Full moon, half moon, total eclipse!

Okay, first things first. If you didn’t read that title in a cod-French accent whilst pretending to eat biscuits (or are they cakes, I can never remember which way around it is) then we can’t be friends.

Anyway, this review begins, as with all good things, with plans abandoned and a rumbly tum. You see, I was supposed to have plans this Wednesday. Plans which, for several reasons, fell through, leaving me at a loose end and suddenly no idea what to eat.

A quick telephone call to Mr Bites on the way home turned from “woe is me” (total drama queen) to “why don’t we go out anyway?” So with no firm idea where we were headed, we followed our feet and noses to City Road.

Ahhh, City Road. It’s certainly not the prettiest part of the city and many would-be punters are put off by the lack of parking. Luckily for us it’s within walking distance. Splott may lack the pubs and craft beer bars of our first home in Canton but being less than a mile from a few dozen decent grills, sushi joints and curry houses more than makes up for that.

We wandered lonely as clouds, full of indecision, before I remembered the sage words of local blogger, The Plate Licked Clean, “Mezza Luna, duck shwarma, trust me.” Well, with a recommendation like that, we stepped inside.

The first thing you notice about Mezza Luna is the decor.

For a moment I thought I’d stumbled into a pile-em high-all-you-can-eat chain in one of the city’s temples to capitalism with faux-stone carvings cover the walls, ceiling and bar. It’s certainly a strong look but a cursory glance at the drinks menu allayed any fears that this was a cookie-cutter exercise. In amongst the usual cocktails and mocktails, a selection of Lebanese wines, beers and spirits caught my eye, along with a crafty number from local boys Roath Brewery. We’re certainly not in Kansas any more and a glass of Domaine Wardy (£4.95 or £18.95 for the bottle) and a bottle of Almaza (£3.95) we’re swiftly ordered.

The food menu was fairly typical of what’s on offer in the area, focussing heavily on Moroccan and Lebanese dishes with a selection of hot and cold mezze and grilled meats, and  a handful of tagines to mix things up a little. Calamari, always a good test of the kitchen’s skills, (£4.50) and Ful Moukala, one of Mr PLC’s recommendations for the evening, (also £4.50) were ordered and we took some time to enjoy the drinks whilst we awaited their arrival.

The Domaine Wardy, served chilled and bone dry, had a slightly spicy edge to it, whilst the Almaza is typical of European style beers, crisp, clean and refreshing but very carbonated.

Soft and yielding, the broad beans of the Ful Moukala were doused with garlic and sweet onions. Whilst there was plenty of coriander in evidence, it managed to dance the right side of the line, staying herby but without that slightly soapy flavour that too much of the herb can give it (see also, Dill). With a generous squeeze of lemon, I would happily of smeared these onto baguette forever and died happy, but possibly malnourished at a (short) lifetime of broadbean abuse.

The calamari passed the first test of not resembling bicycle tyres but suffered from a brief wait on the Pass, having cooled down considerably. No matter, a feather-light batter and a punchy aioli kept things lively, whilst a side salad dusted liberally with sumac only enhanced the citrusy flavours, with yet more lemon available to squeeze over the fish.

Like some kind of Ben Kenobi figure, Mr PLC had been pretty insistent about my choice of main. But even if I had briefly strayed to the Dark side, there was no way I’d turn up the chance to eat a Duck Shwarma (£12.95). For a start, where else in the city serves duck for that price? I was expecting  a full on stingy portion and contemplated ordering some rice but after a Bank Holiday of Roman-era excess, decided against it. Thank fuck I did, because what turned up may as well have been a whole bloody duck.

Two sliced duck breasts, pan-fried, just slightly pink but with the crispiest skin lay atop a super-crisp flatbread. A drizzle of pomegranate mollases gave it a sticky, sweet and slightly sharp edge, with coriander and pomegranate seeds adding extra texture. The side salad included some sharp pickled beetroot and an eye-watering pickled pepper that was rather hotter than I was expecting when I popped the whole thing in my mouth, having been assured by Mr Bites that his was indeed mild. The sod.

His Meshawi mixed-grill (£14.95) was similarly good value, with a skewer each of the chicken shish, lamb shish, and kofte kebabs served with saffron rice, side salad as above and a choice of dip (he opted for a second helping of the aioli, having enjoyed it immensely the first time). Each skewer was tender, moist and with the smoky aroma of the application of flame to meat. Is it the best example of its type in the area? Probably not, but then hose places also don’t serve duck or attempt a tagine so it’s swings and roundabouts.

Feeling too stuffed to even consider baklava if I wanted to walk home that night, we settled for an Arabic coffee (£2.50) and a Cardamom tea (£2.50) to round out the evening. The coffee, served unsweetened, was suitably dark, thick and strong, just as it should be. The tea, served in the traditional glass cup, had an almost fruity flavour to it.

The total bill came to just over £50 and we waddled home, fat and happy. Is it groundbreaking food? No, but then many of Cardiff’s restaurants aren’t and they also aren’t half this good, for the price. City Road has its faults but it’s also a diamond in the rough when it comes to good quality food at prices that won’t make your bank manager cry. Ditch the car, take a walk and see what you can get. Oh and try the duck, trust me.


Looks lovely and tempting - will bear this place in mind next time we’re looking for something different to try.

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