A few weeks ago, the St Davids Hotel in Cardiff Bay relaunched its in-house restaurant, having stripped out the dark wood and rich fabrics that previously seemed to suffocate the venue, and replaced them with a cool colour scheme of whites, greys and light woods.
To go along with the fancy new decor, the all day menu has also had an update. Headed up by Executive Chef Martyn Watkins – the food now borrows inspiration from the bold flavour combinations usually found in Australasia and the Asia-Pacific, with dishes like Malaysian Laksa (coconut milk soup) certainly catching my attention at first glance.
With the delightful Imran (aka Kitchen Clonc) as my dinner date, I was lucky enough to visit the re-booted restaurant – now known as ‘The Admiral St David‘ – for the first time on a Friday night when the atmosphere was buzzy and upbeat. There was even a live musician in doing acoustic versions of contemporary classics (think chilled out remixes of Kanye West), which was a nice way to ease into the weekend.
Having browsed the menu online before I arrived I knew that I was going to order the Welsh mussels (£8) with salted black beans, chilli, and grilled lime to start. Although they were going slightly cold by the time they reached my table, they were still a great way to start the meal; salty, chunky mussels in a broth with shallots, those chewy little black beans and a hint of lemongrass and garlic.
To drink, I went for a glass of Le Versant Viognier (£6.60), as recommended by Imran who also served this at his wedding. I can see why – it was gone within a few minutes. Oops…
For the main, I just knew I had to try the wild mushrooms in a pajeon pancake (£14), served with a bulgogi sauce, and an edamame and cavolo nero salad. They must have run out of edamame in the kitchen that night because my salad – which was well dressed with sesame oil – came with what I am sure was tinned sweetcorn. This was slightly disappointing since I love edamame, and also made the dish look rather less refined. In fact, it was quite an average looking dish in general, but what it lacked in style it did make up for in substance. The wild mushrooms were wonderfully meaty with a strong earthy taste, and the korean savoury pancake was moreish and spongy; the perfect texture for mopping up that bulgogi sauce (a thin dressing made with sugar, green onions, garlic, sesame seeds, sesame oil, and ground black pepper).
Imran decided to go for a meatier main – opting for the lemongrass-marinated Welsh lamb rump (£20), served with coriander couscous, red pepper and mango sauce, and tenderstem broccoli. This was a beautiful looking dish, cooked to perfection in a waterbath to leave the lamb mouthwateringly pink. I had a bite and it tasted as good as it looked.
Finally it was time for dessert. Imran went for the Peach Melba (£7) with vanilla ice-cream and raspberry sauce. Whilst this sounded like a simple dish, what arrived was a stunning peach flavoured casing which had to be cracked with a spoon to reveal the fruit flavoured mousse inside. Sadly for Imran he realised that this was most probably made with gelatin, and as he doesn’t eat pork, it meant that his dessert had to be taken care of by yours truly.
This left him to enjoy my choice of dark Chocolate Cremeux (£7) with mango sorbet and coconut. The presentation on this dish was gorgeous – little peaks of creamy chocolate and fruity sorbet with a few mounds of snow-like desiccated coconut, along with a honeycomb wafer and some chocolate ‘gravel’. The mixture of crunchy and smooth textures was pleasing – definitely a dish I would order again, and this time not to share!
The Admiral St David is a welcome addition to the Cardiff Bay dining scene, and it’s great to see them bringing something a bit different to the city. I particularly like the way that they use some of the same local ingredients that featured on the previous menu (like the south coast scallops which now come with charred cauliflower, carrot purée, caramelised ginger; and the free-range pork chop which now comes with pickled fennel, celeriac fondant, kale slaw, and roasted apple). It’s also really good to see some inventive vegetarian options – like my korean mushroom pancake, the Thai sweet potato curry, and on the bar menu, the quinoa, garlic and herb fritters.
It’s on the pricey side, but I can definitely see myself going back to The Admiral St David on a Friday night to sample a few more dishes from the menu, listen to some live music, and maybe knock back a few cocktails too. Both Imran and I agreed that the ambiance would have been just perfect for an upbeat date night or a noisy catch up with friends, when a stuffy atmosphere and quiet dining room just won’t do.
Do you think you’ll be paying The Admiral St David a visit? Let me know in the comments below 🙂