Normally when I think of mussels, I imagine feasting on moules frites in sunny Brittany whilst wistfully gazing out to sea, the whole scene looking like a sort of low-budget French Noir film. What I might not imagine is mussels served alongside sandwiches, burgers and cocktails, as they are in the Hashery Cardiff. I was keen to sample this unusual combination and so with confused husband Luke in tow ‘babes do I even like mussels?’, we set off to this curious and independent venue.
The first thing that strikes you is the unique décor, contemporary lighting meets cartoon walls, cheeky pop art references and personalised guitars to reserve your seating. There’s a bit of personality about this place though, rather than just being another soulless identikit bar, the Hashery has a bit of pizzazz. It’s almost like the designers deliberately created the most instagrammable venue possible and they have certainly done this well dear readers. This girl is frankly all about ‘the gram’.
We sat down to peruse the cocktail menu and made the startling discovery that the cocktails were two for one. All. The. Time. Holy banana daiquiri Batman, I have now entered what I like to refer to as ‘the danger zone’. You can’t give someone like me unlimited two for one, Christ above. At best I’ll try and serenade the barman with ‘Oops I did it again’ at worst, I’ll fall off the bar and break both ankles after becoming convinced I can ‘definitely do Riverdance’. I took immediate action and booked cinema tickets online for later that evening to prevent myself from getting trapped in the never-ending happy hour. I wonder if other adults have to create their own life hurdles to prohibit their cocktail over indulgence? Best not ask.
We ordered a selection of whimsical sounding cocktails including ‘Pirate Juice’, ‘Electric Tea’ and ‘Barn Dog Zombie’ before tackling the food menu, how does one choose from such a diverse selection? The sensible answer of course is to have a bit of everything to give full and proper consideration. I mean, if this blogger has to take one for the team then I will step up to the proverbial plate. We ordered Mozzerella sticks, sweet potato fries, ‘The Hashery Cubano’, ‘The Hashery burger’ and ‘The Hashery mussels’, with the thinking that ordering anything with ‘The Hashery’ in front of it would surely mean it’s one of the specialities? Either that or they feel you might need repeated reminding of where you are dining, memory loss is surely a common side effect of two for one cocktails?
There was a range of mussels on the to choose from including the ‘boozy pig’, the ‘med’ and ‘thai green’. Obviously we went for the signature mussels, named, you guessed it, ‘The Hashery’, which is their take on classic mussels. Being a moules frites fan, I like my mussels simple and without fuss, so I was hoping the Hashery mussels would deliver.
The food started to arrive and as the table started to fill, I could feel my anxiety grow. Regular readers will be aware of mine and Luke’s relatively small appetites, so this was going to be a challenge. First up were gigantic mozzarella sticks, these bad boys take gooey mozzarella and contain it with the broken bits of nachos that would have otherwise been discarded. This may sound like they are serving you the last of the kitchen dregs, but this is insanely tasty sustainability that prompted my out loud thought of, ‘this tastes so good in my mouth’. Look I’ve never pretended to be Giles Coren ok? The benefit of using nachos is that it gives it a real tangy depth of flavour and a very pleasing crunchy texture. Yes this is the ultimate grease food, but it’s chin dribble lushness and besides, Luke enjoys loving wiping grease from my adorable little face. Probably.
The Hashery burger was then sampled, it features a beef patty with lettuce topping, cheddar cheese, pancetta and topped with their home-made mayo. I’m not a mayo-in-burger sort of girl, unlike husband Luke, who judges burgers purely on whether or not they have mayo. I have to say though the mayo was certainly a welcome addition to a well-cooked and moist burger and I particularly enjoyed the pancetta element, it balanced all the flavours marvellously.
The Hashery Cubano is their version of the popular Cuban sandwich. There has been many a debate by foodies on what exactly constitutes a ‘Cubano’, but the general consensus is that it should contain swiss cheese, pork, ham, pickles and mustard and should be heated in a sandwich press until the cheese has melted and the bread is the optimum amount of crispy.
The Hashery Cubano checks off most of the Cubano ‘must haves’ and is filled with ham, swiss cheese pickle and has Mojo marinated roast pork instead of the usual mustard topping, it is also served alongside mojo sauce. The staff warned me that the dipping sauce was not to everyone’s taste and I should proceed with caution. The dipping sauce consisted predominantly of pickle and lime juice and appeared to have a watery consistency, so probably the least appetising sauce I could imagine. I braced myself and dunked my Cubano straight in. I have to say it was a delightful sauce, incredibly zingy and bursting with flavour, it really complimented the Cubano which be honest felt a little lacking flavour wise. The dipping sauce completely saves it though and is so moreish that I momentarily considered drinking it from the bowl, until I remembered that I am a lady.
It was time for the mussels and I admit I was apprehensive, there’s always the danger that a dining establishment will get it horribly wrong and you will be served up a rancid bucket of disappointment, so we cautiously tucked in. These mussels, to be fair, had been cooked with expertise. They had the aroma of the ocean, I could almost taste the frothing waves. They were delicate in texture with a slight chew and a just a hint of sea, not at all fishy like some mussels I have previously had. We were extremely full at this juncture, having sampled several of the dishes on the menu. I had to try and eat faster than my stomach could register my fullness, in order to try and trick my digestive system, which is almost definitely how science works.
By the end of the night I decided that I am rather a fan of the whole cocktails, mussels and burger combo. It seems like a bizarre choice of menu at first, but they manage to serve an unusual variety of dishes not just well, but also in the effortless manner of ‘It ain’t no thing sugar’.
I also very much enjoyed the laid back feeling and the evident ethos of delivering good food and good times. You might imagine that a bar serving two for one cocktails all day and night might not have a very firm commitment to quality, however the drinks that were mixed up for us were both imaginative and very decent. Overall it’s a very well priced and offers a very chilled out atmosphere considering the opportunity to heavily imbibe. I am very much looking forward to a return visit.