It’s rare for me to have dragged my sorry carcass out of bed by such an ungodly hour on a Sunday – but when it comes to Ground, a new bakery in Cardiff, it’s the early bird that gets the pain au chocolat. It’s not even 9am and already the natives are loitering outside with intent, hankering for their high-class croissant and coffee fix. The instant the doors open, every table is taken.
So what’s all the fuss about? Well, despite the inauspicious timing of its opening in early 2020, former Masterchef contestant Tom Simmons’ restaurant Thomas, on the site of the former Cameo Club, has rapidly garnered an excellent reputation (I’ve lost track of how many people I’ve heard eulogising the fish and chips). Ground, located just a few doors down, is his latest venture: a self-styled “artisanal boulangerie and speciality coffee house” occupying the premises of a vacuum cleaner repair shop that had somehow stood vacant for more than 20 years. Admittedly, it couldn’t be much more painfully Pontcanna, but, much like the appliances once brought in to be mended, Ground doesn’t suck – far, far from it.
Let’s cut to the chase: if it’s Sunday brunch you’re after, this is the place to go. One of our party laughs in the face of cliché (we’re much too old and weather-worn to be mistaken for millennials, to be fair) by ordering smashed avocado and hot flaked salmon on sourdough, and is handsomely rewarded with what arrives. Two others rave about their rich, paprika-infused house beans and spherical eggs poached to perfection. I, meanwhile, am reduced to inarticulate mumbles of ecstasy by a combination of eggs, roast chestnut mushrooms, butter-drenched toast and two hefty hunks of overnight bacon. The latter – phenomenally tender, but fried crispy on the outside – are an out-of-body experience with every mouthful.
From our table, we have a great view through the large plate-glass window into the kitchen/bakery, marvelling at the scales weighed down with indecent quantities of butter and sugar and at the industry of the staff. Trays laden with baked and bready treats whizz past regularly. Stand up at the wrong moment and you run the risk of getting taken out by a passing trolley full of almond croissants, but (let’s face it) there are much worse ways to go.
On this evidence, Ground and Thomas might just be the beginnings of a foodie empire to rival Padstein. Tomcanna Street, anyone?
15 Pontcanna Street, Cardiff. 029 2116 7850 / www.groundbakery.co.uk
words and photos BEN WOOLHEAD
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