Small Plate Feasting at Parallel, Cardiff

Parallel is the sibling restaurant to Pasture Cardiff, a high quality steak restaurant that opened in Cardiff 3 years ago, two years after owner Sam Elliott launched Pasture Bristol. Elliott introduced Parallel in March last year and the small plates restaurant opened to almost immediate praise from critics and customers alike.

At a time when hospitality is facing many challenges, Elliott’s star is rising fast with Radius (another Bristol restaurant), and Nightshade (a speakeasy-inspired basement bar in Cardiff) also under his belt. Next to open will be all-day restaurant Prime (in Bristol), which will also have an onsite butchery, deli and cookery school on site.

One of the attractions of Elliott’s ventures is the focus on sustainability and Elliott’s careful sourcing of high quality produce from local producers. Indeed, much of the seasonal fruit, vegetables, herbs and honey come from Buttercliffe, a farm just outside Bristol that Elliott owns.

Parallel restaurant in Cardiff Parallel restaurant in Cardiff

Parallel sits right next door to Pasture Cardiff, towards the castle end of Cardiff’s High Street. The space has a slightly retro feel with exposed brick walls and ceiling pipes, comfortable leather seating and an open kitchen and bar where diners can ask to be seated if they want to watch the chefs and bartenders at work. We sit at a table by the window, flooded with natural light on a bright but cold January weekday.

One thing to note is that music is played at quite a high volume; when we visited, it was louder than we’d like but acceptable (in that we could converse with each other and staff without problem) but a friend went a few days later and they had to shout to be heard (though it was turned down a notch on request).

Continuing Pasture’s focus on cooking by fire, Parallel also offers dishes cooked over charcoal but offers a seasonal, small plates menu with curated drinks pairings available should you wish.

Menu at Parallel restaurant in Cardiff

The menu is divided into Snacks, Raw & Cured, Crispy, Vegetables, Fish, and Meat. Advised to order 3-4 plates each, our waiter Marius (who is also one of the team’s bar experts) lets us know that whilst most of the menu items are small the sirloin and the pork chop are both larger dishes.

We order one or two items from every section of the menu and they are served one at a time. We appreciate the leisurely pacing which gives us time to enjoy and savour each dish in isolation, rather than struggling to squeeze several dishes onto the table at once, though this may not work as well if you’re not sharing each dish, as we did.

Beetroot Shrub Soda

The drinks menu offers a seasonal shrub, currently Beetroot Shrub Soda (£3). The balance between beetroot earthiness, the acidity and sweetness of the vinegar shrub and sparkling soda water is very refreshing.

 Mackerel Ceviche Mackerel Ceviche

First to be served is Mackerel Ceviche with blood orange ponzu (£6).

The fish has just enough charring on the skin side to add flavour, with the flesh left raw to cure a little in the blood orange ponzu dressing. The small segments of blood orange provide a lovely acidic contrast to the oily fish.

Beef Tartare

 

Next up is Beef Tartare (£6). Served over cubes of crisp, soft potato terrine and sweet black garlic ketchup the raw beef is mixed with mustard, mayonnaise, ketchup and capers and has parmesan and dehydrated ox heart grated over the top.

The contrast of textures and flavours is a delight; a lot of complexity in such dainty bites.

Mushroom Toast with Mushroom Parfait and Truffle Mushroom Toast with Mushroom Parfait and Truffle

Mushroom on Toast (£6) is one of my stand-outs of the meal (to the extent that I come very close to ordering a second portion for dessert instead of… dessert).

The brioche toasted in butter brings a sublime combination of crisp yet soft, light yet rich… next a glorious layer of piped wild girolle parfait that delivers the very essence of mushroom, topped by a tumble of buttery wild mushrooms and, as if all this weren’t enough, a generous and heady dose of truffle oil that further intensifies the earthy, nutty flavours.

Leek and Caerphilly Croquettes

The mushroom toast is a hard act to follow but the Croquettes (£6) put up a very good effort. Served over a puddle of the same black garlic ketchup we enjoyed with the Beef Tartare, these beautiful bread-crumbed globes are filled with a hot, oozing, melty mix of leeks, smoked Caerphilly and Old Winchester cheese. On top, grated cheese, crispy leek, and burnt leek powder.

Fried Chicken with XO Aioli and Pickled Ginger Fried Chicken with XO Aioli and Pickled Ginger

Fried chicken (£7) is described on the menu as coming with XO aioli and house pickled ginger, but there are also some dark, crunchy elements sprinkled over. I think they may be part of the homemade XO; they remind me of the bits in chilli crisp. The chicken is tender and tasty, but I would probably skip this dish if we were to order from the same menu again, only because it doesn’t wow on the level of everything else.

 Crab Toast Crab Toast

Crab Toast (£10) is a generous pile of sweet, hand picked crab, compressed cucumber and micro herbs on top of toasted dashi sourdough bread. It comes with plentiful brown crab Hollandaise and a pretty green sauce that is mildly vegetal in flavour – it might be the allium oil used to garnish some of the other plates. The sourdough has more body than the mushroom brioche, and holds together nicely beneath the mound of crab meat. The intensely luscious Hollandaise is the star of the dish.

Carrot with Tahini, Smoked Maple, Cashew

Carrot (£8) feels like the odd one out, but not because it isn’t delicious. For me, the Middle Eastern-Asian flavour profile is at odds with all of our other choices which feel more European in nature, even with their Asian elements such as ponzu, dashi and XO. A large roasted carrot basted in soy tahini glaze is served whole with cashew yoghurt, crispy chickpeas, smoked maple syrup and zhoug (described to us by Marius as a Middle Eastern chimichurri).

Again, the diversity of textures–soft and crunchy–and flavours is impressive; it’s great to see vegetable-focused dishes get the same attention to detail as meat and fish ones.

Dry Aged Pork Chop with Gorgonzola and Smoked Grapes Dry Aged Pork Chop with Gorgonzola and Smoked Grapes

The last of our savoury dishes is the Dry Aged Pork Chop (£28), and as promised, it’s a hefty portion. Cooked with pork stock and sherry, it’s garnished with creamy dollops of gorgonzola and a scattering of smoked grapes.

The quality and flavour of the meat is excellent and my only (minor) gripe is that I’d have liked more gorgonzola and more grapes, so that we could enjoy their flavours with each of the large slices of pork. And yes, I gnawed the meat from the bone, albeit as genteelly as I could given the presence of diners at neighbouring tables!

Lemon Meringue Yuzu

Once I got over my temptation to have Mushroom on Toast for dessert, we ordered two out of the three desserts on offer.

The Lemon Meringue (£7) turns out to be a serving of both French and Italian meringue, yuzu sorbet, and white chocolate garnish. From their taste, the pops of colour are probably dehydrated raspberry. The combination of sugary meringue with sweet-tart citrus is a classic, but much lighter than the traditional pastry-based pie with rich lemon curd–a blessing after such a big meal.

Rhubarb and White Chocolate Rhubarb and White Chocolate

Pete’s Rhubarb and White Chocolate (£7) pairs a light but rich white chocolate mousse with rhubarb three ways–powdered, poached and as a consommé. On top of the mousse is also pecan granola and ginger beer granita, which add further variety to the textures and flavours.

At just under a ton (before service) this isn’t an inexpensive meal, but we ordered a lot and the dishes are very reasonably priced for the quality of ingredients, the delicious, inventive cooking, and beautiful presentation. The seasonality of the menu suggests a frequently changing set of dishes, and we’re keen to visit again in spring, summer and autumn to see what gems appear on the menu throughout the year.

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