As recommendations go, it was certainly an unusual one – but when Andy Falkous, the faintly terrifying frontman of McLusky and Future Of The Left, reveals on Twitter that a city centre sandwich shop catered his wedding, then you’re well-advised to take heed and trot along to try it out.
In truth, though, the near-permanent queue to be found daily outside baguette bar Fresh in Cardiff’s Royal Arcade had already led me to suspect that something special was afoot. Despite deliberately timing my visit for 2 pm, after the standard lunchtime rush, I still find myself in danger of incurring the wrath of the neighbouring camera shop for waiting in front of their windows.
The constant stream of customers and the wide variety of the menu – more than 25 different baguette filling combinations, most with four or five ingredients, plus a selection of salad boxes – must mean it’s fiendishly hard graft for proprietors Gareth Lawton and Sam Halewood. But rather than coming across as wearied victims of their own success, the pair cheerfully greet those who step over the threshold like old friends, knowing instinctively what “the usual” means.
So, what of the actual sandwiches at Fresh? For my late lunch I tackle a #9, first appreciating the crunch of the baguette (baked on the premises), then the way the peppered pastrami works in concert with the rocket, and then the hefty hit of flavour from a mayo that brings together an ensemble cast of Dijon mustard, horseradish and roasted garlic for a truly memorable performance.
If anything, teatime’s #16 is even better – this one incorporates a couple of slabs of chicken, fresh and sunblushed tomatoes, rocket leaves, onion, parmesan shavings and another revelatory mayo, this time infused with pesto. The icing on the cake, though, is the salami crackling. Believe me, you need it in your life. Speaking of cake, the slab of Rolo-topped rocky road – chaotically constructed out of a jumble of marshmallows set in chocolate – is roughly the same size as a Soviet-era apartment block but far more aesthetically pleasing.
With Fresh around in Cardiff, it’s little wonder that some people have been itching to get back into the office.
32 Royal Arcade, Cardiff. 029 2022 3158 / Twitter
words and photos BEN WOOLHEAD
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