Saturday, 22 January 2011

Mulberry St


48 High St
Llandaff, Cardiff, South Glamorgan

029 2056 4646

Meal for two + wine and tip = £58

In the time since I last ate here about a year ago and now, the restaurant has changed hands. New owners we're told, same staff. Great news as the last time we were there we learned that the chef had just come runner-up on masterchef professionals and the food on that visit was great. I don't know for sure if the kitchen staff are the same, but I’ve little reason to doubt it as the cooking is still of an excellent standard. It's a small restaurant but the space is utilised well, with larger parties sat at the rear and a smaller more intimate area up front near the window. The front of house staff are lovely, but perhaps could use some extra help. When we ate the place was only nearly full, but we still had a 50-min wait for our food, and dishes were bought to ours and other tables without previous dishes being cleared first. We ordered bread whilst we browsed the menu and were served three types; a white, a wholemeal and something fantastic. I'm afraid I can't tell you what the fantastic one was, as when we asked the waiter his face lit up. We were told that they buy all their bread in, except for that one. He said it's a soda bread (it wasn't) that the kitchen had been perfecting and ran off to get us some more. We hadn't the heart to tell him that it wasn't the bread we'd liked so much, but tucked in gratefully. The misses is Irish so knows her soda bread well, and she thought the one made by the kitchen was great. High praise indeed.

The theme at Mulberry St. is based around small dishes. It's a concept introduced to great acclaim in London by Andrew Turner and subsequently copied by the likes of Michael Caines at Abode and Jason Atherton when he was at Maze. I'm not sure how well it works at those places but here in Cardiff I’m afraid it doesn't. Giving fat greedy customers like myself the chance to cherry pick what they eat might well leave them full, but also feeling somehow cheated. Going from calamari, to black pudding and bacon, to haloumi just doesn't feel right. The meal lacks structure and form, which doesn't do justice to the great skill of the kitchen staff. The ingredients are all of very high quality and handled with a deft touch. My one complaint of the cookery would be the need to lay off the salt a bit. The callamari was over-seasoned to wince inducing levels, but was tender without even a hint of rubberyness. The beetroot fritters when dipped into a maple mayonnaise are pure comfort food. It's a dish I’m determined to replicate at home so I can eat it every Sunday night in front of the telly for the rest of my life and die a happy man. Venison had sat around a little too long and had lost a lot of heat. It looked a bit grey and unappetising but was infact the tastiest and tenderest venison I’ve ever eaten.
The small dish concept isn't called tapas as the portions should be bigger, or complete dishes in miniature form, but here they're neither. Three prawns does not a meal make. Neither do a few pieces of black pudding and diced bacon, no matter how delicious they are. How do they get away with such measly portions you ask? The answer is salad, fucking tons of it. The kitchen must need a commis- chef just to open all the bags of asda pre-packed mixed leaves they get through here.
An a la carte menu is offered but with only a few choices it's the little dishes people turn to. I think the new owners need to change this. I can fully understand why the restaurant went for the little dishes concept. At the time of opening the owners were unusually for Cardiff, on trend, and doing something a bit different allowed them to stand out from the competition. The thing is, this isn't London or New York, it's Cardiff, and to stand out from the crowd here you simply have to cook good food. The chef at Mulberry St. knows how to do this and does it very, very well, and a traditional a la carte format would really allow his cooking to shine. An added bonus would be, they’ll save a fortune in fucking salad!

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