The recent turfing-up of Cardiff’s ‘second street’ (it’s always been number two to Queen Street) will undoubtedly do St. Mary Street’s businesses a world of good. What was once a crumbling, ageing and near desperate-looking part of Cardiff, which culminated in the sale of the legendary Howells department store and the multitude of ‘convenience’ stores like Tesco and Spar, in addition to the closing of staple nightclub venues Liquid and Life; this part of town was facing oblivion. As the Hayes received a breath of new life and Queen Street surviving the St David’s 2 shopping development, you’d be forgiven for believing there is now little reason to step foot on St. Mary Street.
However, there is in fact one little reason why you should. The Meating Place was once a Portuguese restaurant named Porto, believed to be independent, it eventually made way for a Chameleon Group venue, a small restaurant business which can claim one of Cardiff’s most in-demand eateries, The Potted Pig. Before stepping foot inside, amidst the mid-evening darkness of February, The Meating Place’s glowing lanterns in its façade are rather striking, with their collective humble glow inviting passers-by to its warmth.
The warmth continues as we were welcomed, seated, provided with an excitingly compact menu and drinks. If a pint of decency is your choice of tipple, you’re better off heading next door for a Brains or one of its guest continental lagers, as The Meating Place offers only Carling and Worthington’s. However, a range of spirits, wines and cocktails are available, which are far more suited to the relaxed and calming nature of the venue.
It’s deceptive, with large mirrors on its walls it looks as if it holds more floor space than it actually does. With a little more investigation, upstairs opens up the second half of its world, with a superb round table at the summit of the stairs in the window (probably the most popular, too) and another ten tables, plus an open kitchen, where some of the finest steaks around sizzle proudly behind the scenes.
The consistent low-level lantern lighting throughout provides the perfect place to relax in after a day’s work, and the concise menu enough choice to satisfy the accompanying hunger. With a limited choice, it instantly says ‘quality’ – vast menus are to be avoided or taken with extreme caution – yet there’s enough choice for all to choose from. Look directly up from your table, and you will see glimpse of butchery dangling from the ceiling. Relax, they’re pretty secure, and you’ll be feeling even better on ordering one of their signature hanging skewers!
While other diners picked off pieces of meat oozing in marinade from the ceiling, we began with a portion of perfect pitted olives with some bread and balsamic oil. While excellent, with the bread in particular recommended by an adjacent diner, it was a little disappointing to receive only two slices. Artisan bread or not, £2.00 is a little steep! Nevertheless, it was soft yet crispy, and a good way to muzzle the relentless grumbling of our stomachs as steaks, fish and mushrooms glided teasingly around and away from us.
We ordered steaks for mains, two 15oz rumps requested at medium rare each. Not adventurous maybe, but you will truly miss out if you decline the chance to taste the best steak in Cardiff. Arriving within 20 minutes of clearing our nibbles, very good for a busy Tuesday night, we were presented with two stunning, chunky yet tender pieces of meat that tasted even better than it looked. Accompanied with two large, crisp onion rings (shame about the onion bit) and a Jenga stack of chunky, hand-cut chips beside the centrepiece on a small chopping board, we eagerly carved into two of the most beautifully char-grilled steaks we’ve ever had the pleasure to consume. Seriously, this steak is a masticating delight, coupled with perfectly crafted mushroom and pepper sauces, we never wanted it to end. Unfortunately it did, and while it was filling, it left us desperately wanting another. Each. The Meating Place’s steaks really are that good; we cannot recommend them enough. In fact, the last thing we said to our friendly, informative waiter was a great compliment on the steaks; the rib-eye will certainly be devoured on our next visit!
After all that excitement, it was certainly time for a toilet break and an opportunity to have a nose around the rest of the restaurant. Each area was bustling with a lovely atmosphere as we looked around and soaked up the harmonic atmosphere. You’d be wise to take advice at this point, though: CAUTION! Mind the giant step just before entering the Water Closets! From nowhere, a sneaky step provides an unexpected obstacle for bursting bladders, take it easy on the alcohol, otherwise you’ll end up losing that aforementioned steak… Once successfully inside, the toilets themselves don’t challenge you with lantern light, but they are well-presented and continue with the sleek presentation of the restaurant. No complaints!
To round off a nigh-on perfect dinner, we chose to, regrettably, share the marvellous dark chocolate mousse with espresso cream. Served in a coffee mug, again continuing with thoughtful presentation was a dessert too good for two spoons. The mousse was fairly solid, yet simultaneously soft, elegant and merciless on the taste buds.Desserts are generally over-priced at the moment, but at £3.95 it is the only way to finish the superb experience The Meating Place Provides.
At around £56.00 after drinks, it’s hard to deny its worth.
Just go there.