Come on where’s the seasoning???
I wasn’t particularly surprised that gastropub Y Cadno had closed 1 year after it opened in June 2009. The disorganised staff were easily forgiven for its early days, but the cookery that followed that evening showed no signs of excitement. Unfortunately to survive these days you have to be extraordinary and the standards there were simply too far from that…. In any case I recently received a comment from the new management team who had taken over with its new name “Cricketers”; boasting a similar kind of gastropub setting but with much improved service and quality of food. There’s a new chef too, which could only be a good thing, and one that has ‘spent time’ in critically acclaimed Boxwood Cafe in London. I browsed through the menu online; lots of home grown food and menu items that genuinely looked different and exciting such as Welsh Black Beef, as well as cockles from West Wales. When some of the Mrs’ friends came to visit, it therefore seemed like the perfect opportunity to savour this ‘new found’ talent just to see whether they could live up to their claims. Here’s my report.
I always liked the layout of this place. The long narrow interior had a nice welcoming feel to it and the extra space in the back yard provided ample space for al fresco dining on the rare occasion. The place was nearly packed at 7:30 on a saturday evening, so the locals were clearly giving their support. The waiting staff were therefore rushed off their feet and so I needed to get their attention before being shown to my table. I was particularly pleased that they were more than happy to add on my extra unexpected last minute guest by joining 2 tables together. It was also nice to see a specials board that included dishes like Black Beef Fillet and Pembroke Lobster. Better still were the prices! This place isn’t too bad at all. The main courses were mostly between £7-11, which is really good value. My hopes were getting higher and higher for this place…
Unfortunately things didn’t really live up to expectations from this point. The waitress didn’t have much of a clue about any of the dishes… even simple questions like “Is the seabass fillet grilled?” prompted an “I think so”, and frequently needed to call the kitchen team upstairs to ask. Only a minor point; no big deal. Slightly worse was not asking how I wanted the beef fillet cooked, but again due to the ‘newness’ of the place this was fine. Right then… onto the food.
Starter 1: Penclawdd cockles, bacon and lava bread
I tend to get alarmed when 2 of 3 elements of a dish are missing when the plate is presented to you. My image of this dish when I read it on the menu was going to be a miniaturised version of the classic welsh breakfast. What I appeared to receive were cockles in a bowl with a bit of seaweed and toasted bread. Upon asking the waitress she reassured me that there was bacon in the bowl and the toasted bread was lava bread. Ok. Since when has lava bread been brown? Upon digging around the cockles there was the odd slither of bacon; literally. Surprisingly the cockles didn’t really taste of much, although squeezing the lemon brought in some much needed acidity. It was fairly fresh, just lacking in taste. The slithers of bacon added nothing to the dish, and the non-existent lava bread was a shame as it partners cockles very well indeed. A letdown indeed, and I would suggest the restaurant renamed this dish cockles and toasted bread.
Starter 2: Fish Soup with garlic mayonnaise and Bread
This was pretty good actually, although I only had a couple of mouths. Consistency was a little runny, but it was packed with fishy flavour, which I really liked. The bread was good too, with its doughy soft texture that did a fine job of soaking up plenty of soup with each dip. It would have been nice to have included some fish chunks inside to give it more substance however just to ensure the diner he/she may not actually be just drinking well seasoned pre-made stock.
Starter 3: Octopus with Chilli Salad
I didn’t actually try this dish, but presentation was excellent and the girls seemed to enjoy it. A very generous portion too.
Mains 1: Welsh Black Beet Fillet with Potato Mash & Vegetables
Priced at £18 this was the second most expensive dish on the menu next to the lobster. The reputation of welsh black beef is such (apparently used in Parisien Restaurants!) that it must be compared to the steaks I had in New York when I went there last year. I asked for rare which fair play to the chef actually came out medium rare to medium. There was also a nice chargrill surface to the beef.
The natural beef taste of the fillet was not bad, although still inferior to US Prime, Aberdeen Angus, and Wagyu in my opinion. The letdown however was the seasoning, or lack of it; resulting in a rather bland experience. Luckily there was a rich tomato olive based sauce of some kind on the side that added a whole extra layer of flavour to the dish. There wasn’t enough of it though and the lumpy tasteless mash that the beef sat on made the whole affair lacklustre. Not inedible by any means, but far from being above average.
Mains 2: Sea bass fillet, grilled peppers, courgettes and aubergine with fresh pesto
Another pretty dish. Fillets were well seared on the skin side and the flesh was still moist in the middle. Not a bad attempt at all. Serving the fish with vegetables and pine nuts was a brilliant idea as these magic nuts have such excellent aroma. Sadly the dish again lacked seasoning, and I am by no means a ‘salt-loving’ diner. The pesto sitting on top was lacking in both flavour and quantity to make amends for this. Nevertheless it was great to see good flavour combinations and just a little tweaking could make this a respectable dish.
Mains 3: Fish Pie
This was a massive portion and the melted cheese layer sitting on top made it look highly appetising. Sadly it didn’t really deliver in taste. I’m not joking in saying that it virtually tasted of nothing beyond the cheese and the slightest hint of fishiness. The potato was nice and smooth, and there were adequate chunks of fish. It just had no taste, and before any of you ask, I did not have nasal congestion this evening!
So then what can I say? A huge improvement to Y Cadno, but still the food does not make me jump up and down proclaiming that a Conway slayer has arrived. Some of the dishes we ordered delivered promise but the general error was an alarming lack of seasoning. Most dishes just tasted of nothing. Oh and that cockle dish is verging on fraudulent. Will I return? Hmmmm… possibly after a few months and a few readers reporting on vast improvements. Give it a try and give me your views. In the meantime though, I’ll happily stick with the New Conway (review here) just down the road.
The Cricketers Gastropub
66 Cathedral Road
Noon – 11.00pm
Mon – Thu: Noon – 2.30pm, 5.30 – 9.30pm
Fri/Sat: Noon – 9.30pm. Sunday: Noon – 5.00pm
Tel: 02920 345 102