After dinner at Hadramowt, I went back for lunch the next day.
I find it useful to visit a restaurant twice if I’m going to write about it: that might not be what everyone does, but it seems fair. It’s less about being the first to get my hot take online, desperate for those all- important clicks, than trying to be reliable. Balanced.
Besides, I get to try more of the menu. All on your behalf, dear reader.
But I don’t usually go back the next day. And I had the same thing twice, too.
Why not? Everyone does.
You should, too.
As we settle in, we notice something strange is happening. The server passes us with the identical dish, time after time. We look around: yes, literally every table is ordering the same thing. Not most. All.
We have an advantage: we are here on a tip from Twitter, where Stewart just said ‘Have the lamb’. We show them the picture he posted: their faces break into a broad grin. ‘Mandi‘.
Yes, of course: it’s the same dish we have seen everyone order. Although the menu is full of the familiar- shish, kofta, chops- and the new- lamb as madhgoot and mathbee, fahssa and zorbian adani– it’s the mandi everyone wants.
As we wait, they bring us little bowls of lamb soup, warmingly spiced, with little pearls of fat bobbing in the opaque broth.
Shish tawouq (£5.99) and lamb shish (a pound more) are rather lovely in that understated local grill house way, and as good as any I’ve had on this stretch. The Liberal scattering of charred onion is a good touch, too. Customise them with the bright heat of a sauce potent with ground green chillies, or a thin yoghurt-based garlic dressing, more like a raita than the thicker garlic paste (toum) you’d expect with the same dish from a Lebanese kitchen.
Tables are set up mainly for the communal eating this type of food lends itself to: it might be worth knowing the mandi is available as a whole or half lamb with just a day’s notice.
But it’s the mandi we want and the mandi we have. It comes with little bowls of spiced vegetable stew (‘Dip the meat in the stew and leave it for five seconds,’ suggests my daughter, ‘It makes it sweeter somehow!’ She’s right, too.)
The actual cut will vary: we have shank for dinner, but at lunch it’s a couple of chops from a rack. The meat is of course impeccably cooked, the sweet flesh spooning away from the bone, subtly perfumed with the hawaij Yemeni spice blend (traditionally, cumin, coriander, cardamon, turmeric and black pepper) and cooked with far more patience than us diners are displaying.
The Spanish phrase arroz con cosas (‘rice with things’) can be used as a dismissive roll of the eyes toward bastardised attempts at paella. But it does hint at an eternal truth: that a mound of rice and grilled meat shared with friends is a life-affirming thing, a simple joy which never disappoints. And it’s never more true than here.
Look, it’s a plate of lamb and rice. There’s lots of it ‘(‘This is a Pen y Fan of rice’ she laughs) but it’s noghing more fancy than that. It’s very good rice, of course, buttery and aromatic with clove; and that lamb is everything you want and need. And it’s ten pounds, which makes it even better.
There are people – they probably call themselves ‘foodies’, God help them- who would never be seen dead on City Road. It’s all so low spec isn’t it? To them, City Road is just yard after yard of interchangeable ‘kebab shops’, fried chicken and SoopaDoopaPizza, orange Just Eat stickers on every door. Their loss. Those people will never know the simple joy of a trip to Hadramowt. But you’re more open minded than that.
It’s more than the sum of its parts and it’s obvious why word of mouth has brought all these people here for the same thing.
And now you know, too.
Hadramowt, 42 City Road, Cardiff CF24 3DL
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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.