Thursday, 24 February 2011

Filini Italian restaurant, Radisson Blu Cardiff Review

I was asked to review Filini's at the Radisson Blu Hotel on behalf my parents who are thinking of having a family pre-wedding get together there the night before our big day. I'd never normally consider eating in a hotel restaurant, perhaps it's the vision of Alan Partridge having a dinner for one at the Linton Travel Tavern, but on this occasion I was prepared to make an exception for my dearest parents (and they offered to pay).

It's the dining area
The Radisson Blu is a pretty impressive modern tower just opposite the entrance to the new John Lewis and inside the decor has a sophisticated and contemporary feel.This vibe extends to the Filini dining room which is a mix of simple wood furniture, banquette seating and walls lined with coolers containing a seemingly extensive selection of wine. My criticism of the dining space would be its lack of natural light and atmosphere. On arrival for our booking at 7pm we were the only diners in the restaurant and throughout the evening only two more tables became occupied. One contained a solitary business man reading a book and the other a couple of young arty types, also on business. I can imagine this is an issue with many a hotel restaurant; pretty dead save for those dining on expenses. If only a handful more people were prepared to forgo their room service club sandwich and get sociable, the atmosphere would have been that much better.

So what was the food like? Filini is billed as a contemporary Italian restaurant and the food on offer appeared to live up to the billing. To start with, we shared a 'large' Meat and Vegetable Antipasti (£14.50). At a push I would have described this plate of food as 'medium' in sized. In comparison to the Antipasto Massimo! at Carluccio's I felt it didn't cut it in terms of flavour, size or price. The dish comprised of a couple of slices each of very average chorizo and salami, some pretty good bresaola, deliciously smoky chargrilled courgette, run of the mill dressed leaves and black olives. The stand out of the dish was some intensely sweet yet acidic balsamic pickled onions. Bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar accompanying the starter was delightfully warm and fresh. Of the 3 types on offer (we snaffled the lot), an olive bread was the pick of the bunch.

Do you think that's large?
Mains were a bit hit and miss. The other half's Roast Sea Bass (£17.50) with lemon and herbs was cooked to perfection. The skin was wonderfully crisp and the flesh moist and meaty. The sauce it was served had an intense and creamy taste of shellfish. Seriously moreish; if only I hadn't eaten all the bread it could have been put to better use. My rib eye steak with pizzaiola sauce however was not so top dollar. The steak was ordered rare yet was cooked to medium-well. Way off the mark by any chef's standards. The meat had a good taste to it but there was definitely an element of the chew factor which is a bit of a disappointment when paying north of the £20 mark. Rather peculiarly, my dish was also accompanied by some hot balsamic pickled onions (remember these?). I'd said they were tasty with the starter but wouldn't go so far as to say I was ready for their sequel 20 minutes later.  Other sides included black pepper and Parmesan fries (£2.50) which were nice but could have been a little crisper and cheesier as well as a Tomato and Cucumber salad (£2.50). The salad provided some freshness to the main and was served with a lovely pesto dressing.


A rare steak?
Onto the puds. We decided to order off the bar menu for dessert as nothing really caught our eye off the standard menu. I opted for a blackberry and apple crumble (£5.50) which could have served three (I think the description 'large' would have been more appropriate here than for the antipasti). The crumble topping was deliciously er....crumbly and infused beautifully with the taste of cinnamon. The contents underneath was packed full of apples and blackberries of just the right sweetness. Dani opted for a caramel and pecan cheesecake (£5.50) which was just a bit 'meh'. The base wasn't particularly crisp and although there was an identifiable taste of caramel and pecan, it was definitely leaning towards the bland side.

A tasty crumble

A not so tasty cheesecake
So all in all a mixed bag. Service was exceptionally friendly throughout the evening, which goes a very long way indeed. Food was also excellent and mediocre in places. However, I fear the nature of the business target audience extends over into some of the rather steep prices on offer. In light of the vast array of mid-week dining out offers in Cardiff I can't really see Filini ever being packed to the rafters. Perhaps a week day set menu wouldn't go amiss? I'm undecided as to whether I'm going to recommend Filini to my parents for the pre-wedding shindig or not. I'll think I'll just let them read and make their mind up themselves.

The Details: Filini, Radisson Blu, Bute Terrace, Cardiff, CF10 2FL, Telephone: 02920454777

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