Posted by: mikeydude | August 2, 2009

Y Cadno (The Fox) Gastropub Cardiff Review (4.5/10) NOW CLOSED

“Cardiff’s first gastropub” (quote managing director Simon Buckley) only opened 2 weeks ago. I’m always excited by new eating establishments in Cardiff – as it gives me a good idea of where the restaurant scene is going. So after spending £1 million on renovating this place and setting the bar high might I add into attempting to make Y Cadno an “award winning gastropub”, I had to try it out one evening after 2 exhausting days of near impossible exams.

The place was easy enough to find – located on a busy cardiff road running towards the Millenium stadium. It has a large black sign with Y Cadno Gastropub written on it, so you can’t miss it. Plenty of parking on the road itself and the building just looks like all the neighbouring B&B’s that Cathedral road is famous for.

The place was already near packed when we went in although most people were just there for drinks. Y Cadno specialises in locally produced Ales and locally sourced food. I’ve never been a fan of Ale, and so I ordered a boring Peroni’s while the wife just had some lemonade (nightshift later). Decor looked nice and modern in a ‘long and thin’ hall which extended out into an alfresco garden that was just as large as the main pub itself! On a summer’s day this is a great place to hang out.

You could tell that this place was new. There were around a dozen bar staff and some of them were just standing around chatting. Others were being trained into how to use the electronic till. As usual I let the food do the talking.

The menu was good – not too many choices to baffle, yet enough to show a varied range of cooking; about 7 options per course. Prices were ok – around £5 for a starter, £10-20 main course, and £5 dessert. Being not particularly hungry we decided to go for just the 1 starter and dessert with main courses.

Starter: Cockles, tomatoes, basil and parsley spaghetti

Couldn’t go wrong here I thought. Nice simple gastropub fare, and yet absolutely delicious if executed well. Hmmmmm…. the dish looked pretty enough, and the spaghetti was perfectly cooked… just…. there was absolutely no seasoning (!!!!). It’s a good thing they had good quality rock salt in their grinders, otherwise this could have been pretty tragic. I must admit – I don’t eat cockles very often, the last time I had them was a few months ago in West Wales. I always remember the delicious salty taste of the sea released with every bite. It would have went fantastically with spaghetti – but the ones on this plate had no real taste at all. I think this is probably down to freshness of produce. Its slight saving grace was the herbs that gave it a pleasant fresh aftertaste. Nice idea – poor execution.

Mains #1: Braised pork shoulder with Dauphinoise potatoes with caramel pear and cauliflower puree and mixed vegetables

This was an interesting attempt of modernisation. The classic “smudge” of puree almost stereotypical of 21st century european cuisine sat next to a beautiful square of dauphinoise. The pork however let it down. It was this tower (not too clear on picture sorry!) of this uninspiring grey piece of pork shoulder that appeared to have been packed like a terrine. The meat came off quite readily, and this time well seasoned, but it wasn’t tender in the way this dish should be, and it didn’t really taste of pork. The puree was a good attempt, and it gave the pork some badly needed moisture and additional ‘taste’. The veg was a little undercooked for my liking but that’s down to personal preference. The dauphinoise was the star of the show. Nice cheesy crust with wonderfully creamy and soft layers of potatoes underneath. Not a total disaster then.

Mains #2: Beef and mustard burger with chips, coleslaw and salad

If they can’t make a good burger and chips they’re not going to get anywhere…. i thought. This main was pretty good. The bread was well toasted and soft in the middle. The burger itself was obviously made from lean beef with mustard seeds(it was a bit pink on the inside but I didn’t mind as it all tasted quite fresh). It tasted good; the beef was seasoned well and the subtle mustard taste gave it the slightest ‘extraordinary’ touch that was so badly lacking in most areas of this chef’s cooking. The chips were large and chunky – nothing to write home about. Coleslaw was ok, but too much mayonnaise for me. The wife seemed ok with this dish.

Dessert: Chocolate and Bailey’s brownie with vanilla ice-cream

The Mrs was a little disappointed that this had no chocolate sauce – she misread the menu item. Anyway standard warm chocolate brownie (I couldn’t taste any Bailey’s) contrasted well with vanilla ice-cream. This dessert is a fail safe. Can’t really go wrong unless you cremate the brownie, which this chef didn’t. However the Mrs noted that it was a bit dry and ice-cream wasn’t great. Not bad….

The whole meal came to £35.50 including 2 drinks. What can I say? I didn’t sample all the dishes by any means. From the experience, I conclude that the chef can cook a burger and dauphinoise potatoes rather well. However, that will never in a million years make you an ‘award-winning gastropub’. For far far superior options, venture into the Abergavenney area and try places like the Foxhunter, the Hardwick, or even the Clytha Arms. Prices are around the same at these places too, which is a bit disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, this place is a nice chill-out zone with a nice bar. I am purely commenting on the food, which is my mission.

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Responses

  1. Brilliant place to eat and drink. I had the cockles and the pork, delicious……. Having eaten in a number of up market eateries I believe Y Cadno is EXCELLENT value for money. Considering they have only recently opened I am sure they are destined for recognition.

