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Apr 2 Parc Pantry Belle Vue Park - busy with mums and youngsters on a bank holiday morning. We had wraps and toasties. The food was ok and the atmosphere in the conservatory pleasant enough but the floors and tables were dirty and not cleaned when we sat down.
Oct 21 Hatti is attracting plenty of interest in the former Chandlery building on Lower Dock Street. It is popular with good quality Indian / Bangladeshi food. The blue lighting is a little off putting but the welcome is warm. We arrived fresh out of storm Brian but were soon on our way with refreshing Bangla beer, the usual sundry starters, a meaty but slightly greasy sheek kebab. The main include a nice spicy karahi, a sweet king prawn masala style dish, and a superb tarka daal. Well worth a visit but the Shoboraj is still slightly ahead of it.
June 23 - Bar Piazza continues to out shine the many chain coffee houses that are now its competitors in Newport city centre. The welcome is always friendly with a loyal clientele. On Friday trade was busy but we had bacon, mozzarella and tomato baguette, a salami, mozzarella and pesto cappucino, two coffees and two limonata. The food is always freshly prepared. All it needs is TK Maxx to open out onto Dock Street. Still recommended.
January 13 - Parc Central - Parc Central straight out of the Parc Pantry stable is a very welcome addition to Newport's daytime food offering. Saturday lunchtime was busy with brunch offerings proving attractive. We went for chicken and chorizo wrap and the brunchie (a brioche with streaky bacon, poached egg and chilli jam) served with a side of spicy beans. The food was excellent. The two storey venue is attractive and well worth looking into as a Friday or Saturday evening outing with an array of refreshing cocktails to try.
December 23 - Pantomime Riverfront - Cinderella cannot fail to work as a pantomime and the Boo and Hiss Company have produced a lively production at the Riverfront. The staging is excellent including an impressive winged horse drawn carriage. The singing and acting is passable although the opportunity to ham up the ugly sisters is missed in my view. There is a good use of contemporary songs in the score. I am not sure why there are all the Welsh language references particularly by Buttons and Cinders, the greeting 'Shw mae?' is not used in Newport very much! Still that aside its an enjoyable, high volume production and is certainly proving popular with city audiences.
February 10 - Jones's Fish Bar - Now established for at least two years near the Royal Oak at the top of Ringland estate Jones's can claim to be the east of Newport's best fish and chip shop by a country mile. Excellent fish, a wide variety cooked to order, perfectly cooked chips and very pleasant staff have made the business a roaring success and rightly so. There can be a healthy queue sometimes and the car park around the shop can get a little congested but it is always worth the wait. A new cafe at the rear of the shop has just opened. Highly recommended.
Prezzo - the new Prezzo restaurant in town decked out in silver, gold and white was busy on Thursday night as we slipped into one of their booths for dinner. We had a nice AntiPasti platter that was only let down by the slight lack of bread followed by a range of excellent mains including an Italian Burger, Tropicana pizza and Chicken alla Funnghi. It was all washed down by Prosecco (discounted at £18 per bottle) but not properly chilled. Service was excellent and we drifted off to Longers for Apple and Blackberry Martinis afterwards!
Cineworld - A trip to screen 8 at the new cinema to catch up with Spectre. The cinema is set out in a striking black and red colour with luminous entrances to each theatre. The sound and comfort were impeccable as was the service. The only glitch - the projectionist forgot to turn the volume up, this was quickly resolved by attentive staff.
Loungers / Drago Lounge - nice buzz on a Sunday morning, a spot of breakfast before the movie in town. Loungers is part of the Cosy Club chain. The new Drago Lounge was nicely cluttered with photos, paintings and even has its own Chartist mural behind the bar. The food was, well, breakfasty but a nice place to chill on a Sunday morning or have a drink or bite to eat it quirky and atmospheric surroundings.
Le Pierre Bistrot - it may be a chain restaurant but it is a cut above. Having been to Plymouth and Bath we had high expectations and they were not confounded. The lunch menu is ridiculously cheap for the quality of food and cooking. £10.95 for two courses or £12.95 with dessert. We started off with crispy squid and pork pate and a complimentary glass of fizz (courtesy of the restaurant's twitter account). With bottles of Pinot Grigio and Merlot in attendance our mains included a slow cooked braised beef, a sublime roasted pork with savoy cabbage in a mustard dressing, a recommended minute steak with fites and chicken burger with gruyere cheese. Desserts and coffee came in at £25 per head. A splendid way to celebrate Newport's new shopping centre and we have booked on Christmas Day to boot.
Bar Piazza - renewed but still the most excellent of Newport's coffee houses. Bar Piazza has been a mainstay during difficult years for the city centre but with Queensberry's support it has been given the lease of life it deserves. With a loyal and wide ranging clientele it has extended its opening hours in town and at new thriving premises in Caerleon. We stopped by for a couple of cappucinos and a slice of toast. As always the service was friendly and positive.
Friars Walk - its been a long time coming but it was worth it. Strange as it may seem to review a shopping centre for Newport this is much more than that. Designed to interconnect with Commercial Street, Dock Street, the Kingsway Centre, the riverside and the bus station Friars Walk achieves all that and more. Some of the stores may seem familiar but the presence of a fine Debenhams department store provides the nucleus for a quality retail experience. The clothes retailers are shiny and new, some returning to the city for the first time in two or three years. The restaurants may be mostly of the chain variety but they offer a wide choice and combined with the cinema, theatre, leisure centre, gym, rugby/football stadia provide the opportunity for consumers to spend the day in the city. Hopefully, hotels will come to allow visitors to stay overnight, new stores will continue to come to the Port and independent retailers will flourish in the spaces left by departures on Commercial Street. Friars Walk is a wonderful start to Newport's comeback to prominence.
MOJO THE FOODBAR
September 4 - Clarence Place has a hipster bar. In the former Rossini's restaurant they have created a vibrant and lively experience with retro furniture, fine food and cocktails. We were there for cocktail. Don't expect two pitchers for the price of one, these are proper mixed cocktail made by a talented mixologist. We had three rounds of Sloe Bees Knees, Lavender Fizz, Raspberry Bellini, Mojo Punch, Daquiri ....they were exceptional and interesting and rather expensive. But the atmosphere was great, the experience was fun, the overall ambience classy and the service excellent. The restaurant itself was buzzing and sold out with a clientele of over 75 per cent women and customers turned away as it was a full house. Will definitely be back, next time for food.
MAINDEE FESTIVAL / THE BIG SPLASH 2015
Review and pics here
CURRY ON THE CURVE
URBAN TAP HOUSE
May 7 - It may be a pop up pub but the presence of the Urban Tap House on High Street is a very welcome sight. Inside is a minimalist design a stripped down interior with spacious tables and beer barrel seats. The bar has approximately a dozen beers and a chef manning a pizza oven. There were four of us, I had two pints of refreshing Boho lager. The others tried a fulsome Fubar, Old Stop Out (a very oaty stout), a light beer (name escapes me) and a couple of glasses of Hogan's Cider. The latter is the only drink on show not brewed by Tiny Rebel. An excellent place and superb drinks, lets hope it last longer than a month!!
May 3 - Maindee HIgh Street used to have a bustling nightlife. Today its a pale shadow of its former self. If it weren't for the burgeoning Turkish community there would be few new businesses or quality on offer. The street scene is clogged with vehicles and men standing outside pubs smoking. The look of the area has not been enhanced by the ugly boards over the former Co-op supermarket and the sense of dereliction from the empty Peacocks store and Poundshop near the main bus stop. If only something could be done about the unwelcoming environment created by Maindee perhaps its fortunes could change? However, all is not lost, you can still have a drink in the relaxed atmosphere of the Godfrey Morgan pub (Wetherspoons), a fine Art Deco building, where they have regular changes of beer and Amstel on draught and wander to the SenBBQ for a sumptuous kebab with home-made bread or take a coffee and cake at the wonderful Valentine's cafe.
WATERLOO HOTEL & BISTRO
Apr 24 - Friday night in the restaurant at the hotel was very quiet but the food was excellent. Starters - salt and pepper squid, and black pudding, poached egg on a muffin base with bacon croutons were superb. The mains from the grill menu - chicken with peppercorn and sirloin steak ditto were beautifully cooked, as were the double cooked chips. All washed down with a few pints of Amstel. Excellent.
CINEMA EVENING, RIVERFRONT
Apr 16 - Time out to take in the cinema at the Riverfront on Wednesday 16 April and Tuesday 21. The film on April 16 was Testament of Youth, the story of the tumultuous war-torn teenage years of Vera Brittain. There were 30 or so patrons in the Studio Theatre to see the film. On Tuesday 21 it was Whiplash, a compelling film about a young drummer at the Shaffer Music School in New York and his relationship with his exacting tutor. The HD projection was excellent, the sound adequate. The theatre seemed more comfortable than when I was last there. To the bar before the show, no slim-line tonic to go with gin and the spacious cafe area generally could have done with a good clean. On Tuesday the staff barked from the front to the back with an air of indiscretion and seemed more interested in cashing up than serving punters. The coffee machine was out of operation for the second week running. The theatre is still a fine building but there are signs of wear and tear and a lick of paint is called for. The gents was not as hygienic or clean as it could have been either given that there was an evening performance at the theatre. This facility is a fantastic asset and is often well used but it also needs to be looked after.
