Posted by: mikeydude | August 7, 2010

Cricketers Pub Cardiff Review (5.5/10)

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.

Contact:

The Cricketers Gastropub
66 Cathedral Road
Pontcanna
Cardiff
CF11 9LL

Opening Times:
Bar:
Noon – 11.00pm
Food:
Mon – Thu: Noon – 2.30pm, 5.30 – 9.30pm
Fri/Sat: Noon – 9.30pm. Sunday: Noon – 5.00pm

Tel: 02920 345 102

http://www.cricketerscardiff.co.uk/index.html

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Responses

  1. Hi Mikey dude

    Thanks for paying us a visit last night, which was our first real test as it was by far the busiest shift yet since we opened the doors last week.

    Just a few comments for yourself, we didn’t have Welsh black on the menu last night, I wrote the boards and it did just say welsh beef fillet, definitely not the black (but we have had that last week).

    I have spoken to the chef about the amount of bacon in the cockles, which we will pay special attention to. Although, I am surprised you didn’t enjoy them as they have been our best selling starter and recieved great feedback so far! The idea of the dish is to eat the laver bread/cockle and bacon mixture with the little bread crostinis, kind of cocktails meets West Wales!

    The bread, you all seemed to enjoy, is made in house, just a basic foccacia mix with rosemary and sea salt. the fish soup is taken from a classic Med recipe, made in house without any “pre-made stock”, I can promise you.

    We have had some dishes that have been successful, others not such great sellers, the octopus salad is a new addition to replace a starter course that didn’t seem to grab the customers eye. Hence we print our menu out everyday onto card so we have that flexibility. Again, the comments on the fish pie surprise me as that is a new addition that has gone down a storm, both in sales and feedback. However, in this trade, personal taste has to come into it somewhere!

    Hopefully we will get to see you again in the future. Thanks again for trying us out so soon, in these early days the feedback is very important so we can iron out any issues as soon as possible, so I have found your review very helpful indeed.

    Many thanks

    Michelle Francis

    • Michelle,

      Sorry my mistake regarding the welsh black. I think it was because you had Welsh black sirloin on your standard menu. I will have to give it another try some time soon. In any case I’m sure you would agree with me from my amateur photo that the fillet did come out more medium than rare to be honest.

      On reflection the waiting staff really need more training on sourcing and general knowledge of the menu items, especially if your gastropub places its pride on produce. I do acknowledge however that it is still early days.

      As I mentioned, I didn’t think the food was bad at all; just not good enough for a high recommendation, but I’m glad that you have received such encouraging feedback so far. I look forward to returning one day to give it another shot. Regards.

  2. I went in on Saturday with my sister and we also had Seabass. We were really happy with the seasoning, but then again everyone is allowed there own opinion.
    Just thought Id say that: Laver is a seaweed which after picking is washed thoroughly to remove sand, and then cooked until soft and resembling a jelly. It is then known as laverbread!!!!! So Laverbread isnt the toast.

    • Stacey,

      precisely…. I knew it wasn’t laverbread cos I had cockles, lavabread, and poached egg for breakfast up in north wales last year which was delicious. Apparently I’ve since been told that the laverbread is in the cockle mixture?!?!? I’m not entirely convinced to be honest.

      Perhaps I was being overcritical of the fish, but I really wasn’t impressed by the seasoning or the fresh pesto sauce that topped it. It just didn’t taste of enough. But I’ve always been critical of fish dishes as they are so difficult to get right. But as you say, it’s entirely down to personal preference.

      Thanks for the comment by the way. Always welcomed!! Happy dining.

  3. Hi Mikey Dude

    thanks for the reply, but please, don’t call us a gastro pub!!! We belive it’s an over-used label to excuse small portions for over-priced food! We simply want to be a great pub that serves good quality, locally sourced food where it is possible.

    As far as the training, it is an everyday thing here. We sit down at 11am as a team and 5pm to have a quick bite to eat and discuss any specials or new items on the menu. We also did a lot of training whilst the builders were in, tasting and talking about all of our dishes.

    The young lady who served you on Sat has never worked in a pub/restaurant before. I hired her because she is pleasant with a good work ethic, which unfortunately as an employer can be hard to find these days. Her small mistakes will disappear as she does more shifts, and her knowledge is only going to grow. If I could hire 10 mini-me’s life would be very easy belive me!

    Happy eatings!

    Michelle

    • Apologies. I will change it to Pub instead. However I don’t agree with you that gastropub equals small portions and astronomical prices. One of my favourites the Foxhunter in Nantyderry serve huge portions for pretty good value for money prices.

      I also apologise for victimising your waitress, because she was very friendly and it’s just a matter of training, which she will get in time. It’s just that I was trying to review the restaurant as a whole, and unluckily for her, she was representing the service aspect of it.

      All the best!

  4. Michelle,

    Thank God that you (and The Conway) are in Cardiff. Finally, something to lift the standards in this dire culinary backwater. I pray that there are enough Cardiffians with the taste and awareness to appreciate what you are trying to do, and to keep your business thriving.

  5. Brilliant!

    Thanks for your comment, I think Cardiff is crying out for more traditional pubs, away from the chains and Brains that we are saturated with! The boys back of house are really passionate about what they do and work very hard at creating different menus everyday and getting in the best ingredients they can work with. Look out for The Cricketers food club coming soon, tasting menu evenings of several small courses where the guys can really show off their skills!

    Many thanks

    Michelle

    • food club michelle? Would u like to give us some more details on that? Sounds like a great idea to me…

  6. Hey Mikey

    We are looking to set up a monthly taster menu evening where the chefs can really show off their skills and passion. upstairs we have a small boardroom and could fit in about 20 diners. The chefs will be serving a menu of around 8 small courses, which is quite trendy at the moment, especially around the restarants in London. You can find a few places in cardiff doing taster evenings but not that many. Full details and a menu will be on our web site next week, this weekend we have our beer and music festival on Saturday and Sunday with live bands playing all weekend, so we’re putting the club on hold till after that as it’s been a lot of hard work organising!

    I know there is a enough people in Cardiff that want to dine out somewhere different from the cahins we are drowned in so hopefully it will prove popular. The chefs can get a chance to chat with the diners afterwards, talk about the courses, which were the best, most exciting etc. keeps the boys drive going and pushes them to try harder!

    will definitely drop you an email when it’s on-line

    Michelle

  7. 5.5 seems to be a particularly harsh mark. the food in the pictures looks delicious, and sounds like you’re being very harsh on the waitress – i don’t think waitresses should be expected to know everything about every single dish, especially in a brand new place. sounds like you’re being very picky about everything. and also, i think you mean “sliver” of bacon rather than the verb “to slither”.

    • First I must congratulate you Michelle. It appears you have rounded up quite a gathering, and deservedly so!

      Bob… thanks fot the comment. I must apologise for that spelling mistake, but please remember I am a foreigner =)
      I agree I was a bit harsh on the waitress, but to be honest my score that i gave (which doesn’t mean much by the way) wasn’t really affected by that waitress. However I had to comment because I always comment on service. If you think about it, why should a customer pay the same amount on day 1 as say… day 30 and expect less on the service front just because it’s a new opening? Far from reality I know, but ideally it shouldn’t be any different.
      With regards to the score… 5.5 is not a bad score at all for a restaurant that’s only just opened. Don’t forget I had to compare it with other restaurants at the end of the day. The food did look good I agree with you. Perhaps it brought on expectations that I felt were not met…


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