Innocuously tucked away on Crwys Road in the heart of Cardiff’s student area is one of the city’s newest dining additions: The Gutsy Goose. I’d already started to hear good things about the place, so when I received an invitation to dine there, along with a golden egg – presumably laid for me by said Gutsy Goose – I jumped at the chance.
Mr W and I went on a rainy Saturday night and were pleased to find the venue completely full. Despite it being quite a small restaurant, they’ve done a fantastic job with laying out the tables so each one feels quite intimate and separate from other diners. There’s nothing worse than going out for a romantic meal for two, only to find you’re so close to the couple at the next table that you might as well introduce yourselves and get on with spending the evening together, and this is where a lot of small restaurants that would otherwise be lovely cosy venues for a romantic evening fall down (I’m thinking Caffe Citta). None of that here, and the brasserie style of the décor also makes it a really nice setting for a special evening.
The menu arrived and we were immediately impressed – and faced with some difficult decisions: it features a lot of traditional British dishes – most of the standards were there, including a Gutsy burger, lamb shank, pork belly, pie of the day, smoked haddock risotto and seabass, all served with tempting sounding accompaniments (albeit a few howling spelling errors/typos on the menu took this pedantic blogger’s attention away from the task in hand for a while). We were bowled over by how reasonable the dishes were too – mains came in at around the £10 mark on average, and even a ribeye steak with all the trimmings was only £14.
The meal started well with an amuse bouche of smoked salmon mousse and smoked salmon on brown bread, which was a very tasty morsel indeed. Extra points go to them for producing an amuse bouche that was indeed ‘bouche’ sized – too many places get carried away and serve amuse bouches that are closer in size to a starter, but this was just right.
I started with scallops, which were pan fried and served with smoked bacon, cauliflower puree and caramelised apple. I love scallops, but it’s rare to get all of my favourite accompaniments to them appearing together in one dish as they did here. It was an excellent dish and the flavours came together brilliantly. The relatively large chunks of sweet, juicy caramelised apple (as opposed to the more usual puree) were a particularly good call.
Similarly excellent was Mr W’s starter of smoked salmon and hake fishcake, served with poached egg, chorizo and hollandaise. This was probably the best dish of the evening: the egg was cooked perfectly, soft in the middle but not completely runny, the smoked fish tasted beautiful and the fishcake was decidedly un-potatoey. I thought the chorizo may have been superfluous, but after trying a mouthful of the dish both with and without it we agreed it added an extra dimension. If anything, there was a bit too much hollandaise for Mr W, but as it came on the side this wasn’t an issue.
I decided on gourmet fish and chips to follow: crispy beer battered hake, served with sea salted fries, a pale (sic) of minted pea puree and tartar sauce. The batter wasn’t the crispiest I’ve ever tried, but was tasty, and there were extra points for the fact that the skin had been removed from the fish before battering. The fries were excellent, crisp and light, and despite being the thin kind, which I’m not always overly keen on, they had a good proportion of fluffy potato inside them. The minted pea puree was good, although the puree, the tartar sauce didn’t look or taste homemade, which was a bit of a disappointment, as there wasn’t much else about the dish to mark it out as ‘gourmet’.
Mr W chose the 8 oz ribeye steak, cooked medium rare. It was nicely presented and served with a good selection of inclusive side orders: sea salted fries again, tomatoes, mushrooms and a choice of sauces – he opted for peppercorn on the side. The steak was tasty (although not the tastiest he’s ever tried, but still pretty good – according to Mr W!) cooked well, medium rare as requested, and although the tomatoes could have done with a bit longer in the oven, the other sides were good.
To finish, I chose the cheesecake of the day, which was described as having a snickers-type base, with a raspberry and chocolate cream cheese topping, and was served with fresh raspberries and raspberry coulis. I love cheesecake if (a) it’s not a baked one and (b) it’s done really well, and this one ticked both of these boxes. The chocolate and raspberry was a subtle flavour, but the topping was unbelievably creamy and delicious, and the base was crisp and delicious. It had an unmistakeably homemade flavour and appearance, and I was just glad I hadn’t made it myself because if I had, I’d have probably consumed the whole thing before it had even had a chance to set!
Mr W chose his favourite, sticky toffee pudding, served with vanilla ice cream, which was another triumph! Traditional, homecooked British puddings, made well and simply presented are a sure fire winner with us, and these two really hit the mark.
The wine list was modest in its range, but the bottle of red we shared, priced at an alarmingly reasonable £12.50 was more than adequate. Service was friendly, efficient and attentive, and we had a really lovely evening.
We were really impressed by the Gutsy Goose. Neither of our main courses was perfect, but the starters and puddings came pretty damn close and more than made up for a couple of slightly weaker links. The food, service and ambience is much better than many places in Cardiff’s city centre, and the prices are unbelievably good value for the standard of the cooking. I love the traditionally focused menu and the no nonsense execution of the dishes, and I will definitely be going back.
Food: **** Service: **** Ambience: ****
We were invited to dine at the Gutsy Goose as guests, and as such our meal was complimentary.
145 Crwys Rd, Cardiff CF24 4NH