THE RUPERRA ARMS, CAERPHILLY ROAD, BASSALEG
Feb 6 - A cramped pub building a reputation for good food at reasonable prices if you believe Trip Advisor. The Ruperra has a couple of cosy rooms and a raised bar with a small car park adjacent. There were four us. Starters included whitebait presented in a small frying basket with sweet chilli sauce and a goats cheese tart with chutney. A lighter sauce with the whitebait might have been more appropriate but the goats cheese tart went down a treat. Mains included a well presented rib eye with good chips, a nicely cooked salmon with potato and prawns severely lacking in prawns and probably a green accompaniment. The welsh beef stew was adequate. A round of coffees followed but bizarrely the bar had run out of brandy. With a bottle of Pinot all in it came to less than £25 per head. 7/10
SHOBORAJ. MALPAS ROAD
Nov 23 - Two recent visits here. Can probably lay claim to be the best of the traditional Indian / Bangladeshi restaurants in Newport. Excellent service, simple but intimate and comfortable surroundings in a relatively small restaurants. It lacks the grandeur of Vanilla Spice or the street cred of New Lahore but the food is very good. We have tried and tested dishes, Bhuna, Dopiaza, Tarka Daal, Sheek Kebab and all were superbly cooked and very tasty. Recommended.
SECRET GARDEN CAFE, CHARLES STREET
May 26 - Dropped in on the Secret Garden after a stroll through town this lunchtime. It was open despite it being a bank holiday. Impressed by the ambience and the small courtyard garden, hence the name. We shared a freshly made BLT and a couple of halves of draught Czech lager. The sandwich was excellent. The menu otherwise is simple and excellent with breakfast and brunch options and a daily choice of specials including several vegetarian dishes. The waitress explained the cafe only opens day time but there must be an evening market for this place too. Try it out!
HENNING WEHN - Riverfront / Comedy Port
Oct 7 - Germany's comedy ambassador treated a packed and knowledgeable house to his sublime and thought provoking stand-up. Personally I don't like stand up, its normally way too contrived but Wehn talks about his experiences, the Brit view of the Germans and vice versa and ultimately his aim of world domination. Its wonderful stuff, anything and everything is covered including Scottish sectarianism, mistakes made with Cockney rhyming slang and a comic perspective on nuking the Chinese. He characterises the British as always being prepared to laugh things off even if they make a serious error and for being obsessed still with every aspect of the war! How true.
M&S SPYTTY - July 2013 - Newport's new Marks and Spencer store is quite a disappointment. I love M&S but this store has a very confused identity and is badly designed with too little space for key items and too much space for others. The food hall is standard without being outstanding, it is cramped, with too few checkouts and often staff stocking shelves block the aisles for prospective shoppers. The food on offer has too limited a date range and offers available online or in other stores are often overlooked.
The cafe seems to be run by a small army, is plainly overstaffed and yet the offer in terms of sandwiches and salads at lunchtime is dreadful. We were there today at 12, only two sandwich selections, numerous plastic trays 'house salads' , tiny curling jmini baguettes in cake selection cases. I actually went down to the food hall and bought myself a sandwich and a sushi tray for my daughter and smuggled it back in to the cafe.
The men's clothing section is almost entirely M&S Man, with small concessions for North Coast and Blue Harbour. There is hardly any evidence of the more upmarket ranges - Autograph, Collezione and Limited. In fact some of the prestige Limited shirts were smuggled out of view in an M&S Man display! There is hardly any point in any active, sane bloke shopping here and the company's market research seems to have focused on the near death age group, hardly a winner.
The women's area is extensive but almost as unpurchaseable. True, there is Per Una and a good shoe selection, The lingerie and underwear area is way too extensive though, covering nearly the pitch surface of Rodney Parade.
There was an opportunity to create a good store, more upmarket and stylish than the old one in town. It has free parking and the convenience that allows but in truth this store lacks the buzz of the city centre. Not only that it is failing to deliver any improvement for shoppers. To think that the departure of M&S has devastated the city centre, and all for this ...a disappointment.
NEW LAHORE - June 2013 - New Lahore Restaurant, Emlyn Street
Newport's oldest Indian restaurant is a big upswing. Number two in the TripAdvisor charts we gave it a visit a week ago. Following in a dozen raucous valley boys we feared the worst but thankfully the restaurant quickly filled up. The waiter said they had no tables after 9, 40 covers. The dining area was modern but intimate. There are two styles of curry on offer, traditional and modern. We had a mix of the two, I am not sure of the difference, anyway the food was excellent, the service attentive and the restaurant buzzing. Will definitely return.
THREE MUGHALS - Jan 1 2013 - ventured to the north of Newport to the Three Mughals in Rogerstone on New Year's Day. A converted pub, a little cramped but able to seat substantial numbers. Starters were sheekh kebab and prawn mosur (?), the latter with chilli and seasoned with rice flour. Both were under-seasoned and spiced but the presentation was good. The mains were dopiaza (fresh but not as spicy as it should) and a bhuna with mushroom (ditto), the accompaniments (rice, chapathi and tarka daal) were fine. The service was attentive but the meal rather disappointing. 6/10
RODNEY PARADE BISLEY SUITE - Dec 31 2012 - excellent NYE party at a super venue. The Bisley Suite is coming to the end of a busy festive run but has proved a huge attraction for office / end of term parties. For the last part of 2012 it was a great venue for Newport rugby fans, who were richly entertained by Big Mac's Wholly Soul Band. 9/10
ROSSINI'S - Dec 16 2012 - the best Italian restaurant continues to impress. Superb a la Carte on a busy, wet Saturday night. 9/10
ED SHEERAN - The rising pop star wowed the 1,900 audience at Newport Centre last Saturday (Oct 20) with a proper virtuoso performance, stories and songs with no backing band or guitarist. I did not go but it is worthy of note as is such a talent, review here from 247 magazine.
RESTAURANT UPDATE - Oct 27 - state of play. The Chandlery inflicted a blow on the Newport restaurant scene with its closure but there are a few new entrants, including the Goldcroft and Dutchy's Jerk Shack in Caerleon and Church House in town, all picking up in the Trip Advisor charts. The Bali Thai and Sen are still doing very well and Rossinis is back on form with Tony at the helm. Tried to book the Bell but it is always booked up.
RESTAURANT UPDATE - Apr 6 - Quick review of the state of play. The Chandlery has had a difficult period with changes of chef and other kitchen staff. It has introduced a new menu and things seem to be looking brighter. The new menu was very over-priced but grills now include vegetables. Its still a good place to go for Sunday lunch too. Went to the Waterloo recently, had an excellent steak. The food was presented really well and there is a fantastic weekend dinner b&b offer for the hotel. It also seems to be boosted by its recent appearance on the BBC documentary about Newport. The Delhi is still the preferred choice for curry. The restaurant is very busy generally and the service is excellent, the days of the table-snatcher seem a distant memory. Went to the Mint and Mustard on Whitchurch Road in Cardiff the other week, it was ok but over-rated and cramped. Rossini's in Clarence Place has picked up its game. The other Italian restaurants in Newport seem a little dated by comparison. Its now run by Sicilian family while owner Tony takes a break. Last two occasions there and the food has been good. Worthy of note too is the Sen BBQ in Maindee. This is a quality Turkish restaurant / kebab house. The kebabs are superb and it deserves its exalted ranking on tripadvisor! Eating there tonight so may give more detailed update. Also, fish and chips shops this side of Sidoli's in Wales have generally been pretty standard. An excellent chip shop has opened opposite the Royal Oak, Jones's. Its way above the norm for Newport, try it!
NEWPORT FOOD FESTIVAL
Oct 29 - In an unusual but appropriate setting Newport Food Festival kicked off with a 'Supper' in the Upper Gallery of the Market. 170 diners sampled courses prepared by the Bell in Caerleon, the Waterloo Inn & Bistro and Gemellis. Kitchens were set up alongside the main galleries, one in Cafe Le Med, the other in a vacant stall. I had a tasty Scotch Egg for starter. The main was a fine Gower Cod with cockles. The dessert a luscious limencello sponge from Gemellis. Logistically a difficult event to pull off but it was a superb idea that definitely worked and let's hope that the Festival goes from strength to strength as a concept that will boost the City Centre.
Dec 8 - An unexpected surprise. An excellent Thai restaurant in da Port. A visit triggered by tripadvisor.com reviews. Tried the set menu for two - £18.95 per person - including starter platter including prawn toast, won ton, king prawn butterfly, main courses - red King Prawn Curry, crispy chilli chicken and yummy beef. We added pad thai, singha beers and glasses of chardonnay. Authentic and understated. Get over there. 78 Commercial Street. 9/10.
