Restaurant Reviews: Top 10 Restaurants In Cardiff That Is Inexpensive

Madame Fromage and Science Cream

A deli and cafe across two facing sites in Castle Arcade, Madame Fromage is a Francophile stalwart whose dedication to serving “real homemade food” is evident from the produce and baking displayed everywhere: dangling from the ceiling, stacked in the windows, in serried ranks in the appetising deli. Its day-time menu focuses on Breton and Welsh dishes, with main courses – such as filled galettes, baked camembert, beouf bourguignon and rarebit – coming in at around £8. However, if you take away, there are generous discounts to be had. I bagged a pot of Madame Fromage’s legendary lamb cawl (the well-seasoned, veg-packed stock had fathoms of flavour and it was full of unapologetically fatty, tasty chunks of lamb), and a slice of cherry and chocolate tiffin for £5.

While you are in Castle Arcade, do not miss the chance to grab dessert at the remarkable Science Cream (from £3.95. 28 Castle Arcade), where the ice-cream is made to order with liquid nitrogen. Kids will love the science lab setup of the kitchen, just as adults will be thrilled by the ice-cream. Liquid nitrogen freezes the mix immediately so the ice crystals are tiny, which produces an exceptionally smooth ice-cream that is very true and clean in its flavours. Science Cream is not cheap, but even a small tub would satisfy two. Frankly, how can you pass up the chance to try some of the best ice-cream this side of Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck? 

• Takeaway meals around £5. 21-25 Castle Arcade, Open Mon-Fri 10am-5.30pm, Sat 9.30am-5.30pm, Sun noon-5pm

Bar 44

  Interior of Bar 44, Cardiff

 Interior of Bar 44, Cardiff

As with the better-known Ultracomida in west Wales, Bar 44 is a small restaurant group (it has sites in nearby Penarth and Cowbridge) that serves good tapas. Its newest venue, opposite the Millennium Stadium, is a slick bar-restaurant where decorative Spanish touches (bright neo-Moorish tile work, a gallery of vintage Tío Pepe adverts) have been tastefully deployed. The food is similarly refined and assured and yet, between noon and 6pm on weekdays, you can eat three tapas for £10 or daily-changing £6 one-pots, such as a Galician fish stew or that slow-cooked meat-and-chickpea concoction cocido. Of those sharp tapas, the salad of fried crispy chickpeas, tomatoes and aged zamorano cheese stood out, as did the exceptional croquetas of jamon ibérico. The trembling, molten béchamel in these crisp-shelled wonders had taken on a funky, almost truffled earthiness thanks, in part, to the presence of that complex, hugely savoury ham.

• Afternoon, three tapas, £10. 15-23 Westgate Street, 029-2009 0444, Open Mon-Thurs, Sun 11.30am-11pm , Fri-Sat 11.30am-midnight

The Plan

 The Plan, Cardiff

 The Plan, Cardiff

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Cardiff’s numerous covered Victorian shopping arcades are home to several sound, affordable places to eat, not least this friendly, laid-back cafe-bar which, in its stripped-back, wooden simplicity, makes a feature of this grade II-listed building’s architectural details. The kitchen prides itself on its local sourcing and scratch-cooked honesty – across a menu that runs from organic chilli or aubergine curry to filled jacket potatoes. Eggs Benedict was everything you would want it to be: served on proper breakfast muffins, the organic Welsh eggs creamy and fresh, the hollandaise light, lemony and elegant. The Plan is also serious about its coffee (its head barista, Trevor Hyam, is a UK Barista Championship finalist) and it serves an impressive flat white (£2.35).