    • Well I can only judge it based on my own personal experience, but if you enjoyed your meal then great. Perhaps I had ate there during one of its “off” days… which is a shame. Nevertheless I can’t visit every dining experience a few times before I review it or I’d be broke 😀

  2. I challenge anyone to name a single decent restaurant in Cardiff. Utterly mediocre is the highest standard achieved in this city.
    Service everywhere is dreadful, dreadful, dreadful.
    From the re-heated, over-priced Tesco value sausages at Cafe Brava to the awful Covent Garden, chain nonsense at the Bay, to the terrible, boiled cabbage type pubs in the Vale, the microwave Italians in Llandaff and the sticky tabled Bullys, the unseasoned le Gallois – it is all just rubbish.
    After 3 years here, this place never ceases to disappoint gastronomically. Friend visiting recently called on their way in and asked where they could eat. I just laughed and they completely understood.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • I’m afraid you may actually be right Steve. I have yet to truly taste food in Cardiff that can compare with the standards in London. Bear in mind though that London has a lot more wealth in the city for starters and so good chefs are more likely to reside there. Despite this I believe that the restaurant scene is slowly improving so don’t lose hope. This is the purpose of my blog…. to finally find a restaurant that Cardiffians can be proud of….

    • Have you tried Casanova (City Centre), Punithas (Albany Road) and Mint&Mustard (Whitchurch Road)? The latter is really just wonderful. The best South Indian food I’ve ever tasted. And I’m a very picky Indian!
      I agree the Bay is awash with really mediocre eateries, apart from the Spice Merchant, another Indian which I really enjoyed.
      You must try M&M though. You will be a changed person after. It is that good!

  3. Thanks for the reply. You will end up de-motivated and sightly depressed on your quest.
    You will encounter numerous reviews from Cardiffians proclaiming greatness; follow them up with a visit to said establishment and you will quickly understand how limited the view and experience is of many of the people posting these reviews.
    I just don’t think that there is enough money in Cardiff to keep a decent restaurant going – take a look at the number of low paid, public sector workers here. It’s a huge percentage. That said, money should not dictate service standards. That is often simply a case of manners.
    Taste in Cardiff is lacking everywhere you look. Look at the Bay – a dreadful, mish-mash, Disneyesque pile of cheap, shoddy Barrett style buildings and chain restaurants; a performance house so lacking in confidence it calls itself the ‘Millennium Centre’; a parliament that fails on almost every architectural principle and ends up looking like some sort of tent; cheap flats everywhere you look; no family infrastructrure, the whole thing doomed to a Blackpool future – and you will get some idea of the taste of the people who live here. Cathedral Road itself is a B and B haven, rife with car crime – these are Victorian Gothic revival houses for goodness sake, on the edge of stunning parkland! Would they let that happen in Bath or Edinburgh?
    Back to the subject – there are no decent eateries in Cardiff. None. Stop wasting your money.

    • Ha! Steve you ultimate pessimist!!

      Put it this way… even if the standard of food never matches foreign lands, I’m hoping that at least some chefs will up their game knowing that there are people around who know what good food tastes like. Slowly people are beginning to venture out of traditional views on food and trying new things. Take Dim Sum for instance. 20 years ago I would have considered it a rarity for the average caucasian family to sacrifice their cremated Sunday roast beef for steamed dumplings. Nowadays there are almost as many caucasian families in Happy Gathering Cardiff as there are chinese on a Sunday lunchtime.

      Architectural and cultural taste is outside the scope of this blog.

      On top of this… although substandard some of the eating out experiences in Cardiff is still better than my own cooking. Also the wife likes the thrill of being taken out for dinner…. so I’m not particularly fussed on ‘wasting money’. Note also that I review restaurants outside of Cardiff too, and it’s quite clear that scores from these are considerably higher. Let’s see if these score differences narrow over the next few years…. I think I have slightly more optimism than you… maybe that’s because I’m still young and naive.

      Thanks for all your views btw, it makes an interesting read, albeit depressing 😀

  4. I echo/ditto every word Steve says, particularly “Taste in Cardiff is lacking everywhere you look”

    I moved to Cardiff from Sydney (..don’t ask!) nearly 4 years ago, and my partner & I find dining here dire. I try not to compare to the likes of Sydney, London or Edinburgh, but when a city continually claims to be the youngest most vibrant European city, you have to compare it to something to make the measure.

    Steve is also right re the limited the view and experience of people posting rave restaurant reviews. Take Mint & Mustard – I have written elsewhere about this place as being ordinary Indian fare with appalling service where waiters are in the habit of up-selling various items on the menu (e.g. after choosing a £16 bottle of wine it was insisted we choose one costing £12 more!…I know my wine). How this place won an award I have no idea…(funny handshakes I suspect).