Aug 5 - In place of the unlamented Sabatini's in Clarence Place we now have Rossini's, another Italian restaurant but with modern decor and an impressive set up with bar, cold counter and kitchen. The food was nothing short of excellent. In particular, I had a fine Risotto Porcini. A simple, but not extravagant menu. Also welcoming and well informed front of house from Paolo Gulotti. 9/10
July 28 - The South Wales Indian Curry Restaurant of 2010. A Tuesday night. Five of us including three teenage girls were greeted by a Geordie Bangladeshi called Abdul. The Delhi was our preferred choice but it is undergoing refurbishment. Abdul felt we had made a serious mistake by choosing the Delhi over the Koh-i-Noor. He promised us a meal we would not forget. It did not quite reach those heights but it was very good, three Chicken Bhunas, a Chicken Sag and a rich Balti Gosh with Sheek Kebab starter and Tarka Daal side dish. It was standard fayre not exceptional but well above the Port average. 'A nice meal' was duly recorded in the visitors book. Thanks Abdul, we will probably be back. We emerged into a typical Maindee evening refreshed, the pavements filled with drinkers, wandering dogs, car crammed and noisy with police sirens, just the way it should be. 8/10
Mar 28 - A bit 'left field' for me. I love music including much of the contemporary music scene so was not daunted by going to a venue like Le Pub in my advancing middle age but my wife and I were greeted in this cosy venue by a man who looked akin to a pirate and advised us that he would reduce the charge as we were 'geriatrics'. This was kind of him and also very unkind. But it is true we were nearly three times the age of most of the people there apart from said pirate. It was supposed to be £5 to get in to see a host of new bands, it was also supposed to start at 8. We were not charged and it did not start at 8. The bands all milled around together with friends and supporters and despite there being a bar they brought in their own beer and food in supermarket carrier bags. One group turned up with curry from the restaurant next door! It was incredibly relaxed and genial. And then after an hour as we were beginning to feel as settled as geriatrics can feel amongst a group of teenagers we had the inevitable call from another teenager 'Can you pick me up from the cinema?' and had to leave without seeing any music at all!
Mar 26 - After a while away we returned to the Waterloo Hotel and Bistro for a Friday lunchtime. Disappointed by significant price hikes at the Chandlery Restaurant we were greeted by a fixed lunch menu of £12.95 (for two courses) and £14.95 (for three) with lite bites or bar lunches between £6 and £9. The Chandlery lunch menu is currently £19.95 (for three courses) and £16.95 (for two). In these times of recesion it seems unfortunate the Chandlery may be letting its badge for 'good food at reasonable prices' slip a little. Certainly Bob Evans and company have built up an excellent and loyal following at the Waterloo and this is reflected in their second place in the trip advisor.com rating chart for restaurants in the Newport area. There were approximately 30 other covers being served on a cold and blustery March day in the shadow of the Transporter Bridge. We plumped for Galia Melon and Pate as our two starters. My main was baked ham, new potatoes with parsley sauce and my partner had a hearty fish and chips. The food was excellent, the service equally so. Served with complimentary bread and with our drinks (beer, white wine spritzer, two filter coffees) it all came to £37. 9/10.
DELHI INDIAN RESTAURANT, CAERLEON ROAD
Jan 15 - Cold weather, curries. It's an unbeatable combination. Being loyal Newportonians 'we wants our curries in town' but despite the number of restaurants about few are of good quality and some of the best are run by Corpa Road boys out of town such as the Mango House in Magor. However, I skated in to Caerleon Road the other night and had a fine take away from the Delhi last week. We decided to go back last night and were not disappointed. In fact, we had the best tarka daal we have ever tasted, fresh and free of salt, and believe me that's praise indeed. The food and service were excellent. They even did chapathis. And the restaurant was full by 7 with customers waiting for tables. for the record, sheekh kebab, chicken saag and bhuna, pilao rice, saag aloo, tarka daal, breads, sundries, two pints of Cobra all served in warm and welcoming surroundings for £40. We may have found a curry house worthy of the 'Port and will defintely be back. 8.5/10.
LILY ALLEN - NATIONAL TREASURE
Dec 11 - Lily Allen at the CIA. First of all, the venue is crap and the sound / acoustics did little for Lily's vocal talents, indeed for some of the concert Lily was submerged into the noise coming from her backing band. But putting that significant issue aside Lily has too much talent and caprice to let that get in the way. When the backing sound levels dropped you could hear the understatement and nuance of her singing style as on 'Shine' (preceded by 'Who'd Have Known') and 'The Fear' .
Lily had the large crowd in her thrall for a full ninety minutes. She engaged with them skittishly, explained song lyrics, mentioned her dad and Welsh family, ranted about wars and the Copenhagen summit, poured a few pints and went through four costume changes. For someone so young an age (24) she has immense stage presence. Her ironically intimate setting was a simple sparkly staircase with half a dozen gold lamp shades and a giant screen split three way.
Her repertoire of material is significant, definitively English - songs like '22', 'Back to The Start' 'Smile' were interspersed with covers including 'Naive' and 'Oh My God'. White rapper Professor Green joined Lily on stage for an impressive 'Dub Be Good'. There was a barn storming conclusion to the main concert initiated by her tribute to Britney's 'Womanizer'. The encore ended with a superb extended version of 'Not Fair' rapturously received by the CIA audience.
They enjoyed it and the night worked but I am not sure this is Lily's thing. She summoned up the energy but seemed care-worn and tired at times. Her material does not need to be shouted out to rowdy crowds of 2000+, it is deserving of a slightly smaller event where she can express her unique gifts.
Lily Allen is in a English popular music vocal tradition stretching way back, Her personality is engaging and captivating. Her story-telling and recollections via her music reach out to many. She deserves the adulation she currently receives and must be looked after and not destroyed. A national treasure.
Halloween, Tredegar House, Oct 29 - Halloween seems to be a bigger deal than ever, for the most part it is escapist fun typified by this superb Tredegar House event. We managed to get tickets for last night's event a few weeks back, Friday and Saturday were sold out. When we arrived we were greeted with 'sold out' signs. Journeying through the house with four teenage girls was an experience in itself. From the outset we were pursued through the courtyard by a masked chainsaw wielding fiend. Cue shrieking and caterwauling until we reached the 'safety' of the house. In the main hall were zombies, one of my party complained that a zombie stank of cigarette smoke, I suppose they can have a fag and not worry about the consequences. Then in the pitch black we were pursued illuminated skeletal figures carrying sharp implements. On through the house strobe lighting, screaming figures, ghosts and ghouls came at you from all quarters. A clown was particularly worrying and received a trail of abuse from one of my party who did not like him at all! There were some demonstrations too, Van Helsing showed us how to kill a vampire with the help of his lovely assistant, Helga, a pink eared fairy from Llangibby. Back out in the grounds we were chased by chainsaws again before fleeing to the Halloween disco ashen faced and needing a stiff drink. Fantastic, silly, great for all ages but particularly teenage girls! Rating - 9/10.
Vittorios, Stow Hill, Oct 28 - Vittorios was surprisingly busy for a Wednesday night. A mix of big parties, couples and families with children were enjoying the atmosphere of this friendly Italian restaurant. We have not been here for nearly a year (I was sorry to hear about the death of Mario their wonderful chef of many years at an all too early age). But although there are one or two changes in personnel the service and food was of a high standard. Prices seemed to have been shaved a little too. Contending with a table of ten meant there were some minor delays to service but the starters including fried brie wedges, polpette and carb and prawn fishcakes were very good. The mains were good too with an excellent selection of vegetables. Washed down with Pinot Grigio and Valpolicella and a rendition of happy birthday. Rating - 8/10.
Boswells / new Kingsway Car Park, Oct 10 - It was free parking in the new Kingsway car park on Saturday as it will be for the remaining Saturdays in October. It was the second time I had parked in there recently and I am happy to confirm that with wide spaces and lanes, safe walkways and plentiful lifts and access points the car park lives up to its 'gold standard' rating. The free parking offer was popular and is a great way of increasing footfall in the mall. It is pleasing to see a number of units either under offer or in discussions with the Kingsway Centre owner. Potentially this is an excellent shopping centre and could prove a great asset to Newport. We decided to try out the new Boswell's cafe restaurant opposite the car park entrance. We were impressed with the quality of the food and service. It was pleasing to see the cafe abuzz with shoppers and with lots of staff to deal with them and clear the tables, in fact they were a little too keen with the latter. I had a Boswell's breakfast and coffee and my wife had a bacon bap and filter coffee, all for £6.80. We will be back. Rating - 9/10.
Chandlery, Oct 9 - The Chandlery has new owners but thankfully they have not changed a winning formula. It was not busy on Friday but trade was steady with 38 covers, Saturday was fully booked and all reports indicate it is as popular as ever. My wife had fried brie wedges to start, I had superb seared scallops with cauliflower couscous and panchetta. We both had a main course of mountain lamb with creamed spinach and at short notice ordered chips to go with it that were superbly cooked and rightly described as the 'best in Wales' on the menu. For dessert I had a trio including an exquisite strawberry trifle. All this complemented by an excellent Chilean Merlot. The food and service was well up to its normal standard. Pleasing to note that the restaurant will be open additionally for Saturday lunch, a very welcome move. There are also plans to open on Christmas Day and Boxing Day this year, it will be interesting to see whether there is the demand for this. Rating - 9/10.
Indian Cottage, Penhow / Llanvaches, Aug 4 - Just off the main drag of the A48 behind the 'Rock and Fountain' sits the Indian Cottage restaurant near the turning for Llanvaches. A group of eight of us enjoyed a reasonable standard of Indian fayre in a nice atmosphere slightly spoilt by the persistent smell of burning wood. After a good sheek kebab disappointingly served on a dish rather than from a skillet two of us had a khatlama which turned out to be a curry filled cornish pastie, interesting and filling but not especially striking. Three of the party enjoyed chicken darbarar which seemed to be chicken with saute potatoes served on a bed of lettuce. The green mosalla chicken was tasty as was the bhuna and sag dishes. All washed down by Gran Cuesta Cava. Service was generally good. Nice to see a group of American on an adjoining table tucking in too. Rating - 7/10.
