My parents took their summer holiday in Cardiff last week, the upshot of which was eating far too much with my food obsessed family. We ate out 4 times in 5 days and as a result I’m still feeling a little gouty (perhaps I’m just imagining the pain in my big toe joint). Anyway, this rather expensive enterprise was saved from exorbitance due to my 3 month free trial of Tastecard. This diners club, which normally costs about £50 a year, has a decent range of restaurants which offer 50% off the food bill (drinks excluded). I worked out we saved about £250 throughout the week meaning that with every mouthful I was able reassure myself that the more I ate the more money I was saving.
Tuesday night saw a return to Filini in the Radisson Blu hotel for an enjoyably average meal. We had an almost identical experience to our previous visit; service was incredibly friendly and efficient whilst the food was competent yet unremarkable.
More excitingly, Wednesday night saw my first visit to Ffresh at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay during normal service. After the fantastic meal I had eaten at their Bryn William’s guest night, with the menu’s focus on local Welsh ingredients and with Shaun Hill of the Walnut Tree Inn having been involved as Consultant Chef, there was a lot to look forward to.
I’m pleased to say the meal surpassed my expectations on many levels. I was expecting simple Bistro dishes and so to be presented with plates of food with a number of cheffy flourishes was a really pleasant surprise. This, combined with the pleasant vista of the hustle and bustle of the Bay, the knowledgeable and friendly serving staff, and the laughably cheap prices thanks to the Tastecard (take 50% off the average price of £6 for a starter and £15 for a main and it’s almost the same price as a Sizzler or a Toby Carvery) made for a fantastic evening. I’ve noticed Vouchercloud are running the same offer as well so it’s definitely worth checking out whilst this deal is on. Saying that, I’d be happy to pay full price for the quality of food we ate.
As I said in my previous review of the Bryn Williams Guest night, you can often judge how good a meal is going to be on the basis of the bread which is served. And much like the last time, the bread was exemplary. We demolished 2 mini-loaves of warm, fresh, soft, crusty poppy seed bread with butter scattered with sea salt.
Whilst we were waiting for starters, I quaffed a delicious pint of Celt lager. This Welsh lager which I've never seen before had a wheat beer-esque spiciness to it. I'd highly recommend it.
My thyme gnocchi with roasted pumpkin were soft, herby & worked perfectly with the sweetness of the pumpkin & the honey and chive dressing. The plate looked pretty as a picture as well.
Mrs G’s kilner jar of confit pork and apples was packed full of shredded, tender meat with a beautiful sweet note provided by the apple.Served with slices of toasted brioche, it was reminiscent of shredded crispy duck with hoi-sin as a result of the flavour and texture combinations.
My mother’s smoked salmon was wonderfully meaty and had good hint of dill. The accompanying beetroot relish wasn’t a total success as it overpowered the subtlety of the salmon.
My father’s fish terrine was packed full of ground salmon, wrapped in sushi nori with an interesting core of raw plaice. He enjoyed it very much and bizarrely it reminded me greatly of my grandma’s salmon gefilte fish.
Onto the mains.
My steak was delicious. Even though it was served medium when I requested it cooked rare (the same school by error was made at Filini on Tuesday), this was easily compensated for by the quality of the piece of meat. The Welsh Black ribeye was moist and flavoursome; I’m guessing the sourcing of the meat contributed largely to this. There was a good smoky, chargrilled flavour to the meat; I think some of this had been cleverly imparted by what looked like a scattering of Halen Mon smoked sea salt. I didn’t want to spoil the flavour of the steak by dousing it in the accompanying peppercorn sauce. However, it provided a rather good dip for the fries which were a little on the limp side.
Mrs G’s butternut squash tortellini with pine nut pesto was a lesson in simplicity. Perfectly cooked pasta filled with a slightly sweet, smooth as you like filling. The saltiness of the fresh pesto completed the dish.
My parent’s mains were the weaker of the bunch but were still tasty. My father’s baked Madgett’s farm duck breast with roasted salsify & sweet potato puree could have been a little more tender and flavoursome. In addition, my dad who remarkably is more greedy than I am, was unimpressed by the size of the vegetable component of his dish and so ordered an extra portion of veg which was delivered promptly.
My mother’s chicken stuffed with mushrooms, fondant potato and curly kale was reported to be very good. I tried some of the chicken and although found it to be perfectly tender, thought the flavouring to be a little subtle. The accompanying mini chicken kiev was a fun and flavoursome touch.
Suitably stuffed, we decided to pass on dessert and opted to go in search of Welsh Cake ice cream from Cadwaladers. Recently named by The Times as one of the top 30 ice cream parlours in the UK, Mrs G and I have a bit of a thing for their Welsh Cake ice cream. It’s laced with sultanas and has just the right amount of cinnamon and nutmeg spiciness. Shazzam. I had a scoop of rhubarb and custard as well which was pretty darn good.
We returned to Ffresh on Saturday night to get some more of their delicious yet bargainous nosh. We ate desserts as well this time and so our bill came to the slightly more expensive £72 for 3 courses of food with drinks for 5 people! Stand out dishes this time which we didn't eat on our first visit included a wonderfully fluffy perl las mousse, a good poached skate wing with white bean puree and an excellent field mushroom and tarragon pudding made with brioche. For dessert, I had a lemon tart which had a well balanced sweet and sharpness and a well executed brulee topping. It was however let down by a soggy bottom. My brother went for a reliably safe banoffee cheesecake whilst my father rated highly his selection of Wales True Taste cheeses.
Ffresh. Tel 029 2063 6465, Web http://www.wmc.org.uk/index.cfm?alias=ffresh
Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL