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South Wales Echo - - TUCK IN -

ARDIFF’S pretty ar­cades, wind­ing across the city, are among its most beau­ti­ful as­sets.

Snaking around a cap­i­tal so sat­u­rated with big names, they are a wel­come haven for many in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers, cof­fee shops, and eater­ies.

Pop­u­lar cafe The Plan, which splits Mor­gan Ar­cade in two near its exit onto The Hayes, is a main­stay of the city’s cafe cul­ture that has with­stood the in­flux of so many cof­fee shops within the last year or two.

Per­haps that’s in part be­cause it’s more than a cof­fee shop – dur­ing my pre­vi­ous vis­its here I’ve stopped with a group for an af­ter­noon tip­ple and sam­pled a de­light­ful ale but also dropped by for a quick break­fast.

It passed those tests well, more than jus­ti­fy­ing a re­turn visit to sam­ple the full menu, which in­cludes not just the ex­pected sal­ads (£7.75), sand­wiches, baguettes, toasties (£6.15£6.75) and jacket pota­toes (be­tween £6.55 and an eye-pop­ping £7.95) but also a string of equally ag­gres­sively priced main meals.

There are home­made soups of the day too (£6.05), with both leek and po­tato and a highly tempt­ing roasted red pep­per with tomato and feta on of­fer dur­ing our visit.

As well as all this there are a string of quiches (£9.20) on of­fer each day too – ba­con and brie, red pep­per and brie, and sal­mon and as­para­gus were the op­tions dur­ing our week­day visit.

Hav­ing started 2017 by be­ing voted into UK’s top 25 cof­fee shops by the Sun­day Times there’s a tan­gi­ble yet un­der­stated con­fi­dence within The Plan, with the warm and dili­gent staff help­ful with­out be­ing over­bear­ing and the at­mos­phere as a whole lively but not try­ing too hard.

We supped a creamy choco­late milk­shake (£3.70) – light and lack­ing in the sug­ary gloop­i­ness which of­ten makes it a meal in it­self – and a large mocha (£3.05) that prompted lav­ish praise for its bal­ance of rich cof­fee light­ened with choco­late rather than over­whelmed by it – as we awaited our food.

When it ar­rived it cer­tainly looked the part – fresh and vivid, the turn­around time from a clearly busy kitchen was im­pres­sive.

I’d been tempted by the stuffed red pep­pers with cous cous, pine nuts, goats cheese and herbs, served with pitta bread and hum­mus (£8.70), which also had a salad gar­nish of mixed leaves and sliced red onion as well as olives, cu­cum­ber, cherry tomato and a bal­samic vine­gar dress­ing.

Un­for­tu­nately the whole dish felt a lit­tle on the soggy side, with the in­ex­pli­ca­bly plain cous cous (even just a touch of lemon would have brought it to life) still highly wa­tery and only en­trench­ing the spongi­ness of the pep­per it­self.

I couldn’t track down any pine nuts, which would have pro­vided some rich­ness and much-needed ad­di­tional tex­ture, with only slices of tomato (not help­ing out with the wa­tery feel of the dish) and red onion (al­ready in the salad) dis­cernible in the stuff­ing. The sub­tle and chalky goats cheese had been gen­tly sea­soned and brought a lit­tle wel­come in­spi­ra­tion to a slightly in­sipid dish, with the warm slices of whole­meal pitta and cit­rus notes within the hum­mus adding a fur­ther de­gree of dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion.

My part­ner’s sal­mon and as­para­gus quiche was more de­serv­ing of the ‘main meal’ tag and a thick wedge of cheese-topped quiche didn’t spare the chunky fil­let of fish, even if the as­para­gus was on the fru­gal side and had be­come over-moist­ened.

The crust was light and no­tice­ably fresh – even if there was a famed Bake Off-style soggy bot­tom – while the de­li­cious sautéed pota­toes broke free of a crispy and lightly sea­soned shell to melt away in the mid­dle. While the quiche was the more im­pres­sive of the two dishes both felt on the ex­pen­sive side and nei­ther left us any­thing re­sem­bling full to pop­ping.

We rounded off our visit with dessert and op­tions in­cluded ev­ery­thing from tea cakes (£1.95) and scones (£2.05 for one) to home­made pan­cakes (£4.45) and a range of lo­cal­ly­made cakes. The source of my choco­late muf­fin, served with choco­late sauce and ice cream (£4.15), wasn’t clear – it wasn’t listed as home­made so is per­haps bought in.

Ei­ther way it was dis­ap­point­ingly bland and fairly in­dis­tin­guish­able from many out-of-the packet high street of­fer­ings, while the syrupy choco­late sauce didn’t make much of an im­pact. It looked huge – plenty of the creamy vanilla ice cream saw to that – but again this felt ex­pen­sive for what it was.

My part­ner’s cour­gette and lime cake (£3.65 – red vel­vet and car­rot were the other daily op­tions avail­able) elicited more com­pli­ments for its flavours, which were un­doubt­edly more forth­com­ing, though the con­sis­tency was very much on the dense side.

The Plan does cof­fee well – and that should be the crit­i­cal water­mark by which it is judged – but its food doesn’t quite live up to those lofty stan­dards.

The Plan, 28-29 Mor­gan Ar­cade, Cardiff, CF10 1AF. Call 029 2039 8764 or visit the­p­lan­cafe­cardiff. co.uk

Rat­ing: 3/5

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