Elbow, Newport Centre, Mar 12 - They may have walked off with Mercury and Brit awards but Elbow showed no sign of it going to their heads at Newport Centre this evening. The boys from Bury put on a diverse and powerful show for the 2000 strong audience. Guy Garvey was a thoroughly entertaining, witty and informal host. In fact the gig was very relaxed, Garvey engaged in humorous banter with his adoring audience, cajoled them to clap and point when required. His vocal performance though was something else, passionate even spiritual at times. He sings with such searing clarity. The colour and change of the music made for a steady pace to the show with moments of pure poetry from the lyrics mixed in with a moody, discordant and hard edged vibe.
There is plenty of substance to Elbow. They may have played a 110 minute set but it was packed with outstanding musicality. Songs from 'Seldom Seem Kid' brought the biggest response from the audience 'Bones of You' 'Grounds For Divorce' but there was plenty of backing for earlier stuff too. 'Newborn' and 'Forget Myself' received a rapturous reception This was played as part of a three song encore (they included an extra tune at drummer Richard Jupp's request). But it was 'One Day Like This' , their much played anthem, that brought the Centre to its feet. Elbow may have waited a while but are taking their opportunity in their own inimitable style. Not only a good bunch of lads but a brilliant show.
Duffy, Newport Centre, Dec 7 - Duffy wowed the sell out Newport Centre with her unique sound and look on Sunday night. The audience covered the age spectrum and demonstrated the extraordinary pull of this talented singer. It was an evening that left you yearning for another Dusty, beehive hairstyles, the retro look, some glamour on the high street for god's sake. The fast-paced and mostly upbeat show lasted eighty minutes included the full range of her repertoire. The hits cascaded through 'Mercy', 'Rockferry', a luscious 'Warwick Avenue' and a spinge-tingling 'Rain on Your Parade'. Other impressive numbers included a cover 'Enough Love', 'Fool for You' 'Breaking Your Own Heart' and 'Stepping Stones'. Throughout the performance you were left in wonder by the tone and strength of her vocal, a rare sometimes uncontrollable thing. She made the mistake of trying to talk to the audience in Welsh, there was the inevitable muted response from the Portsiders but she still found the odd North Walian to pick out and chatter to. But there is no doubt she is class and has made some memorable songs. Probably, the best is still to come but it was a privilege to see her here.
Rob Brydon, Riverfront, Nov 25 - Comedian Rob Brydon wowed the audience at the Riverfront with a wonderful, quick witted stand up routine at the Riverfront this evening. The captivating show included a warm assessment of Welsh humour and a unique rendition of the Dads Army theme. The Newport audience played a full part not least a Kenny Rogers lookalike who offered the comedian an opportunity for ridicule. He was supported by the excellent young Welsh comedian Chris Corcoran. Could have done without the forty minute break in the middle but other than that a memorable night.
Halloween at Tredegar House, Oct 29 2008 - Some of the best events in Newport originate from Tredegar House. The Folk Festival, Outdoor Shakespeare and Victorian Christmas all bring a large and loyal following to the house, not least from me. Until now I have avoided the pleasures of Halloween at Tredegar House. The event is designed to frighten and scare the wits out of you. For the most part it succeeds. The 'sold out' signs were evidence of its popularity, many of the revellers had taken the time and trouble to dress up to celebrate. The mood was one of nervous excitement as we approached the House. From the outset we were greeted with a scene straight out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as revellers were pursued by a man brandishing a chainsaw. Inside the house there were all manner of delights including the living dead, ghosts, doctor frankenstein and even the odd dalek. We strayed in to parts of the house I had not seen before to be confronted by webs, strobe lighting, skeletal figures and clowns. Back out of the house and in the grounds we were again pursued by chainsaw wielding maniacs before seeking refuge and refreshments at the halloween disco. This event is not for the faint hearted but on a gloomy, cold October night it certainly stirred the imagination. Sleep tight!
The Chandlery - We have been to this restaurant regularly since our initial reviews for lunch, evening meals and Sundays. It has consistently provided a high quality of food and service. For those of you who have not tried you are missing out on a great dining experience with great food served in an unstuffy way. Newport is very fortunate to have the Chandlery and a number of other fine establishments nearby. Thankfully, the credit crunch does not seem to be impacting on its business too much.
The passing of the ABC cinema, Jun 11 -
A little late perhaps but nevertheless the passing of the
ABC/Cannon/Metro/City Cinema is worthy of recognition. The ABC was built
right in the heart of Bridge Street on the site of the Lyceum Theatre which
amazingly was demolished to make way for it in 1967. Originally, it was a
single screen auditorium housing 1,320 seats.The ABC was converted to a
three screen Complex in 1980. The main cinema now occupying the front
section of the former auditorium, and the two smaller screens the rear part
of the former auditorium. The origianl projection room remained and was able
to serve the 3 cinemas by just repositioning the projectors. The ABC became
the only remaining cinema in Newport after the closure of the Odeon in 1981
and Studios 1 and 2 in 1986. It changed its guises many times, suffering the
after-shock from the opening of the out of town multiplex in Spytty before
giving up the ghost finally in April 2008. It was a brilliant place to see a
big film in a crowded auditorium. Inevitably the competition took patrons
away from it and the experience in an empty place was not what it was (it
also lost some of its sound quality in later years). No one can describe it
as a pretty or striking building but it holds many memories for
Newportonians and others who savoured the blockbuster cinema experience, an
escape from the mundanity of provincial life. A fitting epitaph - work has
now begun to transform it into a Travelodge Hotel!
Mango House, Mar 23 - Situated in Magor, this small curry house never fails to please you. It is now celebrating its sixth anniversary and has had a fabulous six years in business. Its tranquill ambience makes you feel totally at ease with soothing music and modern surroundings. The service is always top quality and at The Mango House , politeness is the key. We arrived at about 6 o' clock and were guided to our table straight away- despite the hustle and bustle. It was a sheek kebab to start (for a change ) which was succulent and juicy, just what it should be. The waiter also provided us with poppadoms and some creamy dips which you can expect (I, myself, are addicted to the coconut dip) . We then, were given the main course which was presented beautifully. It is served in seperate bowls to your dish so you can help yourself, or even try some of other people's curries. We also had an absolutely giant naan bread with the meal also. I ordered chicken bhuna,which, may I say, was absolutely gorgeous. The sauce was lovely (mmmmm creamy) , the chicken and peppers were emmaculately cooked and the presantation was without a fail. Other people on my table ordered ; chiken dopiaza (which was fab - I tried a bit!) and some Chilli curry ( which was hot and spicy and made your tongue go wild!). We then asked for the bill which came with special Mango House chocolates and reasonably healthy lollipops! By Bubble 10/10
Bar Piazza, Mar 9 - Newport's best lunchtime coffee house located on the corner of John Frost Square. It boasts a regular and loyal clientele including shoppers, city centre workers and Newport's Italian community. For more than five years it has built up an excellent trade in a competitive environment against Caffe Nero, Zoo, Coffee 1, Starbucks and M&S but has consistently provided high quality sandwiches and baguettes and serves the best coffeeo around. Today we had two super bacon, mozzarella and tomato baguettes , cappucinos and soft drinks. I have never tried the cakes here (I think they are Gemelli's, come to think of it must take a trip to Gemellis for lunch). We had to wait for a table as the place was buzzing despite the chilly weather. The service was excellent despite the buzz. 9/10
The Chandlery, Mar 2 -
Newport's only Bib
Gourmand restaurant made a good start to its Sunday lunch offering on
Mothering Sunday. Our party of five enjoyed an excellent Sunday lunch.
Starters included smoked salmon, mushroom soup, melon and fried camembert.
Main course was an superbly cooked sirloin of beef with yorkshires and
assorted vegetables. Two bottles of Aresti Montemar Merlot accompanied the
meal. Chocolate tart, rhubarb crumble and cheese platters with a glass of
Taylor's port rounded off a very good meal. On a particularly busy day with
the restaurant packed to the rafters the service was slightly below its
normal high standards. We will defintely be back for Sunday lunch. 9/10.
