In the mood for a lingering lunch with lots of little plates, during a weekday visit to Cardiff, we drop into Curado Bar, a tapas restaurant, bar and deli in the city centre.
Arriving just as it opens for lunch means we can nab the only regular table – the rest are high tables and bar stools (which I really dislike). Our table is tucked away at the far end of the long, narrow space, making it a little trickier to flag down a member of staff. On the other hand, a huge window floods the corner with lots of natural light – lovely for a lunch stop – and our waitress comes by to check on us regularly.
The menu is divided into sections: Para picar (things to pick at), Pintxos (bar food, all served on toasted bread), De la tienda (from the deli, further broken down into Hand-carved jamon, Tinned, Plates, and Meat and cheese boards), De la cocina (from the kitchen), and Postres (sweet stuff). There is also a takeaway menu with a few hot items, some salads and a great selection of Bocatas (sandwiches).
We start with a couple of Pintxos (bar food).
Sobrasada iberica y miel (soft iberico chorizo, ground pumpkin seeds and honey, £3.50) has a fantastic punchy flavour full of paprika and fatty pork, with the added crunch of seeds and sweetness of honey. A great first few bites.
Queso azul y miel (blue cheese, Galician cream cheese, piquillo pepper, walnut and honey, £3.50) is even better, the sweet pepper and honey giving the perfect kick of sweetness to the salty and pungent blue cheese and creamy Galician. Beautiful!
The De la tienda (from the deli) menu covers items that are served cold straight from the deli, where you can also buy most of the items to take home. There are high quality Tinned items such as sardines in olive oil, mussels in paprika and vinegar, and three types of tuna. Plates include wine-pickled anchovies, a heritage tomato salad with garlic and olives, and a carpaccio of smoked cured cod.
Instead of ordering one type of cured meat from the Hand-carved jamon section, which offers 50 grams of ham per plate, we opt for more variety by choosing two items from the Meat and cheese boards lists; the portions per ham are about 25 grams, and there are 10 hams and 11 cheeses to choose from. Pricing depends on how many items you choose, for 1 to 3 items, you pay £4 for each. 4 items are priced at £12 and 8 at £20.
Both the Jamon gran reserva (a 24 month air dried “white pig” serrano ham) and the Chorizo iberico are delicious, and i love that they are served with some pickles to cut through the fat.
From Para picar (things to pick at) we choose Tortilla de la casa (slow cooked potato and onion omelette served at room temperature with allioli, £4) cooked late morning and just cool enough to serve towards the end of our lunch visit. It’s a simple, classic dish done well.
Hot dishes are listed De la cocina (from the kitchen) and we choose a few.
Pinchos morunos ibericos (pan fried and baked skewers of marinated tenderloin of iberico pork served with allioli and patron peppers, £10) are OK, but a bit dry and one-dimensional in flavour. This is the only dish we’d not order again.
Much better are Croquetas de jamon (serrano ham and bechamel croquettes, deep fried and served with allioli, £7). These are pretty good though not as silky soft and liquidy as the gold standard by Jose Pizarro.
My absolute favourite dish of the meal is also the last one served, Champinones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms with cream and medium sherry, served on toast, £7) delivers a generous pile of slippery, silky mushrooms in a thick garlicky cream sauce, flecked with parsley and a good glug glug glug of sherry, it’s utterly redolent of opulence despite its down-to-earth main ingredient.
Service is helpful, our waitress is happy to answer questions about menu items and guide our choices where we need help. Our bill for two comes to £46.50 for two (for the dishes listed plus a half pint of beer, and tap water).
It’s also lovely to be able to pop over and browse the deli after our meal, where I pick up more of that excellent sobrasada to enjoy at home; it’s worth a quick stop even if you don’t have time to sit down for a meal.
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