Situated in Pontcanna in Cardiff, Arbennig is a family owned restaurant, that offers a relaxed fine dining experience. Having opened three years ago, I have been meaning to take a visit for a while – not only because of the food and the evident recognition and awards it has achieved, but because as actual ‘restaurants’ go I love the premises. A couple of visits to its previous incarnation as Le Gallois led to this, and while the view is not fantastic (you’re looking out onto a busy Romilly Crescent) the actual layout of the restaurant is beautiful. You never feel like you are dining on top of one another, and Arbennig have maintained this feel.
Translated as ‘Special’ yn Cymraeg (I knew GCSE Welsh could come in handy one day) – the welcome and service you receive is ‘special’. The front of house team are attentive without being over-bearing, and more than happy to have a chat, if you have any questions. I found service to be well paced, and while my only criticism may be that it would have been useful for the team to explain the dishes that were brought out (bearing in mind the level of dining that Arbennig is aiming at), I couldn’t fault their customer service skills during the evening.
But onto the food…the menus change on a weekly basis, and both lunch and evening menus are available with Sunday lunch offered on the appropriate day. Starters range from £5 to £9 and main courses from £12 to £22, however this varies and will depend on the dishes. On the evening I visited, the menu offered a reasonable choice of dishes, unless you were vegetarian, where there was only one advertised starter and main course (so if you really aren’t a big fan of sage and pumpkin ravioli you may run into some problems).
Opting for the smoked mackerel pâté with squash and cucumber pickle and toasted soda bread to start, I can honestly say I have never had pâté presented as a thick ‘smear’ across the plate. However, it was beautifully creamy and strong tasting as you would expect, and when combined on the soda bread with the well balanced pickle, which had sweet and sharp elements, it made for a delicious starter.
Nevertheless, in terms of the main course – the best was yet to come, in the form of a braised beef blade, with creamy mashed potato, onion, stout treacle and smoked nut. While I will say that I personally felt the half onion that was presented on the top of the dish was unnecessary, and detracted slightly from the beauty of the dish, the beef blade was truly stunning. It literally melted under my fork and combined with the creamy mash and the stout treacle, which was a triumph, I thoroughly enjoyed the dish.
Now usually my thoughts are just based on the dishes I experience, but unfortunately the next point just needs to come out…argh! It’s not a major criticism, because this blog is certainly not here to do that. However, being a bit of a fan of modernist cuisine (when it clearly adds something to the dish), I really need to get this off my chest.
Dining with a group during a visit, a number of people ordered sides of chips, and when asking for vinegar, this is what they were presented with. Now there is probably a scientific culinary reason for spraying vinegar on your chips instead of the normal soaking them in it! (I’d probably need to ask the Chef). However, based on where the restaurant is pitching itself in terms of fine dining and that it features in the current Michelin Guide 2017, to be presented with what looks like a cheap and plastic travel kit spray is not suitable for this level of restaurant…I am sorry!…rant over (and relax!)
Anyway…back to the actual food. Having demolished two courses, I was flagging a little by this point but being the salted caramel ice cream ‘demon’ that I am, and it seeming to be a prominent addition to many of the desserts available on the menu, I opted for the Affogato – vanilla and salted caramel ice cream, brandy snaps and a shot of espresso. Now, not having had the pleasure of this dessert before, I was completely unaware of the fact that your ice cream literally gets drowned in espresso (something I am now fully aware of). Unfortunately, it did obliterate the taste of my salted caramel ice cream, and I was personally a little disappointed. However, this was more to do with my own preferences, and to be honest I could have happily eaten another round of the brandy snaps…yum!
- The atmosphere of Arbennig is very relaxed, so whether you are there for a meeting, to eat with friends or for a special evening, it suits a range of dining occasions.
- A menu that changes on a weekly basis, offering customers a range of seasonal dishes using local produce.
- The service from the front of house team was polite and attentive.
- A car park is available for customers, which if you have ever taken a car near Pontcanna and attempted to park, is a big plus factor!
Would I go again?
Probably. If I am completely honest I think because of its name I went in with the perception that there would be a greater choice of Welsh inspired dishes on the menu, which was not the case. I may go back and experience Sunday lunch instead. They also have a Food Emporium next door to the main restaurant (open Wed-Sun 10am-4pm), which serves a spot of brekkie, so that will go on my ‘to do ‘ list!
Would I recommend Arbennig?
Yes definitely, I would certainly recommend that you should go and experience the restaurant. It is very relaxed and made for a pleasant evening of dining. It should be noted that Arbennig is only open Thursday to Saturday for both lunch (11.30am – 2.30pm) and evening service (6pm – 9.30pm) and until 10pm (Sat) and 11.30am to 6pm on a Sunday, so a reservation is probably an idea.
Address | 6-10 Romilly Crescent, Pontcanna, Cardiff, CF11 9NR
Web | www.arbennig.co.uk