Posted by: mikeydude | July 5, 2009

The Crown @ Celtic Manor Restaurant Review (7.5/10)

It’s July 2009…. and we’re just getting to the end of the heatwave that had completely destroyed my appetite for food and sweaty at night. We were driving home from Southampton to Cardiff and I decided that it would be nice to stop by the Celtic Manor for lunch on the way home. Initially we were planning on getting a sandwich or burger at Merlin’s (another one of the hotel’s 11 restaurants) accompanied by a beer or something, but the lure of the hotel’s flagship lunch menu was too great to resist….

The Crown at the Celtic Manor is the sister restaurant to the Michelin-starred offering in Whitebrook (near Monmouthshire) and is now the flagship restaurant up there. Head chef James Sommerin doesn’t cook in the Celtic Manor although I hear from the waiters that he is involved in menu design. For lunch they serve their standard menu and an excellent value Express Lunch @ £14.95 for 2 courses and £19.95 for 3 courses. I’ve eaten here for dinner twice and both times have been excellent. I’ve long regarded this place as one of the best in South East Wales but was keen to try out its lunch menu.

The setting is very modern. As you enter the restaurant which consists of an open plan seating area with bar and the main restaurant you will be greeted by a very smiley and professional maitre D. The restaurant has very grand chandeliers and a nice blue-yellow lighting scheme around the sides which oozes class particularly at night. Anyway we went to the outside seating area for complimentary champagne with olives and nuts to look at the menu.

olives and almonds

On the Express Menu there are a choice of 3 starters, main courses, and desserts. Since the wife wanted to eat her favourite Knickerbocker Glory in the hotel lounge we opted for 2 starters and mains. After all the terrine we had in Paris we decided to opt for asparagus veloute and salmon fillet for starters, followed by chicken fillet and cod fillet for mains. It was fantastic sitting outside overlooking the golf course and sipping champagne on this hot summers day….

We were then shown to our seats and offered bread. Wow. After eating dry brown bread in Paris all week (I just don’t get why the Parisians are so fond of their dry brown bread!), we were offered freshly baked in 3 flavours; plain white, rosemary, and walnut & raisin. Smelt fantastic and the bread was so beautifully soft and warm. Combined with butter it was purely amazing. I said to the Mrs that the bread alone was worth the trip here. My favourite was the rosemary roll… it’s fragrance reminded me of the hills of Tuscany with all their rosemary hedges.

crown rosemary bread<img

crown walnut raisin bread

Anyway… onto business…

Starter 1: Asparagus Veloute with warm truffle mousse

asparagus veloute

The subtle aroma of truffle gave a good starting impression. The soup was a lovely green colour and served hot. The consistency was perfect for a veloute and there were 2 asparagus heads at the bottom. However I felt the taste of the asparagus was rather overpowered by seasoning. Nevertheless a decent starter, although I question whether I should have chosen it given the current climate!

Starter 2: Fillet of Salmon, pea shoots, and quail eggs.

 salmon fillet starter

This dish scores top marks for presentation! Nicely charred skin of the salmon fillet rested on some foamy sauce accompanied by the pea shoots and quail eggs. The salmon tasted fantastic too; crispy skin with perfectly cooked (still the slightest pink in the middle and wonderfully moist). The foamy sauce went well with the fish as did the quail eggs and salad…. rather unsurprisingly. Very impressed with this starter. Portion size was perfect for me.

Main course 1: Free range chicken, puy lentils, and curly kale.

chicken, lentils and kale

When the Maitre D told me that this was a chicken breast dish, my hopes of it being a triumph quickly evaporated. Being chinese we always love the chicken leg, particularly the thigh, as it is the most succulent tender part of the chicken. It is also the easiest to cook… still tasting tender when overdone! Breast meat I find is always less forgiving and overcooking it turns it into rubber! However this chicken breast was cooked perfectly. How the chef was able to produce such a tender piece of chicken breast beats me, but it was even better than thigh meat! I’ve always loved lentils and along with the kale (with its unique crunchy texture) produced a fantastically well balanced dish. A really unexpected fine piece of cooking here.

Main course 2: Fillet of cod, grain mustard mash, and shallot jus.

 cod and mash

My dining partner and I both agreed that the jus made the whole dish look a bit messy, but as usual we let the tastes do the judging. Again, the cod was perfectly cooked, and quite a decent portion at that. Being quite a relatively bland tasting fish, the sauce along with the powerful mustard mash brought the whole dish together. It was a good dish, but again I think it was slightly overseasoned. Besides I was a little too impressed with my chicken dish to truly rate this dish 🙂

The bill came to the total of £29.90 for the 2 of us including complimentary glasses of champagne. It was an almost perfect lunch in terms of both ambience and cooking. The highlights had to be unquestionably the bread, followed closely by the chicken. Nevertheless it was slightly let down by the saltiness of everything. A little refinement in that area is needed in my opinion. I would highly recommend this establishment for those who want something a little different but yet don’t want to be completely stuffed. Doesn’t quite live up to its older brother in Whitebrook, but good enough for me… will come again!



  1. […] than later due to the memory of that fantastic lunch I had there a few months ago (see my review here). Anyway it was the Mrs’ Birthday and so I had to bring her somewhere special yet not too far […]

  2. The food was nice, but after three courses we were still hungry as the portions were so tiny. Atmosphere in the restaurant is boring and quiet, and when it gets busy, there are not enough staff to serve the tables properly and bring the bill. Desert menu was not impressive at all, but I had to make my choice as I simply had to eat something as my starter and main course didn’t make me feel as though I had been eating. We won’t be visiting this restaurant again as the quality of food and the price charged were nowhere near as good as other top quality restaurants we have eaten at.

    • thanks for the input Alex! Interesting you say you weren’t full. The freebies filled me up a fair bit by the time we reached desserts! Maybe it’s because I had 2-3 rolls of bread 😀 Of course I acknowledge that the food there is not for everyone and that they tend to overseason things…

      In any case tell me about the other top quality restaurants you mentioned so I can pay them a visit!

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