Posted by: mikeydude | March 10, 2010

The New Red Lion Gastropub Cardiff Review (6.5/10)

The roar of an uprising from the West!

Interesting how I got about dining here last night in celebration with the wife for passing her GP exams (yipee!). I initially wanted to go to Le Gallois to see how their food is going currently after being disappointed during my last couple of visits. They were fully booked. I then tried calling Woods Brasserie in Cardiff Bay to try their good value for money Pre-theatre menu. They were also pretty booked up. My last attempt was to try out the recently re-opened Bully’s restaurant in Canton to see how well they can fry a piece of fois gras. They were full. Sheesh I thought it was the credit crunch! Anyway my last resort was to try out this highly rated gastropub in the little village of Pendoylan on the Western end of Cardiff. Chef Kami Soroush has been highly praised by Vale Life magazine for his simple down to earth style of rustic cooking. They luckily had room for the two of us and so we embarked on an evening of interesting ambience, pretty good food, and pretty awful service. Here’s my report….

After driving aimlessly through narrow roads in the dark relying solely on my google maps app on the Iphone, we found this place. It really reminded me of one of my favourite gastropubs The Foxhunter in Nantyderry from the outside. Nice cottage like design with plenty of carparking space on the side of the restaurant. Even the entrance was on the similar end of the property. This was going to be an interesting comparison I thought…

On entering the similarities ended. The Foxhunter looks a lot neater and warming. The place is divided into a bar area where you order your drinks, browse and order food items, before being led to a separate dining area. The bar area looked a bit shabby with worn carpets and typical pub-like dim lighting. I did however like the old clock on the wall which I attached at the start. Browsing through the menu items reveals a chef who seems to be very fond of asian flavours; most of the starters had some oriental element in them. I overheard the waitress speaking to the next table when taking orders confessing that it was only her second night. Hmmmmm…. interesting I thought. Well it took around 30 mins for someone to come and take our order which wasn’t a great start.

The dining area itself was nice. We were led to the end of a long narrow dining space right next to a fireplace. This would have been fantastic if it was lit. Interesting that on such a cold night the owners didn’t think to have a nice fire going. Instead it was filled with candles (?!). The Mrs never took her jacket off….

Right onto the food…

Starter #1: Scallops, Saffron, Lime, Chilli & Crunchy Salad

Beautiful presentation. Three nicely seared scallops surrounding a cabbage, onion, carrot salad and dressed with a wonderful orange coloured sauce. The flavours were spot on here; classic combinations of seafood with sour and zing from the sauce. I couldn’t really taste the saffron though due to the powerful acid flavours of the sauce. The scallops themselves tasted wonderfully fresh. However I wasn’t convinced they were entirely cooked as the flesh looked too translucent and I wasn’t sure if this was intentional. It didn’t taste cold in the middle so maybe it was only just cooked through. Regardless of this it was a good starter with plenty of sharpness to really wet the appetite.

Starter #2: Lightly curried Crab, Avocado and Grape Salad

Interesting. The crab and avocado combination I first tried at the Maze stall at one of the Taste of Christmas food festivals. Jason Atherton seems to have made it famous; the wonderful flaky crab tastes combine exquisitely with the oily texture of avacado. Chef here seems to have put a slight twist by adding a mild curry flavour to the crab and topping with some sweet grapes. A bold move, but I think it works great as a starter. The ‘tian’ like presentation is also pleasing to the eye. Very impressive.

Main #1: Prime Scottish Middle Cut Fillet Steak (Rare)

Fillet steak; always rare I think. Such a beautiful and tender cut of beef can only be ruined by any further cooking than that. I can’t believe a fellow diner ordered it medium to well done (?!). I always find it tastes like rubber when done like that (my mum’s an expert of making rubber beef ;)). Everyone has different tastes I suppose. Anyway this one came out ‘bleu’ and pretty much raw in the middle (should’ve snapped it for you to see). However it wasn’t cold in the middle and it actually still tasted good hence why I didn’t return it. The Scottish flavour was in my opinion much better than Welsh black and fillet was exquisitely tender. It was also well seasoned. My gripe though was that I ordered rare, not bleu.

