I was like an excited child waiting for the postman to arrive and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

If you would like to know more about Foodie Penpals in the UK and Europe, have a look here.

If you would like to know more about Foodie Penpals in the US and Canada, have a look at The Lean Green Bean.

Roast Lamb Leftovers- Lamb Biryani

As part of the Sainsbury’s ‘Love Your Leftovers’ initiative you may have seen advertised recently, I was asked to put together a recipe using the leftovers from my Sunday roast.This recipe is my take on a lamb biryani using up the remainder of our shoulder of lamb and also making use of the carrots and cabbage we didn’t eat.

Lamb Biryani

Serves 4

Ingredients:

300g left over lamb shoulder

300g cooked brown rice

1 medium white onion -sliced

2 cloves garlic- roughly chopped

1 chilli- finely chopped

2 sprigs of fresh mint- finely chopped

15g galangal finely chopped

2 medium eggs

Left over cabbage (roughly a quarter)- finely chopped

2 left over carrots

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon tumeric

1 teaspoon ground corriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon olive oil

200mls cold water

Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onions and brown them on a high heat. Add the garlic, chilli and galangal and continue to cook on a high heat for 30 seconds.

2. Reduce the heat to low and add the spices cooking for a further 2 minutes.

3. Turn the heat up to medium and add the cabbage and carrots and the water. Cook for 5 minutes or until the water has evaporated. Season to taste.

4. Add the rice, lamb and mint and heat through.

5. Clear a space in the pan and crack in 2 eggs. Scramble the eggs before mixing in with the rest of the dish.

6. Garnish with fresh mint.

My Japanese Kit Kat Obsession- The First Three!

I am totally overwhelmed by the endless list of Japanese Kit Kat flavours so it was quite hard to know where to start. I quickly found that despite there being hundreds, some are easier to get hold of in the UK than others with the rarest fetching a princely sum. I decided to start at the cheaper end of the scale for my first sample.

I’m glad I did because what I didn’t realise until they arrived is that Japanese Kit Kats are significantly smaller than the ones we are used to over here. They have two fingers and are about half the length of ours so really quite tiny.

Anyway, here’s what I tried…

Cinnamon Roll

This one is really nice. A good choice to ease myself in because it is a pleasant familiar flavour. The cinnamon is really strong and it has crunchy bits in the chocolate representing the ‘roll’.

Purple Sweet Potato

I was expecting this to taste like sweet potato as we know it but apparently a purple sweet potato is sweeter and fruitier than our orange variety (I have never tried one so I have no frame of reference). It is native to Okinawa island and is therefore a regional limited edition. Exciting!

It is certainly very sweet and has a fruity flavour not unlike plum. It’s nice but I can’t tell you whether it tastes like a purple sweet potato having never tried one.

Amaou Strawberry

There are lots of strawberry varieties. This one is quite subtle mixed with white chocolate. It’s incredibly sweet but the flavour fades quickly and is quite forgettable.

You can read more about my new obsession here:

My Japanese Kit Kat Obsession- Just the beginning!

My Japanese Kit Kat Obsession- Part II

Feel Good February

Throughout the month of February, the very talented Baked By Mel will be giving away cake to a worthy cause nominated by you.

Starting today, via the Bakedbymel Facebook page, you are invited to like and share Mel’s status explaining Feel Good February and to reply underneath it with your nomination to receive a free cake.  Every Friday in February, Mel will randomly draw a name from the collected nominees and they will win! If they are local she will deliver, if not, they will receive a barabrith through the post.  You can continue to nominate throughout February, any day of the week, all names will be collected and one drawn every Friday.

Worthy causes can be anyone that you think deserves a cake in their life. Friends, family, strangers (providing you know their address!).

Head over the Mel’s Facebook page to make your nomination.

Feel Good February

To The Door- December 2013 and January 2014

Welcome to another ‘To The Door’ post. This one covers December and January as I wasn’t blogging in December. Thanks to everyone for sending me your products.

Flapjack Fairy

Cardiff based Flapjack Fairy sent me some lovely Christmas themed flapjacks. I had Christmas Spice, Christmas Fruity and Triple Chocolate. You can read the full review HERE.

Teapigs

I have been sent Darjeeling tea temples and Earl Grey Strong tea temples. I love my loose leaf tea but for a quickly I use a bag and Tea Pigs are a cross between the two.  The biodegradable temples contain whole leaf tea so it is only a step away from loose leaf. Both of these flavours are good, especially the Darjeeling.

Simply Cook

The latest in subscription food boxes, Simply Cook is a meal kit complete with recipe cards and ‘hard to find’ ingredients. I will be reviewing this later in the month so keep an eye out.

Simply cook

Bannister’s Farm Foods Jacket Potatoes

I received a few different types of potato from Bannisters:

Ready Baked Jacket Potatoes Ready in the microwave in about 4 minutes, these ready baked jackets come drizzled with olive oil and are even cut ready to eat. While they tasted ok, I felt that they lacked the crispy skin that you can only get when you oven bake them. It saved time but I prefer the real thing.

Fully Loaded Jacket Potatoes- These jackets filled with 5 different fillings are for lunch on the go or ‘cheats’ dinner. I tried the Chicken Tikka and Mature Cheddar Cheese flavours. They are marketed as ‘good wholesome food when you need it fast’ but they take 14 minutes in the microwave. It would be quicker to make a sandwich. If you like convenience food you could do a lot worse but these weren’t for me.

