Your Last Mouthful

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A vegetarian meal at Laguna Kitchen and Bar

Review by Mr V

Last week along with a couple of other foodies, I was very kindly invited to sample a 3 course vegetarian meal at one of my favourite restaurants, the Laguna Kitchen and Bar in the Park Plaza Hotel. The reason being was because last week was vegetarian week. Being an enthusiastic carniverous being I thought it would be interesting to dine without the delicious cooked flesh of a dead animal upon my plate – although before I left my house I did slip a cold chicken leg into my pocket… just as a comfort thing…

So first up, we had a selection of very nicely presented chefs canapes. There were small crispy potato cones, half with potato mousse, chilli and mint and the other half with chickpea puree and tomato and garnished with a small herby leaf. Being a hot summery day they seemed very apt. We also had a chilled gazpacho and a small salad comprising of samphire, Wye Valley asparagus, fresh peas and lemon served in a chicory leaf. All were very fresh and appetizing.

For the first course we had Heirloom tomato, buffalo mozzarella and avocado salad with greek basil and Elanthy extra virgin olive oil. Lovely soft and ripe green, yellow and red tomatoes were served just below room temperature which is how they should be and together with all the other elements the dish tasted very healthy and fresh.

The main course was excellent. Pea, shallot and ricotta tortelloni with baby spinach, broad beans and a pea puree. As well as being an enthusiastic meat eater, I am also an enthusiastic pea eater! The main taste of the dish was the fresh pea taste which simply made me smile. The pasta was well cooked, veg was nice and crunchy and everything worked very well together. The bright green colours also made the dish very visually appealing. Although a touch on the heavy side, overall I very much enjoyed the dish in terms of its taste, textures and appearance and didn’t feel in any way it could’ve done with a bit of chicken on the side.

For dessert we were served a flourless orange and almond cake with rosewater fruits and jersey cream. A gluten free dessert which tasted lovely.  Often gluten free products can be a little dry or dense but this was no different to any other well made cake. It was very moist and light, lots of orange running through it,  a generous helping of good quality thick Jesery cream and with the fruits along side it, it made a fresh and great way to end a meal.

Overall I was very impressed with the vegetarian meal, I wasn’t actually expecting to be so full afterwards, but full I was and all courses were very fresh and tasty proving that the vegetarian option on the menu is just as good a choice as all the others.

That evening, my wife found a chicken leg in my pocket. She thought it was strange I hadn’t eaten it…

We have a website with another review for Laguna Kitchen and Bar, click here to read it at www.yourlastmouthful.com

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Mercure Cardiff Holland House – A four star hotel with food to match!

Review by Mr V

Last week Mrs V and I were asked to review the Hodges Restaurant of the four star hotel, Mercure Cardiff Holland House. We arrived at the clean, marble clad hotel lobby and followed signs up to the first floor where the restaurant is situated. Through the bar area and into the restaurant, the barman showed us to the tables next to the large windows where we could people watch down onto Newport Road.

The decor was quite typical of a hotel restaurant, smart, stylish with patterned carpet and low level background music but very pleasant. It was a thursday night and was very quiet but apparently it does get very busy from Friday, through the weekend, even with non-guests.

The waiter came over, introduced himself and presented us with our menus. A first class waiter who instantly made us feel comfortable and welcome as he was friendly and jovial.

First for the starters. I opted for the prawn and crayfish salad, with cucumber salsa and micro herbs (£6.00). My guilty pleasure (amongst many…) is enjoying a massive bowl of prawn cocktail so I thought I’d order it and see how they get away from the ‘it’s just a prawn cocktail‘ response. Presented very nicely with a generous amount of crayfish tails and prawns wrapped in a long slice of cucumber, it was light and fresh with nice textures. There was a touch of marie rose sauce but was seperate to the prawns and crayfish tails. With the micro herbs and cucumber salsa it was a very pleasant way to start a meal – and not a cocktail remark in sight.

Mrs V had the bubble and squeak with poached hens egg and hollandaise sauce (£5.00). The knife went in and the yolk spilled out – a moment all foodies must enjoy… The bubble and squeak had a nice outer crispness which balanced nicely with the creamy sauce and egg. Nicely presented and very tasty.

Onto the mains. I went for the pan fried calves liver served with fondant potatoes, green beans and a caramalised red onion jus (£15.00). Perfectly cooked liver – very tender, al dente green beans and well cooked potatoes. Everything went well together, the sauce was just about strong enough to stand its ground againts the strong flavour of the liver but not so much as to overpower everything else. Overall a very nice dish.

Mrs V went for the market fish of the day which was grey mullet and was served with asparagus, spring onion mashed potato and sundried tomato butter (£14.50). The fish was cooked just right, a bit of crunch on the asparagus and lovely smooth mashed potato. It was a very good dish indeed – it hit all the right notes but sadly the potato was cold. When a dish is as good as that its very disappointing to have just a small factor mar the overall result. However, it was still very enjoyable.

Lastly, the desserts. Surprisingly the waiter gave us the menus again and then stressed that we should avoid the ‘taste of raspberries’ dessert. I thought he was just having a bit of a joke with us but he really wasn’t! Apparently the menu is decided by head office somewhere far, far away and despite the chef and staff asking for it be taken off it was still there – resulting in the waiter having to say that not all the items on the menu are good. When the chef is clearly very good it’s a great shame that his voice isn’t listened to.

Anyway, I went for the peach and nectarine tarte tatin with honey mascapone and butterscotch sauce (£6.00). Nicely presented, lovely honey mascapone making a good companion to the peach and nectarine.

Mrs V went for the lemon bombe (£6.00). This was a lemon meringue, with a berry compot and a small bundle of candy floss. Nicely presented with the candyfloss sat on top and a white chocolate stick sticking out of the candyfloss, envoking memories of childhood days at the fairground. It’s ceratinly nice to have something a little bit different!

Overall, the food was good and well priced. The atmosphere was hard to judge as it was very quiet but decor was warm and inviting. and despite being on the first floor of a hotel, it was still a nice place to come in off the street to have a good meal.

My last mouthful was: The bubble and squeak

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For more reviews, foodie news, competitions and the Green Spoon Directory, please see our website at www.yourlastmouthful.com

Park Plaza- Quality at a Very Reasonable Price!

Following a very enjoyable evening at one of Park Plaza’s Supper Club’s, Mr V and I were invited back to The Laguna Kitchen and Bar sample the A La Carte menu. We were very excited to see what was on offer, especially as Park Plaza recently won an award in the South Wales Echo Food and Drink Awards.

We entered through the bar area and were greeted at the door. The restaurant is very large but there were lots of diners and we were seated close together so it didn’t feel uncomfortably big. The lighting was low so it still felt intimate and cosy.

The restaurant itself has an upmarket feel, in keeping with the hotel in general. Contempory shelving housing an array of wine bottles covers one end of the room and at the other end is an open kitchen. This is well designed because it allows you to see the kitchen and what is going on but it is set back a bit so that you ca never sit so close that you feel like you’re in it.

We settled down and the waiter arrived with bread and oil which is always a welcome touch and our wine was brought over and poured. As we browsed the menu, we were very surprised at the prices. There was a good range of dishes and they were very reasonably priced. I didn’t imagine them to be over priced but for such a nice restaurant, creating the upmarket atmosphere that it did, I was expecting prices to be higher.

We took a while to choose our starters, mainly because we wanted the same thing. On this occasion Mr V won and ordered the dish of Black Figs, Prosciutto, Parmesan and Rocket with Balsamic Vinegar. It was absolutely beautiful. So simple but the flavours were wonderful. Each mouthful gave a burst of sequential flavours, starting with the sweetness of the figs followed by a great contrast of the ham and balsamic and finished with the saltiness of the parmesan. Delicious!

My Ham Hock and Parsley Terrine was very good too. It was softer than some I have tried and I could really taste the parsley so it wasn’t just in there for effect. A sharp but sweet piccalilli worked well as an accompaniment.

