Food: Eating Vegan at The SWiGG

 

When describing Swansea to anyone new the fact that it’s by the sea will probably come up at least once. It’s great for surfing, long walks along the sands and generally admiring in all its beauty. I’d imagine “vegan” isn’t the first word that comes to people’s’ minds when they think about Swansea.

The SWiGG however has an exciting new menu that includes, not just vegetarian options, but SFV options too. The recently reopened bar and bistro has been working hard to tempt new custom down to the waterfront for a unique take on Welsh cuisine. Situated in the shell of the National Waterfront Museum’s older wing, directly opposite the iconic lighthouse and tugboats in the heart of the marina, The SWiGG is inarguably more sophisticated than ninety percent of the bars and restaurants around. It offers the chance to sample something a bit different – a Welsh take on tapas. Well, more like ‘small plates’ than anything, but it’s an opportunity to try something uniquely Swansea but crucially, with a Vegan twist.

To begin with a glance at their coffee and daytime options, if you’re looking for delicious and SFV then look no further than their cakes and chocolate cups from Naturally Kind Food, washed down with some Coaltown Coffee (Soy milk available, of course). If you’re sticking around for a drink then how about some of their SFV beers like the award winning Cwtch from Tiny Rebel Brewery. For the more sophisticated try a gin cocktail with Dà Mhìle seaweed gin. They also stock a great range of soft drinks and juices like Hartridge fruit juices.

FOOD Swigg

For lunch or supper there’s the Beetroot Hummus, Crudité and Pumpkin Seed Salad is a riot of colour and flavour. The hummus itself is big on colour but delicate on flavour. Their Laverbread and Leek Stuffed Mushrooms are gloriously meaty (forgive the expression), with a zingy filling that bursts with lemon zest. Finally, their Vegan Salad is laced with ribbons of carrot, with tangy hits of crunchy peas, dotted with jewels of pomegranate seeds and crunchy peanuts, dressed with a soy rich dressing. They also have a Tabbouleh Salad with bulgar wheat, tomatoes, pomegranate, parsley and lemon and they’re working on a new breakfast of avocado, tomatoes and mushrooms stuffed with laverbread and lemon on toast.

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So, whether you’re chilling in the Cwtch Corner under the bespoke artwork, sitting at the bar, basking in the sun outside or inside at a table, you never feel like you’re just another customer. If you’ve ever wondered what Wales can offer the world beyond a SFV take on cheese on toast, then The SWiGG has the answer.

Vegan Salad

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Food: Jamaican Jills

Jamaican Jills has been one of Neath’s best kept secrets for some time. Now it’s migrated west to Swansea and taken up residence at the bottom of Wind St. You’d be forgiven for thinking Jills was a chain restaurant as the scale and the impact of the place screams success. Perhaps it helps that the previous residents left a shell that could easily be adapted, but it’s really the heart and soul of the cooking and the people who cook it that shines through.

 

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Using the Jamaican flag and the Caribbean as its decorative cornerstone the restaurant is bright and cozy, with splashes of Patois overhead and her signature hot wing challenge on the wall near the kitchens. The design lover in me also noticed the Artek A330S lights, designed by my favourite Architect and designer, Alvar Aalto. Probably a repro, to have something Finnish in the place, seems odd but the glow of the brass on the lights does suit the warmth of the place.

The whole place sings with its unique selling perspective – cosy, good value and gloriously Jamaican. Building on the reputation of its parent restaurant, this bright new light in Swansea’s culinary spectrum looks set to set many a tongue alight with its big flavours and great atmosphere.

 

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The menu sports the dishes one would expect of a Jamaican restaurant but I think, and I’d hope, that people would be brave enough to go off piste and try some lesser known delights. Standouts for me included the wonderfully tender and spicy goat curry, served with rice & pea, her Ackee and Saltfish is also deliciously moreish, served with gorgeous fried dumplings. Lunch menus and seasonal special menus are available too (like the recent one for Valentine’s Day) and are as varied and interesting as can be. Typically, the Jerk chicken is bold and punchy, the wings big and juicy. If you’re feeling brave you can try the Spicy Wing Challenge and get a t-shirt and your face on the wall. If you’re bold enough to sign the disclaimer then bragging rights come at the price of 7 hot wings in fifteen minutes with a 5 minute cool down – no drinks!

 

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Their bar is fully stocked with regular favourites (including Red Stripe, naturally) with a particular emphasis on cocktails for that Caribbean dimension. Two for one exists on most of the favourites with the Rum Punch being a particularly delicious and unique offering. They also offer a range of “smoking” cocktails served over dry ice for that added wow factor. The Children don’t get short shrift either, their meals echo the adult menu but come in Small Portions or Big Portions so you can gauge them by the appetite of your child. They also come with unlimited drinks and a dessert, which is a nice touch.

 

It’s so easy with new restaurants for them to have a muddy and confusing atmosphere, like they don’t know what they’re about, but that definitely isn’t the case with Jamaican Jills. From the bubbly staff to the slick management, Jills has hit the ground running and doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon. Locally grown successes like this should be sung from the rooftops and supported wherever possible, but when the food is this good it’s all the more satisfying to just go along and see for yourself what the fuss is all about.

Food: Top 5 coffees in Swansea

Coffee isn’t exactly the first thing you think of when someone says ‘Swansea’ but the city has a rich history with coffee and cafe culture reaching back to the late 1800s. South Wales saw an influx of Italian immigrants looking for work in the South Wales mines. They quickly saw a gap in the market for small cafés, ice cream parlours and fish & chip shops to the extent that they sprang up all over South Wales. It’s said that for every colliery there was at least one ‘Bracchi’ cafe – named after one of the families that made their name during the period.

