Disclaimer: I’ve only been to North Wales once.
I stayed in a tent for three days and drank cheap stubbies of French beer for breakfast before playing the worst gig of my life to an aircraft hangar full of bikers.
It’s the only place I’ve ever been freezing cold and gotten sunburned at the same time, and where I’ve had to wipe blood off a toilet door handle before I could use it.
Thankfully, Cardiff’s newest North Walian experience, Canna Deli, is a bit more upmarket.
Granted, just like in North Wales it rains unexpectedly, everyone speaks a different language and there’s no WiFi. But there’s also super-friendly service and some absolutely spectacular food. But first you’ve got to find it…
Slicing with death
If you don’t know where to look you’d have an easier time finding One Eyed Willy‘s rich stuff. It’s tucked away in Pontcanna Mews, a snug little alcove of poshness next door to Co-op which I’m fairly sure didn’t exist until about three weeks ago. One look and you can tell that if it was on a Monopoly board, it would definitely be dark blue.
I was greeted by a very lovely, very North Walian lady who told me she was a science teacher in Anglesey up until a couple of weeks ago.
I’ve said it before – I’m a sucker for people who jack in their day jobs to go and do things they really love. Mind you, that particular piece of information did leave me a bit tense while I watched her tentatively operating a particularly lethal looking electric ham slicer a few moments later.
Fortunately, no-one died, and after a brief spat of rain related musical chairs (“Is the weather always like this in Cardiff?” Bless these foreign types. Course it is.), I settled on the quiche and potato salad.
Quiche is the word
It’s been said that real men don’t eat quiche. If that’s true then they’ve just never tried one of Canna Deli’s.
Maybe it’s because they’re hewn in a craftsmanly fashion from what seems like 80% award winning Môn Las (Welsh for ‘proper tidy’) blue cheese.
It’s lovely stuff that manages to kick like a mule on first bite before mellowing out nicely, and like a lot of Canna Deli’s offerings, it comes from the owners’ farm in North Wales. A fiver says you’ll save the shard of the stuff it’s garnished with till your last bite.
I think there might have been some chutney or caramelised onion hidden away in there too that cut through the (not unpleasant) blue cheese funk with a bit of sweetness.
The potato salad’s no slouch either mind; spuds stopped cooking just short of turning into mash (a good thing) coated in creamy mayo and spiked with anti-socially fresh spring onion; not one to eat before a job interview or first date, but a perfect partner for the quiche.
So far so good; what’s for afters?
After rain stopped play for a second time (“Brockwaaaaay!” *shakes fist*) I retreated to the safety of my own kitchen for a cuppa, with one of Canna Deli’s paving slab-sized brownies in hand.
In retrospect I should have grabbed a takeaway coffee – rumour has it they do the best flat white in the ‘diff.
And the cake? Well, the humble brownie is a curious thing; easy enough to make (even I can knock up a decent approximation), but hard to perfect.
I’ve never quite managed that almost-crisp-on-the-outside-gooey-in-the-middle consistency with my brownies, but Canna Deli nails it. They’re denser than Joey Essex, slightly less brown and far more tasty.
Does Pontcanna really need another posh eatery focused on swanky produce? Well, probably not – there are enough upmarket, tastefully decorated artisan-y cafes in the area to give a Guardian food correspondent an existential crisis (“What if there are places… outside London?!”).
For starters there’s Fat Pig Deli (which, criminally, I still haven’t visited), and the big guy round the corner, Chapter. But Canna Deli has a little something going for it that they don’t – an honest-to-god taste of North Wales.
For the length of a lunch hour they’ll transport you to the sticks for a micro-holiday from life in the ‘diff – minus getting stuck behind a tractor for three hours and the smell of manure. Just make sure you bring a brolly.
Think there’s a bigger cheese on the Cardiff deli scene I should check out? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter at @FuudBlog…