Jungle Dogs

Jungle Dogs by Pek are pork hot dogs for kids. They are supposed to be guilt free for mums because they are made with quality cuts of pork, naturally smoked and contain no artificial colours or flavours and no MRM.

That may be but they are still processed and have that ‘fake’ quality. My daughter is too young to eat solids but personally, I won’t be feeding her this type of thing if I can help it. Non processed food is better for her and significantly tastier. However, if this kind of thing is your bag, you could do a lot worse.

Sainsbury’s Roast Recipe Collection

I’m working with Sainsbury’s to create a recipe for leftovers from my Sunday Roast. First I need to cook a roast so I have been sent a book of recipes to try.

A Classy Delivery from Teisen Deg

I love going out for afternoon tea, it is one of my favourite pastimes. I love everything about it; the cakes, the tea, the dinky sandwiches, the beautiful china and the pretension of it all (this is assuming it’s done right!). Something I’ve never done is have afternoon tea at home although I have been collecting the china in anticipation for a while now.

As far as I know, although offered elsewhere, afternoon tea delivery is new to Cardiff and is being pioneered by Jayne of Teisen Deg in partnership with Vintage Hope. I was asked to be the very eager guinea pig and sample tea for two with a love theme to celebrate St. Dwynwen’s Day (the Welsh equivalent to St. Valentine’s Day).

Afternoon Tea was delivered in a compact box containing everything we needed right down to sugar cubes for the tea! The food was individually wrapped with labels on each package describing the contents and the china was supplied in a retro picnic hamper. I had to assemble the vintage cake stand, unpack the food and boil a kettle to make the tea and voila! Afternoon tea for two in my living room.

I did have my reservations about creating the right atmosphere at home but the box of China I received was beautiful and came with some vintage style bunting which was a lovely touch and allowed me to make the room look really special. Vintage Hope gives 100% of the profits made from renting out china to Tiyamike Mulungu Children’s Home in Malawi.

I have reviewed Teisen Deg before. Jayne makes fantastic cakes. Her style is very traditional which is a perfect recipe for creating afternoon tea. On this occasion, because it was St. Dwynwen’s Day, everything bar the cheese muffins were cut into heart shapes; the sandwiches, Welsh cakes, scones and chocolate and raspberry brownies. The brownies were some of the nicest I’ve had.

Teisen Deg and Vintage Hope are looking to start offering delivery (or collection) of afternoon tea in time for Valentine’s Day in the Cardiff area. They are also offeringafternoon tea for parties of 6 or more. Maybe an idea for Mother’s Day or a hen party?

Despite not having the atmosphere I would have if I went out for afternoon tea, I was impressed because of the quality of what I received. The china was beautiful and the bunting made a big impact. The food was delicious and showed real attention to detail in terms of flavour and design.

Prices for Valentines Day Afternoon Tea start at £13 excluding delivery with the option of collecting and returning the china yourself for no extra charge. You are expected to wipe and repack the china after use.

My Japanese Kit Kat Obsession- Part II

In honour of my new quest I have been doing some research into the Japanese Kit Kat market and it has only made me more determined to try as many of them as I can. With flavours like European Cheese flavour who could resist?

I have discovered that on average a new kit kat flavour is released every 6 weeks in Japan! Most of them don’t stick around for long and many of them are regional varieties only found in a small number of places. This has made Kit Kat collecting in Japan more common place than I had imagined because even over there, they are not all widely available to get hold of. I have scoured many blogs and found stories of people taking special trips across Japan to find new varieties only found in a very remote regions. In fact, as most flavours are only sold for a small amount of time, Kit Kats in Japan are a collectors dream.

So why are there so many Kit Kats in Japan? Well, Japan has an ever-changing confectionary market. It is how brands survive out there but British companies have struggled to get into the shops. Coincidently, Kit Kat is very similar to the Japanese word ‘Kitto Katsu’ which is loosely translated as ‘Surely win’. As a result, Kit Kats have become a gift of choice for the people of Japan as a good luck present, especially for young people taking exams.

I realise the fact that I don’t live in Japan is going to make this challenge tricky but that’s part of the fun. I have found some websites that sell Japanese Kit Kats, although for a premium price and eBay has an unexpected amount of sellers too. With the postage costs from Japan though, these Kit Kats are going to be quite pricey so I will have to try not to get carried away.

So, here goes. Wish me luck! Time to purchase my first Japanese Kit Kat.

The Flapjack Fairy’s Festive Fancies

I first met the Flapjack Fairy at a farmers market in Penarth. I was pregnant and suffering from terrible morning sickness and the Fairy’s flapjacks were one of the few things I actually wanted to eat so I bought a stock to keep me going.

In the run up to Christmas I was very pleased when a little parcel arrived with some festive editions to try; Christmas Spice, Christmas Fruity and Triple Chocolate. All were delicious, especially the two Christmassy varieties, packed full of flavours including cloves, cinnamon, brandy and cranberries. I was surprised how different each one tasted when you consider the ingredients of a flapjack.

Christmas Spice

The thing that sets these flapjacks aside from others I have tried is that they are so gooey and moist and incredibly sweet. They taste sensationally naughty and are not pretending they are a healthy option because they are largely made of oats. The Flapjack Fairy uses condensed milk which I think is key. It adds an extra stickiness and almost a creamy taste.

Since trying the Christmas flavours, the Flapjack Fairy has also added peanut butter flavour to her repertoire which I can confirm is also fantastic. Flapjacks are £1.50 each or 4 for £5 and are also available in a gift box.

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