Let’s get the obvious bit out of the way first: Asador 44 in Cardiff isn’t a steakhouse. It serves outstanding steak, obviously- we’ll come back to that- but it’s a true Asador, and not just in name. It’s in the northern Spanish tradition, where cooking over fire marries so well with the best produce.
At the heart of the restaurant, visible behind etched glass, is their parilla grill, equally at home lending a smoky depth to fish or vegetables or suckling pig or lamb as it is to steak. That beef is notable, certainly: you can choose from British breeds or the jewel in the crown, the prized rare breed Spanish Galician Blond, from older animals further aged in an eye-catching display cabinet. Ideally served rare, and in huge chuleton chops for sharing, this is beef to be savoured and to be reckoned with. Beef- if you’ll pardon the expression- with legs.
Typically it arrives removed from the bone and presented in thick ruby-red slices. It looks an absolute treat, generously flecked with sea salt and cooked over charcoal, forming a crust while remaining rare in the middle. The deep, lasting tang of the meat stays with you, that telltale creamy aged fat a luscious thing and testament to rearing which has taken long, patient years. The opposite of supermarket meat, in other words, rushed on to the shelves for maximum profit after the most cursory of ageing.
Beef of this quality is a rare thing indeed, let alone in South Wales, and deserves to be lingered over and truly savoured. It’s Asador 44 takes finding the best meat very seriously, with frequent trips to discuss with farmers and sides of beef chosen by their Spanish contacts weekly. This is meat of impeccable provenance.
Yet there’s an extensive vegan menu, too, so you might find yourself going for coca toast with pickled cucumber, fennel and apple, or for charcoal beetroot, apple, almond, grape: the smoked leeks in a vinaigrette of shallot and tomato are a standout, as are grilled potatoes and broccoli with romesco, or an orange salad dressed with fennel, sumac and pine nuts firm favourites. And there’s more. In fact, to further remind you this isn’t some ‘steakhouse’, there is typically more fish and shellfish to choose from than meat, anything from mackerel to turbot and gurnard to red mullet and little sweet clams and plump mussels to Mediterranean prawns.
Their set price lunch ‘plato del dia’ menu is hugely appealing and outstanding value for money, with a market fish option among treats like roast duck with Bomba rice or fabada or roasted squash; perhaps mackerel with endive and capers, all from the parilla and all delivered with trademark Asador style. All of this is is enriched by an extensive wine list, much of it available by the glass, and a range of Spanish beers, vermut and of course sherries.
If you’re eating as a family, don’t worry that this will be inaccessible to little ones. A children’s serving is similarly impressive: there’s no patronising younger diners here with the contents of freezer bags, but a scaled-down version of adult portions.
For Tom Parker Bowles, writing in December 2020, “this could be [my] restaurant of the year.” You’ll find something for anyone keen to find a menu sourced with love, cooked with skill and served in an elegant yet welcoming atmosphere: a beautiful slice of Spain in sight of Wales’ national stadium- in short, many miles from ‘just a steakhouse.’
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Header photo credit – Asador 44