The other day Cat was tidying her wardrobe. At the front were a pair of holographic leggings, a pair of impractical skyscraper platforms and a silver biker jacket.
Stuffed at the back was an old stripy jumper. This sweater, historic enough to be referred to as vintage, is Cats old faithful. Everyone has one: it could be a really comfy pair of trainers, slouchy ancient denims or, as seen in popular fiction, Jerry Seinfelds Golden Boy tee.
As avant-garde as Cats iridescent plimsolls may be, sometimes its too easy to have your head turned by the latest Shiny New Thing. Every now and then its worth taking time to rediscover old favourites.
And so it was that Matt and Cat took a step away from St Thomas Square and sauntered down one of Newports characterful side streets. Although the area around the Minster is fast becoming Newports go-to food district, other streets are available, folks – and other eateries in those streets.
Matt and Cats destination was Burrs. As they made a bee-line for one of the oldest family-owned restaurants on the Island, they speculated on whether the cosy restaurants extremely reasonable lunch special menu was still a thing. And, guess what, fans of good fortune? It was!
One of Matt and Cats favourite approaches to Newport is not channelled down the steep terrace of Hunnyhill, nor via the monstrous industrial landscape of St Georges Way to the east. No, M&C like to their first glimpse of the county town to be from the flyover. With the elevated vantage point one can see nothing but higgledy-piggledy red-tiled buildings, a couple of church spires and the funny twisted roof of the Quay Arts Centre. Its a picturesque reminder of how historic Newport is and, despite the best efforts of developers, it retains quaint thoroughfares, old pubs and even the occasional leaded window.
One of these historic buildings is home to Burrs. Back in the day, it was the Bugle Tap, one of Newports many pubs. It probably has many tales to tell and, since 1997 at least, those stories will be of decent home-cooked food made from local ingredients.
Burrs has an air of intimacy. Its the sort of venue that would be perfect for a romantic date; all white linen, flowers and candles. However, you dont have to be all loved-up to enjoy dinner there. In 2011 Cat had her works Christmas party at the restaurant which, although the wine was flowing, didnt seem ignite any colleague-based amour!
The day that Matt and Cat visited was Cats choice – Matt offered to buy her lunch as penance for a minor oversight and he was happy to accept his punishment. As they munched on their complementary fluffy focaccia and garlicky olives, Cat quickly forgave Matt. Her deep-fried Brie, with salad and redcurrant sauce, was as soft as her resolve; the crust was firm but not explosively crunchy and the cheese casually oozed out, like milk-based magma.
Matt began with a chicken liver pate with green peppercorns, complemented by a robust port and orange jelly. The zing of the peppercorns and the tang of the orange were a great combination – this was the comfortingly classical taste of really good cooking.
Continuing with the vegetarian theme, Cats chose goats cheese tart and salad for her main course. The tart was quite simple; a short-pastry shell enclosed an intense basil and tomatoey lagoon surmounted by a disc of lightly-baked goats cheese. It was surprisingly hearty for such an uncomplicated dish. Recently Cat received representation from a vegetarian friend who decried the lack of variety in meat-free dishes. Apparently goats cheese is over-used, but that doesnt stop it being nice if you have a taste for it. When Cat was a vegetarian back in the dark ages, she mostly had the choice of plain, cheese or mushroom omelette and chips. Or fish. Vegetarians eat fish dont they?
Two course lunch (Wednesdays and Thursdays only)
2 @ £10.99 = £21.98
Talking of which, Matts fish and chips looked lovely; frosted with twinkles of sea salt. Piping hot, it was clearly freshly cooked. A little pot of home-made sauce tartare, some peas, and a lemon wedge – nothing more was needed to make an ideal light lunch.
A meal at Burrs deserves more time to appreciate than Matt and Cat could give theirs – being on their lunch breaks and all. However, the cheerful and quick service meant that if they wanted to spoil themselves in less than an hour they could. Pretty much everyone that Matt and Cat spoke to later the same day all said, Oh, I love Burrs, but I havent been for ages. You can guess what advice they got. Matt and Cat can’t say the same, as they’ve now enjoyed the excellent lunchtime menu twice this season. And with this reliably good home-cooked and locally-sourced food, it wont be long before the next time, either.