Whenever a new restaurant opens, you always hope it’s going to be good. But there’s also that rare occasion when you just know it’s going to be good. The opening of The Discovery in Cyncoed, the latest addition to the Knife and Fork Food family (owners of The Pilot in Penarth, The Conway in Pontcanna, The Old Swan Inn in Llantwit Major and the now sadly closed – at least until they find a new location for it to reopen – Woods Brasserie in Cardiff Bay), was one of those such occasions, so it was with great excitement that Mr W and I headed to Cyncoed to sample their new menu. The concept of the Knife and Fork pubs is simple: a pub atmosphere, with a focus on really good food, using fresh, local ingredients to offer ingenious twists on classic dishes and some innovative flavours too. On the night we visited, there were apparently no fewer than five chefs working in the kitchen – and it showed immediately in the high quality of what was on offer.
As soon as we walked in, we loved the atmosphere. Despite being a Monday night, shortly after opening, the place was busy and bustling. I don’t think I’ve ever known somewhere so new have such a good atmosphere so quickly. The pub has a similar homely style to the Pilot and the Conway, but with its own special twists – not least the use of a sort of a battleship grey paint on the outside and inside, which really shouldn’t work, but does – possibly because of the fantastic lighting they’ve used inside which gave it a warm and cosy feel. In fact, I found it warmer and cosier than either of its sister pubs. It’s a big place, but a separate bar and restaurant area, and some clever partitioning mean it doesn’t feel soulless.
The Discovery has the same blackboard menu concept as its sister pubs, and I’ve included a photo of the menu from the evening that we visited, because I couldn’t pick out just one or two highlights – I’d genuinely have been happy to try any of the dishes on offer.
To start, I opted for the crispy aromatic duck egg. Now, boiled eggs are just about the definitive example of food that’s always cited as being easy to cook, but I’m sure it’s not easy to get such a perfect specimen as this one. The yolk was completely runny, but the white soft yet solid. I love a soft boiled egg, but if the white is too runny or has any clear bits in it, it puts me right off. The crispy crumb had a gently spiced flavour with a hint of an Asian taste, which complemented the juicy shiitake mushrooms, and the wild garlic puree and onion ash (which was a very fine, fairly salty crumb) were another match made in heaven. A brilliant and innovative dish, which set the tone for the evening.
Mr W similarly enjoyed his mackerel, served with gentleman’s relish and preserved lemon. I’m not a lover of mackerel myself, so had to take his word for how good it was.
Next, I decided to “Discover the burger”. The Discovery burger contains pork – given that environmental health regulations these days state that you have to cook beefburgers through, a pure beef burger can end up being dry, so they’ve come up with a recipe that includes the pork to keep it pink and moist inside. It was served with melted cheese, finely chopped onions and burger relish, atop a brioche bun, with chunky chips, dressed leaves and a gherkin. The burger was delicious and well-seasoned, and the contrast of the flavour of the relish and the brioche bun worked really well. If I had to suggest an improvement, I’d have liked a sharper cheese on top, but this was a very minor point. The chips were excellent, crisp on the outside and fluffy within. Unfortunately, the burger proved a bit of a challenge to eat as the patty was almost spherical in shape, so picking it up was a bit of a no-no, but tackling it with a knife and form wasn’t easy either. I got by, though – and it didn’t affect the taste!
Mr W’s main was the piece de resistance, and I quote: “sublimely good”. He opted for the Plank of Pig. This comprised pork belly, pork tenderloin, a pork croquette, black pudding, crackling, apple puree, a baked apple, roasted new potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli and chatenay carrots. All of the pork was perfectly cooked – in particular, the crackling, which Mr W absolutely raved about, and there was just so much food! It all had a place though, and wasn’t an excessive portion for the sake of excessive portions. An absolute triumph.
Amazingly, we had room for pudding, and again I’m going to include a picture of the blackboard.
I chose the Snickers tart which was certainly not for the faint of heart or weak of tooth! It reminded me a bit of a really good homemade millionaire’s shortbread, with the addition of salty, crunchy peanuts and crisp pastry taking the place of the shortbread layer. Salted caramel ice cream added an extra dimension and the peanut brittle was a nice touch, although a step too far on the peanuttiness for me.
Mr W continued the apple theme of his main course with the apple crumble tart. Chunks of apple which still had more than a hint of bite to them sat atop more crisp pastry with an oaty crumble topping and clotted cream ice cream on the side. This was another fantastic dish.
We loved every mouthful of our meal at The Discovery, and the warm welcome from the staff, combined with the warm atmosphere, made it a fantastic place to spend the evening – and probably my favourite in the Knife and Fork family.
Food: ***** Service: **** Ambience: ****
The Discovery, Celyn Avenue, Lakeside, Cardiff CF23 6FH
Disclosure: I was invited to The Discovery as a guest and our meals were complimentary.