Friday, 8 June 2012

Sosban, Llanelli restaurant review

I’d been yearning to visit Sosban ever since I first heard about the ambitious project to convert an old hydraulic pump house on Llanelli docks into a grand dining space. With backers in the form of Welsh rugby internationals Stephen Jones and Dwayne Peel and the highly regarded Welsh food writer and restaurateur Simon Wright (formerly one of the brains behind the brilliant Y Polyn) there was a lot to be excited about. Compounded further by the news that the former head chef of the highly regarded Galvin Bistro de Luxe would be taking the reins in the kitchen, I’ve been looking for an excuse to make the one hour drive to Sosban since it opened nearly a year ago.

Friends (Mr and Mrs B) visiting from London for the bank holiday and a trip to the Gower were the justification I needed. Having eaten a mediocre lunch at The Worm’s Head hotel with the dramatic Rhossili beach as a back drop, I crossed my fingers this wasn’t a portent of the curse of restaurants with a stunning setting and food which can’t live up to the billing.

The style of food being served at Sosban leans heavily on Simon Wright’s unfussy focus on flavour and Welsh produce. Prices hover on average around the £7 mark for starters, £17.50 for main courses and £5.50 for desserts. These are pretty serious prices and reflect the ambition of the food being served.

Taking a lead from Y Polyn, complementary bread and bottled tap water were brought to the table without prompting. Moist, olive oil packed foccacia style loaf was notably delicious.

I ordered a pint of the excellent Brooklyn lager (£4.00) whilst Mrs G ordered a strawberry bellini (£5.50).

To start I ordered mussels with cider cream (£5.50). Whilst most of the mussels were plump and juicy, a few on the edges looked a little tired, perhaps having sat on the pass for a few minutes too long.  The standout element on the dish was the excellent cream and cider sauce.

Mrs G ordered the poached pear, walnut and Perl Las salad (£6.50). A simple dish of classic flavour combinations was executed well. The portion size was a little on the small side.

Our friends ordered the Perigord duck salad (£8.00) and the Black Mountain smoked salmon with Monorbier asparagus (£7.50). Again with such simplicity there was no room for hiding. Whilst both dishes were greatly enjoyed, the duck was on the dry side and the 3 small spears of asparagus and small piece of salmon was on the meagre side even for the concave chested Mr B.

For main I ordered Gower slow cooked pork belly, braised cabbage and Madeira sauce (£14.50). Moist, flavoursome pork belly, smooth potato, perfectly cooked cabbage and a deeply savoury Madeira sauce were all on the button. Unfortunately the inviting looking crackling would have been more appropriately named chewing.

Mrs G’s dry aged steak was also very good but not without flaws (£19.50). Whilst the meat was well flavoured and accurately cooked to a medium-rare, it wasn’t the tenderest piece of steak I’ve ever eaten. What’s more the well seasoned chips lacked crispness and the smooth and fragrant pot of béarnaise sauce was on the stingy side. Mrs G requested some more and it was swiftly delivered to the table by the helpful waiting staff.

Mrs B ordered the roast rump of lamb, parsnip puree, potato gnocchi and spring vegetables (£17.50). Whilst this enjoyable dish looked pretty as a picture and the accompaniments were all precisely cooked, the lamb itself was unevenly cooked; some parts were moist and medium and other bits leant towards overdone.

Mr B ordered the Barbary duck breast, confit leg and sarladaise potatoes (£17.50). Confit leg was moist and flavoursome and the sarladaise potatoes were crisp and garlicky. The sauce however was a little one dimensional and the duck breast was under-seasoned.

The dessert menu at Sosban reads like a top ten of my all time favourite desserts. Notable highlights include creme brulee, rum baba and warm chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream. 

I plumped for the lip coatingly gooey chocolate marquise flecked with crisp bits of after eight chocolate (£7.50). It was delicious. The homemade mint choc chip ice cream was the freshest I have ever tasted. The only low note was the shot glass of chocolate milkshake. Thin and lacking the ice cold malty goodness of America’s finest, it was a disappointment. 

A tarte tatin with vanilla ice cream (£6.50) was bang on; soft apple, crisp pastry, sweet caramel and smooth vanilla ice cream.

So too was a simple bowl of homemade pistachio and vanilla ice creams (£4.50) with an excellent shortbread biscuit.

The final dessert was a cherry cheesecake (£6.00); an elegantly simple combination of crisp biscuit base, cream cheese topping and poached cherries.

All in all we had a fantastic evening at Sosban. The atmosphere, service and building make it a perfect location for feasting and celebrating. It’s just a shame the food didn’t quite live up to the grand setting. It’s not far off, just a few tweaks and Sosban could be the destination restaurant its location deserves.

The details:
Address - Sosban, North Dock, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, SA15 2LF
Telephone - 01554 270020

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