Reviewing restaurants is an undeniably subjective activity.
Whilst there’s often a consensus of opinion about a particular place, variations in food and service and differing tastes and palettes often result in drastically different conclusions. The contrasting views of Egg Wallace and John Letoad on Masterchef, and the varied conclusions of professional critics is evidence of this.
One of the difficulties of forming an opinion of a restaurant is that on a single visit you can only sample a small proportion of the menu. As a result, there’s every chance you’ve ordered the 3 worst or 3 best dishes on offer. Whilst it can be argued a top restaurant sends out food which is consistently excellent, in reality most places have a few duds and winners lurking somewhere.
One of the benefits of last weekend’s visit to Bar 44 Tapas Penarth with a large group was that I was able to sample almost their entire menu. As such, I’m pretty confident in my opinion that Bar 44 serves chuffing awesome tapas. In fact, whilst some of the dishes were blow your socks of brilliant, the worst dishes were ‘merely’ good.
On the Saturday night we visited, Bar 44 Penarth was absolutely rammed - drinkers thronged the bar and the restaurant was full. In spite of this, service was friendly, repeat drink orders were taken throughout the meal and our 20 or so tapas dishes were brought out in quick succession.
Essential dishes, to name a few, include some wondrously crisp and fluffy triple cooked patatas bravas (£3.30),
moreishly rich ham and bechemal filled croquettas (£4.00),
pan fried goats cheese with chestnut honey and walnuts (£4.20),
slices of spiced morcilla (blood sausage) with a runny duck egg and piquillo peppers (£3.80),
a textbook tortilla (£4.00),
rioja poached chorizo with a pot of crispy bread crumbs (£4.00),
tender beef skewers served with a decadent Romesco sauce and a plate of medium rare Iberico pork fillet served with bacon infused lentils.
Even the olive oil served with the fresh bread was absolutely top dollar (£2.75).
The well prepared yet slightly un-inspirational chestnut mushrooms with garlic and fino sherry (£3.80) and a whole lemon sole a la plancha were the low points (£4.50) - relatively speaking of course.
On the booze front, a bottle of Ferran Adria designed wheat beer was one of the best I have ever tasted. Its lightness meant it lived up to its billing as a perfect match for tapas.
A pint of Estrella Galicia was highly drinkable yet run of the mill. Meanwhile, other members of the party did some serious damage to Bar 44’s extensive cocktail list.
For dessert, a dish of Pedro Ximenez sherry and raisin ice cream was smooth and creamy with a gentle wallop of booze (£2.50).
A flourless almond and lemon cake was moist, citrusy and had a good density (£3.00).
A crema Catalana delivered everything you could want from a crème brulee – most importantly, a thin and crispy caramel top (£3.80).
I summed up my review of Bar 44 Tapas Cowbridge by rueing the fact that their second outlet was set to open in Penarth and not Roath. I’ll take this opportunity again to implore Bar 44 to open a Wellfield Road branch…
Address - 14 Windsor Road, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, CF64 1JH
Telephone - 02920 705497
Web - http://www.bar44.co.uk/