Castle Gate Restaurant & Bar – Caerphilly’s answer to Mint and Mustard

As soon as we walked into Castle Gate Bar and Restaurant, we were immediately impressed with the new modern décor.  It was bright, airy and contemporary; immediately appearing a ‘class above’ the more traditionally decorated Indian restaurants in the county.

We were warmly welcomed at the door by Robi (the manager) and taken to our seats. As we walked through, I was pleased to not only see that social distancing measures were in place, but that this had not done anything to destroy the atmosphere. Yes, tables were spread out, dividers were in place and hand sanitiser was readily available, however none of this was to the detriment of the ambience that regular customers have come to expect at Castle Gate.

After ordering some traditional Asian beers, we ate our poppadoms happily whilst perusing the menu. The selection was varied (without being overwhelming) and I made a mental note to tell my vegan friends about the array of delicious looking choices available. As the staff were so friendly, I asked for their recommendations and soon opted for the Fish Onion Roast followed with the Goa Fish Curry; my husband preferring to go for the Slay The Dragon as a starter and the Lamb Lalucha for main. We then ordered a reasonably priced pinot grigio to accompany the dishes.

Our starters were soon brought out and I was delighted by the delectable presentation. I know appearance isn’t everything when it comes to food, but it was great to see the starters delivered in a way that matched the contemporary feel of this newly refurbished restaurant and echoed the dining experiences being provided in award-winning venues like Mint and Mustard. We quickly tuck in and our taste buds were not disappointed. The Fish Onion Roast, which was made up of fried fillets of white fish marinated with southern spices, was flavoursome and well-seasoned. It melted in my mouth and was a wonderful taste experience.  The Slay The Dragon dish, a Mysore delicacy consisting of pineapple flavoured, honey glazed chicken cooked over charcoal in the tandoor, was equally as delicious and the meat was succulent. Both dishes seemed to strike the balance between the modern and authentic Indian dining experience perfectly.

 

After such a great start,  we eagerly awaited the arrival of the main courses. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive. Asides from the Mint and Mustard’s Sea Bass (where the pan fried fish is placed on top of the curry), I had never actually eaten a proper fish curry before. I was unsure what the consistency would be like and I was a bit nervous that it would taste ‘too fishy’ and that I would not be able to enjoy the flavour of the curry itself. It was therefore, with rising trepidation (‘why had I trusted this unknown waiter instead of my own instincts?’) that I took my first mouthful. And quite simply at that point, I was speechless. Despite all my reservations, the Goa Fish Curry was simply scrumptious. Indeed the divine combination of perfectly cooked white fish in a spiced coconut milk on a bed of crushed potatoes and caramelised onions was so moreish that I resented previously agreeing to share it with my other half.

Fortunately, however, this traditional fish curry was not the only appetising item on the table. The peschwari naan and pilau rice were cooked to perfection. Moreover, the succulent lamb (in my husband’s choice of Lamb Lalucha) had been seasoned with an aromatic selection of spices and was tender and succulent.  I could see why this (the chef’s own unique recipe) was such a hit as it was a perfectly balanced curry and the meat had clearly been prepared with great skill. Indeed, whilst my preference was the Goa Fish Curry, my husband was adamant that he had ordered the better dish.  We have decided to agree to disagree on this one!

So how would I rate our dining experience? Well, to be honest, I don’t think I could give anything other than top marks. The food was more flavoursome, the wine was crisp and light and the atmosphere was fantastic. We’ll definitely be heading back. I mean who needs Cardiff, when we have amazing local restaurants like this on our doorstep?

Disclosure: Robi had kindly offered us our meals for free this evening. However, we will definitely be heading back soon and would be more than happy to pay for these fantastic dishes. We paid for our drinks and found they were reasonably priced.

The Big Phill Photo Competition 2020 – The Year of Change and Courage

After the crazy year we’ve had, we’re really looking forward to seeing your entries for The Big Phill Photo Competition 2020!

