Your Last Mouthful

Cardiff based food blog

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Cardamom Indian Restaurant- Once upon-a-time there was a fine dining restaurant…

I seem to have been invited to a string of Indian restaurants over the past few weeks of which I will be reviewing in turn. The first in line is Cardamom Indian Restaurant in Canton’s Victoria Park.

Having never been to Cardamom before, I was intrigued after reading the description on their website:

‘…the award-winning Indian restaurant, in the heart of Cardiff, continues to be instrumental in changing perceptions of the subcontinent’s cuisine. With its amazing service and prices there is no better that the Cardamom when it comes to Indian cuisine in Cardiff. The restaurant offers a sophisticated fine dining experience with effortlessly charming staff, discrete service and tantalising food that few can compete with.’

Reading this I got very excited. How had I overlooked this one? To top things off, it is named after one of my all-time favourite ingredients.

We visited Cardamom on a Wednesday evening which is a relatively quiet night in even the best restaurants. However, we were pleased to see that we would not be dining alone as there were four other parties already seated when we arrived. Staff were very welcoming and efficient in showing us to our seats. Before we had even looked at the menu our drinks orders were placed.

Taking in our surroundings, it wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The decor was a bit tired with veneer peeling off the tables and some faint curry stains. The painted walls looked as though they could have used a touch up but there were echoes of superior quality with classy spotlights and high backed chairs. The bar area was also very attractive but all in all, it just looked like it needed some TLC and didn’t scream ‘fine dining’ as described, although it was clear that it had once upon-a-time.

The menu was very substantial and offered some interesting dishes. For starters I chose an unusual Chicken and Pasta Balti and Mr V went for the Mas Biran (a fillet of fish rubbed with spicy paste and fresh dill, sizzled in mustard oil). My pasta dish worked surprisingly well. I was asked whether I would like it mild, medium or hot and I was pleased that it was hot like I had ordered. So often ‘hot’ seems to mean ‘a little above mild for the delicate Westerner’.

Although nice, my starter did seem rather out-of-place on the menu that boasts authentic dishes. As Cardamom is a more traditional establishment than a fusion restaurant it seemed like a strange addition. Mr V’s fish was very good. It was nicely cooked with a subtle flavour. Our starters came with some deliciously tasty mint and tamarind sauces which were both homemade.

For our mains we chose Lamb Anawaka (lamb tikka with ground spices, tomatoes and green peppers) and Snapper Fish Masala. The stand out dish of the night was the lamb. It was cooked beautifully and had real depth of flavour served with chunky mushrooms and peppers.

The tender snapper was well cooked but the sauce was a touch bland and very oily. The accompanying garlic naan was very good.

Presentation wise, the dishes were that of a standard Indian restaurant rather than a fine dining establishment. Our starters were on plain white plates that were adorned with colourless salad and a slice of lemon. It didn’t reflect fine dining but then again, neither did the prices which were more than reasonable. Our starters only cost £4.50 each and our mains were well priced too.

Moving onto dessert, I was pleased to see quite an extensive menu including a number of home-made dishes. We ordered a coconut samosa and a pastishapta which was a pancake filled with a coconut filling.

The desserts were definitely value for money as they were very substantial. However, the pancake filling was very dry not as sweet as I would expect a dessert to be. It came with cream but that did seem like a strange accompaniment.

All in all, we had very mixed feelings about Cardamom. It has won lots of awards and have some confident statements on their website so expectations were high and it just didn’t hit the mark. An article in the Guardian in 2005 spoke of well dressed crowds and a ‘chic eatery’ but this isn’t the impression we got. Much of the good press highlighted on their website and the awards were several years ago and it seems that Cardamom has lost its way a little.

As an Indian restaurant, it is very good but it is not what I would describe as ‘fine dining’ and this is what Cardamom claims to be. It may seem that I am being harsh but I review restaurants on what they profess to be and Cardamom claim to offer ‘a fine dining experience’. Had this not been the case and I would have awarded a green spoon for quality of food but if they are marketing themselves as fine dining, they just fall short.

My Last Mouthful was: Lamb Anawaka

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For more reviews of local food, competitions and news please take a look at the website- yourlastmouthful.com

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The Park House – A gourmet meal to impress

Guest Review by Mr V

Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the VIP/Press launch of the Park House with head chef Jon Edwards and Michelin starred consultant chef Roger Jones. Knowing the standard the Park House aspires to and the quality of the new chef and consultant chef, I was very excited about the evening ahead.

I arrived at the listed and grand building and was welcomed with a glass of sparkling – A 2008 Del Fin del Mundo Extra Brut, Patagonia, Argentina – and a lovely Vietnamese roll canapé; a small wrap filled with lobster, crevettes and spices.