Main #2: Roast Partridge, Venison Sausages, Savoy Cabbage, Bacon & Onion, with Quince & Apple Marmalade

Apologies for the picture quality here. Pleasantly surprised here by the cooking skill of the partridge which I thought would turn out dry and overdone. It was cooked very well indeed with still succulent meat albeit with a few shots still inside the bird. The home made venison sausages were a bit too gamey for me but still enjoyable in small amounts. What really made this dish stand out for me though was the apple/quince marmalade sauce that topped the partridge. It gave an almost honey-like sweetness to the meat which added depth to an otherwise relatively bland bird. The savoy-bacon combination is classic and done at an acceptable level.

Mushrooms

These were just button mushrooms sauteed in butter and parsley. A bit steep for charging £2.50 for these I think for such simple cooking.

Chips

Delicious chunky chips that had a wonderful golden crunchy coating and soft potato inside. Couldn’t fault these although incomparable to Heston’s version.

Dessert #1: Toffee and Pecan Cheesecake

The gastropub boasts that all desserts are home-made and my goodness there’s a lot of choice on the chalkboard! I opted to try their cheesecake served with home-made vanilla (?+ walnut?) icecream on a caramel basket. The flavours of the cheesecake were all nice but I think there were some technical glitches here. The cheese layer was just way too stodgy which made the whole slice of cake challenging to finish. The biscuit base was also a bit too doughy for my liking. Worst of all though was the caramel basket. This was done pretty terribly as it was just simply too thick. It’s become very popular to sit a scoop of ice-cream in these baskets presumably to make the dessert still look presentable as the ice-cream slowly melts. However the places where I’ve enjoyed it have produced wonderfully thin caramel which augmented the ice-cream. Nevertheless the ice cream was excellently made and complemented the stodgy cheesecake well.

Dessert #2: Chocolate and Rum Torte

The Mrs ordered this so I only had a few mouths. I loved the presentation of having a poached pear sitting on butter cream. However it was a little underpoached for me as I generally like them really soft in texture. The torte itself was very powerful indeed. The biscuit base had been soaked in a LOT of rum and the flavour of this just threw all the other flavours of chocolate out the window. Too much alcohol I found but nevertheless oddly satisfying to eat.

The service needs special attention. The inexperience of the waiting staff was blatant as there were so many mistakes. For reasons I’m not sure of they liked to put dishes of food on the side of us (i.e. on the unoccupied side of our 4 seater table). This meant we had to pick up the dishes and place them in front of us each time. This was odd. Are they just afraid of knocking over glasses? I asked for a steak knife for my steak (surprise) and the waiter brought it and placed in on the placemat on my left (?!!). I’ve never seen anything like it. To wrap things up we were asking about the cheesecake and whether it is baked (the wife’s pregnant). The waiter went away to ask and then returned and said something along the lines of “No you’re thinking American cheesecakes…. they are served in slices, not baked whole” (?!). I didn’t get what he was talking about and just let it drop. It’s nothing to put me off coming again, but it’s just really bizarre service that needs to improve if the place is to compete with other gastropubs in the region. However one very positive plus note was the way the chef comes out to speak to the guests intermittently which I think is very professional.

All in all though a very decent meal indeed. I particularly commend the starters and main courses and with a bit of refinement the desserts could be great too. I can’t remember the exact price but it wasn’t shockingly expensive (around the £70 mark including service and drinks). The service lets it down slightly which brings the score down by 1/2, but I would definitely consider coming back in a few months to see how things improve.


Contact:

The Red Lion,
Pendoylan,
Cowbridge,
Vale of Glamorgan,
CF71 7UJ

Tel: 01446 760 332

Opening Hours :
Lunch served 12.00 – 2.30pm (Tue – Sat & 3pm Sunday)
Dinner served 6.00 – 9.30pm (Tue – Sat)
Closed Sunday evenings and Mondays

http://www.newredlion.com/index.html

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Responses

  1. Hey – been waiting a while for your latest post. Nice to see you back. I’m from the Croydon area so love to read your reviews of places near here.
    Keep up the good work!
    AR

    • Hey AR,

      Erm…. sorry to tell you this, but I don’t usually review restaurants in the croydon area at all; it was just the one off chinese restaurant that I reviewed there. Usually my reviews are based in South Wales quite a few miles west from you.

      Regards


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