Review: The Dock Bar and Kitchen (Cardiff)

DSCF1047Today’s post is slightly different to my usual ones, but it is something I’ve wanted to incorporate into this site since its conception. Obviously, reading is my favourite past time, but those of you who know me will also be aware that food and baking are very close seconds. I just love food, especially eating it! My boyfriend is a chef and as such we enjoy not only cooking ourselves at home, but especially going out for food at new and perhaps unusual restaurants, cafe’s, bakeries . . . and just generally anywhere that I can stuff my face. So today’s post is still going to be a review, but in a slightly different vein.

The Dock Bar and Kitchen, situated in the picturesque setting of Cardiff Bay, is the latest addition to the Brains SA company. Having taken over the premises from the former Terra Nova, this gastropub has a rather huge premises, directly overlooking the waterfront. The website declares that the menu ‘encompasses exciting world flavours’, whilst giving our best loved classic dishes a twist. A rather bold statement to say the least. The building itself has certainly been well executed. Floor to ceiling windows show not only the stunning views by which to while away a few hours, but also emphasise the very large and open space. The building is very aesthetically pleasing, with a contemporary design. We especially liked the chairs, which consisted of a variety of different types and patterns, whilst still fitting into one single coherent design plan.

Gorgeous views!

Upon first entering, I must admit we were slightly confused. The decor suggested a wait to be seated venue, but there were no waiters or service staff immediately present. It was perhaps a strange time (around four o’clock), and the majority of the restaurant was largely empty, so perhaps this contributed to our confusion and lack of staff presence. We decided to choose our own table, strategically positioned close to a huge window presenting a brilliant view. I can only imagine how glorious it would be to sip on a cocktail as the sun sets. One of the selling points of the Dock is the huge list of beverages, which seems only fitting considering it is part of the SA Brains company (beer!). I am a huge lover of cocktails, but after a lengthy perusal of the menu, what really caught my attention was the softtail (non-alcoholic cocktail) ‘Sweet Tang’. My boyfriend eyes immediately locked onto the craft and world beer section, with the outcome of a Mahou, described as a ‘Spanish Pilsner style larger, with a zesty, hoppy flavour’.

Our waitress shortly arrived to take our order, solving the problem over whether this was a ‘go to the bar and order’, or a sit down waitress service. Our drinks quickly arrived, and after one sip I knew I had made the right choice. The drink was super sweet, with a strong strawberry taste which I love. The addition of the lime, and also a sprig of mint, really cut through to give a tangy, fresh aftertaste, ,as the name aptly suggests. The menu did not mention the addition of mint, so whether this was a mistake or not I do not know, but as a hater of anything minty I can honestly tell you it worked tremendously. I would however advise against ordering this drink if you do not like an overly sweet, fruity taste. I did not sample the Mahou, but the Other Half certainly seemed to enjoy it.

We’d barely put down our drinks when our starter arrived; the Black and Blue Nacho’s. I had already planned to have these are seeing them appear on Twitter, and I am glad I did so. They arrived displayed in a tin canteen, which may put off some people, but we thought it added a nice, quirky touch. The colourful nachos were certainly a sight to see, and were the perfect balance of crunch and toppings. I am not a lover of blue cheese, and the Pearl Las blue cheese was rather strong, but if you like this type of cheese then it would definitely be a positive. What I am a lover of however, is cheddar, and underneath the initial layer of Nachos topped with blue cheese was a delightful layer of melted Welsh Cheddar. The ratio of cheese to Nacho’s was good . . although there is never such a thing as too much cheese! What we were both pleasantly surprised by was the sweet roquito berries nestled on top. They gave a pleasant sweet burst of moisture to a dish which could typically run the risk of becoming rather drying. The whole thing was accompanied by three dips; soured cream, guacamole, and the star of the show . . .pineapple and chili salsa. Both the soured cream and guacamole were good, although the soured cream was not as sharp as ones I’ve had before. I preferred this, as I am not usually a lover of sour cream!  The pineapple and chili salsa was an inventive and brilliant spark of genius. Reminiscent of mango chutney, it gave off a mouthwatering burst of contrasting freshness and sweetness, with the slight detection of mild chili. Portion size was great for two people sharing, and at nine pound seemed well priced.

A chance for another sip on our drinks and a gaze out over the bay, and our mains were swiftly delivered. I had opted for a burger, the Dock Classic to be precise, consisting of a Celtic Pride Beef Burger, encased within a brioche bun, with lettuce, tomato onions, thick cut chips, and fantastically, another portion of the pineapple and chilli salsa. I know what you’re thinking – why such a boring choice when I could have picked one of their exciting and adventurous options. Well, not only do I like a good burger and enjoy sampling as many different ones as I can, but a burger is a classic, and it’s a great starting place to judge a restaurants food by.But back to the burger, which in itself appeared quite small and obscured underneath the large pieces of lettuce, onion and tomato. It did have a decent flavour, and after sampling Mr Chef decided that it was certainly good quality meat. Sadly, it was overcooked. If you like your burgers quite juicy and cooked to medium, or even medium-well done, then I might not recommend this to you. I am not a huge meat lover (unless it is a burger or chicken) unlike my boyfriend who believes anything cooked over medium is sacrilegious. The bravest I am with meat will be a burger cooked medium-well, or at a push a medium, but even I could tell this had been overdone. It is a shame, as the flavours seemed to be there, they had just been lost in the cooking process. Additionally, as you can see from the below photo, one quarter of the burger was quite black and actually tasted burnt in my mouth.

The deep fried pickle on top was a nice touch, and the chips were lovely. They were indeed thick cut, and by the looks of it home made. They were deliciously crispy on the outside, yet soft (without being mushy) in the middle, as any chip worthy of the name should be. I would however argue that considering the humbler size of the burger, there were not enough chips to satisfy me. As I’d already had a starter I was fine, but otherwise I probably would have wanted a more generous portion to fill my piggy self.  I would definitely recommend the chips overall! A minor gripe was that after asking for some ketchup to accompany my chips, I was giving a minuscule amount barely sufficient to cover three chips, which I was highly disappointed with. However, at £11 this seemed an average overall price.


My boyfriend opted for the Korean BBQ Beef Rib, which consisted of a huge piece of meat, accompanied by a sticky Thai rice with spring onions and pak choi, costing £16. Mr Chef was impressed, stating the meat was very well cooked, and practically fell of the bone as soon as he touched it. He loved the Korean BBQ marinade, and did state he would have loved a higher concentration of the marinade throughout the entire piece of meat. I did think the portion of rice was slightly on the smaller side, and my suspicions were confirmed once he started to snack of my chips, although in his defense they were tasty!

Overall, I was quite impressed by the Dock Bar and Kitchen and I am already planning to go back in the near future (Breakfast Menu!!) to sample some of their more adventurous dishes. Whilst there was a few small issues, I feel that over time these can be neatly ironed out to produce a solid performance. While I think that some people may be slightly confused trying to judge what kind of area to put The Dock into, I think that it is definitely a great option to choice from if you are a fan of classic pub food and atmospheres, but with that extra touch of finesse.

The Dock Bar and Kitchen,
Mermaid Quay,
CF10 5BZ


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