The Cauldron is a little different, and all the better for it, writes Sammy Milton
Let’s face it – it’s not the best time of the year. It’s cold, there’s talk of snow, and after the chaos of Christmas, our wallets have taken a beating. Many of us have taken New Year vows, with promises to eat healthier and live more virtuously – me, I just want to stick my head in a bowl of soup. Comfort food is what we live for in these colder months, and on a blisteringly cold evening a couple of weeks back, that’s exactly what we set out for.
We have visited The Cauldron before, but with so many openings scheduled for this year (watch this space), we thought it was important to pay old friends a visit. For those who don’t know, it is a bright and truly unique place, located on the bustling Mina Road in St Werburghs – and if you’re going soon, you’re in for a treat. Their kitchen is fully fuelled by charcoal and kiln dried logs, with absolutely no gas supply, meaning it’s a different experience entirely. Also, this must mean it’s extra warm. Bonus points.
The place was full of diners when we arrived, mostly locals enjoying their luck at having such a gem of a place on their doorstep, and we were seated quickly at a table towards the back of the restaurant. Flames rose from the open kitchen, bringing with them a blast of warmth and an array of tantalising smells – we were going to enjoy ourselves.
The menu offers a good-sized selection of starters and mains, with plenty of meaty treats for the carnivores but also vegan and vegetarian options aplenty. This is an adventurous restaurant – there was more than one offal dish on the menu on the night we dined there, and most dishes are paired with punchy accompaniments that show these guys mean business.
And why shouldn’t they? Owners Henry Eldon and Lauren Nash Eldon have spread their culinary careers across the UK and USA, and their love of travelling and cooking is apparent in every dish.
From the starters, we chose whipped bovine marrow and pickled allium on toast and the fried sesame and prawn toast. Two very different dishes, each had their own unique charms – the whipped bone marrow was completely different to the image you probably have in your head. Creamy and smooth, it had a depth of meaty richness that’s hard to glean from even the finest of terrines, and spread on toast became the most delectable offering. If it’s a dish that makes you squeamish, then this is the way to try it.
The prawn toast was equally as diverse – not what springs to mind from your memories of a Chinese takeaway. Crisp without a hint of greasiness, it was packed with a chunky layer of piping hot prawns, and was deeply savoury.
We decided it had to be meat for the mains. For myself, the mixed breed beef burger, formed from minced forerib and brisket and served alongside their famous ‘real deal’ skin-on chips. My dining companion opted for a flat-iron steak (cut from the shoulders of the cow), served medium rare, alongside peppercorn sauce and more of those chips.
The burger was the best example of how they should be done in restaurants. Juicy and succulent, the evidence of the high-quality meat came through with every bite. Topped with a thick slab of strong cheddar, tomato and pickled cucumber, it was perfect in almost every way – with perhaps just a touch too much mayonnaise for my liking. The chips, as promised, were the real deal – with a crisp outer coating and a fluffy interior. My dining partner’s steak looked and tasted divine – juicy and pink with the perfect trim of fat, it didn’t hang around
Although we declined dessert – an ‘eyes bigger than our stomachs’ moment – it’s worth mentioning that they have a small but perfectly formed selection, including some tart and delicious hand-rolled truffles I sampled on my first visit – all thoughtfully paired with an impressive list of digestifs.
St Werburghs is not your average area, and The Cauldron is not your average restaurant –it’s all the better for it. So, if you’re in need of some warmth this winter, come and bask in the flames of their glory.
98 Mina Road
0117 914 1321