The Fig Tree in Penarth has so much going for it. It’s got stunning views looking out over the Severn Estuary, it’s the favourite restaurant of the hugely talented Hwyel Jones’ and the menu has loads of fresh fish on it; just what you want to eat when you’re by the seaside.
So it’s a real shame that we had such an average experience. The food was just okay. It’s clear there were some very good ingredients being used but their execution wasn’t quite on the money. Equally, the service was really friendly but at the same time lethargic. Only four tables were occupied on the week night we visited yet it took a very long time for starters to arrive and for the dessert orders to be taken. I got the impression they’d been very busy up until the night we visited and so had taken their eye off the ball on a quiet night.
Starters: My mother’s starter of tomato soup was very pleasant but ultimately one dimensional with no other flavour except fresh tomato. Similarly, my father’s antipasti selection was tasty but pretty run of the mill with the most excitement on the plate coming from a pot of tzatziki. Lastly my goat’s cheese fritter had a good tang to it and an excellent, crisp panko crumb. However, owing to the epic proportions of the piece of cheese, there wasn’t enough fig and walnut salad to balance the dish properly.
Mains: My parents opted for hake served with caper beurre blanc and samphire. The hake was well cooked and the accompanying samphire was lovely but overall the dish lacked flavour, with the caper butter not providing the oomph the dish needed. My bouillabaisse was the biggest let down. Granted, there was a lot of tasty fresh fish in the bowl but the broth lacked the herby complexity and bold taste of the sea which I associate with this dish. Instead it was pretty anaemic and reminded me more of a simple vegetable soup.
Desserts: Unfortunately, there was no respite from mediocrity with the desserts. My father’s white chocolate mousse was overly sweet and bizarrely lacked a uniform consistency. It was fairly thick and set at the top whilst very runny at the bottom. My pretty decent cheese selection was elevated by an excellent homemade pear chutney but brought back down to earth by an under-ripe piece of Preseli.
I really wanted to love The Fig Tree but left feeling slightly deflated. We didn’t eat anything terrible; it’s just that it was so okay I left without any of the excitement I normally feel after a really good meal. Our bill was pretty cheap because of a half price deal with Tastecard but on the basis of this experience I won’t be rushing back.
The Fig Tree, The Esplanade, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, CF64 3AU
Telephone: 029 2070 2512