Impressed with the starters, we were expecting good things from main and we weren’t disappointed. I chose the Sea Bass with Pumpkin Gnocchi, Pak Choi and Sweet Chilli. The fish was beautifully cooked with a crispy skin and a soft flakey body. This dish had some unusual flavour combinations but the Italian gnocchi and Asian spices worked very well together.

Mr V had Cod with Crab Mash and a Butter and Herb Sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked. It was tender and juicy and worked in harmony with the flavoursome crab mash and the sauce was simple but full of flavour. Very enjoyable indeed.

Dessert is my least favourite course in a meal but when I got to dessert menu I was thrown because I had to choose between one of my absolute favourites, creme brulee or a chocolate torte which I have really come to enjoy recently and this one swung it for me because it came with vanilla mascarpone. Mr V chose the creme brulee.

The Chocolate Torte was beautifully presented and was lovely but it was very rich and I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t finish it. Mr V helped me out though.

The vanilla creme brulee was very good too. It arrived in a shallow round dish to allow for maximum crunch. This excited me greatly because usually once you break into a creme brulee the top is gone in two mouthfuls.

We were very impressed with the Park Plaza. The quality of the food and atmosphere were excellent and the prices were very good for such a high standard of food. My main was £16 and Mr V’s was less which was very good for what we had and compared to other restaurants in the area that serve a lower quality of food for a similar price. Desserts were only £5 which really is an excellent price for what we were served.

I think that the Park Plaza might seem out of reach to some people. It has the air of somewhere expensive and so may be disregarded by some as out of their price range but if you were thinking this, you will be pleasantly surprised. In such a great location, it is a real contender for a quality option in the City Centre. Where the restaurant scene is dominated by chains, this is a great alternative and comes with my recommendation.

My Last Mouthful was: Black figs, prosciutto, parmesan and rocket with balsamic vinegar.

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Supper Club at the Park Plaza

Following their recent award as Best General Restaurant in The South Wales Echo Food and Drink Awards, Park Plaza have been enjoying some local praise so Mr V and I were pleased to be invited along to the launch of their new ‘Supper Club’. Supper Club is being held once a month at the Laguna Kitchen and Bar and will be an evening pairing food with certain well known drinks. The first Supper Club was entitled ‘An evening with Cloudy Bay’ and paired four courses with four glasses of the renowened Cloudy Bay wine.

Fellow food bloggers Hannah (Lovetodine) and Nicki of Cardiffbites and ther partners were also invited along and we were seated on the same table so we had some good company for the evening. Those attending the Supper Club were seated close together with a Cloudy Bay expert on hand to explain the wine that accompanied each course. The restaurant was still open to diners choosing from the A La Carte menu so it was quite a low key affair.

The evening was kicked off with a starter of Welsh Beef Fillet Carpaccio, Aged Parmesan, Micro Rocket and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This was accompanied by a glass of Pelorous Sparkling which was a fine way to set things off. The wine complimented the starter which was nicely presented. The flavours worked well together and the parmesan was especially nice but the beef needed a bit more seasoning to bring out its full flavours.

For the our second course we had a Free Range Chicken, Fennel and Chick Pea Ballontine, Spiced Carrot and Coconut Sauce and Couliflower Samosas. This was the best course of the night and as well as being beautifully presented, it balanced all the complex flavours perfectly. The chicken was moist and tender and the sauce was beautifully sweet and mildly spiced. The cauliflower samosa was the star of the show. We were all very impressed that what sounded like a accompaniment turned out to be the best thing we ate.

The wine that accompanied the dish (a Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc) was also very well received. It was my favourite of the night and one I will most certainly be buying again and have done in the past.

After just enough of a break, we were onto our next course, Smoked Haddock and Spring Onion Risotto with a Soft Boiled Egg and Curry Oil. This is apparently Laguna Bar and Kitchens signature dish and it was very enjoyable. It was light and creamy and I loved the addition of the egg. This dish is definitely something I would order again as I love risotto. The accompanying wine was a Cloudy Bay Chardonnay which again was beautiful and worked well with the fish.

