An evening get-together with other local blogging types- take a bow, The Little Nomad, The Jady Brunch, The Rare Welsh Bit and Explore With Ed- with complimentary cocktails and free food. It’s a dirty job, etc etc. Hell, if a man who has cooked for Springsteen wants to cook for me, I won’t put up too much of a fight.
The Chef’s Table here in The Laguna Restaurant at The Park Plaza overlooks rather than inhabits the kitchen, with executive chef (and local boy) Justin Llewellyn, previously of the Celtic Manor, serving a tasting menu which includes paired wines.
The first course got us off to a flyer, with superb quality tuna. Seared on the outside but ruby red at heart, it was simply dressed with a hint of chilli and lime and beautifully textured, with the flesh giving way under the slightest pressure. Seeing such beautiful produce treated so lightly, so respectfully, was hopefully a sign of some very good things to come. The paired wine, a sparkling Patagonian Pinot Noir-Chardonnay blend, seemed well chosen, and who am I to argue when I’m more at home with Chimay than a Chateau?
Breast of duck, with a deep smokiness from oak chips and tea leaves, was balanced by clean fruit flavours. It was billed as ‘shredded’ but had undergone a rethink, with the breast sliced on the diagonal and dotted with nuggets of orange and watermelon: another lovely plate of food, this time paired with a dry Cotes du Rhone.
A delicate, velvety champagne sorbet next, and a curtain-raiser for the showstopper. Often ‘deconstructed’ in menuspeak provoked nothing so much as a roll of the eyes and something unprintable muttered under the breath. Here, it was triumphant, a beef Wellington reimagined to lighter effect while still showcasing its chief ingredient of grass-fed, dry-aged Welsh beef, accompanied simply by sautéed wild mushrooms, confit shallots and buttery fondant potatoes, dressed with a Rioja jus. But what a dish: I swear a hush settled like snow over the entire table as we appreciated what was in front of us: either way, you would have got even less sense out of me than usual for a solid few minutes. This was an impeccable piece of beef, cooked absolutely impeccably.
Served with the slightly peppery flavours of an Argentinean Malbec, this was also one of the finest plates of food I’ve eaten in the city this year. That was my instant reaction: weeks later, I haven’t changed my opinion.
After the steak I’d have slapped Chef”s back so soundly, you’d fear for vertebrae T1 to 9 inclusive. This is highly impressive cooking and at £45pp- with matched wines included- represents some pretty hefty value.
By now my mind was made up. If I’d had a bill to settle after this dinner, I’d have paid it more than gladly; you’ve paid more and enjoyed less, I’d bet. I certainly have.
A silky panna cotta of ingredient du jour tonka bean was laced with a tart raspberry coulis to cut through the creamy indulgence of it all. I’m not massively keen on desserts, and tonka bean can easily outstay its welcome, but this was spot on. The paired Moscato was a touch sweet for my tastes, but dessert wine is often a bridge too far.
A selection of elegant handmade petit fours and some excellent coffee later, and we were done. Or done in, because we took them in the lounge area and the effort involved in getting back out of those sofas after that meal, made Sisyphus’ daily efforts look positively lackadaisical.
Whenever a blogger writes about a complimentary meal, there needs to be some consideration given as to whether their opinion has been sweetened as a result. To which I would say- I walked out of the hotel that evening knowing I’d have felt more than content if I had spent £90 for two. I tend to view hotels as somewhere where I can breakfast (very) well, but always look elsewhere for dinner: perhaps it’s time to reassess. This menu deserves to be on your shortlist.
The Chefs Table menu is available Monday to Friday, for groups of 6 to 12, and it’s essential to book in advance. That aside, the food is so good it’d even be worth going with people you just barely tolerate, in a pinch. Great food- and oh, that beef!- makes everything better.
Park Plaza Hotel,
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.