Saturday, 28 March 2015

Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth restaurant review - Revisit

James Sommerin’s cooking is technically accomplished and seriously delicious.

It’s been nearly a year since my last visit to his eponymous restaurant in Penarth and this trip was even more impressive than the last.

The atmosphere of the dining space has been improved by the introduction of dimmer lighting and music; little things that make a difference. Service was exceptional too. All that’s needed now is the sea view.

We used an Amazon Local voucher which gave us 5 courses and a glass of prosecco for £36 (normally £55 for just the food) – however, we upgraded to 7 courses for £51 (normally £75). I’d get involved whilst it’s available.

Pre-dinner drinks and canapés were taken in the sort-of bar area.

Wild mushroom arancini were crisp and heady with fungus. Sweetcorn panna cotta in a mini kilner jar was scattered with crumbs of crisp bacon and flakes of smoked haddock. A wobbly and creamy onion mousse and a warm cheese gougere were also excellent. 

The pre-starter consisted of a golden and sweet onion reduction topped with a wafer thin slice of celeriac and grated mild horseradish. It was an awkward yet scrumptious mouthful. 

A perfect raviolo was filled with silky pea soup and accompanied by shards of crisp ham, deep fried sage leaves and parmesan foam. 

Warm granary and white rolls were joined by unsalted and kick-ass laver butter.

The only disappointing dish of the night saw al dente potato risotto paired with a tepid hen’s yolk, vibrant asparagus and truffle shavings which didn’t really taste of anything.

Theatricality arrived in the form of a vacuum syphon containing rosemary-rich lamb broth. I’d be interested to know how much the technology improved the dish’s taste but it looked cool. 

The soup was added to a fine dice of carrot, leek and barley and pan-fried lamb sweetbreads topped with a golden crouton. 

The first of the night’s standout dishes took the form of a pan-fried fillet of seabass served with a hyper-smooth, curried butternut squash puree, artichoke and smoked butter. This was a cracking bit of comfort food. 

The next dish was equally stunning - a super-tender, hyper-rare piece of beef coated in a sweet and savoury onion ash was drizzled with a glistening sauce and sat atop wet polenta, slices of salsify and a soft shallot.

A cheese selection was brilliant (£9 supplement) – generous of portion, broad in selection and served with killer homemade biscuits – crisp thins, a sweet oatcake and one reminiscent of a Hovis biscuit.

Vanilla-twanged crème fraiche, fragrant poached rhubarb and consommé and oat crumble were all delightful components of the night’s first dessert. However, over-gelatinised rhubarb jelly, which was too firm to the bite, let the dish down. 

The last of the night’s knockouts was a pert blood orange soufflé which deftly balanced citrus and sweet notes. Set egg custard pieces, prune ice cream and slices of blood orange completed the plate. 

This was an exceptional meal and I firmly believe that Restaurant James Sommerin is one of Wales’s finest restaurants.

The details:

Address - Restaurant James Sommerin, The Esplanade, Penarth CF64 3AU
Telephone - 029 20706559
Web -

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Pettigrew Tea Rooms, Bute Park - Hunt for Cardiff's Best Breakfast

Over the last couple of years the charmingly chintzy Pettigrew Tea Rooms has built a formidable reputation for their home-baked cakes and afternoon teas.

However, their equally stonking breakfasts should be just as famous.

Served daily until 11am, the menu consists of full breakfasts and lighter options made using produce from local suppliers including JT Morgan butchers and Allen’s bakery.

Breakfast 1 – Pettigrew Welsh breakfast

The price - £8.45

Pros – Two huge rashers of thick-cut bacon, a whopper of a mildly seasoned pork sausage, sweet cherry tomatoes, golden mushrooms, a runny poached egg, quality black pudding and comforting homemade baked beans. The most impressive thing on the plate was a freshly baked laverbread scone – warm, soft and flecked with cheese, onion and laver, it was a definite upgrade from a piece of toast.

Cons – I’m splitting hairs but the sausage could have done with a bit more colour and the black pudding was on the weeny-side.

Breakfast 2 – Pettigrew Vegetarian Welsh breakfast

The price - £7.45

Pros – A pair of golden cheesy and leeky Glamorgan sausages replaced the meaty components of my breakfast. All the other excellent elements were present and correct alongside an extra poached egg.

Cons - There were no breadcrumbs on the exterior of the Glamorgan sausages. Some may say it’s sacrilege but I'm not much of a vegetarian sausage purist.

The beverages – A loose-leaf breakfast tea (£2.35) and a flat white (£2.45) were both lovely. 

Pettigrew’s cooked breakfasts are epic.

Furthermore, a stroll around Bute Park is a convenient way to work off a rasher of bacon.

The details:

Address -
Pettigrew Tea Rooms, West Lodge, Bute Park, Castle Street, Cardiff, CF10 1BJ
Web -
Telephone - 02920 235 486

Pettigrew Tea Rooms on Urbanspoon

Friday, 13 March 2015

Lana, Cardiff Persian restaurant review

Update 31/12/2015 - Lana is now called Persian Paradise

Surely I’ve already written about every single kebab restaurant on City Road?


Despite the fact I’ve featured KBS, Lilo’s, Shaam Nights, La Shish, Mezza Luna, Troy, Aladdin, Mezza House and Oz Urfa, there’s still a few I’m yet to cover…

Lana, a Persian restaurant, is one of City Road’s more recent additions, having opened in May last year.

The first thing which strikes you about Lana is their unique interior…

Water trough and fountain in the window? Check.

Straw-covered and pebble-dashed walls adorned with traditional dress? All present and correct. 

It all sounds a bit bizarre or even bazaar. But, the overall effect is actually rather charming.

