Lockdown Local Heroes – Part Two

A second helping of the Cardiff food and drink legends who’ve been making lockdown just that little bit more bearable.

With ‘Lockdown’ rapidly becoming a looser term than ‘Celebrity Masterchef’, thousands have been flocking to newly re-opened big-name takeaways.

I’m not going to have a pop at anyone for that – in a world that feels a hundred miles south of normal, there’s nothing wrong with craving the familiarity of Maccy D’s, Domino’s or Starbucks.

But equally I think it’s important that we remember who put good food in our bellies and a smile on our faces when the big guys were nowhere to be found. So here are another five local indies who helped me through lockdown – hopefully this will help them with the aftermath.

6. Oriel Jones

There’s no way around it – eating meat is becoming increasingly problematic. But rather than going cold Tofurky, more people are limiting the quantity of the meat they eat and upgrading on quality.

This is where sustainable butchers like Oriel Jones come in – providing top quality, ethically raised local meat. And even if you’re a swivel-eyed flat-earthing climate change denier who doesn’t give a toss, I guarantee you one taste of their bacon will convert you.

From cheese burgers to chicken curries to pork larb, I’ve used Oriel meat in pretty much everything during lockdown. I certainly won’t be stopping after it ends either.

7. Hard Lines / Little Man Coffee / Brodie’s

At some point, you simply have to stop drinking. I know, I know, but it’s true. There have been lockdown mornings when I’ve woken up with the distinct feeling that my liver has shrivelled to the size of a cashew nut overnight, and I realise that possibly, just maybe, that second pint-can of 8% DIPA wasn’t the best idea. Thank god then for the second-best socially acceptable drug, caffeine.

Both Hard Lines and Little Man Coffee have been keeping me in excellent home delivery wake-up juice over the last eleventy weeks of lockdown, providing both an alternative to booze and a way to expedite my hangovers. Bonus points to Hard Lines for donating a bunch of their profits to a great cause this week too.

And just as we were experiencing the sunniest May on record, enter Brodie’s with their cold brew deliveries, which I can neither confirm nor deny go great with booze. The affable Mr Brodie is no longer on the road, but you’ll find him serving socially distanced and exceptionally good coffee in the Gorsedd Gardens opposite the museum. Just don’t remind him how many weeks it is until Winter Wonderland moves back in next door.

8. Kemi’s

Left to my own devices I’d probably have subsisted entirely on takeaways and plastic cheese food slices throughout the pandemic. Fortunately @blysiaubach has a finer grasp on human nutrition than I do, so she suggested ordering a veg box or two from Pontcanna stalwarts Kemi’s. It was a great idea – every box is packed with ultra-fresh seasonal fruit and veg that’s full of flavour.

A word of warning – you don’t get to pick what arrives in your box, so it’s not always easy working out what to do with it. Deciding what to do with carrot tops, fennel and broad beans was a particular challenge – pesto, slaw and the bin, for future reference (I’m kidding, I made dip).

That said, if you’re a fairly confident cook or just sick to death of the same old thing for tea the occasional curve ball they deliver can be a lot of fun, and I’ve definitely learned a few new tricks.

Seriously though, no more broad beans guys. Please.

9. Dusty Knuckle

When you’re an insufferable foodie tosser like me, you’re always looking for something new, the next ‘big thing’. But it’s important to have an old faithful on standby too – something you know you can rely on – so of course Dusty Knuckle had to make this list.

I’ve written about them a ton of times so I don’t need to repeat the usual stuff about their top notch ingredients and authentic Neapolitan style bases with crisp airy crusts – they’re good, you get it. But the most exciting thing they’ve done during lockdown, much like Leyli Joon, is showing us how to do it at home.

Dusty Knuckle’s home pizza kits are a simple, but ingenious idea. For significantly less than the pre-made equivalent, you get everything you need to make it yourself, including dough, sauce, toppings, and in-depth instructions on how to recreate it at home.

In other words you get to do all the fun bits, eat it, and brag to your mates about your new-found pizza prowess. It’s win-win.

10. Keralan Karavan

If food is a reflection of the people who make it, then Keralan Karavan’s Krish and crew must be bloody lovely – but then I’ve met them, so I already knew that.

Conversely, Katie Hopkins’ coleslaw must be properly shit.

Like many of Cardiff’s other pop-ups suddenly robbed of places for popping-up in, Keralan Karavan have had to adapt to survive, and they’ve done an admirable job. No mean feat that, given that there’s not exactly a curry-shaped gap in the takeaway market.

Fortunately, Krish and co offer more than the same-old. Their curries are beautifully spiced, completely distinct from one another, and feel home-made in the best possible sense. Plus you’d have to have a heart of stone for those rainbow poppadoms not to raise a smile.

As ever though, the real standout for me is their onion bhaji. I’ve never been to India, so I can’t be certain, but if anyone on the planet can make a better one, I’ll be shocked. Crisp, intensely savoury and completely free of grease, they’re a different creature entirely to the stodgy cricket balls of minced onion churned out by many takeaways.

They seem to be changing their M.O. weekly to keep up, but lately they’ve been running a socially distanced pop-up out of St Cannas – well worth masking up and popping out to collect.

While there are a dozen more names I could drop, I’ll leave it there for the sake of brevity. The main reason I wanted to write this is as a reminder of who was there for us when we needed them most.

I know that might sound a bit dramatic – being able to get nice coffee or some sausages delivered is far from life or death – but that little taste of normality can do wonders for your mental health during a completely unprecedented deadly global pandemic, let me tell you.

Thank you for your service indies of Cardiff. I’ll be seeing you again soon.

Writing about how nice my tea was feels a bit self-indulgent when the world is on fire outside, so apologies if this feels irrelevant right now. If you don’t know what I’m on about, I can highly recommend watching this, and donating a few quid to Black Lives Matter UK here if you’re able. And be careful out there.

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