Posted by: mikeydude | November 30, 2009

Caesars Arms Seafood Pub Restaurant Review (7/10)

My local “lobsterbar”

Yesterday marked the end of a 9 hr exam marathon and my brain was only just functioning enough to assess gustation. We were going to celebrate… but where? The Boss didn’t come home from work until after 7pm so going into town was out of the question. I needed somewhere relatively local and commendable. This place immediately came to mind… voted wales seafood pub of the year previously. I had come here several times in the past and was never really that impressed. I’d give it another go I thought given the circumstances…

The pub itself is tucked away inside a small village in North West Cardiff on the border between Cardiff and Llantrisant. Plenty of car parking space and furiously busy on weekends. Luckily this was a Thursday and so relatively quiet. After driving through wind and storm we finally arrived. I’m always a bit taken back by all the awards it has won all stuck on the front door….

The first thing I noticed about this place that I hadn’t noticed before were the smiley waiters/tresses. From the guy who handled reservations to the lady behind the fish counter I don’t think I had experienced such a warm service for a long time. You only need to head to London china town to truly appreciate bad service (!). Anyway it proves the point that the dining experience isn’t always only about food (although the MOST important element) but that a great service greatly enhances your enjoyment of the meal. Perhaps it was because it was a relatively quiet weekday evening as opposed to the manic crowded weekends.

I like the ambiance of this place as well. There’s a bar area, restaurant area where you can see the chefs at work, the fish counter where you make your order, and a conservatory if you so wish.

Upon ordering drinks; I had a pint of Stella and the Mrs had some organic apple juice of some sort, we went to order. I love these brasserie style places where they display all their produce. The first of this type I encountered in Cardiff are on St Mary’s Street called the Brasserie at the turn of the millenium when I first arrived in Cardiff. They had a large selection of meats and fish on display so you could just choose what you liked in an informal setting. This place is a bit similar but displayed mainly fish. Impressive although I could tell not everything is as fresh as I would like.

The lady behind the counter was quick to make some recommendations including what was available on the specials board. Here’s what we had.

Bread

Brown and White served with butter. Not the best bread I’ve ever had but I enjoyed it nonetheless due to its ‘doughyness’. Haven’t had bread like this for a long time but I imagine it would be perfect to dip in rich gamey sauces.

Starter #1: Garlic Bread

I’m not sure why she ordered this. Perhaps she was anticipating the expensive meal and so decided to scrimp on starters. In any case this was just ordinary garlic bread. Tasted much the same as the ones you buy from the supermarket.

Starter #2: Crayfish Tail

This was one of their specials. At £11 not a cheap starter by any means. I haven’t eaten crayfish for a long time and so decided to give it a try. In my opinion freshwater fish never matches up to seawater fish in terms of the sweet tastes that embody the flesh of seawater shellfish. To compensate for that relative blandness a nice rich seafood sauce was served with this perfectly cooked tail to produce a more than satisfactory dish. The meat was not mushy which would be catastrophic, and there was plenty of bounce in its texture indicative of its freshness. Ok so lobster tails win hands down but come on… that would set you back a lot more than £11! The portion was also much larger than a standard starter I would normally go for, but tonight that was fine by me.

Mains #1: Crab Risotto with Seabass Fillets

This was the dish of the evening. Another special and again not cheap at £18 but I considered it good value considering you get 3 fillets of sea-bass with it. I must admit my complete pessimism for this dish as I simply didn’t think a busy seafood pub like this would be able to make a risotto which requires so much care and attention to make. How they proved me wrong. The aroma of the crab was brought through into the delicate texture of the rice to produce a truly delicious risotto. Even though there was hardly any evidence of any crab meat in the rice and that the whole thing could have been made with a crab stock, I must say that’s an incredibly high quality stock they’re using. Even more surprising is the quality of the cooking of the seabass fillets. Not overdone I was pleased to say, and the fish tasted fresh with its firm meat. Perhaps the skin could have been a wee bit crispier, but other than that I was more than impressed with the quality of the cooking here.

Mains #2: Deep Fried Hake & Chips

The fish counter lady told me that hake is their best seller. Hmmmmm… I’ve never been sure what to make of hake. It’s pretty similar to cod – a thick and rich meat that’s perfect for deep-frying or shallow frying. For me these types of fish are always rather bland and will always need some kind of sauce or accompaniment to enhance its flavour. Certainly not the kind of fish you’ll find in sushi restaurants or even chinese restaurants… except for the rather modern introduction of the pricier cousin Black Cod which is a Japanese special. Anyway I wanted my ‘shoulder’ of hake deep fried with chips and tartare sauce. The fish turned out very good indeed. Batter was light and crispy and the fish was of good texture. The accompanying tartare sauce was also scoring points thanks to its slight acidic addition to the plate as a whole.

I’ve always loved the chips here. Crispy fat chips done the way I like them. Incidentally they go well with the tartare sauce 🙂

Dessert #1: Chocolate & Rum Torte

Not sure how we managed to continue but we were feeling greedy so went for some desserts. Portions were decent and served with decent quality vanilla ice-cream. This tart was very chocolately, but I’m not convinced I could taste any rum. The textures were all very smooth and married well with the ice-cream. The Mrs looked as though she was enjoying this much more than the more expensive places we occasionally visit.

Dessert #2: Blueberry & Raspberry Cheesecake

I thought this cheesecake wasn’t bad, but no better than the standard M&S cheesecake. The sweet and sour tastes of the fruits on the top layer followed by the creamy second layer of cheese and finally the crisp earthy digestive base produced a standard no-nonsense cheesecake. I finished it without being overwhelmed.

Well overall I was pleasantly surprised by this place as my expectations were pretty low. The seabass witih crab risotto was definitely the highlight of the evening followed by the novelty value of eating crayfish tail. Although these 2 were specials the hake wasn’t bad either! It’s a rare find in Cardiff where you can walk into an establishment knowing that the seafood is going to be fresh (I think they get daily supplies) and cooked to a decent degree. I would not hesitate to bring guests over as I think the ambiance is nice for informal chatting. Just be prepared for a slightly compromised experience during the weekends due to the sheer popularity of this place. Oh and bookings are essential for these times!

The final bill came to around £70 including drinks and service charge. Come here if you want standard decent quality seafood in an informal setting. Otherwise if you’re after something more exquisite I would recommend you look elsewhere.

Contact:

Caesar’s Arms Seafood Pub
Cardiff Rd
Creigiau
Cardiff
CF15 9NL

029 2089 0486

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 12:00-14:30 & 18:00-22:00
Sat: 12:00-14:30 & 18:00-22:30
Sun: 12:00-16:00

No website

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