Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Bar 44, Cowbridge, Wales

Completely off-piste from my normal neck of the woods, and probably any of you who happen to be reading this too, but should you find yourself in the Vale of Glamorgan I'd strongly recommend you dine at Bar 44.

It's a tapas bar of rare quality. I dined alone there last week while working away in the area, and everything was bloody brilliant.


Catalan bread with tomatoes and serrano ham. Just very good bread, toasted and topped with a mush of tomatoes with actual flavour and a generous covering of glistening, gorgeous ham. This stuff reminded me how good serrano can be, how you can get something of the intense, lingering taste of the finest iberico de bellota without the scary price tag. Full marks for serving it at room temperature too, fridge coldness is the enemy of good ham but is often what you end up with early on a quiet weekday.


Crispy hake with alioli. Why isn't hake more popular? I rarely see it on menus and it's practically never sold in chip shops. I've no idea why as it has the right attributes; pearlescent, sweet tasting, flaky flesh in thick fillets that survive a good battering. The batter on these was spot on and the garlickiness of the mayo was judged just right too.


I think it might be the injudicious use of olive oil that makes veggie tapas dishes seem so luxurious. Chickpeas and spinach was a plate licking triumph of paprika laced deliciousness.


Finally, from the more ambitious dishes on the specials menu, iberico pork presa (shoulder) with apple puree and hazelnut crumble. I had to get something from an iberico pig in there somewhere didn't I? The apple brought a subtle hint of acidity, the hazelnuts variation in texture, but the meat was the star. Cooked blush pink, tender but not meltingly so, it had a sweet, lingering flavour not dissimilar to the ham but sort of milder, fresher. Marvellous.

The bill for this little lot came to around £25 including a glass of properly chilled Manzanilla. I couldn't fault the service, and didn't get any sense of my having 'outcast freak' status for dining alone (always a worry especially in smaller towns).

Excellent, and judging by the steady stream of punters arriving, the locals know it too. They also have another branch in Penarth, closer to Cardiff.

9/10

44c High Street
Cowbridge
CF71 7AG

http://www.bar44.co.uk/cowbridge/home

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