Waterloo Hotel, Feb 10 - Newport's Sunday lunch trade will never be the same again as restaurant heavyweights the Waterloo and Chandlery join battle over the next few weeks. The Waterloo was first out of the blocks starting last week, the Chandlery joins the fray from March 2. We made it to Bob Evans and his team this week and it must be said it was a highly impressive performance. The food was consistently excellent. Our table for four started with a lovely rustic leek and potato soup, creamy moules marinere and melon/peach schnapps (times two). We all had melt in the mouth sirloin of beef with yorkshire pud for main course with an excellent selection of veg. I started off by drinking a 'tidy' pint or two of Brains smooth but we had a nothing more than satisfactory house merlot with the meal. It was all rounded off with coffees and superb desserts, two apple pie and clotted cream and two outstanding sherry trifles. The service was also timely and unfussy. A truly splendid Sunday lunch and drinks, £99 all in. We are at the Chandlery on March 2 to check out the competition, this will take some beating. 9.5/10
Villa Dino, Maindee, Jan 5 - Five of us for dinner at Villa Dino's on post Xmas Saturday evening. Have not been here for a year or two. Slighly musty smell as we walked in. Lovely modern bar seating area (restaurant area could do with similar update). However, the service throughout was fine and the food excellent. Garlic king prawns for starter were nicely cooked, another of our party had an excellent tortellini. Main courses include chicken / fillet steak some accompanied by pepper sauce and spaghetti bolognese. All pretty standard but beautifully done, the accompanying vegetables were superb. A good house red (barolo?) and some splendid desserts. All in all, a very good meal. 9/10 RD
Leo's Fish Bar, Caerleon Road Dec 20 - Caerleon Road has two good chip shops, Alonzi's and Leo's. Both provide excellent fayre but the more modern Leo's has superb fluffy chips and perfectly cooked fresh fish and thin, light batter and is marginally our favourite. 9/10 RD
China, China - Bridge Street, Oct 28 - Chinese chain restaurant China,China has opened its first outlet in Newport at the corner of Bridge Street and Station Street next to the City Cinema. The restaurant covers a huge space seating with well over 130 covers and even on a Sunday afternoon was proving a popular attraction. For £5.99 it offers an eat as much as you like buffet. The buffet was freshly cooked offering a wide array of Chinese dishes supplemented by dishes for children. You can put together your own menu as soup, starters, main dishes and desserts are all available to choose from. There is a probably a method to this but we dismissed the soup and went straight for the mains. We all had second helpings and then finished off with cheesecake and soft scoop ice cream. The food quality was good and the service slightly intrusive but very attentive. With drinks for three including soft drinks and coffee it came to £29! I have a feeling this is going to become a favourite destination in the Port and will probably bring out the Homer Simpson in some city residents. It is a challenge to 'eat as much as you like' after all. 7.5/10 RD
Palmyra Gibson - September 28 - A 78 year old woman originally from Newport has caught the eye of the New Jersey Herald in the United States. Palmyra Gibson was performing at the back cabaret of a theatre in West 46th Street in Manhattan. She sang a suite of love songs from the 1930's to the present day accompanied by a pianist. She left Newport when she was 16 travelling with her family on the QE2. "We were on strict rations, and we all worked. There was no such thing as mops in those days, and you had to scrub on your hands and knees with a heavy brush. I would sing while we worked, and my brothers and sisters would say, 'Oh, there's a bird in the house!' I was very grateful that we all made it through, that I could come to America." She said she would love to see her homeland again. The playbill outside theatre currently showing Don't Tell Mama advertised "An Evening With Palmyra" and promises love songs from the 1930s to the present, celebrated standards by, among others, Cole Porter, Hammerstein and Kern, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Michel Legrand and Anthony Newley. She says she dreamed, through all the years, of finding a wider audience again. "My main object here, tonight," she says, "is to finish my life with music. It's not about the fame or the money. When God says it's over, Palmyra, it's over. So I told my son I would like to do it again after putting it away a long time." See the review here - more information about Palmyra Gibson to follow.
The Waterloo Hotel and Bistro - August 20 - A last minute decision to go for lunch proved extremely worthwhile. The Waterloo Hotel and Bistro has set Newport's unfashionable dockland area alight in recent months. The building has been restored to former glories and owner Bob Evans has transformed the old public bar into a relaxing and spacious restaurant. The building also includes conference facilities and twenty one individually designed hotel rooms. To our delight as we entered we were greeted by Gethin, former maitre d'host at the Chandlery. He started work at the Waterloo only a week ago and I am sure will prove a valuable acquisition to their team. He was one of the reasons why the Chandlery became so well established so quickly in Newport. We spoke briefly to Sue Evans, her husband is the owner. She said that they were overwhelmed by the reaction to the restaurant although hotel business was a little slow. The food was fantastic. My wife started with an appetising fruit selection including melon and banana and mango sorbet. I had a delicious fresh gnocchi with parmesen. For main course with both selecting herb and dijon crusted lamb with gratin dauphinoise with an excellent selection of vegetables (although for some reason we were offered salad?). For dessert we both had glazed citrus tart with a superb raspberry sorbet. Good portions of food throughout with plenty of flavour. Washed down with Brains smooth, Merlot, sparkling water and coffees it came to £42. An excellent addition to Newport's restaurant scene this is a genuine challenger for top dog with the Chandlery. Car parking by the way is available in the forecourt of the Hotel. Bring on Sunday dinners! 9/10. RD
The Tempest - The Orangery, Tredegar House - July 21 - While people were 'Jumpin' in July' in the city centre, Newport's more sedate cultural calendar continued at Tredegar House. The gardens are the annual setting for Cwmpas Theatre's open air Shakespeare performance. Unfortunately, it rained throughout the performance. We were warned at the outset that the costumes (on hire from the Royal Shakespeare Company) were precious and there would be a stoppage if there was heavy rain. But it was not necessary. Remarkably, 200 or so hardy souls turned out to watch the event and enjoyed the performance. 'The Tempest' can be a difficult play to get right and so it proved last night. It started off slowly and only partly recovered by the end thanks mainly to some degenerate humour from a trio of Davies's playing Stefano, Trincula and Caliban. The cast came on the final curtain (so to speak) to the words of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' - 'when you walk through a storm, hold your head up high' - it seemed very appropriate given the conditions they had endured during the evening. RD
Children's Academy of Stage Training, Riverfront Theatre - July 14 - The Riverfront Theatre reverberated to songs from musicals and short pieces from plays as CAST put on their annual end of term show. The Academy conceived and run by Andrea Lewis and Jamie Jarvis goes from strength to strength. Three academies (one from Newport and two from Cardiff) joined together over two evenings at the Riverfront before packed audiences. There were some outstanding performances and routines, the Newport academy's performances of the songs 'Fame' and 'Another Suitcase in Another Hall' stealing the show. It serves to illustrate that from ages 4 to 16 we have some outstanding and talented performers in our two cities. RD
Documenting our City, Newport Museum and Art Gallery - June 16 (exhibition runs until July 7) - About every twenty years or so the Museum opens up its considerable vault of work relating to the city of Newport. This exhibition charts work from the 18th century to contemporary times with depictions of the castle, bridges, places and industrial scenes. There are modern works by Falcon Hildred and paintings reflecting the Chartist uprising. In all over a hundred pieces of work are on display. I was drawn to an unfinished work Wartime in Newport (1940) by Stanley Lewis. When I asked why it was unfinished the curator advised that Lewis was painting master at the Art College and had fallen in love with a student. The College found out about the relationship and asked him to end it or leave. He took the latter option. He was subsequently called up in 1941 joining the Gloucester Regiment. After the war he and his wife (the student) lived in Carmarthenshire, Lewis was Principal of the Carmarthen School of Art until he retired in 1967. Newport Museum were gifted all Lewis's work from his time at the Art College and have a mighty impressive collection. Five years ago they unveiled this unfinished work and sought to trace Mr Lewis and his wife. Many thought he had died. The City Council tracked him down but he did not attend the unveiling because of the numbers likely to be there and his frailty (at the age of 96). Shortly afterwards he was collected by the Mayor's car and brought to see his painting after a break of 60 years. The publicity led to the rediscovery of his magnificent portfolio of work, in 2006 he was awarded the MBE for services to the arts, and now at 101 years of age he is currently working on an illustrated book of his wartime experiences.
Continental Market, Commercial Street - June 1 - A Continental Market brought a different atmosphere to Commercial Street last week. Approximately thirty stalls from across Europe did a good trade in fine weather. It was interesting to see Hungary and particularly Poland represented in the extensive market. I bought an apple cake from Brittany and two bottles of Polish booze including a Peach cider, one of those purchases you regret afterwards. The market was a fine addition to city for a few days and certainly brings in extra trade but does it detract from the fine produce also on sale in the Provisions Market? RD
Angus McBean Exhibition, National Museum and Art Gallery, Cardiff - April 29 - This is a captivating exhibition from the National Portrait Gallery of the photographic work of Angus McBean. It covers over forty years of quirky and magical portraiture, and for anyone with an interest in some of the icons of British theatre and film around the middle of the century should prove fascinating. There are portraits of Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, Katherine Hepburn and Vivienne Leigh amongst others. Leigh is featured in several portraits, obviously she was a favourite subject. The photograph's from the 1930's in particular capture McBean's interest in surrealism but it is still there as late as 1951 in the landmark portraiture of Audrey Hepburn with her face and shoulders emerging from sand posed amidst classical pillars. The exhibition also includes the later work of the Newbridge-born photographer as he returned to prominence in the 1970's and 1980's with a new generation of celebrity particularly in the music industry. There is also a glass case crammed with McBean's personally devised Christmas cards. The exhibition is on until 3rd June and is free courtesy of funding from the Welsh Assembly Government. 8/10 RD
Newport Tennis Centre, International Sports Village - Apr 13 - An early morning visit for three of us to the Tennis Centre. We had the Courts to ourselves from 9-10 and were able to borrow an additional racket and balls at no extra charge, the fee for the Court was £9 (for Leisure Card holders you get a third off, must get one!). The indoor courts were in good condition and we had a fun hour, it was just a little disappointing that considering it is the school hols there were not other Newportonians there. We wrapped up after an hour as the youngsters started to arrive for tennis classes arranged as part of the Council's easter holiday programme. We sat in the pleasant and clean cafe area and had a coffee before visiting the viewing terrace for the regional pool before setting off home. We will definitely be back again. 8/10 RD
Mark's Fish and Chip Shop, Somerton Road - Mar 30 - When it comes to fish and chip shops Newport is not exactly spoilt for choice. The venerable Vacaras continue to ply its trade from Llanarth Street to an appreciative audience, Alonzi's and Leo's on Caerleon Road are both a good standard, Maindee Fish Bar is also worth a visit but its opening hours are limited. Mark's Fish and Chip Shop is a welcome addition. In an awkward location between Cross Hands and the Somerton estate it seems from our visit on a Saturday evening that it is developing a good following. The shop is pleasingly old style with chalk boards and stainless steel counters. The fish is cooked fresh to order and Mark serves a wide range of pies and extras including mushy peas (always a good sign). We ordered three cod and chips. The cod was enormous but did have a little too much batter, the chips were tasty and crisp. A good first impression. 8/10 RD
Fratellis, Caerleon Road - Feb 3 - Fratellis has bulit an excellent reputation as a a high quality, family run restaurant. Unfortunately our visit there last night was something of a disappointment. I had an excellent starter - mussels with white wine and garlic, my wife had intensely flavoured and oily garlic mushroom dish. For main course she had lamb shank with mustard mash which had too much mash and very little liquor and I had a beef fillet with peppercorn sauce. The sauce was runny and flavourless and the vegetable accompaniement bland. To finish we had a poor cheese board - the selection of cheeses was too intensely flavoured with strong cheeses or cheeses combined with cranberry or chive. For wine we had a good bottle of Cava, I had an average house red with my steak and an excellent Taylors port with the cheese. Service was ok - the proprietor was particularly attentive and friendly. He was very receptive to comments about the main course and passed our comments to the chef. A disappointing meal was redeemed by his attitude to good service. I would urge him to look at the menu as the Italian cuisine seems to take second place to modern British or other non-Italian dishes. 5/10
Dragon Taxis, Newport Railway Station - all year - Eulogised by GLC as a Newport institution we have been using Dragon Taxis for years. They are without doubt an excellent company with a high level of reliability. Their taxis are numerous and clean and their drivers polite. There are other good companies in the Port but Dragon are the best of a good bunch. 10/10
Zoo Cafe - Station Street - Jan 27/Feb 2 - We have returned to Zoo on a couple of occasions since our review on December 8. On Jan 27 three of us had a good lunch from their very flexible menu in the bar's pleasant and relaxed non-smoking environment. On February 2 we returned for a cappucino. It was busy (at 2.45) the floor was not particularly clean and our table was not wiped until we were served. The bar is now open 8am until late and has a licence. The image of the bar is great but they need to ensure that they have sufficient staff to stop standards from slipping.
