Here’s a prediction, a happy one in this chaotic, miserable year: you’re going to hear more and more people telling you how good the burgers at Ansh are.
Ansh is Welsh through and through. Not just in name (‘Bite’), but the inspiration for each burger writ large. That sense of regional identity is explicit, from the Bourdain quotation on their site (‘Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go’) to the bilingual menu which names its burgers after Welsh figures.
This isn’t their Cardiff debut, of course- I was immediately impressed in September by their St Canna’s pop up just a mile away. It ticked all my burger boxes. High quality ingredients, smashed patties for that telltale Maillard magic, potato buns, enough interesting things happening on the menu to make you sit up and take notice. (They were also very accommodating of my friend’s need for gluten free buns, allowing her to enjoy her mutton burger without having to go bunless in a bun-filled world. She still talks about that burger, its rich gaminess, weeks after.)
Now, significantly ahead of schedule, comes this, their permanent home. The sad loss of Canton’s Bwydiful means another welcome addition to that little hub opposite the gates to Victoria Park.
Each burger is named after a Welsh figure, mythical or real, from rugby’s Ray Gravell to The Mabinogion’s Blodeuwedd via The Battle of Fishguard’s Jemima Niclas and children’s author T Llew Jones. That will chime with some more than others, but Cymraes or not there’s something here for everyone, in this joint project between Aled Hill and his wife Sara and Shaun and Megan Jones. It taps into ideas of tradition and identity to bring distinctive burgers to the capital city.
That’s Shaun ‘Oriel’ Jones of course, which is as much a guarantee of quality as you’ll find locally. Their meat already graces many of our best local restaurants- that display of steaks at Pasture, for example, but this feels personal, this cooperation between a former primary school teacher and 4th generation farmer-butcher.
You’d think that would be a good place to start. You’d be right.
These burgers are not over-tall things built with more than one eye on how they’ll look on Instagram: they don’t need to be daintily skewered and then prissily dismantled before tackling.
They will ooze, they will drip, they will make a mess. You will end up smeared and filthy and needing a wipe down. That’s true of many of life’s little pleasures of course: it’s achingly true here.
Unsurprisingly, the meat here is impeccably sourced and traceable, directly from the family farm, Llygadenwyn, in the foothills of the Cambrian mountains. Their strong reputation for ethical farming is the stuff of local legend.
Equally unsurprisingly the ‘Oriel Jones’ burger is the showstopper here. And what a thing this is. Two smashed patties, their edges gnarled with umami, blanketed under a drift of brisket, brisket which drips and oozes with ale gravy. A rich ale gravy, a gravy with real depth, leaving nothing to chance.
It’s messy and dribbly, but you knew that. The word slathered is key here, as are the words ‘perhaps the ideal introduction to what Ansh does’. Your dry cleaning bill is about to take a hit. Your cuffs are not much longer for this world. You get the idea.
The first time I visit, they open just as the park opposite closes. There’s no sit-in capacity yet: what’s a greedy man to do? So God bless BT: I’m not the first man to make suspicious noises in a Canton phone box, but I’m probably the first to do it over ale gravy.
This brisket is of a very high order- you’d happily have this stuff as the centrepiece of a ‘proper’ meal- it’s not there to make up the numbers. Thick strands of beef, a hearty gravy with proper heft, the potato bun lending it all that ‘give’ in the hand which is immediately reassuring and means it just trumps the demibrioche as my burger bun of choice: they just feel right. They have what I’ve been calling ‘sexy squidgeability’ and frankly you’ll have to live with it. Patties which are a mix of three cuts, including aged rib cap, boost that beefy flavour in a way others strain toward and so often fail to reach.
The look of the pirate-themed Barti Ddu might divide opinion, but there’s precious little debate to be had over whether it works. I also refuse to do any obvious pirate gag here here (eg ‘where do you find a pirate burger? In the pARRk’) because we are both better than that, I hope. But it’s a formidable proposition with that striking charcoal-black (‘ddu’) bun, the salty, thick smoked bacon: that tangy salty-sweet seaweed rum sauce, with its unmistakable but oddly fitting hint of the sea, all while still cranking out those big beefy bass notes. Obviously the lack of sit-in means I have to take them over the road to the park and take pictures of my burgers on a bench like a top arsehole because you’ll need to have something to go on before you surrender to these things. See? The purest altruism, right there. The things I do for you people…
Ansh is open Thursday and Friday from 4pm for collection, or delivery via Deliveroo; the weekend sees them start at midday. You can contact them on 07498 499787.
I can’t recommend Ansh highly enough, and if they’re this impressive while they’re still cooking out of their van parked out back, then this is just the start. Their plans they for the restaurant ‘proper’ opening in Spring 2021 mean this is set to become a destination in its own right. But you won’t want to wait that long.
People sometimes roll their eyes and sigh ‘not another burger joint’. And with good reason. But Ansh? Ansh shows how to do things right.
589 Cowbridge Road East
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.