The transformation of Cardiff's food scene is in full swing. Propelled by gastronomic gambles and off-beat restaurant openings, Cardiff is now a top dining destination. 

It's here you'll find fried squid stuffed in black squid ink rolls, crazy takes on Welsh cakes, and a restaurant in a prison

After much drooling, copious tastings, and a bit of debating, we've selected the most essential dishes to try in Cardiff.

Eisenstadt Sandwich – Wally’s Delicatessen

Heaped with Black Forest ham, onion-coated salami, and gooseberry and coriander chutney, the ‘Eisenstadt’ takes the crown of sandwich perfection. 

Thali – Chai Street

The presentation may conjure up memories of school dinners, but rest assured: there be no lumpy custard here. Instead you have an indulgent feast of curry, lentil daal, fluffy rice and crunchy poppadoms. 

Lahmacun – Saray Restaurant

Head to vibrant City Road to try lahmacun, a Turkish-style pizza topped with spiced minced lamb and parsley. Wash down with Ayran, a salted yogurt drink.

Spinach and pistachio cake – Waterloo Tea

A cake this glowing shade of green has got to be healthy for you, right? Debatable, perhaps, but what’s dead certain is that this well-loved Cardiff establishment bakes the scrummiest cake in town. 

Welsh rarebit – Madame Fromage

Word on the street is this charming deli in the Castle Arcade serves up the ultimate Welsh rarebit. The Madame’s secret to the perfect rarebit is simplicity: Thick crusty bread, béchamel sauce, garlic, mustard and Welsh cheddar, end of.

Lentil daal – Clancy’s @ Cardiff Central Market

Located in the atmospheric Central Market, Clancy’s don’t only provide scrummy vegetarian and vegan lunches on the go, they also have an impressive selection of spice mixes on offer.

Willy Wonka – Moksh

Even the most adventurous diner is bound to be taken aback by Stephen Gomes’ fearless cookery. This starter of lamb chops with chilli chocolate candy floss is just one of the reasons Moksh was crowned best restaurant 2016 by Cardiff Life magazine.

Tacos – Bearded Taco @ Depot

With fillings inspired by their extensive travels, Welsh Sian and Californian Jake regularly rustle up a taco feast at DEPOT, Cardiff’s bustling street food pop-up.

Linguine Pescatora – Café Citta

This family-run Italian eatery is perhaps the most under-rated in Cardiff. Fresh, vibrant and elegant, the seafood linguine is the pasta dish of your dreams.

The Ultimate Burger – Anna Loka

Cardiff’s only 100 % vegan café is famed for its succulent burger, to rival any of its meaty cousins. And it comes with moreish sweet potato fries.

Nandu Trio – Purple Poppadom

Restaurateur Anand George mixes local produce with Indian flavours like a wizard waving his wand. And if the picture isn’t enough to, erm, crab your attention to this dish, I’ll have you know it received a big fat seal of approval from food critic Jay Rayner.

 Spandauer – Brød

The classic Spandauer, with a custard or jam filling, is a masterclass in the art of pastry-making. No wonder the Danes are so happy when they’ve got these to munch on, eh?

Banana, peanut butter and choco ice cream – Science Cream

Who said science was boring? Wales’ first and only liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour has wowed Cardiffians since 2014 with their show-stopping desserts, which have even made it onto The Times’ Top 10 UK ice cream shops. 

Welsh breakfast – Pettigrew Tearooms

Well, where else does breakfast include laverbread scones? Start your day the Welsh way in the dainty tea parlour by the castle.

Cooked breakfast - Servini’s

A Cardiff icon, Servini’s has cooked a mean breakfast for more than 50 years in their Edwardian arcade kitchen. 

Pastel de Nata – Nata & Co

While Cardiff’s very own Portuguese bakery has a range of delectable cakes and sandwiches on offer, their little custard tarts are their claim to fame. Heaven in a mouthful. 

Nasi Lemak - Jalan Malysia 

Creamy coconut rice, fiery sambal, boiled egg and Malaysian curry combine with meat, prawn or tofu to trick you into believing you’re in a warren of market vendors in Kuala Lumpur. If only.

