Meet the Cardiff Chef, holding a huge Arabic feast next month
A Cardiff chef who trained in Oman, before honing his skills in some of London’s top restaurants, will hold a huge ‘family-style’ Arabic feast in Pontcanna next month.
A regular at both Pontcanna and Riverside farmer’s markets, Cardiff locals may recognise Chef Lucas Wooten from his pop-up food business Lahmacun. Often seen roasting whole legs of local lamb over an open fire, Lahmacun has attracted a local fan base for a theatrical style of cooking, and for Turkish woodfired flatbreads (Lahmacuns) topped with fresh, Middle-Eastern flavours.
But Lahmacun’s founder, now 32, has been on quite the culinary journey before making Cardiff his home. Having grown up in Muscat, Oman, declining grades saw him kicked out of school at 17, and at a crossroads about what to do next. He decided to give the local catering college a go – a move which set him on the path to some of the UK’s top kitchens.
A move to London in 2015 led to stints at Little Bread Peddler (an award-winning artisan bakery), Cafe Murano (where Lucas cooked under Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett MBE), and Quality Chophouse (where he learned butchery, and even held the role of head butcher for a time) – all giving Lucas the chance to hone the skills he learned in Oman.
Weekend work with Hunter Gather Cook – a foraging and cookery school which specialises in game butchery and outdoor cooking – cemented his interest in cooking over open fire.
Lucas explained “I finally moved back to Cardiff just as the pandemic hit, but I already had a clear idea of the kind of food business I would like to eventually run, focused on modern Arabic cuisine with a theatrical fire-food aspect. It took a few months to get everything sorted but we held our first pop-up events last summer, and we’ve been pitching up at local farmers’ markets and growing our fan base from there ever since.”
Lucas is joined in the business by his wife Sophie, whom he met more than 12 years ago. Lucas credits Sophie, who is of Syrian descent and whose father owned multiple Lebanese restaurants in Swansea, with an incredible palate; she is a key part of the business, assisting in everything from recipe development to ingredient prep, and anything in-between.
Lucas said, “We bonded over our love of food and our shared experience of the Middle East; we’ve lived in London together, settled back in Cardiff together, and at our up-coming event in Pontcanna, we really want to show people the style of food we love most. Our evening of ‘Arabic food from the fire’ is all about huge sharing platters, fresh, vibrant food, and just spending time enjoying a great meal. That’s what great food is all about.”
Lahmacun’s evening of ‘Arabic food from the fire’ will take place at the Kings Yard in Pontcanna, with Lucas and Sophie cooking in the courtyard, and guests seated in the cosy studio behind. The full menu is what Lucas calls ‘us in a nutshell’.
An evening of Arabic food from the fire
Snacks To Share
Za’atar, olive & walnut focaccia with cultured butter
Fire poached Pembrokeshire oysters, zhoug
Hot hummus, burnt butter (VO) & house flatbreads
Beetroot babaganoush (Ve), lavosh
Baharat pork belly skewer & pomegranate (VO)
Torwen Welsh lamb barsnley, stuffed with merguez & slowly roasted over the fire; or
Aleppo pepper & tomato Frekkah, roasted baby aubergines (Ve)
Chapa batata harra, caper pangritatta (Ve)
Grilled gem lettuce, Labneh, anchovy, dukkah (VO)
Fire roasted okra, urfa aioli (VO)
Pickles & sauces
Pistachio semifreddo, fig leaf; or
Quince tart tatin, saffron custard (Ve)
After the feast in Pontcanna, newlyweds Sophie and Lucas will be taking an extended honeymoon, but they have big plans for Lahmacun in 2023. Lucas said, “Next year is going to be about bigger feasts, lots of different venues and just getting our name out there. The long-term vision is for a permanent place in Cardiff, where we can slow cook over fire, but also throw out quick, delicious flatbreads for lunch. Watch this space!”
Lahmacun’s evening of ‘Arabic food from the fire’ will take place at Kings Road Yard in Pontcanna on 15th September 2022, with tickets costing £38 per head. To get yours, click here.
By Jane Cook | Jane Chico Mendes. Photography by Greg Gladysiak.