Cinderella, pantomime at Riverfront Theatre - Dec 27 - Cinderalla has been playing to packed houses at the Riverfront and there was little wonder why from our attendance at the 5pm performance today. It is a hugely enjoyable and breezy production from the Boo and Hiss Company of my favourite pantomime. Prominent are Brian Hibbard and Lee Mengo as the ugly sisters played up as abrasive valley girls, Jacquelyn Kent is an innocent Cinderalla and Isla St. Clair is a glamorous and glittering fairy godmother. Barnaby is a superb and witty Buttons. Some of the singing was a bit mixed but on the whole the exuberance of the performance carries you along. The young dancers from local theatre companies and dance groups were excellent. And everyone had great fun including the audience. It is on at the Riverfront until January 6th. Recommended. RD
Tredegar House at Christmas - Dec 17 - Tredegar House is transformed in to a Victorian Christmas celebration for a few days every year prior to the great event. Over 5,000 are expected to attend the celebration this year. The Friends of Tredegar and others dress in traditional costumes throughout the House to welcome guests of all ages. Characters from Christmas Carol, musicians and storytellers are dotted around the many rooms. Mr Scrooge was played by a new actor this year and was particularly good. Goff Morgan, normally an awesome Mr Bumble, played Lord Tredegar and welcomed guests to the house. We were 'Lord and Lady Royal Oak'. Cook was as always the worse for sherry and we were all asked to make a wish near the Christmas pud. Guests are welcomed to a glass of mulled wine or juice with mince pies or biscuits in the courtyard before going off to see Santa in the stable buildings. Santa is a wonderful treat for the adults as well as the kids. He has the same routine every year but it is never tiresome. If you live in Newport or outside and you love Christmas do not miss this - it is one of the City's truest gems. RD
Zoo Cafe - Station Street - Dec 8 - Tucked away in Station Street between the Cambrian Centre Car Park and the City Cinema Zoo Cafe has been forging a reputation as the coolest cafe in the 'Port. We tried it today and were favourably impressed. The decor and ambience are pleasing, the environment is comfortable and has the benefit of being non-smoking. We had regular cappucinos, a caramel shortcake and an organic lemonade. The cappucino was superb. The menu offers a simple range of wraps, sandwiches, bagels and baguettes with the option to build your own. We did not have time to try the food but reports from others are very favourable. Apparently, the cafe has wireless internet access and a gaming area. It has now become a licensed establishment with a straighforward drinks menu of half a dozen wines (including champagne) and four bottled beers plus an array of soft and hot drinks. It opens from 7am - 11pm on Thursday - Saturday, 7am - 7pm Monday-Wednesday and 10am - 5pm on Sunday. It is brilliant place to chill out during the day and now offers the option of a relaxing evening out. RD
Newport Rugby Club Christmas Event - Nov 24 - Mary Bennett in an effort to raise money for the Newport RFC players fund and the restoration of the memorial gates put together a lively Christmas event. She cajoled over 140 supporters to pay £20 for a dinner/dance in the Rodney Hall. The catering provided by the rugby club caterers was well organised and the food was fine. The vegetable accompaniement attracted some criticism but the general standard of the dinner was good, in particular the Xmas pud and brandy sauce. The main entertainment was provided by Ted Fallon (mostly rock and roll and the odd Irish song). The highlight being a 'Fields of Athenry' duet with Jean Buckley (previously performed at the Greyhound in Christchurch). The 'disco' was provided by the excellent Richie Donovan - he managed to squeeze the odd contemporary song (Scissor Sisters) in to the retro feel of the evening. MC was Dennis Bennett former Supporters Club Chair. The raffle organised by Mary and Sylvia Harris also raised a huge amount of money on the night. It was a pity there were not a few more players and directors there and was it necessary to thank them for being there at all? The Newport captain Dai Pattison briefly thanked everyone for their support and encouraged them to turn up in force for next Saturday's match against Neath. All in all, well done Mary for an excellent night in aid of Newport's greatest sporting institution.
Newport on a Friday night - Sep 29 - Another rare event. The City Centre on a Friday night is allegedly the stuff of legends, high jinks, drunkeness and violence. Footwear was my initial concern - would I need to wear shoes or would a tidy pair of trainers be ok? I need not have worried - the shoes stayed firmly in my wife's handbag. First to Wetherspoon on Cambrian Road where the low price revolution lives on. My wife had a bottle of Pinot Grigio for £7.99. A group of 20 or so of us sat near the front window as the batallions of valley girls and boys marched along the street from their taxis, buses and lifts. Then on to the rather worryingly titled 'Skool Disco' at Yeats's. A small crowd at 8.30 became much larger by 10.30 but in that time the old dancing feet were on the move despite the music (although I do remember Belinda Carlisle being played). Next stop was the Chicago Rock Cafe (admission £3) where the bar was brimful and dancefloor disco was crammed to overload. Bizarrely, Belinda Carlisle's 'Heaven is a Place on Earth' was played again. Finally, as the younger element fled to the queues of Escapade (formerly Zanzibar) nearing the edge and worse for wear we gave the Cotton Club a go. It was £12 for eight of us. The upper bar was a blur of dry ice and balding men in open neck shirts. It was a noticeably older and smaller crowd but an ok bar. We headed for the Dragon Taxi rank and were home tucked up in bed by 2. It was a great night, good atmosphere and no trouble, well done the 'Port! RD
Abergavenny Food Festival - Sep 17 - This is a rare event in a superb location. The Food Festival attracts a truly diverse array of local food producers pervaying their fine produce. It was our first visit but we will certainly be back. The streets of the old town throng with sellers and visitors. For £4 admission (£1 children) you can visit the cheese and wine show, the Market Hall, the Castle and the Priory on Monk Street. The cheese and wine show included a wealth of local/Welsh cheeses and wines (we purchased a particularly nice Caerphilly cheese). In the Market Hall and outside were all manner of foods to sample or buy - the stir fry and crepe stalls were doing a roaring trade (I had a wonderful King Prawn Curry for a fiver that I promptly spilt on my white shirt!). Glamorgan lamb burgers proved very tasty as did the Wye Valley Bitter. We bought some freshly made lemonade in the Castle before taking full advantage of the excellent Waitrose produce in the Priory. A marvellous afternoon, superbly organised and a credit to Abergavenny. RD
Usk footbridge - Sep 16 - The City's new landmark has achieved something. It has opened with barely a whimper. It cost £5 million and it is a dominant structure its masts towering above the skyline of Newport. This morning it was pleasing to see so many people taking the opportunity to walk across including young children and their parents. There seemed to a genuine sense of pride (whisper it if you dare) that Newport may at last be coming out of the shadows. The City end is a mess of regeneration works as the highways upgrade and Kingsway redevelopment continue. At the Rodney Parade end the soon to be demolished Robert Price Builders Merchants has been covered in giant placards explaining the various developments promised.