Feeling satisfied, we were looking forward to dessert but unfortunately, the dessert was savoury apart from a pear. We had a Walnut and Raisin Bruschetta, Red Wine Poached Pear and Gorgonzola Dolce. While very nice, we were disappointed not to end with something sweet. The Bruschetta sounded as though it was going to be sweet but it was definitely savoury and while I enjoyed the pear, it just didn’t satisfy my dessert craving. This course was accompanied by a Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir.

All in all, we had a very good night. The food was mostly excellent, the wine was fantastic and the setting was great. As the night was billed as a ‘club’ we were expecting a bit more interaction with other diners who we didn’t actually meet. I can understand that it would have been difficult as the restaurant was also open to diners who weren’t involved in the club but I think that more could be done to make it feel more ‘club like’. We could have had an area to mingle and have a drink together before the meal or we could have been seated on larger tables so it felt more exclusive and inclusive.

I also felt that as the evenings are arranged largely round the drink of the night, in this case Cloudy Bay, it might be better to market the nights as wine tasting events with food rather than the other way around. I love Cloudy Bay so I would have been just as excited to attend a wine tasting event with a meal as to accompany it as a supper club with wine.

The Park Plaza have told us that they have taken our comments on board and as this is the first Supper Club event, I think it went very well and there is still time to make a few tweaks to make it perfect. I would certainly go again and I am really looking forward to having a meal at the Park Plaza from the A La Carte menu too and offering a review with a spoon rating!

Filini at The Radisson Blu- A great hotel restaurant.

This week, we were lucky enough to be invited to review the Filini Restaurant at the Radisson Blu in Cardiff City Centre. I was recently invited to The Radisson Blu’s 2nd birthday event where we had some beautifully presented canapes so I was looking forward to trying the menu.

When we arrived, we found the restaurant on the first floor next to the bar. The bar and restaurant were separated by a giant drinks cabinet which was a very nice touch as although the floor was open plan, the restaurant was very much a separate affair. It had a calm and relaxed ambiance with clean-cut contemporary decor. Large square tables were nicely laid and the staff keep it all immaculately clean.

We sat down and ordered some wine while we browsed the menu. The Filini is an Italian restaurant and sold the standard dishes that you see on most Italian menus but some different ones too. For our starters, we chose the carpaccio of beef and a dish of asparagus with a poached egg, shallots and capers. Both were very nice. My egg was cooked perfectly as I like it runny and it oozed out and covered the rest of my dish when I cut into it- lovely!

Our starters

For our mains, I chose Sea Bass fillet with potato cake, sautéed spinach and mussel juice and Ben had a rack of lamb with rosemary and black olive crust. Both were very well presented as were all of the dishes.

Ben’s lamb was cooked exactly as he asked and the herb crust was tasty and complemented the lamb. My Sea Bass was also very nice but I think it was a bit under seasoned and the mussel juice was a little too subtle. I would have maybe been less critical if it wasn’t for the excellent presentation.  I love well presented food, it’s like art but when the standard of presentation is so good, the food really needs to deliver, it raises your expectations.

Deserts were lovely and again came beautifully presented with phyllasis’ adorning the plates. I chose sorbet because I was full from the generous sized meal and it was very nice, especially the blackcurrant one. Ben had tiramisu which came in a glass. It was very good but the coffee flavour was a bit subtle.

Staff were very attentive and polite. It was a Sir and Madam affair. The restaurant seemed to be very much catered for business people which is to be expected in a hotel restaurant. The service was perhaps a little over attentive for my liking but it maybe what a business executive is looking for and this seems to be the market the Filini is aiming at.

Overall, this is a very nice hotel restaurant. If you were staying at the Radisson Blu, you wouldn’t need to venture into town to find good food which would be a real bonus if you were on business or on your own. Even for a Tuesday, the restaurant was quite busy and I assumed most of the people there were guests. Some people were dining alone and they looked perfectly comfortable and relaxed. Dishes varied in price so whatever your budget, you could find something to suit you. Wine was quite expensive but it was good quality. overall, a very good hotel restaurant.

Sea Bass with potato cake, sauteed spinach and mussel juice

 
My last mouthful was: Rack of lamb with rosemary and black olive crust
 
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