This week I went on my first ever trip to Wales, seconded to Cardiff for a few days with work. As luck would have it, many of my appointments turned out to be with people who were just as passionate about food as me. From local journalists to representatives from the tourism board, we all found common ground when it came to dining out, and everybody was more than happy to share their recommendations.
Two suggestions kept coming up time and again; The Potted Pig and Bill’s. With just one evening in Cardiff it was a tough decision, but when I discovered The Potted Pig was also a gin specialist my choice was made. One of the other appealing things about The Potted Pig is its location; in the underground vaults of an old bank. The restaurant is usually fully booked, so myself and my colleague Hannah (a fellow greedster), crept tentatively down the stone steps to the crypt without a reservation, but our prompt timing as they were just opening the doors meant we were in luck.
There are many interesting objects to explore while you’re in the restaurant; from the extensive wine cellar sitting behind an authentic bank gate to the dainty enamel bread bowls waiting on each table, but The Potted Pig’s star attractions are its inviting menus. More than four pages of gin options greet you, sectioned into those with floral notes, citrus tones and crisp flavours. I went with the house recommendation of a delicious local Brecon Special Reserve, served with Fentimans tonic and orange peel.
As the restaurant’s name suggests, the food menu is strongly based on pork dishes (we were slightly distracted at one point, when the waiting staff presented a wooden board carrying whole suckling pig to a group of diners), but there was still plenty of choice for my pescetarian palate. I went for leek and lentil polenta pancakes, served on fresh, buttery spring greens. As an omnivore, Hannah’s choice took a little longer and she eventually decided on free range pork belly, Jerusalem artichoke puree and crisps with pickled beets and sausage. Both were absolutely delicious and presented simply but interestingly; with the artichoke puree arranged in the form of an egg, sitting beneath crisp pork crackling and melt-in-the-mouth meat. After a long day and an early start the next morning we decided against desserts, but I’m quite sure they would have been just as impressive as the rest of our meal. If you’re ever in Cardiff I’d certainly recommend The Potted Pig, particularly if you enjoy gin – just make sure you book ahead.
We began the next morning with every intention of picking up a quick breakfast on the go, but as we walked from our hotel we spotted an inviting looking eatery which turned out to be the infamous Bill’s that we’d heard about the day before. One glance at the breakfast menu had us practically falling over our suitcases to get in! When you enter Bill’s you pass the small shop of own-brand merchandise, arranged on shelves across the entire wall in mesmerising fashion. Jars of Bill’s marmalade, pink lemonade and colourful chocolate buttons provide a vibrant backdrop to the entire restaurant.
The rest of the decor is just as interesting; a unique blend of kitsch, hula and industrial chic, with the odd opulent glass chandelier thrown in for good measure. Bill’s wooden tables are painted in a calm mint green, while the Chesterfield sofas, stainless steel and tan leather chairs give some edge to the look.
The menu was equally eclectic; I went for Bill’s vegetarian breakfast (poached free range eggs, tomatoes, hummus, mushrooms and guacamole, sweet chilli sauce, basil and toast), while Hannah chose the homemade buttermilk pancakes with banana, strawberries and maple syrup. A refreshing glass of carrot, orange and ginger juice completed one of the most imaginative vegetarian breakfasts I’ve ever had.
Before visiting Cardiff I’d heard mixed reviews, but I can happily say it is one of the friendliest and most appealing cities I’ve been to. Secretive old arcades are asking to be explored, while a quick walk through the bustling central market had me tempted to cram a weekly shop into my overnight suitcase. The city is so accessible you can easily cover most of the major sights in a day or two. Its compact nature probably explains why Cardiff’s locals are so happy to point you in the right direction of a great place to eat – as it’s likely to be right at the end of whichever street you happen upon.