*This restaurant is now closed*
And why the heck not? It’s the kind of luxury hotel where it's par for the course.
But, for one reason or another their previous fine dining restaurants, Terry M and the Crown at the Celtic Manor didn’t quite cut the mustard with the Michelin Man.
Now, Welshman Richard Davies has taken the helm with his new restaurant Epicure Experience and he’s got all the credentials to deliver the coveted star having held the accolade in his previous head chef roles at the Manor House in Castle Combe and Sawyards In West Sussex.
The restaurant has a choice of two menus for dinner, a three course a la carte (£65) and a six course tasting menu (£75). There’s no prizes for guessing which menu we ordered.
Pre-dinner snacks consisted of first rate gargantuan green olives and spiced mixed nuts.
Round two comprised of a toasted sliver of crisp buttery brioche topped with light chicken liver parfait, the crunch of hazelnut, and a sweet and slightly acidic fig and port puree. A crisp cube of piping hot polenta was topped with fragrant wild garlic pesto.
Bread was of the highest calibre - crunchy French baguettes and malted rolls served with a beguiling cep infused butter.
A light as you like mushroom espuma was packed with flavour and topped with crushed hazelnuts and a richness penetrating sherry gel.
The next dish elevated a classic flavour combination to the next level. Perfectly caramelised scallop was dressed with lightly pickled and poached beetroot and pureed, battered (oofh!) and slivered cauliflower. A drizzle of smoke oil add a compelling smoky dimension to the whole dish.
A blow torched piece of buttery foie gras was balanced by sweet apple puree, palette cleansing apple batons and walnut pieces. An uber-inspired wine matching of a Coteaux du Layon, an almost dessert like white wine with citrus and acidic notes, deftly balanced the richness of the dish.
A stonkingly meaty turbot dish followed. The tender fish fillet was perched on crisp cubes of celeriac, creamy celeriac puree, salty pancetta and intense cep mushroom pieces and powder.
Welsh lamb was showcased in all its glory in the next plate. Flavoursome, tender, blushing lamb fillet and slow cooked, yielding lamb shoulder were daintily plated and paired with sweet baby onions and puree, wilted greens, baby leek and a light sauce.
A bang on cheese course (£10 supplement) saw a brandy-washed funky number from Burgundy steal the show.
Pre-dessert was a layered pot of sweet apple compote, light and tangy set yoghurt and intense and airy blueberry foam. All the flavours and textures harmonised brilliantly, even a cliched yet enjoyable scattering of popping candy.
The final dish is chef’s most well known as it appeared on the Comic Relief banquet of Great British Menu in 2013. It’s a proper corker. A red nose-like strawberry dust-coated ball of creamy vanilla parfait was joined by biscuit crumbs, strawberry gel, aerated white chocolate, sharp lemon jelly, fresh strawberries and potent strawberry and basil purees.
Petit fours accompanying our fresh mint tea maintained the meal’s exemplary standards - aromatic chocolate and cardamom truffles, light vanilla marshmallow, a decadently rich salted caramel cup, a fragrantly sour calamansi fruit jelly and a textbook vanilla macaron with a hidden raspberry puree filling.
Dinner at Epicure was phenomenally good. In fact, I’m struggling to find a single fault with the food or service. Wales’s newest destination restaurant has just entered the building.
Address - Epicure Experience, The Celtic Manor Resort, Coldra Woods, The Usk Valley, Newport, South Wales, NP18 1HQ