Sophia Gardens, Cardiff - international venue - Wednesday's one day international at Sophia Gardens provided ample evidence that the ground is not fit to be an international venue. The ground is predominantly made up of temporary seating with little or no cover. Entrance facilities are extremely limited and while the security arrangements were an inevitable delaying factor it is clear the entranceways are far too small for large crowds. The atmosphere was lacklustre as befits the team from over the border coming to play in Wales. The drink and eating facilities were not really tested as it was an extremely cold and damp evening. I had paid £45 for my ticket and had a restricted view but that's another matter. When you consider that established CRICKET grounds like Old Trafford have been denied an Ashes Test it is quite clear that the decision taken by the ECB is outrageous. Cardiff has a lot to do to improve the standard of Sophia Gardens. RD
Regional swimming pool, Spytty - The swimming pool in the velodrome( I can't remember what it is called.)We arrived at the swimming pool about 2 o'clock (ish) on Monday 14th August and it was absolutely PACKED with young scallywags. It is ok when the scallys give a bit of respect and let the people swim around a bit but they were messing around like something else and the lifeguards just stood there! You could hardly move! The pool was set out rather nicely with bright, vibrant colours in the changing room to follow. The changing rooms are open so if you are in the pool you can see the changing rooms which is handy really because you can see if anyone is trying to nick your stuff, although they have lockers, of course. At about half 2 the scallys started to come out of the pool (which was good because some of them were causing havoc) therefore we all could have a proper swim. If you want to go to the pool in the velodrome I would advise you to go either early in the morning or half 2 or later. Bubble
The Riverfront Theatre Cafe - AUG 5 - The Riverfront Theatre has made a major impact on the cultural life of Newport since it opened in October 2004. We have enjoyed several productions including Dial M for Murder, two pantomime performances and the CAST presentation of Bugsy Malone. It also has a particularly good cafe. We ventured there on Saturday where a number of people were enjoying lunchtime overlooking the Usk on a fine afternoon. I had an excellent breakfast muffin of bacon, tomato and scrambled egg (£2.95) while my daughter had a tuna mayonnaise baguette (£2.50). With cappucinos and lemonades the total came to less than £11 in clean, light and pleasant surroundings. RD
Bristol - AUG 2 - A visit to self proclaimed capital of the West Country. We took the train to Temple Meads from Newport and then joined the ferry service (a city river bus) linking the main city locations along the canal and into Bristol Docks. The thirty minute journey outlined the scale of the City's regeneration with hundreds of modern riverside apartments (many from Westmead - designer of Newport's riverside park) and a huge array of bars, restaurants and leisure/entertainment facilities. Adjoining this are educational facilities such as Explore@Bristol. The Broadmead Shopping Area is the subject of a £500 million redevelopment to be complete by 2008. The shopping centre was dealt a massive blow by the departure of John Lewis to Cribbs Causeway but it can boast two leading department stores and will expand significantly following the development. Bristol has successfully attracted a number of companies to set up their regional headquarters in the City (including HSBC and Lloyds TSB) in addition to its strong credentials in aerospace, engineering and financial services and its earnings potential far exceeds any Welsh town or City.Bristol also successfully draws on its unique associations with Brunel, Cabot and its maritime prowess. The impressive feature of the development in the City is its quality and unity. The City is being pulled together by the new development and will be an integrated force again. Hopefully, the Newport regeneration will have a similar unifying impact as it shares some of the same design characteristics - albeit several years behind and on a smaller scale.RD
Taming of the Shrew (Tredegar House) - JUL 21 - Now an integral part of Newport's summer the open air Shakespeare production in the orchard is a wonderful colourful spectacle in beautiful surroundings. Last year we attended for the first time but did not realise that it made good sense to bring plentiful supplies of drinks including sparkling wine, nice buffet style food and fruit. This year we made amends. During the interval the audience can leave their covered canopy and sit in the peaceful enjoying their food and drink. The House offers a bar facility and ice cream is also available. Parking by the way is free and children are welcomed. Cwmpas Theatre's production of 'Taming of the Shrew' was hugely enjoyable. The key relationship in the play between the 'shrew' Katherina (played by Caroline Emanuel and her suitor Pettruchio (played by Matt Davies) was superbly acted with great gusto and humour. Alun Davies was excellent as Pettruchio's servant Grumio. The production moved at a cracking pace and the audience were greatly involved and went away throughly happy from a perfect summer's night at Tredegar House.
Children's Academy of Stage Training (Caerleon) - JUL 7 - The Children's Academy of Stage Training is a wonderful initiative developed by Andrea Lewis and Jamie Jarvis to cater for the latent urges of Newport children to become performers, actors, singers etc. Financially supported by fee-paying parents they work with children from 5 upwards to develop acting, singing and dancing skills. The skills presentation yesterday evening at Caerleon Comp was evidence of the impact they have had on the children over the last twelve months. In particular, there were brilliant dance routines including a wonderful jive/rock and roll routine and superb vocal performances. There was an enjoyable introductory routine including excerpt from 'Narnia' and 'Macbeth'. There is some extraordinary talent in our City. CAST now moves on to its summer school - with a final performance of 'Annie' at the Riverfront on August 12. RD
Bar Piazza - John Frost Square, Newport - JUL 8 - Newport is blessed with good Italian restaurants and latterly coffee houses but none are better than Bar Piazza nestled in the corner of John Frost Square next to Wardrobe. It has a loyal and growing clientele including my family. Not only does it serve a range of coffees, teas and drinks but also some wonderful baguettes. If you get a chance try their bacon, mozzarella and tomato. It is child friendly with seating inside and outside and has been a real boon to John Frost Square. At the minute it is understandably festooned with Italian flags. The only downside - smokers. The smoking ban cannot come soon enough. RD
Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest - JUL 6 - The second part of the Pirates trilogy has all the pace and humour of the first. Though it cannot match the originality of "Curse of the Black Pearl" it was a hugely enjoyable romp that had you sitting on the edge of your seats (although come on Cineworld those seats are getting itchy and a little threadbare these days!). Johnny Depp is outstanding as Captain Jack Sparrow but there are still prominent roles for Orland Bloom (Will Turner) and Keira Knightley (Elizabeth Swann). New characters include Bill Nighy (as Davy Jones) with a welcome appearance from Geoffrey Rush at the end of the movie. RD
The Chandlery, Lower Dock Street - Lunch at one of Newport's finest restaurants on Friday afternoon. Despite the very warm weather there over 20 covers for the Chandlery's lunch time menu (the a la carte is also available). The restaurant has rightly built up a deserved reputation for good service and fine food. It was disappointing to note (as I have not been here for three months) that maitre d'host Gethin is no longer there. He was the public face of the restaurant from its opening and was a large part of its success. Let's hope they have found a person of comparable quality in his replacement. I had warm breakfast salad to start with tasty black pudding, poached egg, strips of smoked bacon and lettuce. My wife had an excellent chorizo and monkfish kebab. To follow I had sausage, mash and onion gravy. The sausages were slightly underdone and there was a little too much liquor drowning the flavour of the mashed potato. My wife had penne with sundried tomatoes, goat's cheese and basil. This was a pleasing dish, full of flavour and very filling. To end we shared a dish of finely diced fruit salad. It was a little too finely diced for me. With coffees and a lovely glass of Aresti Montemar it came to £37. RD
The Mango House, Magor Square - Saturday evening at the Mango House would normally be busy but punters were pre-occupied with the World Cup quarter finals. By 9 we were the only ones in the restaurant. Normally, the lower and upper tiers would be thronged with diners. Our table of six started with chicken samosa, onion bhaji, chicken chat and sheek kebab. The latter was mine. Beautifully cooked and spicy with a pleasing tenderness. For main courses there were a selection of dishes again including baltis and chicken tikka accompanied by two massive peshwari naan breads. My chicken chilli balti was excellent, flavourful and without the colouring so often over-used in Indian/Bangladeshi cookery. A good but not outstanding meal with the emphasis on fresh ingredients. There are few Indian restaurants above standard in this area, that's why the Mago House stands out. RD
Newport Centre - Not so long ago Newport Centre's leisure facilities were in the news for the wrong reasons. A BBC children's programme characterised them as dirty and unhygienic. In 2005 they were given a significant overhaul with new unisex changing areas, private shower and changing areas and electronic lockers. The transformation in cleanliness and order in the swimming pool area is extraordinary. The facilities are now easily on a par with those at private leisure complexes including family venues such as Center Parcs. The pool was in very good order when my daughter and I arrived on Sunday morning. There was a swimming lesson nearing completion when we got there. There were a large number of parents with small children in the pool enjoying the atmosphere. The price was £5.55. But I could have saved 20% with a Newport Leisure Card. I am ordering one today! RD
Caffe Nero - Bar Piazza in John Frost Square is our normal port of call for lunch in town. But for the second time in succession there was no room at the inn. We decided to head for the newest addition to Newport's growing coffee fraternity. A familiar high street face in the south east, Caffe Nero, opened recently in Commercial Street opposite Primark. The cafe is comfortable and airy. There is a range of paninis, sandwiches, cakes and snacks available (including some pasta and soup). I had a very fresh tasting prawn sandwich, my wife had a slightly over toasted tomato/mozzarella panini and my daughter a fresh fruit salad. For drinks we had two regulation cappucinos (excellent to my taste, but a little too strong for my wife) and a passion fruit and peach smoothie. A pretty good lunch and all for £13. RD
Bettws Chip Shop - I recently purchased a bag of chips from Bettws Chip Shop. The Chips were very tasty and dry not like the usual greasy chips you can get from chip shops. The price was very reasonable too. I have bought chips from Bettws Chip Shop for many years and I can honestly say that the chips have always been to the utmost standard and have always kept the same quality and unique delicious taste. The rest of the food and sauces which can you can purchase from chip shops are also to the same tasty standard. Bettws Chip Shop is very clean and well looked after which you can see from the moment you walk through the door, the service is also very fast and efficient. I highly recommend a try!!!! Shnuffles
Twm Barlwm - According to local tradition Good Friday was the day for Newportonians to take to the surrounding countryside. However, Whit Sunday was the best we could do to entertain guests from London. They can now go back home and say proudly they climbed up a mountain when they came to Wales. We stopped at the car park at the beginning of Cwmcarn Forest Drive and took an hour and a half to ascend the side of Twm Barlwm via the Raven Walk. The ground underfoot was slightly slippy but not impossible. The final fifty metres made it all worthwhile. The panoramic views across Newport, the second Severn Crossing and north towards the Black Mountains were spectacular even if the slight mistiness obscured a clear view of Cardiff's skyline. This walk definitely has the wow factor and thoroughly impressed our visitors. And the descent took slightly less than half an hour. We had a picnic by the small trout fishery run by Cwmcarn Angling Society. Admission is free at present. RD
Dr Who in the 'Port - The BBC's acclaimed revival of Dr Who has provided an additional attraction for those familiar with Newport. Two recent episodes - 'School Reunion' and 'Rise of the Cybermen' were centred upon the City. In 'School Reunion' Da Vinci's cafe, Belle Vue Park and the Old Post Office building featured prominently as did Duffryn High School (a vehicle demolishing its temporary front entrance). In 'Return of the Cybermen' Newport bus station featured as a backdrop for .. London, the railway station featured at the end (with the 'welcome to Newport' sign visible) and the Riverfront and riverside doubled for London throughout. (See Billie Piper near the Riverfront theatre pic left - courtesy of the BBC). Apparently the Cyber manufacturing plant was partly situated in Newport docks and locations at Magor brewery and Uskmouth Power station were also used. Never mind the City locations the series is exemplary, brilliant entertainment and wonderful storytelling, superbly acted. Probably the best thing on tv. RD
Dewstow Golf Course (Park Course)
The newest of the 2 courses at Dewstow is considerably less loved than the classic Valley course yet out of the two I generally prefer playing the Park.
