Is this the real ‘Gin Craze’?

Lifestyle

We all have a story about a particularly bad moment fuelled by gin, don’t we? I legit lose my mind after a few too many. I swear it’s like I’m possessed. I’ll also gladly spend £20+ on a double if it means it comes in a crystal goblet with edible flowers and pretty garnishes. That’s the true craze…

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We have Prince William of Orange to thank for our seemingly new found addiction to this spirit. He brought genever to Britain in 1688 which at the time was the Netherlands liquor of choice, quasi-medicinal and fondly known as “Dutch courage”. Long story short the new Dutch King was a tad lax in the rules surrounding distilling genever and soon absolutely anyone could distill their own and sell it! Unlike beers and ales, the sale of gin wasn’t regulated and soon gin-shops were serving the public around the clock. The drink quickly fell from a drink of the Upper classes to the cheapest drink in town, synonymous with poverty, thievery, prostitution, and violence. The lack of any distilling regulation led to cheaper substitutes for juniper being added, turpentine, sulphuric acid, gin became an elixir for the poor and desperate. Thus the Gin Craze was born. It was only in the 18th century when the gin craze was finally wrestled under control and soon London dry gin began to be developed and with it, the g&t was born.

From mother’s ruin to modern tipple, the UK is now awash with gin bars, gin-vent calenders, gin hotels and even gin inspired perfumes. Gin has seen a huge revival and you can’t even walk into your local Wetherspoons nowadays without being confronted with around 30 different variations of the quintessentially British tipple. The resurgence of this spirit is accredited to Bombay Sapphire. Vodka was the spirit of choice for most bartenders until Bombay Sapphire’s floral gin showed up and in a striking blue bottle to boot. Sipsmith and Hendricks distillery shortly followed and each one of them are today household names.

Today you will find gins containing anything from lavender, cucumber, rhubarb or rose to the more unusual tobacco, tea or kelp! In an Instagram obsessed world, gin is the perfect drink. The addition of botanicals, edible flowers, and even glitter all stacked into a beautiful goblet shaped glass – its no wonder that gin sales soured in 2018 to a whopping £1.5 billion.

Drinks trends tend to come and go but long may this gin trend continue! To help you all along with your modern day ‘Gin Craze’ here are a few of my fave picks!

Little Bird

In case you hadn’t noticed I am a huge fan of a good old-fashioned London dry. The folks at Little Bird have knocked it out of the park with this one. A recipe of pink-grapefruit, orange peel and ginger & seven more unnamed botanicals. This spirit is a true London gin too! It’s distilled in Peckham. If that isn’t enough to twist your arm then just take one look at the bottle, the gorgeous pinup ‘Miss Ginger’ is inspired by the work of Alberto Vargas who began painting pin-ups for Esquire Magazine. Definitely a bottle for the front of the shelf.

Serve with: Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic and a slice of pink grapefruit.

Purchase here

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Jawbox

Another classic dry but this time from our friends in Belfast. Jawbox is a small batch distillery just outside Belfast in a vast 16th-century country estate. They use time-honoured methods and triple distill their gin in traditional copper stills with various botanicals as well as local Black Mountain heather. The end product? Light notes of juniper and citrus that are clean on the nose and the palette. The freshness of this gin finished off with the slight hint of pepperiness thanks to the addition of the hillside heather.

Serve with: Ginger ale and a wedge of lime! The original Belfast serve.

Purchase here

Also worth a try is their pineapple & ginger gin liqueur! Which you can find here

Dyfi Pollination Gin

I had to include a Welsh gin, didn’t I? This family-owned distillery began production in 2016 and has already been awarded the ‘BEST UK GIN’ title at the Great Britain Food Awards.  Dyfi Pollination Gin is everything you would imagine a Welsh inspired gin would be – a grassy and fresh taste with hints of wildflowers, fruits, and conifer tips. This gin not only tastes wonderful but is wonderfully eco-friendly, its distilled using botanicals foraged from the Dyfi Biosphere (A UNESCO site), the Snowdon foothills and some of the other surrounding areas.

Serve with: Fever Tree light tonic, torn mint leaves, juniper berries, and lemon peel.

