Saturday, 26 October 2013

Cardiff Marriott & River Cottage, Zest restaurant review

As far as strange brand partnerships go there are some absolute doozies.

The tie-up with Cardiff City and the Kenny Rogers Roasters chicken shop chain is a regular eyebrow raiser for away fans.

Manchester United’s partnership with Japanese paint company, Kansai, I guess, sort of makes sense. After all, under David Moyes, Man U have been about as exciting as watching…

So, in comparison, the recently launched collaboration between big corporate American hotel chain Marriott and the very British and charmingly dishevelled Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's River Cottage brand doesn’t seem too odd.

As part of the deal, Marriott’s restaurants are launching seasonal menus using local produce, 80% of which is sourced from within a 60-mile radius. Executive chefs are also undertaking a couple of week’s training at the River Cottage Chef’s school.

Initially the concept is being launched at 2 hotels, including the Cardiff Marriott. The plan is then to roll it out across the UK. 

The menu at Cardiff’s Zest restaurant reads exceptionally well; in fact, there are no duds to be found. Plates like smoked venison with pickled mushrooms, crispy garlic and winter leaves or herb spelt risotto with roasted beetroot, goat’s cheese and mint are chock-full of interesting ingredients.

Wholemeal bread with Calon Wen butter kicked things off on a positive note.

I started with a sprightly salad of parsley, crab, top-drawer mayonnaise and a soft-boiled egg (£6.95). A slightly too heavy hand with the red onion and capers threatened to mask the lightness of the plate.

Mrs G’s salad of marinated chicken, raisins, pine nuts (£6.95) was a subtle yet enjoyable start to the meal.

Mains were both knock-out pieces of near identical looking, slow-cooked autumnal food. 

An unctuous piece of long-marinated brisket (£14.95) was served with a deep red wine sauce, buttery kale and a salty and creamy anchovy and rosemary dauphinoise.

A tender, flavour-packed piece of rolled lamb leg and shoulder (£14.95) was served in a meaty sauce with more of the buttery kale and a good dollop of chilli-flecked, earthy celeriac mash.

A pretty side of rainbow carrots (£3) were al dente and lightly glazed in honey.

Desserts hit the mark.

A super-creamy vanilla panna cotta (£6) had just the right amount of wobble. It was accompanied by crisp biscotti and spiced stewed apricots.

My flourless chocolate cake (£6) was uber rich, moist and tasty. It was, however, a touch too dense. A dollop of cream with a kick of cider brandy was the ideal foil.

Marriott’s collaboration with the River Cottage is producing some seriously good food. The service throughout the evening was also exceptional. It’s just a shame the slightly characterless dining space doesn’t do everything else justice.

In spite of the swirly carpets the Cardiff Marriott is well worth a visit.

Disclosure - I was invited as a guest of the Marriott. All food and drink was complimentary. 

The details:

Address - Cardiff Marriott Hotel, Mill Lane, Cardiff, CF10 1EZ
Telephone - 02920 399 944

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