Friendly pantry is full of delights... It might be a little tucked away but Penylan Pantry in Cardiff is well worth seeking out.
IOne of the key factors for me when looking, beyond the property itself, is the level of amenities in the local area - how near is it to a park? Is the train station close by? Until I went to Penylan Pantry I didn't think I needed to add the rider that I wanted a top-notch so-fresh-you-cantaste-it delicatessen-cum-cafe on the corner of any street I move into.
Oxford University researchers might have recently unveiled findings that people who have a local pub are "significantly" happier but I'd be ready to swap a boozer for homemade breads, warming soups and fresh cakes given the chance.
We dropped into the Penylan Pantry after a Sunday stroll around Roath Park (the Pantry's open 10am-4pm on Sunday, closed on Mondays, then open between 9am and 6pm from Tuesday to Saturday).
It might feel a shade off the beaten track, tucked away in the middle of a residential street, if you don't know the area well but it more than rewards the (minimal) effort of seeking it out.
We were lucky that a small party were leaving as we arrived, letting us slot straight into a corner table, as there's not a whole load of seating in this pretty, L-shaped corner plot.
It's very much got a delicatessen feel with Welsh dressers lined with ingredients and cookbooks as well as a counter offering up cheeses, smoked meats and cakes galore.
The menu for eating in is seasonal and the premise is straightforward: fresh, simple food sourced from local producers and suppliers. The day's offerings are listed on a series of boards and there's everything from three gluten-free salad bowls (PS6.50 medium, PS9.50 large) to vegetarian, cured meat, cheese and the oh-so-tempting smokey salmon board (PS7-PS10.50) as well as homemade beans on toast (PS5.50) with the option of adding grilled chorizo (PS1.50) and cheese (PS1.50).
Choosing took rather a while and I got it down to either the winter stew (slow-cooked ox cheek with red wine and mushrooms, PS8.50) and my eventual selection of organic (and gluten-free) cauliflower cheese soup (PS5.50).
Maybe it helped that we had the rosy cheeks of the freshly walked but this felt perfect - a viscous soup topped with pink peppercorns and served with three doorstop slices of magnificent soda bread which I'd have happily sat and eaten a loaf of.
There was perhaps a little more cauliflower than cheese in the soup but that's being picky - this was a nutritious and tasty delight that just begged to have butter-lashed bread swept through it.
If the pink peppercorns gave the soup an edge then they were like little popping candystyle firecrackers on my partner's crushed avocado with chilli on toast (PS5.75), firing away on top of a generous serving of lemon-infused fruit so fresh you could basically taste the vitamins.
The toasted oaty bread was bouncy and soft and it was a cause of some regret that the optional boiled egg on top (PS1) had been declined as this would have been a perfect addition to this dish - but there's always next time.
Having washed it all down with an organic orange juice (PS2) and a Waterloo Tea Earl Grey (PS3) we consoled ourselves with a round of cakes and, in a moment of indulgence, I also opted for an organic chocolate milkshake (PS2.50).
Served in a jar, this was like drinking a liquefied version of a high-grade milk chocolate - smooth and light without being oversweet, it did become a little sickly towards the end (but this was probably more due to my chocolate binge than anything else).
My accompaniment was a delicious slab of honeyinfused chocolate brownie which was every bit as good as it sounds - hints of astringency from the honey offset with gloopy brownie mix in every spoonful, lots of stickiness and none of the floury dried-out texture that can so easily spoil it.
If anything my partner's wedge of chocolate banana loaf (PS2.90), served warm (optional) and with butter, was even better.
Having it warm gave it a crunchy, almost biscuit-like casing which gave way to a cinnamon-scented soft loaf which was big enough to represent superb value for money but light enough to slip down easily.
While it was moist enough that the butter went largely untouched I could happily have taken a loaf of this home and tried it separately with vanilla ice cream, double cream and custard - all in the name of research obviously.
As far as cafe lunches go this was one of the best I've had in a long time - and benefited from some of the friendliest, warmest service going as well.
I don't know where I'm moving to yet but I know I'd like Penylan Pantry to move to the end of my road too. Please? | Penylan Pantry, 72 Kimberly Road, Cardiff, CF23 5DN. Visit www.penylanpantry.com
Banana loaf with chocolate
Interior of the Penylan Pantry, on the corner of Kimberley Road and Blenheim Road, Cardiff
Organic chocolate milkshake and chocolate brownie
Cauliflower cheese soup topped with pink peppercorns, served with soda bread
Chocolate brownie with honey
Avocado and chilli with pink peppercorns