UPDATE - 13th July 2012 - Mimosa Pontcanna has closed down. Mimosa Cardiff Bay remains open.
Which restaurant in Cardiff best showcases Welsh food? There aren't many which jump out. Ffresh ticks a lot of boxes on the produce front but their cooking style is heavily French influenced (parfaits and confits litter the menu). The Armless Dragon also springs to mind but I've never actually heard of anyone who's visited (Is it still open? No is the answer).
Certainly a leading contender is Mimosa. Welsh produce and some of Wales' most famous dishes including cawl, faggots and Welsh rarebit are scattered across the menu. Mrs G also informed me the restaurant's name pays tribute to the ship which carried the first Welsh emigrants to Patagonia in 1865. There I was thinking it was named after a type of plant or cocktail.....
I'd previously visited Mimosa in the Bay around 4 years ago and vaguely recollected that I'd enjoyed my meal there. So I was looking forward to a visit to their recently opened Pontcanna outpost.
Mimosa Pontcanna feels almost more like a bar than a restaurant. Dark wood and plenty of spotlighting give it a moody atmosphere. It's the kind of place you'd happily spend an evening drinking cocktails whilst picking at a burger or a salad. Alternatively, like us, you could spend an entire evening lounging in one of their comfy banquettes whilst gorging yourself on food and working your way through the cocktail menu. Between us we sampled most of their cocktails; Caipirinhas, Daquiris, Mojitos, Singapore Slings and White Russians were all excellent.
The menu at Mimosa is fairly short but well balanced and is padded out with a decent range of daily specials from the blackboard.
Starters were excellent. A classic combination of Perl Las, pear and walnut salad (£5.50) kept Mrs G happy. One of our friends opted for the slightly more off the wall Pant-Ysgawn goats cheese & roasted butternut squash salad with dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, red onion, chilli & maple syrup (£5.95). She highly rated the combination of creaminess, nuttiness, spiciness, smokiness and sweetness (I've run out of ness's now).
Another friend enjoyed a classic cawl (£5.95) served with a wedge of Gorwydd Caerphilly atop a slice of bread.
As for me, I ordered Moules Marinieres (£7.50). The mussels were plump little fellas and I happily mopped up the sauce of white wine, cream, garlic and mussel juice. So far so excellent.
Main courses were more hit and miss. A special of butternut squash risotto with spinach and a caper & walnut dressing was well received (£9.95). So too was a main course sized portion of the goats cheese & squash salad (£9.95). However, 3 of our party opted for one of the specials; braised pork belly in a white wine broth with fresh clams, carrots, leeks and star anise. In the words of today's youth this dish was as an EPIC FAIL. A pleasant slice of pork belly swam in a pool of watery and flavourless broth, save for the mildest hint of star anise. A further consequence of the pork belly's evening dip was that its main selling point, the crackling, was as soggy as a day old bowl of weetabix.
In spite of half the table's disappointment, my main dish was excellent. A Welsh Black 8oz Sirloin (£16.95) was served a perfect medium rare. It was tender and rammed with flavour. It's accompanying bearnise sauce was lush and so too were the chips (even though they were on the soggy side) which tasted like they'd been cooked in a bucket of meat dripping.
We also ordered a couple of sides of the best onion rings I've ever eaten (£2.95) and some lovely cheesy leeks (£3.50).
I was stuffed by this point and so it was time for dessert. Unfortunately my apple crumble (£4.95) was disappointing. The stewed apple was perfectly soft and sweet and the Cowpots chocolate ginger ice cream worked a treat. However, a lacklustre crumble topping made the dish more apple powder than apple crumble.
In contrast, Mrs G's overflowing cheeseboard (£6.50) included some absolute corkers such as Perl Las, Perl Wen, Gorwydd Caerphilly and quince jelly.
Mimosa is a cracking neighbourhood restaurant. Service is friendly and efficient, cocktails are on the nail and it's about as close you can get to a taste of Wales in our capital city.