Don’t you just love Swansea’s SA1 area? True, some of the new architecture is clunky and uninspired but the whole area feels so fresh, so open, so new. I love it for sunny waterside walks and afternoon coffee or for the occasional evening treat, but until recently it lacked a restaurant that I would readily go out of my way for when there is so much deliciousness on my doorstep in Uplands and thereabouts.
That has now changed. The opening of Rasoi waterfront in the J-Shed has taken the vivid, vibrant Indian food that has always marked out Rasoi in Pontlliw as something special and catapulted it into a classy urban setting. Judging by the buzz and lack of empty tables when we visited on Wednesday this week, the customers have been quick to beat a path there, and based on Wednesday’s experience I expect they will be quick to return.
Rasoi is not your typical Indian restaurant, but if you’re set in your ways you will find your favourites on the menu: a chicken tikka starter, maybe, ahead of chicken Madras and a keema nan. Even these can surprise, however: expect big flavours with plenty of zip and zing and none of the excess oil you get in some Indian dishes in the UK. If you order a chicken dish, there will be lots of chicken – big, tender chunks – and if you order a nan, it will be fine and thin, sporting the faintest hint of a crunch on its lightly charred surface.
What’s really interesting, however, is the less predictable dishes. Like Rasoi in Pontlliw, this restaurant dabbles in Indian street food: my aloo tikki starter was a delight, served with the expected mint, yoghurt and tamarind but also a sprinkling of spiced nuts and a simple salad of lettuce and carrots. It was a simply perfect rendition, the seasoning right on the money, the flavours bright and interesting.
Other eye-catching choices include a decent seafood showing – patrani machi (lemon sole with coriander, chilli and coconut, served with spinach rice) for instance, or mussels cooked in chilli, garlic and coconut milk. There’s also a great selection from the grill and a few curveballs including an Indian-style crispy duck and ‘machi chatpati’ – pan-fried sea bass with Bombay potatoes, curried pistachio sauce and vine tomato confit.
Faced with all this choice, what did I do? I went for something you can get in pretty much any Indian restaurant in Swansea. It had been a long day; I wanted something as comfortable as a pair of slippers, so chicken methi it was – a big hearted, generous dish sporting a thick, dark, inky-green sauce with an intensity of flavour that could knock your socks off.
All of this was served up by lovely staff in a setting aglow with turmeric-toned warmth: think geometric golden-orange lanterns, exquisite mosaic-tiled 1930s style ceiling lights and exposed brickwork and air con pipes adding a touch of post-industrial cool. I could have stayed there all night but in reality we didn’t even stay for dessert; the clock was ticking. The sweet options look pretty much the same as in Rasoi Pontlliw, incidentally: they include kulfi; gulab jaman with ice cream; and pineapple and black pepper crumble with warm custard. So many reasons to visit again. This love affair is just beginning…
In other news, busy busy this week: the annual print edition of Healthcare Risk Management Review went to press on Tuesday with two minutes to spare and I’ve been scooting around interviewing interesting Swansea businesses, which have given me ideas for further meals out. One to watch is Mad Hatter’s on Newton Road in Swansea (it occupies part of the former Treasure shop). It has a decent café menu at present but within a few weeks will start morphing into a restaurant in the evenings. It’s run by a lovely young couple with a perfectionist streak, and the Alice in Wonderland-themed décor is charming. Ask to see the collector’s edition of the book they have on show, or get your children to look behind the miniature door near the counter.
I went to the Albany Gallery in Cardiff today to talk about coverage for their next show, which features one of my favourite painters, David Tress. I’m hoping to interview him next week, so I’ll tell you more then…and look out for the Purple Flag events taking place in Swansea this weekend to celebrate the city’s award winning nightlife. There is lots of fun to be had. Enjoy!