Situated on King’s Road in Pontcanna, Cardiff , Urban Diner opened around seven weeks ago as a traditional American-styled diner. What attracts me to the restaurant most is the diversity of the menu – it features the usual suspects like burgers and fried chicken, but it also includes some more sophisticated options like Carolina pulled pork (£10.50) and Texas smoked baby back pork ribs (£10.50 ½ rack/ £14.50 full rack), along with daily steak and fish specials.
We arrive at the restaurant on a warm, sunny evening and as we step inside, we are pleasantly surprised at
how cool the restaurant is. The interior is fairly long, with a dining area at the front and a cosy cocktail lounge right at the far end. A neon ‘open’ sign hangs in the window, bright paintings adorn the walls and rock and roll plays in the background. Along with the black wooden floors and tables and chairs, the décor helps to separate Urban Diner from the stereotypical American-style diners that have become popular over the last few years.
Approaching the bar to inform them of our arrival, we are escorted to a reserved table by a friendly, well-presented waiter who hands us some menus. Focusing solely upon American food, the menu is divided into starters, burgers and subs, tasters/sharers, mains, sides, desserts and children’s dishes. The burger menu is very extensive, featuring traditional classics like the Urban Juicy Lucy (£11.25), two 6oz burger patties stuffed with Monterey cheese in a toasted bap with beef tomato, gherkins, lettuce and mayonnaise, alongside the more unusual Chickpea and Sunblushed Tomato Burger (£9.50).
Each dish looks so appealing, it really is difficult to choose just one. The main meals look quite filling so we skip starters. I settle upon the American Club (£8.50), a sub filled with chicken, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg mayonnaise. My guest opts for the Louisiana Chicken (£11.95), braised wild rice with chicken, king prawns and chorizo. All burgers, subs and main meals are served with either fries, jacket potato or salad, with the option to upgrade to sweet potato fries for £1.
We can’t resist trying out Urban Diner’s milkshake cocktails (£6 each) as we wait for our food to arrive. Initially we both order the Chocolate Dream, a mouthwatering concoction of Baileys, crème de menthe, chocolate ice cream and milk. However, my guest changes her order on on the advice of restaurant manager, Joe Maizey, to a White Russian, consisting of Baileys, Kahlùa, vodka, vanilla ice cream and milk.
Both milkshakes are exceptionally creamy and smooth, and you can just about detect a hint of the alcohol, but not to the extent that it becomes overpowering. These milkshakes are like no other, but my favourite has to be the White Russian. It tastes like white chocolate and makes for the perfect drink to cool you down on a hot day. Diners preferring something lighter to quench their thirst can choose from a range of authentic cocktails, wines, bottled beers and ciders and spirits as well as a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails and soft drinks.
Within around ten to fifteen minutes, our waiter brings our main courses to the table. My American Club is presented so well it makes my mouth water – cooked chicken, bacon, fresh lettuce, tomato and creamy egg mayonnaise are crammed into a soft white sub, teamed with a bed of fries. I add the finishing touches – a squirt of mayonnaise and American mustard. I can’t make up my mind whether to try and pick up my sub, or use my knife and fork to eat it. I can see the first option going drastically wrong and so I grab my cutlery and tuck in.
The succulent chunks of chicken and crispy rashers of smoked bacon are delicious and taste great paired with a bit of salad. My fries are crunchy on the outside and smooth and creamy on the inside, a gorgeous golden brown in colour.
My guest’s Louisiana chicken is presented in a large bowl and garnished with what appears to be fresh coriander
or parsley. The fragrantly spiced wild rice is interspersed with fresh king prawns, sliced chorizo and plenty of chicken and the dish is accompanied by a bowl of fries. This menu option illustrates perfectly the way in which Urban Diner try to inject a contemporary essence into traditional American cuisine.
We finish eating our main courses and we have just about enough room left for dessert. Six delicious desserts
are on offer, all of American origin. The Deep Fried Ice cream (£5.45) sounds particularly interesting – vanilla ice cream wrapped in a pancake, cooked in a sweet batter. I think this option might be bit too heavy considering the main course I’ve just eaten and so I opt for the New York Cheesecake (£5.25).
Made fresh earlier that day by Joe, the biscuit base is crumbly and flavoursome and the topping is sweet and
creamy. The dish is garnished with fresh, whole strawberries in a light, fruity drizzle. The serving is not too small yet not too large, just the right balance to stop me from feeling like I’m bursting at the seams.
My guest goes for the Banoffee Pecan Pie (£4.95), a circular base of biscuit and banana topped with creamy banana pie layered with lashings of toffee sauce, sprinkled with crushed pecan nuts and drizzled with lashings of chocolate sauce.
Urban Diner offers an excellent overall dining experience, putting a modern take on traditional American
culture and cuisine, both in the form of the menu and in the restaurant décor. It’s the kind of place I could visit again and again without getting bored of it. The value for money is not too bad when you consider that you’d probably pay a fiver on average for a processed meal at today’s popular fast food outlets.
Looking to the future, Joe hopes to switch the focus of the menu from American food in general, to burgers, with plans to specialise in creating a variety of innovative burger fillings. If his milkshake cocktails are anything to go by, that’s a menu I wouldn’t mind tasting!
175 King’s Road
(029) 2034 1013
I was invited to Urban Diner as a guest and our food and drinks were complimentary.