Purchase here

For the Cardiff/South Wales based amongst you, try some of these incredible venues for a fantastic range of our favourite modern-day tipple. Just don’t go starting your own gin craze…

Gin & Juice – Castle Arcade, Cardiff

Chapel 1877 – Churchill Way, Cardiff

Gin 64 – Penarth

Pennyroyal – High Street, Cardiff

Hogarth’s – Newport & Swansea

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12 things you must eat when you visit Barcelona

Adventures, Food, Travel

Every time I set foot in a European city I am so thankful for living on this incredible continent. Even if it is on a small island just to the left. As a self-confessed foodie, Europe is an absolute haven for culinary delights.

Madrid may be the Spanish capital but Barcelona is certainly the food capital. It’s the city of utter gluttony. A wealth of beautiful architecture, designer stores, and high-end restaurants lining the streets, tiny lit up bars serving glass after glass of cava and plate after plate of tapas. It’s difficult to know where to start. If you are planning on visiting the City of Counts soon then this is your go-to culinary list. Enjoy!

1.Iberico Ham

You can barely walk a few steps in Barcelona without stumbling upon a shop or stall selling all the versions of Jamon Iberico you could possibly imagine. Each different adaptation of the cured meat offers different flavours and characteristics but the distinct oily, slightly nutty taste synonymous with Iberico will always be there. For a small taste try one of the meat stalls in Mercat de la Boqueria. Tick off 2 items on this list by buying one of the small punnets that contain both Iberico and a bit of our next treat…

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2. Manchego

Made in the La Mancha region of Spain this sheep’s milk cheese is, in my opinion, the perfect companion for your Iberico. Nutty, sweet and caramel in both flavour and colour. It makes the perfect addition to the fatty, rich Iberico.

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3. Pa amb Tomaquet

Arguably one of the best Catalan inventions of all time, Bread rubbed with tomato. Sounds basic, tastes incredible. The bread should be ideally sourdough and toasted, maybe even slightly charred, a sprinkle of salt on the bread, the tomatoes should be on the vine or of the hanging variety, the tomato is sliced in half and rubbed over the course bread releasing all of the natural flavours. The finishing touch? A drizzle of high-quality olive oil. Bon profit!

4. La Bomba

Potato and meat bombs. Sound amazing, taste amazing. These are large balls of mashed potato surrounding usually a pork or beef centre. The best are served piping hot and with a spicy sauce and a traditional alioli. Go to Paco Meralgo for their “Bomba Paco Meralgo” which is my personal favourite!

5. Paella (Catalan style)

Paella is easy to get wrong and there are countless restaurants in Barcelona that will serve up frozen versions to the tourists roaming the city. For a real Catalan version, you should expect at least an hours wait. Catalan paella is slightly different, once the rice is added to the pan the pan is not stirred, this allows the ingredients to relax and gives you that incredible “soccarat” that you look for in a good paella. I recommend going to Pez Vela Chiringuito, directly on the beachfront in the shadow of the glamorous W hotel, this is the perfect place for a bottle of wine and a few paellas to share. Pez Vela do around 5 different versions and charge per person so try a few different flavours. My favourites are the Baby squid, black rice & artichoke and the Squid, prawns & clams rice.

6. Padron peppers

Don’t mistake these for a boring dish. Hot, blistered peppers sprinkled in sea salt are the perfect pal to an ice cold glass of Albariño.

 

 

7. Cava

Often heralded as a lesser Champagne but don’t dismiss this sparkling wine. 70% of this refreshing beverage is produced in Catalonia and so there is no better place than to enjoy a glass/bottle than in one of Barcelona’s many wine bars or bodegas. Can Paixano aka La Xampanyeria is a great old fashioned tapas bar, popular with tourists and locals alike, that serves up very reasonably priced glasses of Cava if you order a small portion of food. Not that you need convincing…

8. Patatas Bravas

We all know and love this fried dish don’t we but it can go so horribly wrong. Chunks of roughly cut potato cooked in high quality oil accompanied with a sales (occasionally spicy) and alioli. For the best in Barcelona try Bar Tomás whose secret sauce recipe is closely guarded. If you aren’t a huge fan of spice and heat then try Elsa and Fred’s version – this is a milder take on the classic but doesn’t fail to pack a punch with its flavour profile.