After a little mingling outside in the cool evening air we were summoned in to be seated at the large banqueting table and awaited the next 8 courses with matched wine.

First up was the cured wild sewin with smoked halen mon sea salt and fresh horseradish. A delicate, soft fish that melted in the mouth, with a sharpness from the wild garlic flower, it was a very pleasant entry to the evening although I didn’t get the horseradish coming through – possibly overridden by the garlic flower, but lovely all the same. This was accompanied with a 2010 Johnny Q Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, Australia – a soft wine matching the food very well. This wine was also for the next course.

After the fish we were then served a wild garlic and Wye Valley asparagus risotto with a pea jus. This was delicious – very fresh tasting with al dente asparagus and a slight crunch in the rice. With the bright greens and the white of the risotto it was a very appealing dish to look at as well as devour. Sadly wanting to dive in with immediate effect I forgot to take a photo.

Next up is, I believe, the chef’s favourite – the Little Haven lobster fish finger with ketchup. Certainly a delight to look at, it was fresh lobster meat rolled into a thin piece of crispy fried bread and served with a tomato sauce. It had a nice crispy outer and soft meat in the middle making it a fun and tasty little dish. This was served a 2008 Treasures Chardonnay, Padthaway, Australia.

The next dish was a caramelised Kelmscott pork with chilli squid. A juicy square of pork and lovely, perfectly cooked squid with a gentle kick of spice. A combination I haven’t really come across before but it worked excellently. I prefer my pork belly a little more soft and ‘melt in your mouth’ but was still delicious but for me the chilli squid stole the show on that plate – an absolute delight! This was paired with a 2005 Saumur Vieilles Vignes, Langlois-Chateau, Loire, France – a wine with body and strong flavours matching up to the richness of the pork and spice of the squid – a very pleasant wine.

The next dish was in my view the best of the evening. It was a carpaccio of Roe Venison, Fois Gras, Bara Brith served with a fig chutney and a caramel from reduced 1927 PX sherry. I was already looking forward to this from the moment I read the menu. When it arrived I smiled even more as the carpaccio was about 6mm thick – two beautiful, tender pieces of rare venison that had been gently seared just around the edge. The caramel sherry and fig chutney and – unexpectedly- the bara brith were superb accompaniments, not to the mention the delicious fois gras torte. The highlight of my evening. This was all matched with a 2006 Del fin del Mundo Gran Reserva, Patagonia, Argentina – a pleasant red not overpowering the venison.

Last of the savoury dishes was an asian style shin and oxtail of highland beef and a taka dhal – ‘made by a Welshman’ – with some mint yoghurt on the side. I love my spicy food and this was good. The beef fell apart as you breathed on it and the level of spice in the very tasty dahl was just right. The mint yoghurt was a nice addition as it brought about more freshness to the dish. The wine that was paired, in my view, was the best match I’ve had with a dish. The flavours of the wine seemed to create a fluid, natural progression in flavours in the mouth – like the final chapter of a well written novel. The wine was a 2008 Treasures Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonwarra, Australia.

Now for desserts. The next course simply stated ‘Boiled Egg’. With no description I knew this was bound to be a lovely tasty little surprise. And it certainly was. Served in an egg cup it was a mango puree with crème anglais topped with a sticky sweet meringue and served with a soldier of shortbread. A delight to look at and a delight to eat.

The final course was a coconut panna cotta with Mojito sorbet. A good way to end the meal with a freshness of the sorbet – icy cold with fresh mint – and the slippery texture of the panna cotta with small pieces of mango and chilli to give a little bite to it. This was all washed down with a cocktail of Mojito itself. Chin chin!

Overall the food was excellent – stylish, tasty and making good use of high quality products. This is a fine dining establishment with building and food to match and I’m sure that the new head chef Jon and consultant chef Roger will be an invaluable addition to the venue.

For a similar gourmet tasting menu, they charge £59.00 per person plus £25.00 for matched wine with each course. If you order from the a la carte menu, the starters are £10, mains £26 and desserts £7.

For more information on menus and prices please browse the Park House Website.

Our previous  reviews can also be read on our website www.yourlastmouthful.com

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The Park House – The Finest of Dining

Reviewed by Mr. V

We arrived at the grand Grade 1 listed building of the Park House, walked up to the large wooden doors and on entry were greeted by the head waiter. Our coats were kindly taken from us and hung up. We entered the Penderyn bar area where we sat on leather sofas, ordered an aperitif and perused the a la carte menu. Service was precise and efficient. The beer on offer was either welsh lager or welsh ale which I’m very pleased with. To have local produce, rather than a well marketed, over-priced lager from the continent is always a good thing.