Our annual photo competition over the last three years has centred on beautiful images of the picturesque county we live in and has helped restore our pride in our wonderful home. However, this year, we’ve decided to change it slightly and focus our competition on this unforgettable year itself, ‘2020 – The Year of Change and Courage’

Therefore, we’re asking you to send in images that illustrate how we’ve all grown, changed and coped the challenges we’ve faced together in 2020. These photographs could focus on an array of areas; including (but not limited to) people delivering food parcels, homeschooling, clapping for the NHS, visiting friends on the their door step, images of babies born and pictures from those daily walks that helped keep us all sane.

This year has changed us. It’s made us think differently, face adversity that we never expected and helped us to really value what is important to us. The craziness isn’t over but hopefully by looking back and recognising what we have overcome so far, we will gain the strength needed to carry on. So let’s celebrate how we’ve kept our heads above water, smiled through the tears and helped each other get through 2020, the strangest year of our existence.

With regards to prizes, unlike previous years, I did not feel comfortable asking small businesses to contribute in a year that has seen them face so much hardship. However, the fantastic Captiva Spa and Kelly Daniel Photography have both kindly offered two wonderful prizes. A Cosy and Snug Christmas Massage for Two  at the delightful Captiva Spa and a free family location photo shoot with the talented Kelly. 

The only other change to the competition is that this year we ask those that enter to purchase just one item from their local high street. I won’t ask for proof of purchase but I would like to use our competition as a way of helping to support our local economy. This is something we will all benefit from.

To enter this year’s competition simply click here to insert a digital image of our on our competition post (The Big Phill Photo Competition 2020 – The Year of Change and Courage).

 

Please see below for our competition rules and prizes:

  1. All entrants must ‘Like’ The Big Phill – Caerphilly Facebook page and ask photographs entered must be images of somewhere in the Caerphilly County Borough.
  2. All photographs must have been taken during this year (2020).
  3. Entrants can submit up to five photos via our Facebook page post (please click here to go through to our Facebook page). Photographs can be in colour or black and white.
  4. Images may be digitally enhanced to remove spots or scratches, but not manipulated. Entrants can enhance the picture to make it brighter, clearer etc, but not manipulate the content.
  5. Entrants are required to purchase an item from their local high street to help support their local economy.
  6. Each entry should be marked with where the photo was taken.
  7. The competition closes at midnight on Friday 14th November.
  8. All entries will be shortlisted on Facebook (details to follow) and then the winner will by judged by a small panel of judges. The prizes will include the winning and runner up photographs becoming the new cover pictures for The Big Phill Facebook page and website and a spa treatment at the fantastic Captiva Spa.
  9. All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe the rights of any other party. The entrants must be the sole owner of copyright in all photographs entered and must have obtained permission of any people featured in the entries or their parents/guardians if children under 16 are featured. Further, entrants must not have breached any laws when taking their photographs.
  10. Prior to submission, entrants must not have offered any of their entries for sale, been paid for any publication of any of their entries or won or been a runner up in any other photographic competition with any of their entries.
  11. Entrants will retain copyright in the photographs that they submit to the competition. By entering the competition all entrants grant to The Big Phill the right to publish and exhibit their photographs on their social media outlets and website.
  12. By entering, entrants will be deemed to have agreed to be bound by these rules.

Tickets to Wales’ major heritage sites available to book from Monday

Cadw has revealed that entry tickets to some of Wales’ most historic castles, abbeys and historic sites,  will be available to book on Monday 3rd August 2020.

The announcement follows recent news that 18 of Cadw’s 25 staffed heritage sites will reopen as part of a phased action plan this summer, The new booking system will be accessible via the Cadw website and will require both Cadw members and general visitors to reserve or purchase time-allotted tickets, no less than 24 hours in advance of their visit.

The ticketed entry process will allow Cadw to manage reduced visitor capacities at its staffed monuments —ensuring a safe and socially distanced experience for visitors and employees alike. This approach will be further reinforced by limited on-site time allowances; with each monument offering either a morning or afternoon slot for each ticketed visitor.

