Looks can be deceiving. I would suppose if you travelled back in time and took a gander at Albert Einstein, you wouldn’t of thought twice about branding one of the greatest minds of our time a crackpot loon who looks like he’s just rolled out of bed. Or on your first viewing of Taken, you wouldn’t be mistaken for thinking those French blokes at the airport are just charming young gents offering girls a lift, when in fact they are wolves in sheep’s clothing and have much more sinister things in mind for their damsels in distress. Spit and Sawdust can also be added to this list.
Although the social enterprise, situated on Rhmney Bridge Road, with its diy décor and menu scrawled across a discarded door, is certainly not a kidnapper in disguise, it is without a shadow of a doubt, a genius in the kitchen but could easily be labeled as a disused warehouse. Many hungry punters might also stick their nose up to somewhere that serves fast food and has the dreaded ‘spit’ in their name, or serves veggie burgers and has the word ‘sawdust’ in there too, but their burgers, made from the finest ingredients, are things of sheer joy.
At first glance you wouldn’t think that the indoor skate park is home to one of the city’s finest arrays of burgers, but it is. And if you don’t believe me, take a look at this review by The Plate Licked Clean and myself as part of our Cardiff Ultimate Burger quest here!
One of Cardiff’s most exciting new spaces for the kickflipping, ollying, board sliding youth of today, Spit and Sawdust is the brainchild of Christian Hart and Nia Metcalfe and has been a long time in the making.
“It all came about through a conversation with our friends at City Surf,” explained Nia. “Christian was chatting to them about the potential of starting to run skateboarding lessons as there were so many parents going into the shop asking if they knew of anyone who taught it.”
It soon became obvious however that the idea wouldn’t work due to the lack of skating space to teach in, as well as being outside and thus being weather dependent. Faced with the dilemma of having nowhere else to teach, the only thing that was left to do was open up their own indoor skate park.
“We chatted about it for a few months on and off, not really imagining we’d actually do it. We had all sorts of aspirations and started adding the idea of the café and art programme,” said Nia. “We wanted to make it a social and community space, where you could come even if you weren’t into skating and this gave rise to the development of the café too. The more we talked and planned it the more it seemed possible and the more excited and motivated we got to actually start fundraising and make it happen.”
That was two years ago but it’s finally here and Nia and Christian are stamping their mark on the capital’s burgeoning burger scene that is dominated by the likes of Got Beef, The Grazing Shed and Urban Tap House as well as new boys Burger & Lobster.
Now in full swing, the park’s café is grilling up an eclectic range of burgers from the aptly named Huge to The Smoke, as well as veggie options and a roster of sides that would make a dodecahedron green with envy including fried pickles, skin on fries and onion rings that are battered to orde, although it all happened by accident.
“We didn’t consciously set out to be part of Cardiff’s burger scene,” they said, “it just kind of happened.
“We started out making lots of different things, mainly snacks such as scotch eggs, little savoury pastries and quiches, griddled wraps and sandwiches, but it was our burgers that everyone bought so we decided that with such a small kitchen we should focus on doing one thing (burgers), and try to do that as well as we could,” they continued.
After sinking your teeth into their bronzed brioche, baked locally by Allens (who also bake the buns for Slow Pig and Hogwurst) and their bashfully pink free-range patty and you’ll be glad that they did, and your wallet will be even more thrilled when you see their affordable prices, set to compete with the neighbouring glare of those golden arches.
“A big motivation is to prove that you can serve homemade, ethically sourced food from local producers on a budget that pretty much everyone can afford,” explained Christian, a former support worker for adults with learning difficulties and mental health problems, and Nia, a freelance artist and waitress. “We are in competition with the dreaded McDonalds when it comes to our younger customers as they are our nearest neighbours, but when we get kids ordering chips from us and saying how much better they are, and we talk to them about the difference between the ingredients we use and those of our ’competitors’ it’s really rewarding when they say how much better our food tastes because of it.
We try to keep things simple and make sure there is a range of combinations on the menu to suit all tastes. Offering vegetarian and vegan burgers that are on an equal par to the meat options is also really important to us,” they added, but offering indulgent burger combos isn’t the only thing that the pair endeavors o achieve with their food offerings.
In a world, and neighbourhood, dominated by anemic looking fries, soggy buns and place mat looking burger patties sourced from God knows which part of the cow, or horse, and from God knows which part of the world, Spit and Sawdust strive to source as much as they can locally and utilise the great products on offer in our city.
“There’s just no excuse for factory farming in our opinion,” they said. “We couldn’t morally open a café that used meat from farms where animal welfare wasn’t paramount… Even if people don’t care about the farming practices, they recognize that organic meat tastes better and that it’s better for them without all the chemicals and hormones.
“It’s also really important to support local producers, where what you spend makes a difference, rather than big companies. We are a small local organization and we want people to support us by coming here. It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t try to do the same in return.
But as well as hunting high and low for their suppliers across the city, the pair have their sights set on producing some of their own products, starting with home grown salad plants when spring comes around, homemade ice cream come summer, as well as further exploring the avenue of veggie and vegan burgers, not to mention a fish burger with mushy peas and their impressive selection of cakes.
So why don’t you make it your New Year’s resolution for 2015 to not only judge a book by a cover, but to also support a great local business by heading to Spit and Sawdust for one of the best burgers you’ll ever try in Cardiff.