Hole 1 : 372 Yards Par 4 Challenging opening hole requiring two decent shots to get near green
Hole 2 : 328 Yards Par 4. Supposed easiest hole on course, par/birdie is attainable here, big hitters wonít be far from green off tee.
Hole 3 : 333 Yards Par 4. Blind tee shot, almost identical uphill version of 2nd hole with slight dogleg right.
Hole 4 : 403 Yards Par 4. Lengthy par 4. Need to be on fairway to have a chance to get on in 2 here. 2nd hardest hole on course.
Hole 5 : 370 Yards Par 4. Beautiful hole. Giant tree to be negotiated along with a lake, lovely rolling downhill fairway.
Hole 6 : 170 Yards Par 3. Uphill straightforward par 3. Look for par here but take a club longer.
Hole 7 : 402 Yards Par 4. Another lovely inviting rolling fairway. Often find myself in trees on the left here. Bogey is good here.
Hole 8 : 193 Yards Par 3. Downhill longish par 3. Reachable with a good 5/6 iron. Again look for par here.
Hole 9 : 474 Yards Par 5. Hook off the tee could land on motorway here! Relatively straightforward with a hidden drop-down green at the end.
Hole 10 : 116 Yards Par 3. Shortest hole on course yet donít be fooled. Many a man has found himself scurrying down the bank on right at a rate of knots.
Hole 11 : 342 Yards Par 4. Like holes 5 and 7 this hole is very easy on the eye. Mammoth tree must be negiotated in middle of fairway and a slightly elevated green.
Hole 12 : 130 Yards Par 3. Easy Par 3, should look for par here, the calm before the storm!!
Hole 13 : 570 Yards Par 5. Huge Par 5 can be played as a 695 yard Par 6 but I think thatís a little silly. 3 straight,long shots will get you close.
Hole 14 : 448 Yards Par 4. Supposed hardest hole on course. Can be played with ease if you avoid lake and trees on right and out of bounds on left.
Hole 15 : 403 Yards Par 4. Famous hole with the totem pole. Quite long but not too hard if you stay on fairway. Par/Bogey is good here.
Hole 16 :150 Yards Par 3. Downhill par 3 with bunkers surrounding green. Not too hard, Par attainable here.
Hole 17 : 333 Yards Par 4. Big dogleg left here. Fairly easy hole but easy to get into trouble.
Hole 18 : 369 Yards Par 4. Another picturesque fairway with trouble on left and right. Classic finishing hole.
The Park at Dewstow is a lovely course to play. Itís par 4ís are perfect in layout and distance, although a couple could be lengthened and turned into par 5ís. This would take the total par for the course up to a 71 from a 69. Newport is becoming a golfersí paradise and courses such as this can only mature and get better. O.Dyke
Las Iguanas, Cardiff - This is just THE BEST RESTAURANT EVER! I wouldn't go in the evening though because it gets a bit too busy! I go at lunchtimes. They always serve immaculate meals with excellent ideas for the menu. This is a Brazillian restaurant. The staff are always polite and friendly and besides they make an amazing coconut ice cream!! My Mum and Dad love the meals too but they don't prefer the restaurant to the Chandlery! When will they ever learn..Anyway the restaurant has a lovely feel to it and it just makes you want to go there every single day. They have lovely fresh beverages too. Every time I go to Cardiff I go in Las Iguanas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Bubble
International Folk Festival, Tredegar House, Newport - Saturday May 13th - this is a remarkable event in Newport's cultural calendar taking place over three days with a range of dancers, musicians and performers from around the world. Two marquees and a stage are squeezed in to the Courtyard at Tredegar House together with a variety of craft stalls and activities for children. There's even a cider and perry tent from a local brewer. There is a strong Celtic/Welsh feel to proceedings. The whole event was kicked off a group of young musicians playing Celtic music in the main marquee conducted by Mr Donald Stewart. Many schools from the area were represented as was the Irish Club in Newport. Some of the play was outstanding and the audience were well entertained.
Despite the alternative attractions of the day (the FA Cup Final) there was a good crowd but it did occur to me that the City could make much more of this wonderful occasion. RD
The Dragonfly, Cleppa Park, Newport - Monday, April 10th - Easter Monday and the restaurant was packed with diners. We had the last space in the car park. You turn up and sort yourself out a table. We had to wait for 20 minutes or so for ours but we eventually enjoyed excellent quality pub fayre. Both the fish and chips and gammon and chips options were cooked superbly and very well presented. The portions were enormous. The meal for four came to £26 approx. RD
The Newport County matchday experience - Monday April 10th - A crowd of over a thousand is a rare thing at the County these days but by non-League standards they have an excellent following. Pay £8 and you can go anywhere in the ground. I sat in the main stand with my match programme an excellent magazine better than anything produced by Newport's other sporting teams. PA announcements were clear and informative including half time scores from other Conference South games. Spyttty the Dog walked around the ground handing out Creme Eggs and made a beeline for children who had travelled as part of the Farnborough support. The view from the stand was excellent and on the whole the atmosphere was good with very few stewards required or in attendance. One or two Lliswerry-ites young and old who were too tight to pay to get in were shooed away from the perimeter of the ground although nobody can stop viewings from the fitness suite in the nearby velodrome. Refreshment facilities are readily available including two clubhouse areas, Bar Amber and the Supporters Social Club. Toilet facilities are excellent and there is plenty of car parking on site. RD
Newport Velodrome (5-a-side Football) - You would not think that the Velodrome is an appropriate place to be playing 5 a side football. Yet in between its sprawling cycle track are two decent size pitches. Well known footballing nomads the White Sharks are often looking for a place to hold prospective training sessions and the Velodrome has been very useful in this respect. It is also close to the Sharksí spiritual home, the Spytty Astroturf. When enquiring about booking the pitch you are put through to the council contact centre and payment must be made upfront via plastic card. 24 hours must be given in the event of cancellation. The fee of £27.30 is reasonable if a little on the high side for a pitch of the Velodromeís mediocrity. The pitch is a little less than average size and 1 of the 2 pitches is always very slippery causing great concern but supplying some comedy. One major drawback is the nets surrounding the pitch causing the ball to slip down behind the side hoardings every time a Wimbledon-esque ball is shot into the stratosphere. Whilst playing football, other events were in progress including cycling,judo and badminton. These activities run simultaneously without any problems. All in all I would say this pitch is far inferior to the excellent Caerleon University facility but is however a great addition to the Newport Indoor Football scene. 7/10 O.Dyke
Film-Take the Lead- This is a wonderful film and I recommend that you all should see it. It is a film about these teenagers which are quite badly behaved become dancers. The dance teacher ( Antonio Banderas) took their detention session and then they made up their own style of dance. If you need pleasing this film won't let you down!!!!! This film makes you want to learn salsa. Antonio Banderas and all the teens who play the teenagers are very good dancers! MD
Vittorio's restaurant, Stow Hill, Newport - Friday April 7th - it was quieter than normal. We arrived at opening time, there was no problem getting a table. The waiting staff were friendly and efficient. I had a tasty spaghetti puttanesca, followed by a beautifully cooked filett of steak with pepper sauce with accompanying vegetables (cauliflower, carrot and fennel and chips). My wife had toasted brie with a fruity sauce followed by an immaculate puttanesca. My daughter had garlic bread followed by an excellent spaghetti bolognese. We finished off with shared profiteroles and coffee. With four Peroni and soft drinks the total bill came to £69. The restaurant has a wonderful cantina ambience, the food is good and the staff are excellent. No wonder we keep coming back on a regular basis. RD