Food & Drink

Review: Nook, Cowbridge

Peter Wolinski kindly reviewed Nook for Quench.

Browsing Tripadvisor is extremely entertaining. I’ve no idea what possesses anyone in their right mind to waste their spare time by navigating to the site, creating an account, and then writing one line of nonsensical, misguided drivel about some minor tourist attraction. But I’m glad that something makes them do it…

“We stayed for weekend was so nosey didn’t sleep kids tuning up and down corrydoor up stars jumping off beds at 11.30pm till about 1am heater in room nosey when tearned off and hovering at 6am none stoop. 2/5.”

Thanks, Caroline g, an inspired review of Borehamwood Premier Inn there.

Curry. This is the place I should have been reviewing from before. 3/5”

Thanks to you too, 295Malcolmt, such a vivid picture of that visit of yours to a Cardiff Indian.

Regrettably, I was forced to rely on Tripadvisor when a friend of mine visited from London.

The plan was to book somewhere posh-ish (I wanted to show Wales off). Unfortunately, as Englishmen, we hadn’t countenanced the fact that the Welsh and the French actually like each other, and enough for the former to join in an obscure Gallic celebration called Beaujolais day. There isn’t much to say about it, it’s just an excuse to get hammered, but annoyingly it had filled everywhere posh-ish in the city.

Thankfully, I’d heard about Nook, the new kid on the Cardiff culinary block which takes no reservations (I had suspected their name is even a shortening of ‘No book’ – this turned out not to be true, although I kinda wish it was).

A quick google turned up no website, just a WalesOnline review and a couple of blog posts. How mysterious. After those, there was only Tripadvisor to turn to. Approaching apprehensively at first, I was shocked to find six reviews all from apparently sane human beings. What’s more, they were all positive. It was sealed.

Nook looked supremely appealing in the November gloom. Large frontage windows projected a warm luminescence onto the street, while signage lighting cast an almost fluorescent effect in the mist.

Nook facade

I double-took at their website URL painted above the door and suddenly felt rather stupid for missing it earlier. I needn’t have bothered – it currently leads to a dubious looking kitchen jobsite. A £10 domain is apparently low on their list of priorities.

Also above the door are their USPs.

Natural Wine is one – vino made without preservatives and pesticides. Bottles adorn one wall to prove their winey credentials and they pour certain plonks directly from craft-beer-style wall taps, located but a metre from the seating. It’s a risky move if you ask me – I can just imagine a gaggle of rugby drunkards taking turns to crouch underneath them, mouths agape, for rapid ingestion. If it hasn’t happened already, they must be on borrowed time.

Spot the beer taps!

The other is small plates, tapas dishes inspired by various European cuisines. Usually, such restaurants give an aloof statement along the lines of “they’ll come when they’re ready (so don’t bother asking).” Such ostentatiousness is appreciably absent at Nook, however.

A plate of mushroom tagliatelle landed first: the garlicy, umami reminder of the M&S pasta sauces mum would give me as a kid. There was Italy.

Mushroom tagliatelle

The Mediterranean vibe continued through a cold salad of beetroot and pine nuts, with some chunks of feta for whenever a creamy divergence from the other plates was required.

Beetroot Salad

France then had two entries. First the bucolic Cassoulet: three salty hunks of white sausage deftly navigating the fine line of being too fatty, and a hearty tomato and multi-bean sauce for some bulk. Second were truffle potato dauphinoise whose stinging, musky tinge of oak was calmed by a blob of “cultured cream”. There was the smudge of snobbery I’d anticipated before. Just tell us whether it’s soured cream or creme fraiche. There are poxy restaurant critics who rely on this information.

Cassoulet

We then hopped aboard the metaphorical ferry back to the UK, although the ‘filling up on as much French wine as possible’ part was, by this time, no longer figurative.

Britain was modestly represented by a plate of carrots (albeit roasted and caramelised), and then by a bowl of pigs cheeks sat in mashed potatoes, covered with sweet onion sauce and garnished with cross sections of apple. Each element just melted on the tongue. Wales was presented as three gooey leek and rarebit arancini.

Arancini

The star of the show was crispy fried Cauliflower, the universal pleaser and one of the very few things to sate both plant eaters and animal killers. Nook’s, whose bitter, nutty batter crunched lightly before their innards dissolved in the mouth, were genuinely fantastic. I wasn’t sure what cuisine these were, so I just wrote millennial.

Crispy fried Cauliflower

Dessert was very odd, a sort of coffee gunge covered with nuts and praline. Only Dave Benson-Phillips could’ve appreciated that texture, but it tasted fine.

Strange coffee gunge!

Nook isn’t for the tightest of wallets. £30 each bought several plates and a few glasses of wine per person. That said, the justification is their effortlessly coherent amalgam of a raft of different cuisines. If you’re after refined dining, a night on the vino and a sociable atmosphere then perhaps it’s for you. Now to go write a nonsensical review on Nook’s Tripadvisor page, the ones I read were far too coherent.

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