Polish meat board – Sunflower and I

This quirky café/bar/florist is perhaps Cardiff’s best kept secret. Excellent Polish cakes are bought in from a London bakery, but if you’re after something more substantial then opt for a decadent meat board.

New York Hoagie – New York Deli 

Lunchtime in the High Street Arcade sees a queue outside this American joint.  It’s all about the hoagie, a quintessentially New York sub sandwich with mountains of pastrami, Swiss cheese, coleslaw and gherkins. 

Sunday roast – Society Standard 

Head to Cardiff newcomer Society Standard on Whitchurch Road for your Sunday comfort food. With all the trimmings, naturally.

 Chilli paneer – Vegetarian food studio

No cuisine does vegetarian better than Indian, and this authentic South Indian restaurant goes all out to prove it. Soft cheese covered in a spicy chilli sauce is so moreish you’ll be wanting seconds.

Gyros – Hellenic eatery 

At £4, this fast food beauty has got to be the best bargain in town. Tip: pop in on a Sunday evening for Greek dancing (and ouzo, of course).

Pantry Salad Bowl – Penylan Pantry 

If you’re after a fresh and healthy lunch option, head to this cute corner shop/deli in Roath and get stuck into a salad bowl the colour of a rainbow. Did we mention it’s organic, too?

Gambas – Curado Bar 

This brand new addition to the culinary Cardiff family has already generated a buzz around its authentic Northern Spanish tapas, which include smoked sardines and ewe’s cheese,  and the best gambas

Potted pig – The Potted Pig 

Of course, potted pig is the go-to dish at this modern British restaurant in the heart of the city. Don’t forget to sample their excellent gin. 

Boudin noir toastie – Mr. Croquewich @ Riverside Market 

Black pudding, goat’s cheese and apple puree is a winning combo – just ask the punters at what is without a doubt Cardiff’s most scenic market.

Sushi - Sushi Life

In honour of the Welsh flag and its vibrant colours, the Green Dragon Maki Roll is a double helping of avocado.

Nutella Fitzgerald – The Early Bird 

Your Sunday morning prayers have been answered. A French toast tower studded with Nutella and banana, now that’s what we call brunch.

Pepperoni pizza – Dusty Knuckle 

Wafer-thin artisanal pizza, meet award-winning pepperoni from Charcuterie Ltd. It’s a match made in wood-fired heaven. 

Open sandwich and soup - Milgi

The plant-based food at City Road’s Milgi is sure to please the eye as well as the taste buds. Return at night to sip cocktails in their glorious backyard yurt. 

Turbot – Fish at 85

This melt-in-your-mouth turbot from a stylish fishmonger, in the good company of cockles, bacon and samphire, is just an example of what to expect. Yum.

Burger – Time & Beef

At Time & Beef you are the master of your burger creation: demi brioche – or potato bun? Halloumi, feta, cheddar cheese – or all of them? Our vote - beef + gauc + halloumi

Bad boy burrito – Mi Tierra @ Parc Deli 

Every Thursday evening this deli  puts on a Mexican fiesta lasting till Saturday. Grab your maracas and your bottle of choice (it’s BYOB) and get ready for beauteous burritos.

Sunday lunch – Bully’s 

Another contender for best roast dinner. Legendary Bully’s has been one of Cardiff’s favourite fine dining destinations for more than two decades.

Chicken and lamb shawarma – Shaam Nights 

Lightyears away from your end-of-the-night greasy takeaway, this elegant kebab house pulls off shawarma worthy of a sultan.

Milho Frito – Amazona’s 

Discovered this place yet? The silky smooth cubes of deep fried polenta are worth going for alone, and sugarcane juice with lime and mint makes the perfect accompaniment. 

Glamorgan veggie sausages (with salad feast) – Kemi’s 

Kemi’s sumptuous salad bar is so colourful it is bound to lift your spirits. Combine with locally sourced veggie sausages and there’s a wholesome lunch if we ever saw one.  

Escargot @ Chez Francis

Snails served with true French style, in a restaurant promising to transport you to Paris through taste.

Scallops  @ La Cuina

Petite tapas plate with huge flavour. Seared scallops don't come better than when paired with black Catalan sausage. 

Published -9th January 2018