The evening began as it normally does, with attempting to dress my husband. We had received invitation to the critically acclaimed Potted Pig restaurant in Cardiff and Luke was experimenting with what a ‘grown up’ might wear to such a dinner. I had to patiently explain that perhaps shorts and a suit jacket was perhaps the sort of look that said ‘eccentric, half-dressed public school boy’, rather than ‘adult male dining out with wife’. Eventually I bribed him with a Martini, got him into smart casual wear and out the door. The Potted Pig has a rather good dining reputation and indeed notoriously hard-to-please Jay Rayner previously described it as a ‘gift to a city’, so we were most excited to spend an evening there.
Potted Pig is located on Cardiff’s St Mary’s street in a former bank vault allowing you to dine underneath the city. This unusual feature gives the Potted Pig a rather secluded air of exclusivity, indeed it’s exterior branding is so understated you may very well saunter on past when seeking it out. As you descend the stairs you might imagine that an underground dining establishment would have a rather ‘illuminati dinner club’ vibe, but happily this is not the case with the Potted Pig, with its stripped back cool interior, that has a welcoming rather than pretentious feel to it. The ceilings are higher than I expect given its location and the wooden tables, low lighting, exposed brick and original bank features, make it a chic yet intimate space to eat in. It was time to get our romance on!
We were seated by friendly staff who were happy to talk about the venue and the food on offer. The cuisine they explained is modern British but with French and New-York grill inspired influences, using local suppliers where possible, so that the menu changes with the seasons.
We were keen to peruse the menu and thought it best to order a bottle of Altoritas Cabernet Sauvignon to kick start the evening. When the very nice waiter came over with our bottle of wine and asked if we would like to try it first, Luke helpfully pipes up with ‘nah it’s ok, we’ll drink anything’, oh good, now the waiter knows what a class act we are.
The dinner menu offers a variety of seasonal dishes featuring Welsh produce that are very on point. Current dishes include spinach & watercress soup, grilled mackerel and pigeon breast starters, with mains including pan fried hake with cockles, ham hock to share, celeriac royale with Glamorgan sausage and chargrilled steaks.
We decided to share their signature dish, potted pig with pickles & toast to start with, this unassuming starter arrives in a Kilner glass jar that belies the deliciousness that resides within. This particular potted meat the waiting staff informed us, is slow cooked pork shoulder that has been cooked in its own juices for five hours. I couldn’t get over the velvety texture; it is not only melt in the mouth soft but has a gorgeous meaty juiciness. As I was about to give profound, slightly wine-fuelled praise to the waiting staff, Luke cheerfully exclaims ‘It’s amazing what you can do with a bit of meat on toast’, I swear it’s like eating out with Karl Pilkington at times.
It was time to order our mains, it’s a tough call narrowing down superb sounding dishes, but as regular readers know, we are a carnivorous couple, so it was going to have to be something meaty. We opted for a Welsh lamb rump with crispy belly, puy lentils, bacon & smoked aubergine for me and an 8oz, 32-day aged rump steak, served with homemade fries and garlic butter sauce for Luke.
I love the mild yet distinct flavour of lamb, it’s one of my favourite meats but I am a little apprehensive about ordering it when eating out in case it does not live up to my perfect pink in the middle standards. A fraction overcooked and the whole thing is just ruined, possibly one of life’s more middle class problems? I had confidence in the Potted Pig team though given our delectable starter, I was also halfway through the wine, so I had an accompanying sense of ‘winefidence’ to boot.
Our dishes arrived and we were giddy with meaty anticipation, I cut into my lamb and let out an audible sigh of relief at the first peek of pinkness. The taste was also stunning, it was flavourful and tender, exactly how lamb should be. The puy lentils were a great accompaniment, they gave the dish a marvellous peppery seasoning and added texture to the dish. I would not have first thought to pair lamb with lentils but this is what the Potted Pig does brilliantly, serving creative combinations that are unusual but work beautifully, the addition of bacon was also genius. This was a well-structured and balanced dish that had flavours working in total harmony.
Luke’s steak was cooked to his medium rare specification and was complimented by the rich garlic butter sauce. Inevitably I had overwhelming food envy and decided to ‘help’ him eat the steak, needless to say my assistance was most unwelcome. The steak was seared well with a lovely juiciness, the sides of chips and greens proved to be a tasty and correctly portioned accompaniment. Our plates were cleaned and full satisfaction was reached after these luscious mains.
In the interest of providing a full review I decided it best to order a dessert to share, I’m always thinking of the readers like that. We ordered a chocolate mousse as our straining bellies were crying out for a light desert and as a complete chocoholic it seemed to be the obvious option. It arrived looking like the desserts of my 80’s childhood. A simple no fuss mousse served in a traditional dessert style glass, with orange wedges on top. I felt like I was six years old again being served pudding for ‘eating all my vegetables’, nothing like a side of nostalgia with your sweet. It was as light as it looked with a rich chocolatey flavour that was extremely moreish, I wonder if the chef could perhaps be bribed for the recipe?
We rounded off the evening with a few gins, an appropriate decision given that the Potted Pig is a purveyor of fine gins, with a large range of bespoke gins on offer including London dry gins, florals gins, aromatic & Spicy Gins and sloe gin. The waiting staff love talking gin and we were soon in a discussion about various pairings and botanicals. It’s lovely to engage with enthusiastic and friendly restaurant staff, especially staff that know their tipples. We opted for a sloe gin and my favourite gin Hendricks, paired with Fentlemans Rose Lemonade. These proved to be most excellent choices, my Hendricks was beautifully presented with Infused with rose petals and cucumber and the sloe gin was the correct amount of sweet and made for slow sipping. We are currently home brewing our own sloe gin so this has set the standard incredibly high.
It was sadly time to take our leave, I could have happily sat in The Potted Pig all evening sampling gin after gin but given my tendency for breaking out into a repertoire of Bonnie Tyler songs after a few drinks, I thought it best to get a taxi back to Chez Jones for the sake of the other diners. I found dining in the Potted Pig thoroughly charming, it is a unique venue serving up creative food that is appropriately priced. Many thanks to the staff for humouring us throughout, it takes a high calibre of waiting staff to patiently listen to our wine ramblings and the Potted Pig team frankly deserve an accolade for their patience and good nature. We are very keen to return in the future as I hear on the foodie scene that the lunch menu is equally as delightful, lunch club anyone?