Monday, 18 February 2019

Bwydiful, Victoria Park, Cardiff

Right, let's get the name out of the way first.

It's Welsh. 'Bwyd' is food, and rhymes with 'fluid'. Visually it's meant to pun on 'beautiful' but you can see the problem, can't you? It might work as a visual pun but not when spoken out loud; a word which tries to pun in two languages is always going to face a challenge.

I can't be the only person to have told them this.

Ditto their choice of bread, which divides people who feel that Death By Yet Another Bloody Brioche is the way to go. I've always rather liked their previous rolls: their ciabatta bring something different in terms of texture and appearance.

Someone must have quibbled with their choice- other blogs have raised the issue, and I'm sure customers have made their views known.  And yet still they do what they want. I rather admire that determination, that adherence to what theiro. Besides, I'd be hard pressed to name a more welcoming, convivial team than the Bwydiful crew. They have got here after a few years on the street food circuit- I think I may have been among their first-ever customers at their Depot debut a couple of years back- and catering functions. They have put in the hard yards in draughty warehouses, in muddy fields, on damp pavements. This home has been earned the hard way, and that's something you can only applaud.

Yet there's a subtle- but significant- difference between your expectations of street-food stalls and this permanent version in the little oasis of independent traders clustered around Victoria Park. What is served here is going to come under far sharper scrutiny than a burger eaten from a paper napkin as you wait at a Newport roadside for the runners to finish their marathons.

There's a distinctly bilingual look to the place and the menu; even more noticeable is the atmosphere, which is homely rather than self-consciously 'cool'. Their best-seller is Caws Caws (Welsh for 'Cheese, Cheese'; it which rhymes with 'Scouse' rather than 'paws'). Drinks come from nearby brewers such as Crafty Devil.

Halloumi fries with chimichurri are an impressive introduction to this expanded menu. Brad says they're the best he’s ever had, which is high praise from a well-travelled trencherman. They arrive a deep, bubbly gold: we enthuse about the batter... until we realise there isn't one. They have refined the frying process so all you get is cheese, oozing inside that light, crisp coat. It's a neat trick and I could blather on about the way milk proteins react with scalding oil to create this effect; but as I only ever paid attention in biology, it would be sketchy speculation at best. Whatever the science behind them, the perky chimichurri cuts through the saltiness of the cheese and makes this something instantly impressive, something you'd be sure to order on a return trip.

The heat of the mango dip is something which stays with you as you demolish the hash browns- 'tater tots' if you Like American Things and absolutely must.  The rest of us can just fall upon the crisp little bites, locust-like, and make approving noises. Satisfying mounds of carbohydrates are Bwydiful's stock in trade, it seems: The Preservation Society's barbecue sauce is a smoky, tangy treat on a mound of cheesy chips. 

It seems churlish to complain about 'too much cheese', but this would benefit from being thinned out a little to a more fondue-like texture (a recent reference point would be the sauce at Le Bab) so you avoid endingup with a semi-set cheddar snowdrift before you finish ploughing through the generous portion. Ultimately, it detracts a little from the overall effect, but this is a fine-tuning issue rather than a radical rethink: these sides alone elevate the Bwydiful menu above its local rivals.

That controversial bread though? It works. It just does. Specifically, it works because it's a strikingly soft ciabatta roll, far more than you'd ordinarily expect, and the patty itself is loosely structured: a stouter, chewier bun and a thicker burger would make for something bulky, something onerous, offputting.  These are fine margins to work within, but they have judged it expertly, and it's a hearty handful which keeps its shape until the end.  The Nata & Co buns they started with have been replaced with bread baked by Pettigrew's, from a total of three doors down: and why not form a partnership with one of the best bakers in the city when their ovens are mere yards away? 

The patty itself is clearly hand-formed here, not bought ready-shaped and uniform, and bears that telltale 'smashed' outline with irregular edges.  Once again they have relied on a local supplier, this time Rosedew Farm's blend of topside and chuck. It is cooked through- we weren't asked our preference, but we understand the pressure exerted by local Food Standards on a fledgling business. A little more seasoning wouldn't have gone amiss- a tickle more black pepper perhaps- but the cinammon-dusted pineapple and bacon Hawaiian combo is a throwback to that little shack in Penarth (the one Pizza Pronto would later start from)- which used to do a Thousand Island burger ages ago and would be a guilty pleasure, if I believed in feeling guilty about things which feel good. 'Foodie' purists may blench: place me firmly in the 'wind your neck in' column. 

Banish thoughts of some limp excuse for bacon, something as thin as a Boris Johnson promise: this is thick-cut, proper butcher's stuff. The Caws Caws, my usual order from the stall, is a hot mess of mustardy, sloppy cheese and as good as it has ever been. Again, it all holds together beautifully without ever feeling stodgy or tedious.

Ultimately, if the idea of the bread is still the sticking point, all I can suggest is giving it a go. An 'open mind, open mouth' kind of thing. 

So- I still don't like the name. And that really doesn't matter, because Bwydiful are determined to send you away full and content. These burgers probably won't change your life: they aren't currently challenging the likes of Bleecker or Burger & Beyond or The Beefy Boys, or closer to home HILLS, but right now they rank alongside Spit & Sawdust as my favourite local independents. If you want some of the best homegrown burgers in Cardiff right now, head for Victoria Park.

589 Cowbridge Rd East, 


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