Important Changes

Visitors can expect a number of changes at the sites in question, including the installation of plastic partition screens at entry desks and the placement of directional arrows and distance markers along walkways, as well as the introduction of one-way routes, where required.

New site hygiene measures will include increased cleaning practices across all reopened staffed sites with regular deep cleans scheduled alongside daily disinfection of key touch points; including door handles, railings and interactive screens. Hand sanitiser will also be readily available for visitors to use.

Also initially, the sites will be set up to reopen for five days a week (rather than seven). Additionally, all site entry prices have been reduced to reflect the recently announced reduction in the VAT charged for entry into visitor attractions. With Cadw kindly arranging the full reduction to be passed on to visitors in order to support local tourism economies.

These details will be clearly specified through the online ticketing platform, with all tickets to be site specific and only valid for entry to the monument selected at point of purchase or reservation. For more information please visit Cadw’s FAQ page here.

Cadw Monument Pass holders will need to reserve a free ticket in advance of their visit to their local heritage site. To gain entry, Monument Pass holders must also remember to bring their pass with them as proof of identity.

Site Reopening Dates

During the first week of August (4th-8th),
Plas Mawr, Blaenavon Ironworks and eight spectacular fortresses (including the Castles of Caerphilly, Conwy, Raglan, Laugharne and Harlech)  will be the first to reopen to visitors.,

Conwy Town Walls will then reopen on Saturday,8th August, complete with a new one-way system to ensure public health and safety in line with Welsh Government social distancing guidelines) 

Next in line to reopen are Caernarfon Castle and Beaumaris Castle on Monday, 10th August, followed by Tintern Abbey on Friday 28th.

At both Caernarfon Castle and Tintern Abbey, there will only be access to part of the site due to the need for essential conservation or development works. As a consequence, the admission price to Caernarfon will be reduced by 50% and adults tickets to Tintern are reduced to just £5.

Cadw also hopes that it will be able to reopen Strata Florida Abbey, Valle Crucis Abbey, Criccieth Castle and Cilgerran Castle earlier than the current scheduled re-opening date of Easter 2021.

Additional Information 

At this time, the booking visiting slots will only be available for the staffed sites that are ready to welcome visitors in August. Further sites will be added to the ticketing system as and when they reopen.

Members will only be able to secure free tickets for the number of people included in their membership package and will be required to show their membership card upon arrival (alongside their reserved tickets and booking number).

Similarly, general visitors must reserve a date and time-allotted ticket for every person in their group, (children included) at least 24hrs in advance of their visit. For those without access to the internet, tickets will also be available to book or reserve via telephone on 03000 252 239.m

Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas said, “Complemented by new hygiene measure (and in some instances, site adaptations), this new process will allow for a safe and socially distanced experience for us all. I’m thrilled that the people of Wales and beyond will be able to explore Welsh history again — and I remind everyone to do so safely, respectfully and responsibly.”

For further information on the planned re-opening schedule for Cadw’s staffed heritage sites, visitcadw.gov.wales/a-phased-reopening-our-staffed-heritage-sites, search Cadw on Facebook or follow @CadwWales or @CadwCymru on Twitter.

 

To keep up to date with events in the Caerphilly Country Borough, please head here to follow The Big Phill:

https://m.facebook.com/thebigphilly/?ref=bookmarks

February Half Term 2020 in Caerphilly County Borough

Please see below for a list of events running in Caerphilly Borough this February Half Term!

Pokemon Card Swap Event at Abertridwr Library – February Half Term 2020

Yana and the Yeti at Blackwood Miners’ Institute

Goldilocks Storytelling Trail at Bedwellty House

February Kid Crafts at The Old Library

Football Camp CCBC – February 2020

https://facebook.com/events/s/caerphilly-area/206697147040429/?ti=icl

https://facebook.com/events/s/superheros-in-rudry/476339366386553/?ti=icl

Events at Tredegar House: https://facebook.com/events/s/february-half-term-at-tredegar/1062190164134340/?ti=icl

We would also like to take this opportunity to thanks all the local businesses below who kindly donated prizes to our annual photo competition. Let’s make 2020 the year we all support local businesses more!