We made our choices, ordered the food and were shown to our table in the main restaurant area. Again the interior – being a listed building – was grand with a large fire place and stone mantle, polished paneled wooden cladding on the walls and a grand piano sitting in the corner. We went on a Thursday night but on Fridays and Saturdays they have a pianist for more sophisticated background music which we would have enjoyed as it was very quiet but the ambience was pleasant with low-lighting, candles and soft background music.

Straight away after our wine was opened, we were given some white and brown crusty rolls with butter and a jug of water.

Mrs. V went for the carpaccio of beetroot to start which came with arancini, griddled radicchio, pumpkin seeds and marc vinegar. Very pleasant combination of flavours, fresh and a good way to start a meal.

I went for the Jerusalem Artichoke Bisque with fresh crab, ginger and hazelnut oil. This was very tasty, with plenty of crab meat in the smooth, creamy bisque, you could taste the quality and perfect blend of flavours with none being overpowering to the other. A very good dish.

Jerusalem artichoke bisque

Onto the mains, Mrs. V had the sake marinated white fish with laver butter and lightly pickled vegetables. The fish was perfectly cooked with the lovely taste of sake running through it and the vegetable pickled just enough to be a friendly companion and a good contrast to the laver butter.

I had the Welsh Fresh Sea Bass with parsley root, chicken glace and grapes. With the smart presentation, the fish was very well cooked and went very well with the chicken glace and grapes. It was also a good size, not too much, not too little. It was all quite soft in texture, apart from the skin of the fish, but in my humble opinion I do like to have a bit more textural contrast in a dish.

For desserts, Mrs. V went for the Mahogany Chocolate Tart with cardamom rice milk sorbet and a beetroot crisp. This was very good, especially the cardamom sorbet and also the beetroot crisp giving the dish another dimension.

Being a fan of Sharon fruit – and its not often you see it on a menu – I went for the Honey Glazed Sharon Fruit with yoghurt mousse, walnuts and pomegranate. Presented superbly on a lovely piece of slate and with the yoghurt in a small separate jar it was very nice. Good combinations of taste with honey linking it altogether, the yoghurt mousse was very smooth and light making it a good ending to a sophisticated meal.

sharon fruit

Price wise, considering the standard of every aspect of the fine dining experience, it was good. Starters ranged from £7 to £11 and the mains from £15 to £32. The wine list was also impressive with quite a vast range in price but is only what you would expect from a fine dining establishment.

Overall it was a pleasant experience, efficient and very well presented staff, fine food and grand surroundings making for a good romantic, sophisticated evening.

My Last Mouthful was:  Jerusalem Artichoke Bisque with fresh crab

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The Park House- A secret that needs to be shared!

Grady Atkins (formerly from Le Gallois) has recently taken over at the Park House as head chef and Mr. V and I were invited along to a night of sampling his signature dishes!

I had been to the Park House only once before for a wedding and the food was very good but I was very excited to sample some of Grady’s cooking. The evening kicked off with canapes and cocktails in the bar before we were shown to the dining area where we were all seated around a large round table- very grand!

After a few words from Managing Director Adam Pledger about what was to follow and the wine we would be sampling with each course,  the first course arrived- Charles McLeod Boudin Noir (onsen egg, smoked mushy peas and foie gras sauce). Beautifully presented, what might be considered ingredients for a fry up were brought up to fine dining standard with the beautiful foie gras sauce and subtle smokiness of the peas. The black pudding was the best I have ever tasted- absolutely heavenly and I’m not even a huge fan of black pudding.

More wine was poured and we moved onto the next course which was also my favourite of the seven!- Miso Marinated Whiting with picked vegetables and larver butter.  The fish was marinated beautifully and cooked to perfection. The miso was subtle and delicious as was the lava butter whose salty flavours worked well with the rest of the dish.

Fish course

The wine continued to flow and we were introduced to the main course- Richard Vaughan’s Middle White Pork, sweet and sour shallots with lapsang glazed vegetables.  Pork belly is always a hit with me and I enjoyed this dish although it was probably my least favourite of the night. The sweet and sour shallot was very good but I wasn’t so sure about the tea soaked vegetables. Maybe if the standard of the other dishes wasn’t so high, this one would have had more of an impact but the rest were divine!

Meat course

After a short break to let the food go down, we had Organic Hafod Cheddar served with white truffle honey and oat cakes. The sweetness of the honey complimented the salty cheese, very enjoyable. However, the star of this course was the wine! I don’t profess to know wine at all, in fact, I am pretty useless when it comes to wine but I could tell this one was special.

