Respectable Food for a Night of Celebration!
Happy Days! After being both surprised and extremely chuffed at finally completing my postgrad exams I was to celebrate in the form of an early dinner so that little one could go back and be put to bed!! It was a mild evening with clear skies, so where better in Cardiff than the Bay?? I had a 50% discount available off A La Carte at the Bayside Brasserie and so we ventured there to test some culinary magic. Last time I had been a few years ago the food was ok but prices were fairly steep. Let’s see how things have evolved…..
I’m not really sure what to make of the style of things here, as things seem a little confused. A brasserie in my mind has always been ordering items fresh from the counter with all main ingredients visible to see. That was how it was the last time I was here. Now it’s all proper order from menu only, and I think that’s taken away the brasserie experience a bit for me. Service too raised questions. All waiters were smartly dressed and proper perhaps deploying a fine dining like picture. Yet 30 minutes into dinner you realise that it’s actually quite a casual experience. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but as a result you don’t really know what to expect.
The interior is grand with its giant chandeliers, and we were given a window seat overlooking the bay. How romantic if baby wasn’t there 😀
For drinks I ordered a bottle of Rose for an extremely reasonable £9 after discount!
The menu had plenty of options and so no issues there. I could see that even without the discount there are good value options available like ‘Dine with Wine’. Right here’s what we ordered.
Starter 1: Pan Fried King Scallops, with Lemon and Herb Butter
I must apologise for the quality of the pictures. I think the Rose was getting to my head quickly (lol). These were perfectly cooked, a reasonable size, and the classic garlic herb butter was a great accompaniment with the touch of lemon juice wrapping it all up. A respectable starter, but no prizes for originality here. In any case £8 for 4 scallops is a bit pricey methinks. My best scallop experience ever was scallop sashimi at the now closed (sob sob) Sushi Hiro in Ealing London (review here). The natural sweetness and juiciness of that ultra fresh flesh was just worlds apart from anything I had eaten before.
Starter 2: Crispy Frogs Legs with Mixed Leaf Salad and a Garlic and Herb Mayonnaise
Never eaten deep fried frogs legs before, purely because they’re usually so tender that a batter isn’t necessary. It really fascinates me how being bold with trying out new things reveals a whole new heightened world of textures and tastes. As a kid I would never even contemplate trying frogs, and yet the meat is so succulent and tender it puts chicken to shame! Anyway these were ok although I’m not convinced by the batter idea. I don’t think it was required, and if you are going down that road, I think a much lighter batter like tempura would be more suitable for such a delicate texture. The mayonnaise lacked seasoning and some lemon would have been welcomed too.
Mains 1: Chargrilled Welsh 16oz Rib Eye Steak on the Bone, served with Baked Tomato and a Flat Mushroom
For those of you who follow my blog you’ll know I’m very particular on steak. Unfortunately my UK dining experiences of it have been dire. So far I just don’t think any of our breeds can compare with the flawlessly juicy and tender wagyu beef, or even the depth of flavours you get with US Prime. To make things worse, too many times I have asked for medium rare steaks to get given a medium to well.
Nowadays my philosophy in non-fine dining venues is to order rare hoping to get medium rare, and so that was what I had done here. Well readers I was most pleased to have got what I asked for, although not quite what I wanted :p
As you can see it was essentially perfectly rare, and on top of that the meat was well rested (hence no juice leaking everywhere). It also had that nice chargrill effect. So cooking couldn’t be criticised. Seasoning was perhaps under, but the biggest criticism was the meat itself. Welsh beef doesn’t cut it for me, not even Welsh black. It just lacks depth of flavour, which can’t be fixed with salt. It’s that natural beef taste that is so lacking in the UK. My only exception would be Aberdeen Angus and some Irish breeds, but even those don’t compare to the best. I think next time I’ll order a sauce to hide this problem.
Main 2: Fish Platter of Monk Fish, Sea bass, Scallops, and Scottish Salmon
The Mrs ordered this so I just did the lemon squeezing and tasted a small mouth of each variant. It was all well cooked, bar the scallops, which I felt were more chewy than the starter type. Otherwise it was just a plate of grilled fish and nothing more. I’m just glad it wasn’t overcooked like a lot of the ones I tried in the states were, as that just makes it a real task in finishing it.
Dessert 1: 70% Belgian Chocolate Fondant
Not bad. The sponge was nice and soft, and the inner sauce was rich and chocolatey. My only criticism was there wasn’t enough of it as I love the way the sauce just pours out as soon as you stick your fork in it. The ice cream was pleasant enough, but the chocolate stole the show here.
Dessert 2: Belgian Chocolate and Cointreau Torte
They cheekily added in a quid when I requested ice-cream instead of standard whipped cream! The Mrs ordered this and so I only had a mouthful. It was chocolatey with a hint of alcohol. Again standard stuff.
So then that marked the end of a nice evening out. I’ve concluded that the ambiance is casual with a bit of fine-dining ‘wannabeness’. Food however can only be at best described as gastropub standard. Most things were well executed, but very ordinary. In the end I only paid £52 including service but that was with 50% discount and included the bottle of wine. You are obviously paying a Cardiff Bay premium then. Can I recommend the place? Hmmmm… it does what it says on the tin… and if you’re just after honest cooking without too much faff in a semi-formal setting, then this is the place for you. However for those of us looking for that something special, then look elsewhere.
Mermaid Quay, Cardiff, South Glamorgan CF10 5BZ
Tel: 029 2035 8444
Monday to Friday 12:00 to 14:30 and 18:00 to 22:30
Saturday 12:00 to 22:30
Sunday 12:00 to 21:00