Alongside an interesting selection of mezze for starters and kebabs for mains, Lana also serve daily changing specials. Monday’s special, steamed rice mixed with pistachios and barberries served with braised chicken, sounded particularly interesting.

To start, hummus (£3.50) was rich with tahini yet tempered with a good twist of lemon.

Kashke Bademjan (£3.50) was another epic Middle Eastern aubergine dip to add to the collection. Slow cooked aubergines were mixed with yoghurt and crushed walnuts, sautéed chopped mint and Persian whey. A little less oil would have improved the dish but this was seriously good stuff.

Bread (£1 each) was up there with the very best – Lilo’s if you’re asking. Cloud light, soft and crisp in places, and baked into a cute heart shape.

A jug of mango juice was ridiculously generous for £4 and pretty as a picture with its matching earthenware cups.

Salade Fasi (£3.50) was a super fresh combination of lightly-dressed lettuce, cucumber, carrot, tomato, creamy feta and crunchy walnuts. It was missing the advertised olives and beetroot but I’m not complaining. 

Onto the mains and it’ll be no surprise to you that I stuck to a familiar favourite – Joojeh aka chicken shish (£7.50). 

Tender chicken (not quite as juicy as Mowlana’s) was accompanied by a well charred tomato, a mixed salad and a Snowdon-esque mountain of buttery rice. Pots of pokey chilli sauce and a minty yoghurt-mayo completed a very tasty dish.

Mrs G ordered Sunday’s daily special - Baqhali polo (£10) – an unfeasibly tender lamb shank accompanied by an Everest-like peak of fragrant rice flecked with dill and soft broad beans. 

An accompanying bowl of sauce/soup rich with lamb juices and tomato added an extra dimension to the plate.

Lana's food is fresh, good value, hearty and has heaps of flavour. If you’re looking for another Middle Eastern restaurant to try then Lana is well worth a visit.

The Details:

Address - Lana, 82 City Road, Cardiff, CF24 3DD
Telephone - 029 2049 7417

Lana on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Restaurant José Carlos Garcia, Malaga restaurant review

The Emperor’s new clothes; style over substance; a proper waste of money – all are phrases used by my dad to describe my penchant for posh restaurants.

In the main, I completely disagree with him. Then again, I would say that.

However, when it comes to the Michelin-starred Restaurant José Carlos Garcia in Malaga, he might be onto something.

The restaurant itself is immaculate. Located on the swanky Malaga quayside, the wall of one of the two dining rooms is a spectacular living garden; the kitchen looks like the bridge of a spaceship; the service is faultless; and the crockery (a menagerie of glass, china & gold) is amongst the finest I’ve encountered.

The food, meanwhile, was just meh. And at 110€ for the tasting menu it certainly shouldn’t have been.

Appetisers on the terrace looked the part but tasted like the understudy.

A wafer thin cracker was topped with an unpleasantly bitter algae powder and cream cheese whilst a a deep fried cornet filled with almond powder tasted worse than something straight out of a packet. A soft, salty, creamy, powdery tablet, wrapped like a sweet (a riff on a Spanish Christmas speciality) was lost on me.

A well-seasoned steak tartare was served in a mini bun which unpleasantly desiccated in the mouth.

Finally, an ice cold clam served with a cube of boozy margarita jelly did nothing to convince me that a shellfish cocktail is a winning idea. 

Thankfully, things got better as we moved indoors.

Excellent bread, a mix of white and seeded, was served with moreish red butter, a spreadable paprika-rich chorizo topped with blobs of carrot puree. 

A fragrant apple jelly topped with a cold, creamy, garlicky and nutty almond soup was an absolute treat. Apparently it was a take on an Andalusian classic called ajo blanco. 

Before soup
After soup
Dried red mullet was a little tough and fishy; not the best of combinations. It was paired with an underpowered black olive puree and an anonymous citrus puree. But just look at that beautiful plate.

Two types of cured mackerel; one pungently salty and the other milder in flavour were accompanied by mouth puckering pickled radish, spherified beetroot, pickled cucumber and mustard seed. The dish was pleasant enough but I'd have preferred a simply grilled piece of mackerel with a squeeze of lemon juice. But, look at that plate. 

A stunner of a grilled prawn was paired with ponzu and kimchi. However, there was no captivating whiff of fermented cabbage and the citric mayo was peculiarly fluffy. 

The next dish was a complete triumph. Perfectly flaky, soft, sweet hake was topped with roasted garlic and almonds, and bathed in a light chicken broth.

A beautiful piece of grilled red mullet was served with dry cauliflower couscous and a spherification of curry with all the refinement of chip shop curry sauce.

Beef sweetbreads were perfectly tender and served in a meaty sauce of unbridled luxury. However, a tepid risotto with pieces of raw onion detracted from the dish. 

Suckling pig was another of the night’s standouts. Crisp-skinned, tender, yielding flesh and a meaty jus were balanced by fragrant mango puree and pineapple.

The first of the desserts, Dougal the dog-esque kataifi pastry, sharp lemon sorbet, banana in caramel and mini meringues was another win. 

So too was a rich, not too sweet, chocolate parfait in a hot soup of vanilla and white chocolate with pieces of aerated chocolate and malty biscuit pieces (a bit like Weetos). 

Petit fours were so so - a strawberry marshmallow and a mini crème caramel hit the mark. However, fridge cold chocolate macarons and a piece of white chocolate with mint and strawberry were cumbersome. 

Despite the seriously hit and miss food we had a lovely evening. A superb bottle of sauvignon blanc (34€) eased the pain. However at 350€ including drinks and service for the two of us, I can’t help but feel disappointed. With that kind of dosh we could have had at least four meals at one of Malaga’s tapas gems

The Details:

Address - Restaurante JCG, Pza. de la Capilla, Puerto de Málaga, 29001
Telephone - +34952003588
Web -