Uisce, small but perfectly formed, has always impressed. If you like handles like ‘best’ or ‘elite’ then this sits comfortably within that group, that small coterie of Cardiff places which attract unanimous high praise and loyalty. I’m no exception: I loved it the minute I tried it.
This, though, is their first night’s reopening, and ‘Covid compliance’ is all around without seeming heavy handed. We are under canvas, and tonight’s menu comes via QR code- hence the Twitter appeal for business cards earlier this week- and is soundtracked by a thrum of happy conversation from people who are clearly very happy to be eating out, and even more happy to have picked here to do it.
It is now policy that you provide card details on booking, with their ‘no show’ policy ensuring they don’t lose out. I’m happy to do so especially now when the plague of no shows could prove terminal to an already hamstrung trade.
There’s another significant change you should know about, their avowed manifesto as a meat fish and shellfish led restaurant meaning no vegan provision at present.
But that aside- what a menu this is. He’s clearly playing to his strengths and coming back with a bang. Buttermilk chicken with hot sauce makes a good impression, while Tommy’s obsession with oysters continues unabated. I don’t know why so few other restaurants have them on their menus, as they always seem to sell well here. We can hope.
Previous examples with yoghurt granita and dill oil have been exemplary. We choose a couple of the Vietnamese- soy sauce, ginger, chilli- and the smoky-sweet Spanish-influenced, laced with an apple cream and chorizo ibérico.
Beef short rib, presumably an offshoot of the recent well-received BBQ boxes, bears comparison with the best of dedicated smokehouses. Rich and smoky, it’s a hefty serving, and it needs something sharp to cut through that. It gets it with dill-pickled cucumbers.
I was honour bound, I suppose, to order the lamb crumpet. It was, after all, one of the things I posted about missing the most during our enforced separation, so I’ll rein myself in and suggest you read that for a minute.
I can wait, there’s plenty more to tell you about tonight’s eating.
Has it improved in the meantime? I rather think it has. That gravy is still a masterclass in glossy, viscous pleasures, the crumpet base still done just so, the wanton tangle of Welsh lamb still topped with a vibrant salsa verde. But now he’s only gone and added silvery slivers of anchovy, boquerón style, hasn’t he?
The scallop packs a punch, the thick slices doused in XO surf and turf. Salty, meaty, powerfully savoury: add a spritz of lime for bright acidity.
Yet none of this detracts in the least from the sweet flesh of the scallop. Tommy must treat his fish supplier like a king. You would, if he was bringing you stuff like this. It’s an essential dish. Fish is always a strength here- few within an hour’s drive of the capital handle fish anywhere near as well as Tommy. Tonight it’s hake with grapes and a caper sauce, a neat interplay of sweet and salt with the nutty accent of charred cauliflower.
Another plate sits delicate slices of cured monkfish amid the vivid green of tender broad beans, the acidly citrussy hit of orange and a touch of ginger. It’s one of those ‘Seemingly simple, but if it was this simple everyone could do it…’ kind of moments.
Lobster risotto is slightly souper than you might expect from the name, though it proves you can’t have too much of a good thing. In this case, the stock- it screams patience and is thick with the essence of lobster, the kind of sea-heavy intensity of flavour you only get from rice cooked in a reduction made from diligently roasted shells.
It’s an oddly familiar set up, pandemic peculiarities aside. We are sat in a former car park, after all, but with another menu which excites and satisfies. A thumpingly successful reopening, managed very capably: last night must have been a good one for Tommy Heaney, with his team lifting the Premiership trophy too. It’s good to have the team back doing what they do so well: the prospect of the abundantly talented Simmie Vedi bringing her exciting ideas here from next month may seem like gilding the lily, but recognition of genuine local talent is yet another reason to greet the return of Uisce with genuine enthusiasm. That promises to be a fruitful creative relationship.
There wasn’t any marmite butter, though. Just in case you had a hankering.
And yes, I’m going again next week. And yes, you should, too.
4 Romilly Crescent,
Book here https://www.heaneyscardiff.co.uk/booking.php
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY:
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.