11 Whitchurch Road, Cardiff. 029 2062 3956 / www.facebook.com/thebrassbeetle
Food: **** Atmosphere: ****
Ah, the joys of serendipity. Had it not been for a recent visit to craft beer and vinyl shop Pop ‘N’ Hops (for another Buzz feature), I would never have stumbled upon its stylish new near-neighbour. Like Ffwrnes and Dusty Knuckle, the Brass Beetle sets out to treat the Welsh capital to creative, hand-crafted pizzas that are a world away from the unimaginative fare of the major chains.
Everywhere you look on the menu, there are intriguing topping combinations: chorizo sweetened with the addition of hot honey; ham hock paired with Perl Las blue cheese; a superfood smorgasbord of lentils, kale and asparagus to help assuage any feelings of guilt at enjoying the doughy indulgence beneath. Admittedly, there’s also a good-looking margherita, but probably only as a concession to any grumpy purists sat rolling their eyes.
Seized by the spirit of adventure, we opt for one pizza with cockles, pancetta, lava bread and samphire – the delicate saltiness of each ingredient complementing the overall flavour – and another with a delicious mixture of caramelised leeks, roasted cauliflower and Emmental cheese. Vegan and gluten-free versions of every pizza are available, we note approvingly.
As for the sides – which are very reasonably priced, much like the pizzas – the house rocket salad adheres to the fundamental principle that anything can be instantly improved with the addition of chorizo, while the halloumi fries, arranged like an edible game of Jenga, are sensational. The accompanying jalapeno dip is perfection, as is the red pepper concoction among the ever-changing selection of additional dips, ideal for dunking stray bits of crust.
Gripes are few and far between. I’m not normally one to complain about alcohol content or value for money, but my mint and blackberry mojito packs perhaps a bit too much punch (though it does mellow, with the fresh fruity flavour coming through further down the glass). And the fact that the pizzas are served on branded greaseproof paper that slip-slides across the plate and diners are armed with only blunt knives makes carving them up something of a challenge.
But that latter frustration is only minor – and, of course, our impatience is merely a reflection of just how tasty the food is.
words BEN WOOLHEAD