Saturday, 28 March 2015

Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth restaurant review - Revisit

James Sommerin’s cooking is technically accomplished and seriously delicious.

It’s been nearly a year since my last visit to his eponymous restaurant in Penarth and this trip was even more impressive than the last.

The atmosphere of the dining space has been improved by the introduction of dimmer lighting and music; little things that make a difference. Service was exceptional too. All that’s needed now is the sea view.

We used an Amazon Local voucher which gave us 5 courses and a glass of prosecco for £36 (normally £55 for just the food) – however, we upgraded to 7 courses for £51 (normally £75). I’d get involved whilst it’s available.

Pre-dinner drinks and canapés were taken in the sort-of bar area.

Wild mushroom arancini were crisp and heady with fungus. Sweetcorn panna cotta in a mini kilner jar was scattered with crumbs of crisp bacon and flakes of smoked haddock. A wobbly and creamy onion mousse and a warm cheese gougere were also excellent. 

The pre-starter consisted of a golden and sweet onion reduction topped with a wafer thin slice of celeriac and grated mild horseradish. It was an awkward yet scrumptious mouthful. 

A perfect raviolo was filled with silky pea soup and accompanied by shards of crisp ham, deep fried sage leaves and parmesan foam. 

Warm granary and white rolls were joined by unsalted and kick-ass laver butter.

The only disappointing dish of the night saw al dente potato risotto paired with a tepid hen’s yolk, vibrant asparagus and truffle shavings which didn’t really taste of anything.

Theatricality arrived in the form of a vacuum syphon containing rosemary-rich lamb broth. I’d be interested to know how much the technology improved the dish’s taste but it looked cool. 

The soup was added to a fine dice of carrot, leek and barley and pan-fried lamb sweetbreads topped with a golden crouton. 

The first of the night’s standout dishes took the form of a pan-fried fillet of seabass served with a hyper-smooth, curried butternut squash puree, artichoke and smoked butter. This was a cracking bit of comfort food. 

The next dish was equally stunning - a super-tender, hyper-rare piece of beef coated in a sweet and savoury onion ash was drizzled with a glistening sauce and sat atop wet polenta, slices of salsify and a soft shallot.

A cheese selection was brilliant (£9 supplement) – generous of portion, broad in selection and served with killer homemade biscuits – crisp thins, a sweet oatcake and one reminiscent of a Hovis biscuit.

Vanilla-twanged crème fraiche, fragrant poached rhubarb and consommé and oat crumble were all delightful components of the night’s first dessert. However, over-gelatinised rhubarb jelly, which was too firm to the bite, let the dish down. 

The last of the night’s knockouts was a pert blood orange soufflé which deftly balanced citrus and sweet notes. Set egg custard pieces, prune ice cream and slices of blood orange completed the plate. 

This was an exceptional meal and I firmly believe that Restaurant James Sommerin is one of Wales’s finest restaurants.

The details:

Address - Restaurant James Sommerin, The Esplanade, Penarth CF64 3AU
Telephone - 029 20706559
Web -

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Pettigrew Tea Rooms, Bute Park - Hunt for Cardiff's Best Breakfast

Over the last couple of years the charmingly chintzy Pettigrew Tea Rooms has built a formidable reputation for their home-baked cakes and afternoon teas.

However, their equally stonking breakfasts should be just as famous.

Served daily until 11am, the menu consists of full breakfasts and lighter options made using produce from local suppliers including JT Morgan butchers and Allen’s bakery.

Breakfast 1 – Pettigrew Welsh breakfast

The price - £8.45

Pros – Two huge rashers of thick-cut bacon, a whopper of a mildly seasoned pork sausage, sweet cherry tomatoes, golden mushrooms, a runny poached egg, quality black pudding and comforting homemade baked beans. The most impressive thing on the plate was a freshly baked laverbread scone – warm, soft and flecked with cheese, onion and laver, it was a definite upgrade from a piece of toast.

Cons – I’m splitting hairs but the sausage could have done with a bit more colour and the black pudding was on the weeny-side.

Breakfast 2 – Pettigrew Vegetarian Welsh breakfast

The price - £7.45

Pros – A pair of golden cheesy and leeky Glamorgan sausages replaced the meaty components of my breakfast. All the other excellent elements were present and correct alongside an extra poached egg.

Cons - There were no breadcrumbs on the exterior of the Glamorgan sausages. Some may say it’s sacrilege but I'm not much of a vegetarian sausage purist.

The beverages – A loose-leaf breakfast tea (£2.35) and a flat white (£2.45) were both lovely. 

Pettigrew’s cooked breakfasts are epic.

Furthermore, a stroll around Bute Park is a convenient way to work off a rasher of bacon.

The details:

Address -
Pettigrew Tea Rooms, West Lodge, Bute Park, Castle Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BJ
Web -
Telephone - 02920 235 486