2018-19 – Retrospection and Prospection

By Josh Ong and Caterina Dassiè

What a year 2018 was for Cardiff and it’s food scene. Whether it was the resurgence of the popularity in the ever creative street food scene or the growth and reopening of new and familiar cusinal outputs across the city; for the most part, I’d say it was pretty successful. Long may it continue! This article will go over some of our highlights from the last year and expand on how we believe how Cardiff can elevate and continue its success throughout this year.

There were many standout moments in terms of food from last year. Between Caterina and I, we have very much struggled to choose our favourite standout moments from it all. But we managed to whittle it down to a few.

Here’s what Caterina had to say about 2018:

Stating that I am proud would not be enough in describing my feelings about Cardiff‘s 2018 achievements on sustainable and local shops, restaurants and coffee places. I haven’t had time to try them all, but trying all of them has certainly been added to my resolutions list. My main issue with it? Lack of time and the sheer quantity of them that I need to try. But I promise you, Quench will try its best to try them all, however fatiguing it may be.

The Jawl Bach from Ffwrnes.

To mention some of our favourites, Ripple Living, Sticky Fingers Street Food and the new stalls at the Cardiff indoor market, ranging from Milgi’s Market to Ffwrnes; well-done Cardiff! I won’t lie, as a true Italian, my 2018 favourite pick has to be Ffwrnes. Not only is their pizza delicious, made with real Italian produce, but the prices are close to matching that of Italian ones which don’t make me feel guilty if I eat more than one pizza per week.

Last Autumn, Quench had also the opportunity to try Heaney’s restaurant before the opening night. What a great pleasure and unique experience! I won’t stop thanking their team for the invitation and, of course, their amazing food.

Since my first year, back in 2016, Cardiff restaurant options have rapidly grown, not only in numbers but in quality as well. A few awards have been won and I am sure more are yet to come.

Here are Josh’s thoughts.

For someone who spends most of their time eating, 2018 certainly served as quite the joyous time. Like Caterina, I too adore the level of choice that Cardiff has on offer, from both small and large businesses alike.

A Sticky Beef Roti from Brother Thai

I wish I could pick a definite highlight from the year. Again, like Caterina, the moving of Ffwrnes to their permanent home in the market is something that definitely sticks out in my mind. However, for the sake of variety, and honouring as much of the incredible food on offer here, I should probably pick some other things.

Having written an article mid-Summer of last year on the future of street food, I personally have loved the growth in popularity for it all over the last year. The growth in this trend is one which has generally been observed across the country but I think Cardiff is really hitting home. With the permanent Sticky Fingers in Cardiff, the Stow Hill Market in Newport and the current development of Barry’s Goodsheds, which is teeming with promise, there’s certainly a lot to be thankful for. My visit to Abergavenny Food Festival really topped all of this off; with almost all of my favourite vendors in one place, my favourite of which being Brother Thai, Murray Mays and The Beefy Boys, too name but a few, I really had to count my blessings to have such incredible readily available.

Smoked Ribs from Hangfire Southern Kitchen

Finally, how could I mention 2018 without speaking about my visit to Hangfire BBQ. I’m fairly sure I fell in love with food all over again that night. The work that Sam and Shauna have continued to pour into Hangfire Southern Kitchen is second to none. Everything about that night was nothing short of magical; a return there this year is of the utmost priority. Until that day, I’ll be dreaming of the rib-based Valhalla that the food sent me to that night.

Reminiscing 2018 aside, you’re probably wondering why this article is being published now. “It’s February! 2018 was literally months ago,” we hear you scream. Granted, that’s true. You’ve got us there. However, we’ve highlighted the joys of last year as a way of looking into the past to see the future.

Certainly, 2019 can be argued to have had a troublesome start. With the Save Guildford Crescent movement seeing the closure of local business staples Thai House and Madeira Restaurante, there is an alarming trend towards the favouring larger business that must be discussed.

Image Source – ITV

Cardiff, as ‘The City of Arcades’, holds within it the great potential of holding independent businesses within its very heart. To the most part, it does succeed in this. Despite its stature and title as a Capital city, its size still very much allows total dominance of industrialised corporate chains. However, Guildford Crescent could serve as a turning point in all of this. With independent music venues across the U.K and specifically Cardiff, with Buffalo recently closing its doors for good and Gwdihŵ shutting down as a result of the Guildford Crescent sell-off, is this the destiny for Cardiff’s independent restaurants too?

Therefore, we’re coming to a sticky position. Cardiff has been fortunate enough to have been the main testing ground for large foreign food chains outside of London and to take that for granted would be a little self-defeatist. However, in 2019, as a city and society, I believe our goal should be the greater protection of our independent businesses against the corporatisation of our high streets. Globalisation has brought its undeniable benefits, but their harnessing shouldn’t come at the expense of the little man.

To wrap it up, 2018 was a fantastic year for independent business. With the boom of street food nationwide and growth of creative unique outlets spreading up around Cardiff, there is certainly a lot to be celebrated. But, looking into the future of 2019 and beyond, we have to lend a careful eye as to where we’re headed.

There holds an important place for large businesses in society, especially within the provision of food for the masses, but you must never forget the small businesses that brought the people to the city centres in the first place. Whether you’re hunting for a Pizza, Thai food, Kebabs, Chips, Cheese & Gravy or a simple Curry, make your 2019 resolution to spend that little bit of extra time searching out for a smaller business who could change your aspect on it all.

Never be afraid to step away from the safety of the known; that little extra for the small business can really make the whole lot of difference. Here’s to prosperous rest of 2019.