9. Croquetas

Croquetas don’t strictly have an all Spanish origin but the first thing I look at ordering when I’m in Spain are these little babies. Originally they were made from leftovers, bound with a bechamel sauce and then deep fried. Nowadays you can find them served up with a whole range of fillings. If this is your first time trying them then opt for the Jamon variety. You just can’t beat a classic.

 

 

10. Crema Catalana

Quintessentially Catalan. The recipe is very similar to that of a Creme Brulee but don’t you dare let the locals hear you compare it. This dessert is the perfect finish to your evening meal, light citrus infused custard with hints of vanilla and cinnamon topped off with the iconic crunchy layer of scorched caramel. There is a very sweet story behind the origin of this dessert here.

11. Artichokes

Vague, I know. Artichokes are native to the region and there a plethora of tapas bars that serve up different takes on this versatile ingredient. Try them stuffed, roasted or most commonly, fried into chips. Ciutat Comtal does a fantastic version, as do many of the tapas bars within Mercat de la Boqueria.

12. Churros

Churros (Xurros) may not originate from Barcelona but you can find some phenomenal examples of them, particularly if you stray away from the hoards of tourists and into some of the quieter back streets. There are plenty of small Xurrerias (Small, snug shops that specialise in the deep-fried treat) that offer up not only the traditional version with a pot of dipping chocolate but also stuffed and empanada style versions. For the best in Barcelona try Xurreria San Roman, Xurreria Trebol or La Xocolateria (by Oriol Balaguer).

If you are a foodie in Barcelona it doesn’t matter if your preference is more Market stall than Michelin you can truly get a taste of Catalonia no matter where you go!

 

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Heaney’s – Pontcanna

Cardiff
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Image: Olive Magazine, Heaney’s-cardiff-restaurant-review

Before we start, let me make one thing very clear. I am no food blogger. I would not deign to think that I have any type of right to start speaking like John Torode and tell you all about a culinary experience that I had at Heaney’s. I do however know a bloody good chip.

All joking aside, Heaney’s was just THAT good that I want to wax lyrical about it. After you’re done here please go check out someone like Gourmet Gorro or Octopus Diaries who I can assure you probably know the bloody difference between a granita and a spoon of shaved ice.

Heaney’s is situated on the former site of much loved Arbennig, gone are the cosy oak and leather details and in their place are concrete effect walls, industrial style shelving, a mezzanine bar and floor to ceiling glass windows. The entire space feels totally unpretentious and wonderfully light and airy. We were very fortunate to be sitting in the window and with the light shining through on a warm day, I would have gladly sat there all afternoon, with a glass of prosecco or two of course.

The Food

First up I should explain. As a responsible adult woman in my late twenties, I still thought it was a good idea to go out the night before my reservation. BIG MISTAKE. Feeling rather fragile arriving for my 1:45pm reservation I opted immediately for Bloody Marys and a glass of prosecco. I found the drinks extremely reasonably priced. I had paid £7 the evening before for a sorry excuse for a cocktail in Sticky Fingers Street Food Market so when this Bloody Mary arrived at our table with the same price tag I was overjoyed. You can almost always tell the quality of a Bloody by the colour. You only need one swift look at my photograph to see this breakfast cocktail was top notch. Fresh, chilled tomato juice, a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a good punch of spice from Tabasco. Always thankful for the absence of a totally unnecessary celery stalk for which the only role seems to be to stop me from being able to sip my drink and thus splashing it down my front.

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The menu consists of smaller plates designed to share so that you can try multiple dishes. I personally love this concept, the dishes come to the table at a leisurely pace and whilst they are sporadic, they arrive in a complimentary fashion (Light fish dishes to start and finishing with the heavier, darker meats/richer flavours).

A good option if you are unsure what to pick, or find the menu a little daunting, is to opt for the tasting menu (£40pp), you get ten of the dishes of the day, which I actually think is very good value for a restaurant of this quality. As a group of three, we chose instead to “wing it” and order dishes as we went.

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We started with the already infamous sourdough and marmite butter (£3.5). Large, crusty farmhouse slices of sourdough perfectly charred with the most beautiful butter I have ever tried. Silky, salty, smoky – All the good characteristics of marmite without the distinct, overpowering flavour that some of us associate with the ‘love it or hate it’ spread.

