We're big fans of the award-winning chef, Dave Chang, not only for his wonderful cooking and incredible shows (if you have Netflix, please check out 'Ugly Delicious'), but also for his podcast 'The Dave Chang Show'. While pop culture plays a starring role, the best part of the podcast is when he shines a light on the blood, sweat and tears that goes into being a chef - often trading war stories with other people in the industry.
Which leads us to the Michelin guide.
On an episode earlier in the year, Chang detailed the guide from a chef's perspective. And it was illuminating. From being listed in the guide, all the way through being awarded a star, the entire process seems like an exercise in stress - especially at the top of the mountain. For us - the people that get to enjoy these dishes - we look at the guide as a light source in a stormy sea. For the people that create the dishes, it's a piece of their soul on a plate, which then gets dissected by an 'expert'. The more stock people place in the guide, the more stress involved on the creative end. And the cycle continues.
That's not to say the Michelin guide is just a popularity contest - it plays an important role for consumers of food across the world, and provides a certain framework for excellence - but it's worth remembering the kind of work that goes into creating this level of food, regardless of whether you just made the list, or if you managed to grab all three stars.
Before we get started with our 'guide to the guide', it's worth recapping their award system. Essentially it's a three-star system (the more stars the better), followed by the Bib Gourmand (good value for money), then the 'MICHELIN plate' (good, quality food). Cardiff boasts a solitary one-star restaurant, and a handful of Michelin plates. Caught up? Great. Dive into our top picks from the guide below.
ONE STAR: RESTAURANT JAMES SOMMERIN
If boasting one of the best views in the whole of Cardiff doesn't pique your interest, how about being the only restaurant in Cardiff to have a Michelin star next to its name? Or the fact that only six restaurants in Wales have that honour? Your eyes are starting to expand, we can tell... Founded by James Sommerin, this self-titled restaurant was always guaranteed a bright future. Sommerin earned his first Michelin star back in 2007 at the Crown at Whitebrook, before starting his own restaurant in 2014. Since then, the stars have continued to align, providing Cardiff with a perennial Michelin-starred restaurant. And given his career trajectory, who'd put it past him to earn a coveted two or even three stars in the future? We're certainly not betting against it. Treat yourself. You deserve it.
BIB GOURMAND: HARE & HOUNDS
Okay so not strictly in Cardiff, but trust us - this is worth the trip to Aberthin. Hare & Hounds is an award-winning, thriving local watering hole that has been keeping locals’ thirst at bay for over 300 years. Expect great ales, interesting wines and seasonal drinks. Alongside the bar, they offer a small, daily changing, seasonal menu, using the very best produce that the Vale of Glamorgan has to offer. Everything is made from scratch in the kitchen, from the sourdough bread and cultured butter, to fresh pasta. This is not pretentious fine dining; its just about good food, whether you’ve been for a long walk with your dog or have got something to celebrate. It is a type of regional Welsh cooking.
MICHELIN PLATE: PURPLE POPPADOM
Along with checking out Cardiff Castle, or taking a boat ride around Cardiff Bay, eating at Purple Poppadom is a definite rite of passage for anyone visiting Cardiff. Founded by local legend, Anand George, Purple Poppadom's mission statement is to put a modern twist on authentic Indian food, while sticking to traditional ingredients and spices. Whether you're looking for a delicious thali, or something smaller - Indian style tapas, for example - this Cowbridge Road mainstay is sure to hit the spot.
MICHELIN PLATE: PARK HOUSE RESTAURANT
Set within a stunning, Grade 1-listed mansion built by the Marquees of Bute in 1874, Park House is an enchanting venue housing a restaurant, wine bar and underground cocktail bar. Embracing modern European cuisine with an emphasis on fresh Welsh produce, the fine dining menus are elegant and appealing. There is an emphasis on game, fish and seafood, alongside a few meat dishes. However, fantastic food isn't all you can expect when you visit Park House; Taittinger Wine Bar is well-known for its wine pairing abilities, and if you venture down to the basement, you'll find a chic cocktail bar by the name of La Cave with its own private entrance, giving it that elite, 'exclusive' feel. Ooh la la!
