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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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/