Full disclosure: this post reviews a meal to which I was invited. All food and drink was free. In future, any (occasional) ‘by invitation’ reviews will feature this disclaimer front and centre, in the interest of transparency.
Reinvention can be a wonderful thing.
Take Kylie Minogue. No, really. Which version is your favourite? Perky little Ramsay Street Kylie? Suicide blonde Kylie? Gold hot pants Kylie? Or – my personal favourite (‘I kissed her goodbye/Said all beauty must die’) Murdered By Nick Cave Down By The River Kylie? She’s reinvented herself many times- Country & Western next- and now, the newly renamed Principal St Davids Hotel wants to bring the flavours of Australasia to Cardiff.
Something New for South Wales (no, I can’t promise the rest of this gets any better) bringing together a medley of influences. Martyn Watkins’ menu is eclectic- there’s little chance you wouldn’t find something to intrigue here- and paired with a love of regional produce. Chicken satay rubs shoulders with merguez* and Welsh mussels, Welsh beef carpaccio is teamed with the densely meaty tangle of a Korean spiced bon bon.
A rump of Carmarthenshire lamb (technically, hogget, that stage between lamb and mutton which brings deeper flavour than the former without the toughness of the latter) arrives with the unexpected tang of lemongrass on a coriander and citrus-fragranced couscous and dappled with a sauce bright with mango and red pepper.
You’d expect a notable hotel to give Welsh lamb to be given star billing, and they have: not typically like this, though. It’s a novel twist and all makes for a much lighter dish than you might expect. The addition of lightly battered enoki mushrooms to a rosy-pink piece of Welsh beef is a lovely touch, the tempura adding some lovely textures to the spindly funghi.
Chicken Laksa- not a classic laksa, and quite possibly unrecognisable as such to any passing Malays- but no less effective for all that. It’s a sumptuous thing, the pieces generous and hefty. Chicken thighs (from West Wales) have been slowly coaxed to tenderness in a spiced stock- there’s ginger, chilli and more lemongrass going on here, with the soothing richness of coconut cream. The key word here is ‘opulent’.
It’s all topped with an egg, fried in butter, and topped with crispy spiced shallots & coriander. As thighs go, they’re more Chris Hoy than Mick Jagger. It’s an absolute belter of a dish, and the dish which will very possibly be the star of this menu.
Their take on the classic peach melba will have you thinking of Roald Dahl, whose works are commemorated around the room. Or upturned buttocks. Possibly both at the same time, which could be a first. Or not: please yourself. I’m not here to judge. It’s a shell of tempered white chocolate filled with cream and a raspberry gel, sitting on filigree dark chocolate: it’s a playful end to a meal.
It’s an interesting direction to take with a hotel restaurant, so many of which suffer from the bland leading the bland. No one could accuse The Admiral of playing it safe or of lacking ambition. That, certainly, is something to celebrate.
*Not literally. Now you’re just being odd.
The Admiral St David,
The Principal St David’s 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.