MICHELIN PLATE: ASADOR 44
Created by Brothers Tom and Owen Morgan, Asador 44 is a love letter to Northern Spain and indulgence. From the Pyrenean leg of milk-fed lamb to whole turbot; charred romanesco to 30 different types of cheese, and a wine selection so comprehensive, you'd need a cat amount of lives to get through it all, a booking at Asador 44 comes with a guarantee you'll have a good night's sleep. Sidenote: Asador 44 boasts one of the best restaurant interiors in Cardiff.
MICHELIN PLATE: LA CUINA
The owner of Canton's La Cuina restaurant is a women by the name of Montserrat. She was born and raised on a farm in Catalunya, studied in Barcelona, and taught Spanish at Cardiff and Bristol universities. She's not pretending to be Spanish, while serving a dry paella, she's the real deal. From mountain lamb to garrapinyats, Montserrat has made sure La Cuina stays true to the traditions of her hometown (and region), while building on those foundations. A slice of Catalunya in Cardiff, regardless of the weather.
MICHELIN PLATE: THE HEATHCOCK
Over in Llandaff you’ll find The Heathcock, sister pub to the Hare & Hounds in Aberthin. A local dining pub with a rockstar menu and a stellar selection of local brews and interesting wines. Food wise there’s a daily changing, seasonal menu crafted with locally grown produce, cooked with passion. They’re in the midst of creating their own garden to so all the veggies can be produced on site. Everything that can be is made from scratch including their delicious homemade breads. Sharing dishes are encouraged so that you and your loved ones get to try a helping of the best dishes on the menu. From slow cooked lamb shoulders to whole Welsh baked seabass, this is food for the tum and for the soul.
MICHELIN PLATE: MILKWOOD
Interestingly enough, the people behind Pontcanna's Milkwood bistro also had a hand in the success of the following restaurant in this guide (the Potted Pig), but that's a story for another day. At its heart, Milkwood is all about simple food done well. If you're looking for fried snake covered in chalk dust with a side of chocolate-dipped carrots, this isn't the place to go. However, if you're in need of something wholesome but not boring, Milkwood needs to be in your rotation.
MICHELIN PLATE: HEANEY'S
Heaney’s is the first venture from former Great British Menu semi-finalist Tommy Heaney. After a knock-out summer pop-up, the chef went on to crowdfund the funds to open his first restaurant, in the former Arbennig Restaurant. Boy-o-boy are we glad he did, the relaxed restaurant delights diners with its refined small plates, and luxurious sharers. Contemporary and laid-back are the vibes to expect and the wearing of trainers is practically encouraged whilst you peruse the sophisticated menu. The Welsh lamb with sea vegetables comes highly recommended as does popping in for a cocktail on date night. A brilliant addition to Cardiff’s burgeoning food scene.
MICHELIN PLATE: THE POTTED PIG
When celebrated restaurant critic Jay Rayner described the Potted Pig a “gift to the city”, he wasn't wrong. Situated in a former bank vault near Cardiff Castle, the Potted Pig takes great pride in serving the kind of food they love to cook and eat, rather than focussing on a single theme. The only thing that stays consistent is their relationships with local producers - which seems to be a recurring theme when it comes to the Michelin guide. Our pick? The Welsh lamb loin.
MICHELIN PLATE: MINT & MUSTARD (PENARTH)
The humble curry is perhaps one of the most misunderstood food categories going. For the vast majority of Brits, it's a weekend flip of a coin between a korma at the local curry house, or a chow mein from the nearest Chinese restaurant. That's not to say there isn't a place for that, but the difference between a great curry and an average curry is like night and day. Mint & Mustard is proof of that. This is award-winning, Kerala-style food at its finest.
Based in Pontcanna, the award-winning Bully's might be your go-to spot for unique wine, but it also houses incredible French food, created using seasonal produce from Welsh providers. This powerful combination means you get the French approach to cooking, while being guaranteed freshness. Seems simple, but so many restaurants get it wrong. I suppose that's why they're in the Michelin guide.