The Big Phill Christmas Guide 2019

Whether it’s ice skating in the castle or a festive market, there are so many wonderful things happening in Caerphilly this Christmas that there will be something to suit everyone!

Ystrad Mynach Festive Fayre 2019

Christmas Light Switch On 2019 – Caerphilly Town Centre

Caerphilly By Twilight 2019 in Caerphilly Town Centre

Bargoed Ice Rink 2019

Blackwood Winter Fair

Wind in the Willows at Caerphilly Workmen’s Hall

Aladdin at Blackwood Miners’ Institute

Ice Skating at Caerphilly Castle -December 2019

Caerphilly Christmas Market in Caerphilly Town Centre

A Medieval Christmas 2019 at Caerphilly Castle (including the chance to meet Father Christmas!)

Santa’s Winter Wonderland at Cwmcarn Forest Visitor Centre

Christmas Market at Deri Community Centre

Santa’s Christmas Countdown at Newbridge Memo

River of Light Lantern Workshops at Caerphilly Leisure Centre

River of Light Lantern Parade in Caerphilly Town Centre 2019

 

Need a taxi home afterwards? Then, why not click here and follow 1st Choice Caerphilly Taxis to find out more about their offers and loyalty scheme.

 

 

 

The Big Phill Photo Competition 2019

After the success of 2017 and 2018, we’re really looking forward to this year’s photo competition!

Our annual photo competition helps to show what a beautiful county we live in and our theme for this year is People and Places. We love seeing all of your photographs and cannot wait to see this year’s entries. To enter simply click here to insert a digital image of our beautiful county on to the comment sections of our competition post (The Big Phill Photo Competition).

This year there will be a slight twist as there will be TWO winners for two different categories!

The first will category will be for the best image from a digital camera and the second will be for images captures on a camera phone (so please specify your choice of equipment when you enter your photograph). There will also be two runner ups in each category The two winners will not only get the chance to become The Big Phill’s cover photo (and have their images represent Caerphilly on our website and Instagram), but will also win their first choice from the following prizes:

 

 

Please see below for our competition rules and prizes:

  1. All photographs entered must be images of somewhere in the Caerphilly County Borough.
  2. Entrants can submit up to five photos via our Facebook page post (please click here to go through to our Facebook page). Photographs can be in colour or black and white£
  3. Images may be digitally enhanced to remove spots or scratches, but not manipulated. Entrants can enhance the picture to make it brighter, clearer etc, but not manipulate the content.
  4. Entrants must declare on the Facebook post whether the photo was taken by a camera or a phone. This is because there are two categories.
  5. Each entry should be marked with where the photo was taken.
  6. The competition closes at midnight on Friday 29th November.
  7. All entries will be shortlisted on Facebook (details to follow) and then the two winners and runner ups will by judged by a small panel of judges. Prizes will include the winning photographs becoming the new cover pictures for The Big Phill Facebook page and website as well as a choice of the prizes listed below.
  8. All entries must be the original work of the entrant and must not infringe the rights of any other party. The entrants must be the sole owner of copyright in all photographs entered and must have obtained permission of any people featured in the entries or their parents/guardians if children under 16 are featured. Further, entrants must not have breached any laws when taking their photographs.
  9. Prior to submission, entrants must not have offered any of their entries for sale, been paid for any publication of any of their entries or won or been a runner up in any other photographic competition with any of their entries.
  10. Entrants will retain copyright in the photographs that they submit to the competition. By entering the competition all entrants grant to The Big Phill the right to publish and exhibit their photographs on their social media outlets and website.
  11. By entering, entrants will be deemed to have agreed to be bound by these rules.

