Sitting outside on a warm summer’s evening with a heaving plate of meat (ideally barbecued) and a cool glass of cider is always a treat.
However, because of this year’s almost non-existent summer (save for the few sunny evenings when I was glued to the Olympics), we’ve only dined al fresco a handful of times in 2012.
On a rare warm evening, Mrs G and I headed down to Cardiff bay to munch some dinner and soak up the setting sun. Cardiff bay’s newest opening is French restaurant Entrecote Café de Paris. As a member of the Bellini’s and Signor Valentino family, you’d be forgiven for expecting something a little middle of the road….
In fact, Entrecote heralds a change in direction from its siblings. A menu packed with French classics, an opulent gilded dining space, and a slick and knowledgeable serving team all add to Entrecote’s classy feel. However, with upmarket styling comes upmarket pricing: starters average around £7, mains £13-30 and desserts £6. If you’re feeling particularly oligarch-esque, you can splash out £135 on a 50g pot of Oscietra caviar before hopping back onto your super yacht.
If it wasn’t for a more cannily priced introductory menu offering 2 courses for £17.50, I’d classify Entrecote as a special occasion kinda place.
A suggestion from the waitress of bread and olives whilst we browsed the menu, delivered a small plate of plump and fresh olives, excellent pain de campagne and walnut and raisin bread, and some desperately dry and dense baguette. The nibbles also delivered a buttock clenching £7.80 addition to the bill.
I drank an enjoyably farmyardy bottle of Breton cider which conjured images of barn dances and combine harvesters.
A complimentary amuse of rich salmon rillette and a crisp crouton set a positive tone.
Mrs G began with a dish of hot and creamy goat’s cheese, artichoke puree, tapenade, crisp ficelle bread rubbed with garlic butter, and well-dressed leaves. This was a dish of massive flavours working in harmony.
My plate of Parisienne style gnocchi was equally fine. Made with choux pastry batter instead of potato, the effect was lighter and fluffier than its Italian equivalent. Bathed in a light cheese sauce, scattered with crisp shards of air dried ham and topped with a crust of melted cheese, the dish was surprisingly light.
Mains were almost as good as starters.
Mrs G ordered slow cooked salmon. As the salmon was cooked sous-vide, we were warned it would appear translucent. What arrived was a very good yet entirely normal looking piece of meaty salmon with excellent crisp skin. It was accompanied by smooth buttery mash (potatoey butter may be a more appropriate descriptor), salty samphire, sweet cherry tomatoes, beurre blanc and richness busting capers.
My braised shoulder of lamb with Toulouse sausage and cauliflower puree was in the main rather ace. An unctuous lamb shoulder tower of babel, Toulouse sausage imbued with wine and bacon, rich gravy, smooth cauliflower puree and a light couscous salad made for a hearty and unmistakeably French dish. However, I wasn’t fully convinced by the temperature contrast of cold couscous, hot meat & gravy, and tepid cauliflower puree.
A banging apple tarte tatin (£6.50) finished off the meal. Crisp flaky pastry, moist apple, and golden caramel were elevated by a kick of PX sherry. A scoop of delicate buttermilk ice cream completed the dish.
Entrecote Café de Paris is a welcome addition to Cardiff bay. They serve interesting food, they’re helping to redress the independent v chain balance, and they probably have the best view from any restaurant in the Bay. Here’s hoping the introductory menu offer becomes a permanent fixture……
Address - Unit Upper 9, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5BZ
Telephone - 029 20 490 990