By Ellie Philpotts
Now Final Year has trudged to an end, it’s time to start thinking about things more exciting than spending hours surrounded by books, mournfully casting your eyes over the library’s rain-splattered window panes. Such as graduation. And food.
Fortunately, studying in Cardiff means prime opportunity to combine these. After finally seeing the results of all your hard work, you deserve a good meal to toast your efforts (although hopefully by now you’ll have progressed from the days of living off actual toast, complimented with the student staple, the humble bean.)
Wales’ first authentic Spanish asador experience only opened right in the city centre, handily perched on Quay Street just under the Millennium Stadium, in March, but has already created quite the stir around the Diff. A branch of the Bar 44 Tapas Y Copas chain, found elsewhere in Cardiff, Penarth and Cowbridge, the masterminds Owen and Tom Morgan had been working on their latest addition since 2015, when they travelled round Spain to suss out the most high-quality and traditional ingredients.
And it certainly shows. My tour of the place was seriously impressive – highlights being the wine list which entails 99.5% Spanish products; and the installation of unique cabinets, including of dry-ageing meat and 30 types of cheese – or ‘queso’ if we’re being true to its origins. The cheese-cave was the stuff dreams are made of – I will try to resist a cheesy pun, but it’s definitely good. Similarly, Head Sommelier Fergus Muirhead summed it up with, “This wine list is by far the best wine list I’ve had the pleasure of curating.”
The restaurant itself is stunningly laid-out, and when this is paired with a unique appeal you won’t find a replica of, despite its Bar 44 connections; friendly staff and a truly memorable menu, you know the Morgans have made the right choice in selecting South Wales.
As the name implies, Asador 44 bases its menu on its custom-made asador grill. ‘Asador’ translates to ‘barbecue/grill’ in Spanish, and this is clear to see. Examples of the ‘Rare Breed Old Cow’ section are Lomo Bajo, a 700g sirloin of 9-year-old Asturian ex-dairy cow, and Rubia Gallega Chuleton, rib of 45-day dry-aged 10-year-old Galician Blonde. Charcoal Mains include Hake; Octopus and Market Fish of the Day.
Elsewhere, options include hand-carved Jamon Iberico; Welsh Beef (300g Picanha) with the namesake Asador fries; Carabinero, ‘The World’s Finest Red Prawn’ and Lechazo (700g slow-roast leg of lamb ideal for two). The Starters feature Cured Duroc Belly Pork and Seared Spiced Tuna with Avocado, while if you’re feeling peckish you can go for Rock Oysters; Kale and Chard Salad or the aptly-named Seasonal Asador Salad.
You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking Asador 44’s main focus is the meat. However, there’s no need for any veggies to miss out. From the charcoaled Calabaza with Squash, Chard, Beetroot, Goats’ Cheese and Hazelnut, to Blood Orange, Fennel, Pine Nuts and Mint, to Leek, Tomato and Moscatel, there are definitely options. They even cater for vegans, too.
Following my very informative lesson in all things Asador, I thought I’d spend an embarrassingly long time trying to decide what to sample, but in the end we were both quick to agree on the 40-Day Dry-Aged Welsh Rump Cap with Asador Fries, salad and olive-oil bread. I’m not exaggerating in saying this was one of the best meals I’ve had in Cardiff. It’s obvious that this meat is exceptional quality, to the extent that it’s hard to come by.
This was from the Express Lunch menu, which is all reasonably-priced given this, averaging £10. It’s only available Wednesday-Friday 12-3pm – so catch it while you can! – and also offers the chance to replace the beef with mackerel, or go for Charcoal Squash; Picanha or Market Fish of the Day. There are also children’s options for the younger members of the team.
Owen said, “We’ve gained a fantastic understanding of what our customers love about Spanish produce right here in Wales. Asador 44 is a culmination of our passion for Spanish culture and food. New technology of wine preservation and dry-ageing, mixed with the traditional asador method of cooking, will create something unique in our small corner of the UK, and we are immensely proud of it.”
And so they should be! I’m still dreaming about this dish, and the fact that the restaraunt isn’t just the food alone, but the entire Mediterranean experience, so be sure to check them out if you’re weighing up the options for graduation restaurants this summer. Just don’t mention the fact that you’ll literally be weighing an extra ten stone afterwards…
To book your graduation dinner, visit: https://asador44.co.uk/
Image Credit: twitter.com/asador44