    I live in Cardiff Bay but rarely dine there. The city has been destroyed by chains & Brains pubs. When we do find a restaurant we like they tend to rapidly descend from “good/average” category to “bad”. We dine out – that’s what we do with our entertainment funds. But I often think that Cardiff restaurants are not interested in me spending my hard earned cash with them. That’s why I am happy to spend it in Edinburgh or London etc.

    I will keep reading your blog mikeydude to see if you actually succeed in finally finding a restaurant that Cardiffians can be proud of.

    • Thanks for the comments Jo. Sydney…. I went there for my honeymoon 2 years ago and I remember the snow crab and oysters & Champagne all too well. I really wanted to try out Tetsuya whilst I was there, but unsusprisingly was unable to book a table. Anyway…. yes….. you are silly for swapping that lifestyle for this 😀

      Re Cardiff…. hmmmm…. I will always admit that Indian is not my specialty, but I thought the M&M was pretty good when I went there a couple of months back. I guess it might be because my standards for Indian are very low. Still I found it much better than the average Cardiff Restaurant regardless of my palate. I’ve alwalys thought dining options are much better East of the city towards abergavenny and Monmouth. My favourite restaurant in the whole area is The Crown in Monmouth which I would recommend you try. I think the Chef there has a good palate and uses fine ingredients in his cooking and deserves the accolades he has. If that’s too far then you can try his sister restaurant at the Celtic Manor which also isn’t bad, although not quite as impressive. Let me know of anywhere that you find (if any) and I welcome all your input!

  5. I have NEVER had bad food or service in Woods, Cardiff Bay. And they serve Rib Eye.
    It is the only restaurant I am happy to pay to eat in in the city.
    I recommend it highly.
    As for Le Gallois!! RIP OFF!

    • Hey Simon thanks for the recommendation. I’ve been meaning to try Wood’s for years now but have never gotten round to it. Do you normally go A La Carte or the pre-theatre menu? As prices for A La Carte amount approximately equal to Le Gallois (?!). Anyway will visit it soon and post my review up here! Cheers! 🙂

  6. Agreed with all the negatives about Cardiff food / taste / style. I’ve been here 8 years. If you want anything remotely decent foodwise dont bother with Cardiff. Just dont waste your money. Save up and pop up to Birmingham .Try one of their Michelin starred places or better still pop over to Cork and sample food from one of the millions of brilliant eating houses in the city. Just no comparison with Cardiff. The Gallois – not bad but it’s certainly over priced and enjoyment very much depends on where you sit… the back is so cramped and dark/ dull/ unispiring. If you want decent Indian you must go to Brum…. fine eating for about £5 max a head!

    • Hmmmm… first time I’ve ever heard anyone talk about Brum. Will certainly remember it in my travels – thanks for the tip! Regardless of how poor the eating options are in Cardiff I think things are slowly improving. It all depends on how high your standards are really and also what type of cuisine you are talking about. Take dim sum for instance – ok so fairly simple chinese lunch but some skill is still required in making all those various small dishes – over the past 9 years I don’t think the quality is THAT far off from the likes of Manchester and London. Gastropubs – I recently went to an acclaimed London gastropub called Hereford Road, and wasn’t impressed at all. Even our relatively local gastropubs in around Abergavenny are far superior. Of course if you are talking Michelin standard food then Cardiff is like Division minus 10. But then you must remember that these luxury eateries are usually situated in or around very large cities. Speaking of Michelin I didn’t think the Crown at Whitebrook (ok a bit far from cardiff 😀 ) was that inferior to the likes of the Pied A Terre in London. So all in all I agree with you, but I am slightly more optimistic than most :p

  7. Hi
    Just to let you know Y Cadno shut its doors on July 4th and we will be opening them as The Cricketers on Tuesday 27th July.

    The previous front and back of house team (including all managers and chefs) are no longer part of the business. We have a new head chef, Dan Henry, who along with his new team has created a fantasic new menu full of traditional classics but also good quality Welsh meats and fish that will change daily on our specials board.

    I, myself, am also brand new to the business (3rd week in!) and bring along a new front of house team and promise to inject a bit of life and atmosphere into the beautiful building that was so lacking before.

    So, I would hope to see you poor reviews of Y Cadno becoming something of the past very soon and your new rave reviews of The Cricketers becoming a food blog standard!

    Please check out our new web site http://www.cricketerscardiff.co.uk (menus to be up loaded very shortly).

    Hope to see you there soon!

    Michelle Francis
    General Manager The Cricketers

    • Michelle,

      Thanks for the message. I didn’t think Y Cadno would last particularly long given the food standards and it’s great to see someone else ‘have a go’! In any case you have tough competition I’m afraid from the Conway just up the road from you who has already been Michelin Recommended. I tried it out a few months ago and standards were very high. In any case I’ve looked at your website which looks slick, as well as a menu that looks more sophisticated than most and so I will most certainly give it a try. I love the way it seems to place real emphasis on welsh produce; salt marsh lamb is certainly a product to be proud of! 😀

      Well give me a buzz once it’s open and up and running, and I’ll certainly take the Mrs for a try….

      Good luck!


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