Cheese course

After the cheese, we were brought a pre dessert of Lemon Granite with lemon curd. By this point, I was starting to get disappointed because the meal was coming to a close! Savory courses are my thing and they had left me wanting more!

However dessert,  a buttermilk ce cream with honeycomb, Pedro Ximinez sherry and apple puree, served with a glass of Ximinez was next on the agenda. The sherry was sensational and I have since stocked up for Christmas! The dessert was beautifully presented in a small jar. It was very pleasant with the crunch of the honeycomb against the softness of the ice cream. I could only taste a hint of the sherry so I was very pleased to have the glass to accompany it.

Dessert

Last but by no means least was the most delicious  milk chocolate and sour caramel truffle! My only complaint about this course is that I could have eaten 10! If these were sold by the box I would have indulged!

Overall, I thought the meal was excellent. As these were signature dishes, they did not come with prices but each one will be incorporated into one of The Park House’s menus. The Park House has a reputation for being a bit inaccessible. It is often perceived to be a members only club but this is not the case. There is an option of membership but it is open to the general public to dine and I highly recommend it. The Park House is a secret that needs to be shared! There are many excellent places to eat in Cardiff but they are lacking in the city centre and I think the Park House could be up there with the best of them.

From higher priced fine dining experiences like the Taster Menus for £59 per head  to a 2 course lunch menu for £9, the Park House has something for everyone and I think this is a wonderful concept. In such a beautiful setting, it’s easy to feel spoilt in the beautiful Grade 1 listed building. Staff are attentive, the atmosphere is relaxed but formal and with Grady Atkin’s on board, the food lives up to the grand exterior.

My Last Mouthful was: The Miso Marinated Whiting

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The New Mulberry Street Menu- This is a Must!

Mulberry Street is located in the gorgeous and affluent Llandaff which is the perfect setting for a restaurant offering this level of fine dining. As you will probably notice, this is my second review of Mulberry Street and that is because it just keeps getting better and better and I love to shout about food this good when I find it!

I last visited Mulberry Street in January so I thought it was about time I went along to sample their new menu. I highly advise you to do the same because it is fantastic! There is a choice between the A La Carte menu and a menu of little dishes. We decided to try the little dishes as that way, we were able to sample more of the menu. The ‘little’ dishes really aren’t that little. Six between the two of us was ample and cost us less than ordering a main and a starter from the A La Carte menu.

It was very difficult to decide what we wanted as there is a healthy selection to choose from. The dishes are clearly very carefully designed for the spring and summer as they are all very light and fresh and use vegetables that are in season. My favourite dish was the Soup of the Day, White Onion and Thyme. It was absolutely gorgeous, so full of flavour. I love onion soup but it wasn’t your typical french onion style, it was very smooth and the subtle flavour of thyme with the onion was lovely. I also highly recommend the Pork Hock Terrine with Homemade piccalilli. This was very unusual and seriously moreish. The pork was so tender and the sweet piccalilli complimented it perfectly.

The food in Mulberry Street always arrives at the table like little works of art. I’m not talking about a bit of salad garnish either. The bowls and plates are various shapes and each dish can incorporate more than one bit of crockery. We chose a black pudding and lava bread salad which was so beautifully presented with the lava bread arranged around the edge, even the salad was neat! I love that so much care is taken with the presentation. It really adds to the appeal. To me the presentation of the food is really important and it makes all the difference. Our lamb dish came on a bed of puy lentils. You know you’re in for a treat when your meat is on a ‘bed’ of something. This may sound a little on the pretentious side but it’ s not at all. The prices are good, the food is great and presented beautifully which shows that the chef cares about what’s on the plate and is proud of his creations.

It is these little touches that really sets Mulberry Street apart from other restaurants. Even our haddock risotto was perfectly presented and this isn’t easy to do as risotto very often just looks like its been slopped on the plate even if you have taken great care. This risotto was presented beautifully and finished with a poached quails egg on the top. The desserts looked like they were straight out of Masterchef and were equally as delicious as the rest of the meal.

For me, a dining experience isn’t just about the food and the atmosphere at Mulberry Street on this Friday night was as exquisite as the food. It is very relaxed and friendly yet still lets you know that you are going to be served some upmarket cuisine. I think this is a very difficult balance to strike. The decor is sophisticated and stylish and the owner and staff are very welcoming. They seemed to know most of the people that came in while we were there which can only be a good sign if they keep coming back.

I love Mulberry Street and think the chef here creates some of the best food in Cardiff. It is a great place for lunch and an evening meal and they often have some very reasonable lunch deals. They also have a wheat and gluten-free menu which is a great addition and they are running some vegetarian nights with a fantastic menu. The next one is tomorrow. Have a look at the menu and get down there!

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