Please go here to find out more about the wonderful prizes on offer:

Nicola Downie

Lazy Panda

Love Nature

Stevie Martin Photography

 

 

Everlilly Crafts

Vegan Box

Daz Martin Photography

Beck’s Bakes

Ship Deck

Queen Bee Crafts

Foxy Peach Crafts

Optimum Health and Wellbeing

Frankly Hampers

 

The Big Phill Guide to Halloween 2019 – 16+

  • Here at The Big Phill we don’t see why the children should have all the fun, so here’s a quick guide to all the events for adults this Halloween!

Halloween Special at the Butcher and Ball Dog Cafe

Caerphilly’s Farmers and Artisan Halloween Market

Halloween Party (adults only) at Bryn Meadows

Halloween at Casa Mia Restaurant

Halloween Screamfest at Cwrt Rawlin

The annual ICE Halloween Party & Quiz at Welsh Ice

 

 

Need a taxi home afterwards? Then, why not click here and follow 1st Choice Caerphilly Taxis to find out more about their offers and loyalty scheme.

Are you looking  for events for children?  Then, please click below!

The Big Phill Halloween Guide – Children

 

SALT Kitchen – A Fine Dining Experience at Caerphilly Castle – Review

Like most of us, I love food. So, when I first heard that three MasterChef contestants were holding a fine dining experience at Wales’ largest castle, I was instantly intrigued and determined to find out more about this event and the exciting new catering business – SALT Kitchen.

SALT  Kitchen is run by three food loving chefs called Stephen, Alex and Thomas, who recently met on BBC1’s MasterChef. With a strong desire to cook top restaurant quality food (using the abundance of rich, local ingredients available in our beautiful part of the world), these three chefs are looking forward to hosting an arrange of exciting dining events around the UK; starting with the beautiful Caerphilly Castle.

It was therefore with great excitement that I headed over to this much anticipated event last week.

 

The pop-up fine dining evening was organised in The Great Hall of Caerphilly Castle, which had been beautifully arranged for the evening. We were greeted with a glass of prosecco and were directed expertly to our table. Here we had the opportunity to meet with our friends and some fellow foodies before we all headed up to try some of the scrumptious canapes on offer. It was here that I started to relax. I had been a little worried that with such great cuisine on offer that this might be a stuffy affair, however I was delighted to see that this was going to be a fun evening as well.

Shortly before the food began to arrive, the friendly and efficient waiting staff filled our glasses with the appropriate glass of wine to accompany our first course of fillet of hake on pearl barley risotto Nero and herb emulsion.  I was a little bit nervous about this dish. I had eaten pearl barley risotto before and as I didn’t overly enjoy it, I was unsure what to expect. However, as soon as I tasted a mouthful of the delicious hake with the risotto, I was a complete convert; it was absolutely delicious. The fish had been seasoned perfectly and the pearl barley nero (squid ink) risotto was exquisite. The hardest part here was not to look too greedy and eat it all too quickly, particularly as there was a glass of beautiful dry white wine to enjoy alongside it. This was definitely one of my favourite dishes of the evening.

After the first course, as everyone relaxed we had the opportunity to talk a little more to the other guests on our table. Like us, they loved food and lived locally. They had also eaten in many great restaurants so I was interested in hearing their views on the food. They were also bowled over by the first course and we all agreed how wonderful it would be to see more events like this in Caerphilly.

Therefore, it was with high expectations, that we all looked on as the waiting staff brought over our second course with the accompanying red wine. This dish looked simply beautiful. There was the panko hen yolk (which ran out perfectly when cut into), the delicious fondant potato, the succulent pan-seared duck breast and the tasty surprise of a filo parcel of crispy duck. This meal was delectable and was my husband’s firm favourite.

 

There was a little gap in service between the second and third course, which was perfect to help our first two courses settle. We ordered a bottle of prosecco and I was surprised (and very happy) to discover that it was only £18. With many venues of this stature using events like this to place a ‘mark up’ on alcohol, it was great to see that this was not the case here.