• Breakfast dishes from £3.75, sandwiches from £5.70, mains from £7.10. Morgan Arcade, 28-29, 029-2039 8764, Open Mon-Fri 8.45am-5pm, Sat 8.15am-5pm, Sun (and Bank Holidays) 10am-3.30pm

Pizza Pronto

 Close up of a pizza and logo napkin from Pizza Pronto, Cardiff

 Close up of a pizza and logo napkin from Pizza Pronto, Cardiff

Down on Cardiff’s waterfront in the shadow of the Millennium Centre, is Pizza Pronto, a shipping container kitchen that dispenses 8in oval pizzette to hungry office workers and clued-up visitors. No pizza was ever improved by a scattering of dried herbs on top but, otherwise, the base was crisp and fresh, the tomato sauce was fresh, and the pepperoni offered a good fiery, meaty flavour. This was a tasty, value-for-money snack and foodies will be tickled by specials that dip into trendy Italian ingredients such as the soft, spicy sausage ’nduja. There is space to hover and eat at ledges in the adjacent yard, and if you nip across the road to Portuguese bakery-cafe Nata & Co (96 Bute Street), you can pick up a terrific pastel de nata custard tart for dessert (£1).

Talking of street food, visitors may also be interested in pop-up specialist Depot’s warehouse-based Winter Social (£4-£7, Dumballs Road), which runs every Friday and Saturday until 19 December and brings together such well-known Cardiff outfits as Hokkei, Brother Thai and Science Cream.

• Pizza from £3.50. 7-8 Bute Crescent, Open Mon-Thurs 10.30am-7.30pm, Fri 10.30am-11pm, Sat 12.30pm-11pm, closed Sun

New York Deli

Close up of a New York-style sandwich and soft drink at New York Deli, Cardiff

Close up of a New York-style sandwich and soft drink at New York Deli, Cardiff

That my “sandwich” comes with a knife and fork and several napkins tells you all you need to know. It is almost the size of my head. A two-man job. A mammoth beast. Which explains why New York Deli has become a legendary Cardiff troff-spot. This (until very recently, American-owned) cafe and sandwich bar concentrates on stuffed-to-bursting bagels, hotdogs, meatball grinders and hoagies (long soft rolls) and while the ingredients on my New York hoagie were not exactly gourmet (the pastrami needed a more stridently peppery edge), you cannot really go wrong with a huge mound of deli meats, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and sweet gherkins. Elsewhere on the menu you will find all the Big Apple classics: salt beef, salami, provolone, meatloaf, and while prices are high for a sandwich (those hoagies hover around a fiver), bear in mind that you will not need to eat again for hours. If not days.

• Sandwiches from £3.30. 19 High Street Arcade,

Café Malaysia

 Dish of Penang Hokkien Mee at Cafe Malaysia, Cardiff

 Dish of Penang Hokkien Mee at Cafe Malaysia, Cardiff

Despite being three years old, Café Malaysia still looks like a work in progress. There is no visible street signage, and the dining room is a mishmash of minimalist Asian canteen, bare dangling hipster lightbulbs and what looks like the old terracotta, trattoria-style flooring from a previous business. But – despite the sections of corrugated tin in the ceiling – there is nothing provisional about its food. Its stir-fries, curries and noodle soups sing with precise flavours and come garnished with authentic touches (such as the brittle, salty dried anchovies that top the nasi lemak) that make no concession to prissy western diners. Every element of that dish, its coconut-infused rice, the moist, crispy turmeric fried chicken, its hot savoury gravy and the jammy, chilli-packed sambal, offered layers of flavour. Even the cucumber garnish was clean, cool and freshly chopped.

• Starter and main £10 at lunchtime, otherwise mains from £7.50. 101 Woodville Road, 029-2023 5616, Open Mon-Sat noon-3pm and 6pm-10pm, closed Sun


 Hotdog, loaded with toppings and nachos, and a side order of fries in a syrup tin, from Hogwurst, Cardiff

 Hotdog, loaded with toppings and nachos, and a side order of fries in a syrup tin, from Hogwurst, Cardiff

