I was invited to review Anderson’s as a guest of Chef Dickie Flinn. The Un-Four-Seen menu and drinks were complimentary on the evening.
I always believe there to be something extremely comforting with food that can evoke a sentimental longing, or affection for a period of time in the past. It’s that feeling of unexpected added value that can elevate a dish, beyond taste and presentation, and allow a form of escapism back to memories that warm the cockles of your heart. Even if that does mean returning to your long-term memory bank, and at 3am finally having some kind of culinary induced epiphany as to where and when the hell you last ate a syllabub!
With such a diverse range of restaurants, cuisines and styles of cooking in Wales and beyond, the hospitality industry is moving quickly to meet customer demand. Fine dining, casual dining, street food, fast food, European, Asian, Modern British, the latest ‘foodie’ fad (N.B. – burgers and doughnuts do not, and should not, ever go together)…argh! And while, as a diner, it is wonderful to have so much choice; what we sometimes lack, is in fact, good old-style traditional British home cooking.
Enter the kitchen…Chef Dickie Flinn.
Having worked his way up through the ranks to head chef, Dickie’s career started at The Inn at The Elm Tree, the first five-star inn in Wales. He subsequently went onto work at the Holland House Hotel and St David’s Hotel in Cardiff. Yet, he is no stranger to the Waterloo Hotel kitchen, having been the head chef when it was re-opened 11 years ago, before deciding to take it over in November 2017.
Anderson’s, The Waterloo Hotel, Newport
Built in the 1870’s, the grade 2 listed Waterloo Hotel is a former docks pub, with many of the original fixtures and fittings still retained following its refurbishment in 2007. Taking a seat in the bar area of Anderson’s, the eclectic decor is certainly eye-catching and an interesting talking point. Although it does leave me debating whether I’m on the Iberian Peninsula (the tiles), in ancient Greece (the gold pillars), or an American Diner (the vast array of old advertising signage). I’m certainly a million miles away from Newport. Spacious and comfortable, and with ‘Easy’ by The Commodores crooning away in the background, if you were looking for your ‘happy space’ then this restaurant would be a sure-fire contender.
While the à la carte offers a good choice of dishes; on this occasion, I only have eyes for the three lines of text that lie at the base of this menu. Recently introduced, ‘Un-Four-Seen’ is a completely blind menu, where Chef Dickie will discuss with you your likes and dislikes, and then create something unique, using whatever fresh ingredients are available in the kitchen on the day. At just £25 per person, it’s an intriguing concept, especially for the local area.
A first plate of home-brined king prawns with the Chef’s own tomato and garlic dressing, is as far removed from the popular British hors d’oeuvre as you can get. This adaptation of a prawn cocktail is out to make the 70’s and 80’s sexy again…perhaps the fact that it’s giving me the eye assists (hmm…maybe not!). A generous portion of beautifully cooked, plump and juicy prawns, are ably assisted with a tomato-based sauce, and while the dressing is a touch on the sweet side for my palate, and I personally would have liked the garlic to be a little more prevalent, overall it is a pleasing combination of ingredients.
If you’re going to be at the mercy of the chef, then course two is perhaps one of those plates that you would dream of being delivered. A trio of beef includes, paper-thin slices of home-cured bresaola – salted for 10 days and then hung for 3 weeks and interspersed with pine nuts. Rich and deep in flavour, I could quite happily continue snacking on this for the rest of the evening, either that or perhaps rather more uncouthly, slap it in between two slices of ciabatta to make the ultimate Italian sarnie! Complementing the bresaola, are two wonderfully soft and moist sweetbreads, served on a delicious bed of rich and fatty bone marrow and parsley crumb. It’s a dish that certainly reflects Chef Dickie’s ethic of “using every last bit to reduce waste”.
The main course is a hearty bowl of a fillet of hake, perched on a mound of mashed potato in a broth of delicate, salty cockles and laverbread. A true celebration of local Welsh seafood produce, the heady aroma alone, transports you to your favourite seaside town. Overall a well seasoned and tasty dish, perhaps if I’m being super fussy the only missing element is a touch of crunch; a slightly crispier skin on the hake, or an exchange of the mash for a handful of parmentier potatoes would just add texture to the plate.
A visit to the kitchen, and it’s plain to see that this is a Chef with passion. His smile and laughter alone is contagious, and a sign that he thrives under the pressure of service; clearly relishing in providing his guests with dishes that, he hopes, will ensure that they return time and time again. Recognising the three courses that have gone before, he explains that “the menus at Anderson’s are predominantly based around classic French and traditional British cuisine, with nods to influences from around the world”. Personally, it’s great to see that there is such a strong focus on using the best produce and freshest ingredients from local suppliers, including Ashton’s and the Welsh Brothers.
A shout of “would you like to try our home-made liquorice cream?” from the kitchen as I get set to head back to the table, followed by a vigorous nod from my own direction, ensures that as I take my seat, a pre-dessert of a single scoop arrives. Now…while I think we can all safely agree it may not be the most Instagrammable of dishes, it’s most definitely an intriguing creamy dollop. And although the initial mouthful does induce a slight wince, it turns out to be addictive in only the way that munching your way through an entire family size packet of Bassetts Allsorts would be.
Now back to that culinary epiphany…
To be fair it’s rare, I feel, that a dessert should ever cause so much turmoil, but as I spoon the gloriously creamy, slightly sour, mango concoction into my mouth…aside from being outstandingly full at this point, I am trying to remember when I last encountered a syllabub. It’s not usually a pud that comes up on menus much these days, and as my mind finally allowed me to work out, it was circa 1990 when I probably last ate one my Mum had made (apparently date specificness was necessary…go figure at 3am!).
Yet, this is how I sum up the menu at Anderson’s. For these are dishes that perhaps deserve to be in the spotlight again. This is good old hearty, traditional home cooking. And in the case of Anderson’s – traditional home cooking…elevated with a modern twist.
So I say bring back the prawn cocktail, vol-au-vents and smoked salmon roll; let’s celebrate the coq au vin, beef stew and fondue and bask in the glory of the triumph that was the Black Forest gâteau, baked Alaska and syllabub. It’s time to make these dishes desirable again!
With one exception.
You can leave your Findus crispy pancakes at the door…they ain’t coming in!
- If you’re looking for something a little different from a dining out experience, and get over-excited by the prospect of literally not knowing what dish will arrive in front of you, then Anderson’s ‘Un-Four-Seen’ menu is a great shout, and a good demonstration of what this restaurant is all about.
- This is classic French/traditional British home cooking elevated; it’s the type of food that picks you up and gives you a big hug in the process. Comforting and hearty portions, that are excellent value for money.
- Keep an eye on their social media as there are some ‘foodie’ events in the pipeline, along with some live music nights – not to be missed!
Daily 12pm-2pm including a Sunday roast – 2 courses for £13.95 and 3 courses for £16.95 (booking is advised)
Mon-Fri 5.30pm-9.30pm. An early bird menu is available for 2 courses at £10.25 from 5.30pm -7pm
Address | 113 Alexandra Rd, Newport. NP20 2JG
Twitter | @AndersonsFood
Instagram | chefs_anderson