Despite the fact that as a food blogger I eat out a lot (“all the time!” to quote many of my friends), I still have a list of ‘to visit’ places as long as your proverbial arm. It’s surprising how difficult it is to get round to all of the places I want to try, as I like to revisit my favourites as well as try somewhere new! One such place was, until last week, Oscars of Cardiff, which occupies the former Le Gallois site in stylish Pontcanna and is the sister restaurant of Oscars of Cowbridge. The impetus I needed to get myself over to Oscars came in the form of an invitation to sample one of their Wednesday theme nights – something they’ve been doing regularly over the past couple of months. I decided to plump (pun fully intended, given the amount of food consumed) for their ‘Marvellously Meaty’ night, celebrating 4th July with an American-style menu, which appealed to the former vegetarian in me! My dining companion for the evening was fellow Cardiff food blogger Nicki from Cardiff Bites, and excellent company she was too – but what about the food?
It’s always a difficult one reviewing a special one off menu, as there’s little point waxing too lyrical about the finer details of the food, knowing full well that other diners won’t be able to sample the same things for themselves, so I’ll try to keep it brief (famous last words!) as far as what we actually had and talk more about Oscars itself.
Even though we knew the main event was going to be a hefty plate of food, we steeled ourselves for the evening ahead and ordered the special American starter of clam chowder with corn bread. This was served in a cup and saucer, which looked good, but was somewhat ironic as it was probably the least drinkable soup I’ve ever had – chock full of chunks of potato with clams and bacon. The flavour was really good, but for me it was too chunky as I was hoping to ‘dunk’ my corn bread (which was fantastic) into the soup, but this was quite difficult. It was also a very filling starter, given what was coming next – but we did know what we’d signed up for!
Knowing that there were four meat options to come, I was expecting a small tasting portion of each. I was wrong! We were presented with a carnivore’s delight, comprising a pretty much full size burger, four baby back ribs, a healthy serving of pulled pork and two pieces of fried chicken! We’d also decided to try a couple of side orders (fries and breaded shrimp) and a selection of dips, including corn relish and sour cream.
All of the main course components were excellent! The burger was meaty and juicy – for me it could have done with being a tad pinker in the middle, but admittedly I didn’t specify how I’d like it cooked. The cheese it was topped with wasn’t very cheesy or melty, and as a result was a bit incidental, but the sweet tomato relish was fantastic. Purist burger lovers may not have enjoyed the foccacia style bread which was cut into a square, but I quite liked this and it was far tastier than the usual (often bland) burger bun.
The ribs were glazed with pomegranate and molasses – I don’t know if I’d have picked out pomegranate as a flavour, but it certainly made them taste good. I’d been telling Nicki beforehand how I wasn’t a fan of ribs and probably wouldn’t eat mine, but then ended up eating my words (as if I needed to eat anything else!) as these were excellent, with lots of tender meat falling off the bone – unlike the fatty specimens I remembered from Chinese takeaways in days gone by which had involved some serious gnawing just to get a morsel of meat off them!
The pulled pork was my favourite. Again, wonderfully tender, with a delicious sweet marinade, which reminded me of plum sauce that comes with crispy duck pancakes (I clearly had Chinese on the brain that evening) but which I think was actually a honey-based sauce.
The fried chicken also had a bit of a sweet taste to the crumb coating, and was moist and succulent whilst not at all greasy. I loathe almost all fast food, so fried chicken and burgers both have the potential to be my worst nightmare – but happily these were great, and had nothing in common with their greasier takeaway cousins!
The shrimp (in the American sense of the word – i.e. prawns!) were meaty and substantial, but I personally found the breadcrumb coating a bit too thick. Sadly, the enormous bowl of fries that accompanied our meat feast were the worst part of what was otherwise a very good meal. The potatoes had been cut with the skins on, which I don’t normally have a problem with, but it didn’t seem in keeping with the meal (I was expecting proper, thin cut, American-style fries) and to make matters worse, the few that we tried from the top of the bowl were a bit soggy, so I dread to think how the ones at the bottom would have fared. It didn’t really matter, though, as we really didn’t need anything else to eat!
There weren’t any American desserts on offer, which was a surprise, as I can imagine a cheesecake or a brownie sundae finishing off the meal nicely, but the regular dessert menu sounded even more tempting. My head was turned by marmalade crème brulee served with Welsh cakes and raspberries, and Nicki liked the sound (and look – we coveted our neighbours’ puddings!) of the strawberry mess with candy floss, but we were just too full and had to take a rain check on the sweet course. In fact, I’ve always thought ‘meat sweats’ were a bit of a myth – but have to admit to having a bit of a hot flush shortly after downing tools on the marvellously meaty main, and I don’t think it was my age!
The service was attentive, friendly and efficient, and the place had a healthy complement of customers for a Wednesday night outside the town centre.
I’ve failed miserably at not rambling on about what we ate, but to cut a potentially even longer story short, I loved almost all of what I ate at Oscars, and if what we tried on their Marvellously Meaty night is anything to go by, then their ‘regular’ menu is likely to be very good. I had a sneaky look and it featured a wide selection of tempting sounding dishes inspired by a range of different cuisines, plus the option on the main course menu to choose three starters and a side order as a main course. I am always spoilt for choice when it comes to starters, so this is right up my street and probably what I’d go for if I visited Oscars again – which I definitely will. They also offer Sunday lunches, coffee and cake, milkshakes, a lunch menu, a brunch menu, cocktails…the list goes on – and there are more theme night Wednesdays coming up (keep an eye on Oscars’ website for details). Oscars is certainly a venue for all times of the day!
Oscars, 6-10 Romilly Crescent Cardiff, South Glamorgan CF11 9NR