Swansea’s cafe culture has always been strong but with an influx of new blood onto the scene it’s gone from strength to strength. From the traditional to the new, young blood. Now is a good time to be a coffee lover in Swansea. Here are my picks for the top five best cafes in Swansea, in no particular order. If you have your own ideas or suggestions feel free to mention in the comments.

 

#1 Coffee Punks

Situated halfway along the Kingsway, what was once Swansea’s premier drag racing strip, Coffee Punks is a recent addition to the city’s coffee scene. With its exposed wood, concrete and metal interior Coffee Punks offers a focused menu of reasonably priced coffees with a variety of cake options. A variety of vegan cakes are supplied by Naturally Kind Food plus some of their food is supplied by Ultracomida, a Spanish/Welsh delicatessen based in Narberth and Aberystwyth. On evenings and weekends they’re often open for events like record sales, they even sell Chemex and their own mugs! Don’t expect Pumpkin Spice Lattes but do expect pour overs, flat whites and a killer espresso.

#2 La Parmigiana 

This one’s a little off the beaten track but it’s around the corner from Joe’s and The Westbourne, just up from St Helen’s Road. Blink and you miss it, La Parm is a Deli, Cafe and Restaurant all built into the downstairs of an old Fish and Chip shop. Francesca, the owner and primo barista/chef, holds court to a cross section of old school Swansea locals. It’s super friendly, the coffee is Italian (vis a vis, superlative) and you’ll end up coming away with an armful of deli meats, cheeses, pesto you’ve never heard of and a booking for the restaurant.

#3 The Kardomah

Now, here’s the place to go to sample a real slice of local history. Situated around the corner from the market, the Kardomah has been a hotspot for the older generations to pit stop for a coffee after a long Saturday of hitting the M&S sales, for generations. Actually on its second site (the first one was bombed during the Blitz) the cafe’s history has links to a group of Swansea based bohemian poets known affectionately as the Kardomah Gang – a group that included among its members Swansea’s most famous literary son, Dylan Thomas. The decor of the Kardomah screams the 1950s and hasn’t changed much – mirrors give a sense of space but the wood panelling and the Oriental aesthetic give the place its character. If you like the coffee you can even take a bag of beans home.

#4 Cinema & Co

Another relative newbie, this one’s also very central, situated at the top end of High St, nr the castle. Cinema & Co is a cafe and cinema combined. It sounds like one of those pie in the sky ideas you have in the shower – “Wouldn’t it be amazing if…?” – but never get around to doing. I can guarantee it’s as awesome in reality as it is in your imagination. With a similar smart industrial aesthetic as Coffee Punks, C&C offers another spartan menu of drinks over which you can choose whether or not you want to come back later and watch The Breakfast Club or Stand By Me. Out back, in the cinema part, the seats have been converted from packing crates but are actually incredibly cosy and comfortable. At the bag is a well stocked fridge of craft beers, perfect for avoiding the inevitable autumn showers.

#5 Square Peg Coffee

This one’s situated in Sketty, not far from the heartland of University life, on the other side of Singleton Park. Square Peg is quickly becoming a real student hub with a strong and lively atmosphere. It regularly has live performances and evening events from talks to acoustic sets. It prides itself on the fact it donates its profits to charity and provides jobs and training for people who “need help to get started in life”. Serving a wide range of drinks (including a variety of teas!), you’ll turn up early one morning to work on an essay, stick around for a slice of Lemon Drizzle Cake before ending up having lunch there too.

 

 

 

 

Food: Coffee Punks, Swansea

Opening just 5 weeks ago, I’ve passed this little treasure on the bus into town many a time. On Saturday finally myself and Tom went in. The brainchild of Glen Adams, this new coffeehouse might be a David compared to the likes of the Goliath big name high street chains, but its coffee certainly packs a punch.

With an interior of mismatched chairs, reclaimed wood panelling and Edison filament light bulbs galore, the whole place has a stripped back, industrial feel without removing the warmth. Think Shoreditch mixed with a warm jumper knitted by your gran.

As you walk in the place, you’re invited by the welcoming scent of coffee and the sight of the yellow custom Kees van der Westen Arte coffee machine pumping the air with coffee scented steam. The counter, made from reclaimed wood, is pitted and weathered with age,  imbuing the place with a sense of real history (albeit only having been open 5 weeks!) and adds to the warm edge of the place. But the real star of the show is the coffee and Adams is a real expert of his craft.

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Myself & Tom sat down and ordered two latte’s and a parsnip, lemon and ginger cake, supplied by local Swansea baker, Naturally Kind Food (maker of all things sweet, vegan and awesome). The warm spice of the ginger really complimented the smooth warm tones of the coffee. At under £3 for a great coffee in a great space, it beats getting ripped off in a conglomerate coffee shop, feeling like you’re just a number. Plus their food is supplied by Spanish/Welsh Power house Ultracomida, whose spots in Narbeth and Aberystwyth have given the towns a Mediterranean glow with their great food and wine.

The coffee was brought out by one of Tom’s old friends, Izzy – who was warm, friendly and great to chat to – to the sound of the Beatles playing in the background (great soundtrack guys btw!). We enjoyed the experience so much we even bought some of these funky mugs. And they even match and compliment the colours of our kitchen!!

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Visiting Coffee Punks is a no-brainer. Don’t just keep on passing by, walk in, support a local business and they’ll reward you with some of the best coffee (and cakes) in Swansea.

 

Find them at:

32, The Kingsway, Swansea

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