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Toasted sourdough bread with marmite butter

The duck croquettes (£4.5) and oyster (£4) arrived together. First of all, I’m not sure whether the croquettes were actually croquetas. Spelling mistake or my serious lack of palette? You decide. Three croquetas sat atop a bed of pomegranate seeds. Crunchy, golden breadcrumbs nestling a silky, creamy filling of shredded duck.

I was slightly dubious of the oyster (mainly due to the hangover, not ideal) but I was more than pleasantly surprised. A light and refreshing pairing of yogurt granita, dill oil and tiny cubes of apple.

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Duck croquetas on a bed of pomegranate (top) and a fresh oyster with yogurt granita, apple, and dill.

First up on the mains, the monkfish (£11). Paper thin slices of monkfish topped with horseradish sorbet, blood orange, and tarragon. This was beautifully light and expertly balanced. The slightly acidic blood orange cut through the aniseed flavour of the tarragon perfectly and made it a beautiful accompaniment for the mild flavour of the monkfish.

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Thinly sliced monkfish with blood orange, tarragon, spring onion, and a horseradish sorbet

The scallop with XO butter and lime was a hit and miss dish for our table. The scallops were perfectly cooked, melt in your mouth texture with a golden top. The XO butter, although hugely aromatic, was slightly underwhelming. XO sauce derives from Hong Kong and is made up of chopped dried seafood, chilli, onion, and garlic. This was a butter based adaptation but the spice could have been turned up just a notch for my personal taste.

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Scallops with XO butter, samphire and lime

The Oxtail and kohlrabi was a standout dish for me. The deep, rich flavours of the shredded oxtail were offset very well with the saltiness of the oyster emulsion, capers, and brown shrimp. Add into the mix a cold, crunchy, fresh element in the form of kohlrabi strands and you have a bloody good dish.

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Oxtail with kohlrabi, brown shrimp, capers & an oyster emulsion

Our final main was my showstopper. Barbecued lamb. What do I even say about this? Sweet, smoky, unbelievably tender and almost buttery soft. I loved every tiny morsel of this dish. I particularly love the use of the natural salt in this dish as a result of incorporating anchovies, samphire, and sea vegetables.

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BBQ Lamb with samphire, anchovies, sea vegetables, and an anchovy emulsion.

Somehow, after indulging ourselves on our savoury courses we still decided to order all of the desserts that the Heaney’s kitchen could possibly offer up to us. Tommy Heaney’s inspiration for his menu really sang through on the cheese dish. A small freshly baked loaf of Irish Veda bread traditional to Tommy’s home country of Northern Ireland, A generous portion of creamy welsh blue, Perl Las and spiced fig chutney. A drizzle of sticky honey all over this dish really made it for me. Again, in a total unpretentious manner, this dish is made to enjoy to the absolute max, sticky honeyed fingertips and all.

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Perl Las, Fig Chutney, Honeycomb & Irish Veda

Finally, three sweets. My absolute favourite was beyond shadow of a doubt, the salted caramel parfait. This little dessert was a small piece of perfection, truly living up to its adequate French name. The yogurt parfait was a surprisingly lovely addition and prevented the dish from becoming overly sweet.

The warm chocolate mousse was uber-rich and uber-decadent. The crunch of the pistachio and a thin chocolate biscuit kept the dish interesting by introducing an alternate texture to that of the soft mousse and pear.

Lemon meringue pie is usually my go-to dessert. I am not sure whether it was because I found the parfait and the chocolate mousse so mind-blowing that the lemon meringue underwhelmed me slightly. Truly a work of art on the plate but I wanted the flavours to be slightly more “amped”.

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(L to R) Salted caramel parfait with yogurt sorbet & honeycomb, Warm chocolate mousse with pear, pistachio, & a milk ice cream and a deconstructed Lemon meringue pie.

This meal was (sorry) properly lush. The food was impeccable, the staff are informative,  the surroundings feel cool and comfortable and the entire experience just feels very special. I’m no food blogger, but I know a very good thing when I see one…


 

Price – £120 for 11 dishes and three alcoholic drinks.

Location – Romilly Crescent, Pontcanna, Cardiff

Website – http://www.heaneyscardiff.co.uk/