Cardiff could use a change from burger bars and pizza joints – but is the Blue Honey Night Cafe the solution?
They’re not wrong, mind.
Burgers and pizzas are of course the twin pillars of Western fast-food civilisation. We’ll always need them, and we’re lucky to have some damn fine examples of both round our neck of the woods (take a bow Burger Theory and Dusty Knuckle). But it’d be nice to have a few other options wouldn’t it?
Like what though? Blue Honey Night Café has a few suggestions. And they’re pretty bloody tasty, even if the name makes it sound like the sort of establishment that’d have a pole in the middle of the room and Girls, Girls, Girls by Mötley Crüe blasting from the speakers.
Rather than going down the traditional pub pop-up or bricks and mortar route, Cardiff start-up Blue Honey have taken up residence at Sully’s Cafe on Quay Street, self-proclaimed ‘Home of the Grand Slam Breakfast’.
This means that by day it’s one of those classic old-school city-centre cafes where your dad would go for a cheap and cheerful fry-up and a good strong cup of builder’s tea. Then, by night, it transforms into an achingly hip bar/restaurant where you can eat some of the best and most original low-cost grub in town, all while listening to the clatter of skateboards hitting pavement and a record collection that’s far cooler than your own.
It’s a clever business model that keeps everyone’s costs (and prices) down, while making use of otherwise dead space.
It also gives the place a bit of a guerrilla vibe, as if it could get shut down any minute like an illegal rave off of the 90s. Food is served in plastic baskets, the music is cranked up high and the staff may or may not have been up for 36 hours straight by the time you get there (food is served right up until closing time at 1AM).
If you’re over 30, I feel I should warn you now – a visit to Blue Honey Night Cafe will make you feel older than God. If you added up the ages of the punters and staff alike on any given evening you’d probably still be shy of a cricket score. You may well feel a bit like this the first time you arrive:
But you’re going to have to get over yourself quite frankly grandad, because the food is a bit special.
Foodie ponces like me will regularly bore on about how you should always choose restaurants with small menus, as it’s easier to do a few things really well. It’s not always true – The Hardwick‘s menu is the length of the Bayeux Tapestry – but in this case it’s bang on.
— I Loves The ‘Diff (@ILovesTheDiff) July 6, 2017
Of the three options – steak, cauliflower or chicken – the standout for me is the KFC. But this ain’t the Colonel’s secret recipe. If you’ve not come across this dish before, it’s what happens when quintessentially American-style fried chicken and East Asia’s best flavours go on a Tinder date and drunkenly get off with each other in the corner. It’s hot, sour, salty, sticky-sweet and intense, and it pairs nearly as well with beer as Mexican food.
Blue Honey absolutely nail it with their take, pairing it with sweet waffles rather than whacking it in a bun. It’s like someone dropped their dessert into your dinner in the best possible way, and if like me you’re afflicted with a sweet AND savoury tooth, you’ll want to offer the chef your first born child in appreciation. Pickled daikon (bit like a radish – I had to look it up too) lends a bit of crunch and stops the explosion of sweet shop flavours getting too out of hand.
I also nabbed a bit of @ScruffyDuke‘s picanha steak and was immediately gripped with acute food envy – it’s insanely tender and juicy, with a vampire-murderingly garlicky chimichurri.
Oh, and it’s under a tenner – not much more than you’d pay for a steak at Wetherspoons. It’s hard not to look across the road at the spectacular but undeniably pricey Asador 44 and feel like you’ve played a blinder.
While I didn’t get chance to check out the roasted cauliflower, it looks fantastic too – not dissimilar to the main at Liverpool’s Maray I gushed about a couple of months ago. The kind of smoke-kissed middle-eastern concoction that’s almost enough to make vegetarianism seem like a viable option. For a day or two anyway.
The sides are a bit more of a mixed bag; the halloumi poppers are gorgeous – surprisingly grease-free for deep fried slabs of cheese with mouth stickingly gooey melted middles. The squid is a disappointment though – it’s not at all rubbery, but the batter is a bit lifeless – nothing a bucket load of salt and pepper couldn’t fix probably, but a missed opportunity nonetheless.
The phat fries on the other hand (yes, you do feel like a bit of a tit saying the name out loud) are a bloody mess. And they’re great. Heaped with slaw, sriracha mayo and apparently anything else hanging about in the kitchen, they’re more than a match for any of the examples on offer from the likes of Time & Beef, Burger Theory or Got Beef.
Given the fact that you feel like a bit of a fossil in comparison to most of the clientele and that there’s a karaoke night on Wednesdays, you’re probably going to want a pint or two. Blue Honey have their own respectable if slightly lager-y house brew, and they’ll usually have at least one or two heftier offerings from Cardiff’s original craft beer bods Pipes on tap. Their maltier, heavier stuff plays very well with the KFC in particular.
Blue Honey Night Cafe is an exciting, edgy, vital place to eat without being gimmicky or uncomfortable. There are a few rough edges – the service can be a bit slow (but is invariably super-friendly) and the atmosphere is not for everyone, but there aren’t many places in town where you can get such a good, innovative feed for under a tenner.
Word is that they’ll probably open in their own venue before the end of the year. As pleased as I am for them it’ll almost be a bit of a shame to lose the punk-rock vibe of their collab with Sully’s. Either way, if the grub stays this good the future looks pretty sweet for Blue Honey.
Do you think Blue Honey is the bee’s knees or a lot of buzz about nothing? Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter at @fuudblog…