We then quickly moved on to the third course. Although this was the smallest dish of the evening, I have to say that I absolutely loved it. The rhubarb sorbet with the ginger crumb just took me back to my favourite childhood desert. Matched with a beautiful rhubarb flavoured sweet wine this was delicious but still light enough not to ruin our fourth and final dish that  evening; a cocoa bean bombe filled with chocolate mouse and a raspberry core.

When I think back to this course, the only word that comes to mind is ‘Wow!’. Created by Alex (who I later found out was aptly named the Queen of Puddings), every spoonful of this desert was perfect. The crunch of the chocolate, the texture of the mousse, the sharpness of the raspberry… I could wax lyrical about this desert for eternity. The flavours were also enhanced by the sweet, red wine (to my surprise as I always thought I hated desert wines) that was paired with the course.

The evening ended with a fun question and answer session with the three chefs, where it was clear how passionate they were about food and cooking. It was also exciting to find out that I had eaten food prepared by experts, who had not only cooked for some of Britain’s best chefs but pop stars too. I was feeling rather spoiled.

As the evening drew to a close, I had the opportunity of meeting and talking to all three chefs. This had been their first pop-up kitchen and they (quite rightly) were very satisfied with how it had turned out. They have many events planned but are hoping to return to Caerphilly Castle in the future. Stephen Ford, who lives in Caerphilly and does a lot of local charity work (including headlining the infamous Megaday in August), commenting on how much he loved the experience of cooking in such an iconic building and how he longed to bring more fine dining experience to the area.

To find out more about SALT Kitchen and their future events, please head here to follow their page online.

Disclosure: We received a 35% discount to in exchange for the review and the promotion. However, our friends (who are amazing amateur chefs themselves), who paid full price said they felt that the experience was definitely worth the full amount.

Please note that whilst I did not personally try the vegetarian and vegan options, I spoke to another guest later on in the evening, who was  incredibly impressed with the food and said that the creamed asparagus risotto was one of her all time favourite meals.

If you would like to The Big Phill to review your products or services, please click here to head to our Facebook page to contact us.

 

The Big Phill Easter Guide 2019

 

If you’re looking for events this Easter, please check our the range of events below happening within the Caerphilly County Borough Council. Please also find a link to our guide to free events and free places to visit this Easter at the bottom of this post.

Medieval Siege Engine Firing at Caerphilly Castle

Ystrad Mynach Charity Spring Fair

Easter Crafternoons at Caerphilly Castle

Two Day Soccer School with Cardiff City FC Foundation at St Martin’s School

Civil War Comes To Caerphilly Castle

Great Easter Egg Hunt at Cwmcarn Forest

Little Warrior Day at Caerphilly Castle

Charity Fun Day at McDonald’s, Crossways

Baa Baa Yarn Sheep at Cwmcarn Forest

 

 

 

 

Easter Egg Hunt with Henrock Rocks on 28th April between 10-2pm. At Penallta House.

https://www.caerphilly.gov.uk/News/News-Bulletin/April-2019/Hengoed-Rocks-Easter-Egg-Hunt

A pampering LOL Doll Session: https://m.facebook.com/events/281428179472153?acontext=%7B%22ref%22%3A%223%22%2C%22action_history%22%3A%22null%22%7D&aref=3&ref=content_filter

Children golf camps at Bryn Meadows: https://www.brynmeadows.co.uk/meetings-and-events/2019/04/15/childrens-golf-camps/

Easter Egg Hunt at New Tredegar: https://www.familiesonline.co.uk/local/wye-valley-and-vale-of-usk/whats-on/cadbury-easter-egg-hunt-at-tredegar-house-168292

Breakfast  with the Easter Bunny, a Dino Easter Dash and a Princess Pyjama Party at Bedwellty House: https://www.bedwelltyhouseandpark.co.uk/what-s-on

Free Activities during the Easter Holidays!