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The Chief recommends Cardiff’s best cheap eats

3 Feb

The Chief, features hidden from the prying eyes of South Wales' restaurateurs

While kicking about ideas for starting this blog, I naturally looked around to see who was writing about food in Cardiff. Two of the most well-respected players I came across were Cardiff Bites and Tea and Biscuits.

To date I have only had email and Twitter contact with CB’s Nicki, but this week I had the chance to meet with T&B’s head honcho the Chief, who “hated going to restaurants, eating a bad meal and feeling there was nothing I could do about it – so I wanted to set up a site with content you could trust.”

When I asked the Chief his opinion of Cardiff as a place to eat out, he argued that while the city may not be stacked high with prestige joints, the number of quality budget to medium-priced eateries more than made up for this – “and how often can most people afford to go to a really high-end restaurant anyway?”

These are sentiments I’m inclined to agree with – I’ve got nothing against swanky dining, but have had way more disappointment at places where pretension stacks the expectations unreasonably high, whereas more basic, often local restaurants that are friendly & reliable have tended to be the ones I’ll go back to time and again.

Obviously my next move was to demand a list of Cardiff’s finest cheap eats. I got the following responses:

  • Cafe Minuet: tiny Italian in Castle Arcade recently said farewell to long-term proprietor Marcello Genesi, but new owner Nadine Lodwick has apparently kept the fires of its “fantastically loyal following” burning.
  • Chai Street: Mint & Mustard’s Indian street-food baby brother is “a bit more more straight-laced than VFS, but really, really good food – you can get lunch for five quid in there – and the breakfast is absolutely brilliant too.”
  • Milgi: City Road’s boho hangout went 100% veggie last spring following a customer poll – “excellent platters for £5-6 – hummous, falafels, slice of pizza.”
  • Kemi’s: a new one on me, this, at Craft In The Bay opposite the Millenium Centre – “cheap food often means unhealthy, but over there you can get a really beautiful slice of quiche, cous cous salad – a big plateful, too – for the price of a visit to the chippy.”

Malcolm Gluck talks budget wines

25 Dec

Gluck, blatantly in his element

A few weeks ago the Guardian published a nice article on buying wine for less than a fiver. With uncanny timing, I interviewed their former budget wine supremo Malcolm Gluck on the same day, as part of a project I’ve been involved in to design a mini-magazine suitable to be given away free with a product.

Gluck, who wrote the Superplonk column for 14 years, has often cut a controversial figure, first and foremost for getting up the noses of the wine establishment by dismissing corks as likely to spoil good vintages.

More recently he caused further outrage for describing many wines as being so full of additives that they resembled “alcoholic cola” on a C4 Dispatches programme, and started a booze-related turf war by suggesting that beer-drinkers were “terrible lovers” in the Guardian‘s Word Of Mouth blog.

Quite apart from all this, I was nervous about interviewing him as he had been a hero of my father (a man who loved to drink wine, but not to spend silly money). What if he wasn’t a very nice bloke?

Thankfully I got a pleasant and informative interview out of Gluck, who recommended that novice drinkers looking to explore interesting wines at good prices should head to Sainsbury’s, Asda and M&S as their first ports of call. With this in mind, here are a select few of the vintages that should be available in Cardiff over the winter. If anyone would like a more comprehensive list please email me, and also see below for an audio extract from the interview.

Winter 2010/11 recommendations from Malcolm Gluck, all under £7. Wines are scored on a value-for-money basis out of a possible 20 points:


  • Asda Cava Brut – Spain, 16 points, £4.28


  • Asda Vin Du Pays Chardonnay – Italy, 16 points, £3.97
  • Asda Soave 2009 – Italy, 16.5 points, £3.28
  • Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Bourgogne Aligote – France, 16 points, £6.99
  • M&S Orvieto Single Estate 2009 – Italy, 17.5 points, £5.49


  • Asda Beaujolais 2009 – France, 17 points, £4.47
  • Asda Marques Del Nortes Rioja Joven 2009 – Spain, 16 points, £4.06
  • Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Curico Valley Merlot – Chile, 16.5 points, £5.99
  • M&S Vina Ulmo Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Chile, 17.5 points, £4.99

Excerpt from interview with Malcolm Gluck