When is an Asador not an Asador? Why, when it’s a Parador!
With the hotel upstairs now thriving, Asador 44 now has a double life: as one of Cardiff’s few consistently excellent restaurants, and as the residents’ breakfast room.
Just as the rooms above are full of distictive little touches which elevate the experience, so does the breakfast spread. There’s plenty to choose from: a choice of charcuteria (salchichon, lomo, the sheen of jamón, chorizo- all ibérico, of course), ensaïmada pastries and more. It was previously only available to guests, but now anyone can enjoy it. The star attraction is The ‘Full Parador’ cooked breakfast is £15- the vegetarian and vegan options come in acouple of pounds cheaper- which makes it is probably the most expensive breakfast in Cardiff today.
Can it be worth it?
It’s their first day and nothing has been left to chance- while new breakfast chef Dean leads a busy kitchen, group head chef Ian, Asador head chef Paul and owner Owen are all nearby. They needn’t have worried.
A silky cortado later- why these aren’t on every menu escapes me, perhaps they’re not as ‘Instagrammable’ enough- and it arrives.
A fry up, then. But a fry up with credentials. The bacon (umsmoked) and the banger (well seasoned, stoutly porky) are from Abergavenny, and the same herd, a small allocation of pedigree Welsh black pigs. I’m told they’re already planning to develop their own bacon from those same animals.
If you wanted to illustrate the 44 Groups’s ‘Spain in Wales’ ethos in one handy plate- here it is. A sturdy British classic with an accent.
There’s an organic chorizo, coarse ground and taut skinned but mildly spiced. It’s excellent, beautifully balanced between densely meaty and fatty, and from a small family producer in a little village south of Salamanca in the Castilla region.
A fat field mushroom is flecked with thyme, and the smoke absent in the bacon comes from Asturian blood sausage. A little goes a long way: it’s potent stuff from another family producer who has been doing this since 1958, and an interesting choice to use this rather than the more predictable onion-sweetened morcilla de Burgos.
It’s impossible not to be impressed by a brick of a hash brown, the deep gold crust giving way to almost fluffy potato, grated into such tiny grains and cooked confit for a buttery tenderness. This is the hash browns of your dreams, the hash brown which will define all future hash browns and quite likely ruin them for you forever. You’ve been warned. (Try it with that richly tangy onion ketchup, or with their smoky piquillo pepper version.) Eggs come con puntilla (‘with a lace hem’) frilled from that blistering paprika-rich oil. Breakfast basics, done with style. Oh, this is good. And did I mention beans don’t come as standard? Even better!
I am always going to be seduced by anything which treats Spanish food with love and respect, for reasons of birth and blood. It chimes with me in a way it probably doesn’t for you, but think of that as the little blob of burnt onion ketchup on your hash brown: it adds something, but you can love the plate without it. This is a breakfast of such rare quality, and I can only see it getting better.
I’m told they’ll soon do steak and eggs. Imagine one of those hulking chuletónes for breakfast. It would be good to see Wales represented not just as in sourcing but in unique ingredients too. Gower laverbread and cockles with panceta ibérica, perhaps? And to maintain my optimum meat-to-yolk dipping ratio, I’d have liked another egg.
But I’m stretching now. These are tiny quibbles. This is an excellent, substantial serving, with plenty to set it apart from other similarly priced versions, and certainly from anything else locally, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Asador 44, Quay St, Cardiff
Breakfast: Thurs-Sat from 8am, see social media for updated days and times
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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.