When looking for a city’s best budget eats, it always pays to make a beeline for the student enclaves, in this case Cathays, north of Cardiff city centre, which is home, to among others, the idiosyncratic Hogwurst. Ostensibly a homely, cluttered coffee shop lined with books and bric-a-brac, it serves jazzy porridge dishes and streaky bacon baps topped with crumbled hash brown in the mornings (how good does that sound?). Later – hence the name – it knocks-out high-quality hotdogs that use taut, snappy, flavoursome franks from Gloucester’s renowned Native Breeds and angelically light brioche rolls from Cardiff baker Allen’s. The sloppy, liberally dispensed toppings range from a simple combo of sauerkraut and crispy onions to southern fried chicken bites with caramelised onions and barbecue sauce. The student-friendly vibe extends beyond the invitation to “chill out, study” on Hogwurst’s flyers to include 10% student discount and a bring-your-own-booze policy. All told, it makes Hogwurst a cost-effective night out. “Relax, it could be wurst,” runs the legend on the ceiling. It certainly could.

• Hotdog with fries from £6.50. 56 North Road,

Falafel Kitchen

  Dish of rice and falafel from Falafel Kitchen, Cardiff

 Dish of rice and falafel from Falafel Kitchen, Cardiff

It is not often you see falafel handmade and deep-fried in front of you when ordering a takeaway filled pitta, but this small cafe (lunch only) clearly operates to its own impeccable standards. Those falafel, light and fragrant, and falling apart like couscous in your mouth, are stuffed into a fluffy, soft pitta. It’s then liberally smeared with good hummus to which you can add, from the self-service salad bar, myriad toppings and sauces, from tahini or terrific smokey baba ganoush to red cabbage and Moroccan seasoned carrots. The wider menu includes such items as sabich (fried aubergine) or chicken shawarma served in pittas or as salad plates. Throw in bottles of Budvar at £2.50 a pop and Falafel Kitchen is certainly worth the walk out of town up Crwys Road.

• Lunch dishes from £4.50. 76 Crwys Road, Open Mon-Sat 11am-3pm, closed Sun

Got Beef

 Close up of a burger and cheese with chips  - the chips are inside the burger bun.

 Close up of a burger and cheese with chips  - the chips are inside the burger bun.

Local burger fanatics swear by Got Beef, a new-wave burger joint two miles out of the city centre at the top of Cathays. In many ways, it is modern and on-point: decent skin-on chips, very good brioche buns, small craft beer selection. However, my sample burger was one of those sweet, densely packed Welsh Black, steak-style burgers that seem to be uniquely popular in Wales, despite the fact the rest of the UK increasingly favours loose-packed, coarse ground, prominently beefy patties. That said, this was an enjoyable burger, lifted, particularly, by Got Beef’s tangy “secret recipe” sauce, which is a dead-ringer for the garnish on McDonald’s Big Mac. And yes, that is meant as a compliment.

• Meals from £8.95. 83 Whitchurch Road, Open Tues-Sun noon-10pm, closed Mon


  Dosa (pancake) and a selection of dips from Kumar's in Cardiff.

 Dosa (pancake) and a selection of dips from Kumar's in Cardiff.

It would be easy to overlook Kumar’s among the numerous restaurants that line City Road, but this humble south Indian food spot is knocking out some seriously accomplished, freshly cooked and assiduously spiced food. Its lacy, pancake-like dosa is crisp and ever-so-slightly chewy at the edges, softer near the centre, slightly lactic in flavour and partnered with fine chutneys and a sambar, that, like the best examples, tastes like an amazingly hot and savoury winter broth. It is the Indian equivalent of a hug in a mug. Kumar’s dhals are similarly good. The yellow lentil and spinach palak had many dimensions of flavour. Fresh spices and chillies were evident in every mouthful. Talking of Indian food, if you are looking for something novel, try Katiwok (from £4.99, 53 Crwys Road, 029-2037 6222). It is best known for its eponymous kati rolls, that Indian street food that sees spiced, grilled meats wrapped in a paratha, like an Asian burrito.

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