Cardiff’s Greyfriars Road is home to a string of popular nightclubs and bars including Pryzm, Glam, Tiger Tiger, The Crockerton (Wetherspoons-owned) and The Three Rivers. On a Friday or Saturday night, the street is lined with party-goers and in 2012, it was named one of the UK’s mobile phone theft hotspots by insurance company, =LV.
It’s definitely not the first part of Cardiff that springs to mind when you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant, headed up by a chef with experience at two double Michelin-starred restaurants – not until recently, that is!
Barley and Rye Bier Bar and Kitchen arrived on Greyfriars Road around a month ago on the former site of The Fat Cat Cafe Bar, which closed three years ago. Since then, the venue has played host to an Irish-themed bar during the 2015 Rugby World Cup but it’s been otherwise empty, so it’s great to see a new bar and restaurant breathing life into the place.
The focus is on Welsh cuisine with a contemporary twist, prepared using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. As an added bonus, the restaurant offers a beer menu boasting over 80 beers from 20 different countries, in addition to an extensive whiskey and bourbon selection.
With capacity for over 250 people, the venue features booth-style leather seating, wooden benches and tables and chairs.
Head Chef, Gareth Dobbs has worked at the world-famous 2 Michelin star Le Gavroche under the notorious Michel Roux Jr and then under Marcus Wareing at Gordon Ramsey’s 2 Michelin starred Petrus. However, Barley and Rye isn’t the first restaurant in Cardiff that Gareth has worked at. He was former Co-owner and Head Chef at Duck Egg Bleu, a fine dining restaurant in Canton, Cardiff that recently changed hands and is now reportedly staffed by a chef from The Clink, a fine dining restaurant at HMP Cardiff.
Arriving at Barley and Rye on a week day evening, we were the only guests dining in the restaurant. As we pondered over the menu, my friend Lisa and I sipped on a pint of German beer, Krombacher Pils.
To start, I ordered the venison faggot (£5.50), served with a pea purée, crushed butternut squash and fresh pea shoots in a venison gravy. The faggot was tender and succulent with a good, meaty bite to it, while the venison made for a tasty alternative to a traditional pork faggot.
Lisa began with the salmon rillette (£6). Juicy pink salmon was wrapped around a perfectly formed log of mustard-dressed leeks mixed with horseradish crème fraîche, accompanied by a thin slice of toasted sourdough, pea shoots and sliced radish. This was an impressive dish and I can confirm that it tasted just as good as it looked, if not better, although the portion seemed fairly big for a starter.
There was one particular main course that jumped out at me as soon as I saw the menu. The pan-fried salmon (£14) was served on a bed of leek, chorizo and smoked haddock risotto topped with a runny poached egg and smoked paprika dressing. The salmon was cooked to perfection and my knife simply slid through it, but it was the risotto that really stole the show. The flavours of the leek, chorizo and smoked haddock really stood out individually and, combined, it was as though they were made to match the salmon and the poached egg – the tastiest risotto I’ve eaten in a long time, hands down!
Meanwhile, Lisa went for the rump of lamb (£15) served with turnip, bacon and cider gratin, turnip purée, honey-roasted baby turnips, sweetbread beignet, red currant and rosemary jus. Served pink, the lamb was juicy and lean and there wasn’t an ounce of fat in sight. The gratin was a great addition to the dish; I had never imagined serving bacon and cider with lamb before, but it made for a scrumptious combination. However, I can’t help but feel as though three different turnip sides could be a little too much for one plate and perhaps the honey-roasted parsnips and the gratin would suffice.
Up until now, I’ve always thought that lamb sweetbreads were testicles. My mother told me that she used to love them as a child until she found out what they were. However, it turns out that sweetbreads actually come from the thymus gland (the throat) and the pancreas gland (the heart or stomach). These were served in a light, fritter-like batter and now that I actually know what sweetbreads are, I wish I’d had a taste for myself.
For dessert, I chose the coffee panna cotta (£5.50) with passion fruit jelly, peanut butter ice cream, peanuts and baked shortbread fingers. The panna cotta had a mild, creamy taste with just the right balance of coffee – it was more than a subtle hint, but it wasn’t overpowering. The passion fruit jelly made for a beautiful contrast, it’s vibrant, fruity flavours cutting through the rich, aromatic panna cotta. Meanwhile, the peanut butter ice cream added a strong, nutty flavour to the dish and the shortbread fingers introduced a crunchy texture, although one finger would have been enough for such an indulgent dessert.
Lisa rounded off her meal with the Halen Mon salted caramel chocolate torte (£5.50), served with vanilla ice cream, crumbled biscuit and a vanilla-salted baked tuille wafer. The torte was sinfully sweet and chocolate-y, but the texture introduced by the crumbled biscuit and tuille seemed to offset its richness, preventing it from tasting too dense or heavy.
After polishing off all three courses I was feeling pretty lethargic, so I ordered a cappuccino to wake myself up for the journey home. Smooth and creamy, the cappuccino had a light, frothy layer, sprinkled with chocolate and served with a caramelised biscuit.
I was immensely impressed by my first meal at Barley and Rye. All of the options on the menu were enough to make my mouth water and I will definitely be returning to work my way through them. The portions were very reasonable, the prices even more so. Judging by how quiet it was on the night of our visit I think it’s fair to say that word hasn’t quite got round yet about Barley and Rye, but when it does, the restaurant will no-doubt be in high demand.
The location is definitely a bit of a gamble, but with the New Theatre and Park Plaza hotel directly opposite, Barley and Rye would be the ideal place for hotel guests or theatre-goers in search of a decent meal.
Barley and Rye
2 Greyfriars Road
(029) 2034 5051
I was invited to Barley and Rye as a guest and our food and drink was provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.