Founded by Tom and Owen Morgan – Welsh brothers with a love of all things Spanish – this mini chain brings a taste of tapas to Cardiff and beyond (there are outposts in Bristol, Cowbridge and Penarth).
Bar 44 is housed in a former canal warehouse within spitting distance of the Principality Stadium – not that you’d know what’s going on in the outside world once ensconced in one of the four arched brick rooms which feel like a cellar in Jerez.
Menus vary from branch to branch, but each is a snapshot of the siblings’ travels across Spain, with specialities on offer ranging from Carmona olives to Galician beef and San Lucar prawns.
Hand-carved jamón, charcuterie and regional cheeses are the cornerstones, but also expect nibbles to pick at (toasted broad beans, house pickles, salted almonds) plus various toasts: sobrasada Iberica (Mallorcan black pig chorizo) and Catalan rosemary honey on toast, say, or pan con tomate with garlic.
Tapas, naturally, is the house speciality, with eight all-time classics supplemented by a dozen seasonal tapas. From the former, you might go for favourites of Iberico ham croquetas, runny-centred tortilla, cider-poached chorizo or crispy hake with alioli, herbs and capers.
Seasonal small plates, meanwhile, feature a greater choice of vegetable dishes (beetroots with whipped goats’ curd and sherry caramel, carrots with radish and oloroso sherry, pimento-spiced aubergine with pistachio and herb yoghurt) plus a little more creativity in the cooking.
Lamb neck is braised overnight in sherry and served with squash and pochas beans, there’s a burger of confit duck and smoked morcilla (Spanish black pudding) while sea bream cooked on the plancha grill comes with squid ink alioli. There are short vegan and kids’ menus, too.
Beers, ciders and wines are true to the geographical theme, while the Cardiff branch is the only place of its kind in the UK which pours three different sherries from full-sized barrels behind the bar.