I will say a spot of spontaneity rocks. Especially when your planned evening meal (gratefully) evolves from a carton of lentil and smoked bacon soup, into a five course, fine dining tasting menu courtesy of two talented chefs.
Recently established, Cegin Burlington also known as Chef’s Wil Atkinson and Michelin-trained (having previously worked at Pétrus and Le Gavroche) Gareth Dobbs, have combined their skills to create a true culinary experience. And while set to predominantly provide their services for weddings, corporate events and private catering, the city’s ‘pop-up’ dining scene is a surefire way to gain recognition…and in the case of this duo, they look set to take Cardiff by storm.
Last week saw the launch of Cegin Burlington’s season of monthly pop-ups in the popular, independent café bistro Milk & Sugar – the Old Library. At £55 per person or £75 with a wine flight (albeit on this occasion I opted for a bottle of the Côtes du Rhône – Jean Loron 2016, as opposed to the full pairing), the evening could be considered to be on the ‘slightly’ pricier side for Cardiff. However, I would undeniably argue that the cost is most definitely reflective of the quality of the produce used, the high standard of cooking, and the uniqueness of the overall dining experience.
With a menu celebrating and delivering the best in Welsh produce, I was truly excited and intrigued to see what was on offer. Primarily because the advertised tasting menu is, to all intents and purposes, simply a list of ingredients. But what a list…sweetbreads, lobster, venison…need I go on? Yes..?
Kicking the evenings proceedings off, the first course of the tasting menu delivered a bowl of pure perfection. Served in a mushroom consommé, a tender lamb breast and lamb sweetbreads were accompanied with pickled chanterelle mushrooms, and a ‘golden nugget’ of panko breaded mushroom pâté, with a delicate ‘pasta like’ sheet of parsley jelly placed artfully on top. Richly flavoured, the lovely balance of meat combining with the vinegar of the pickled mushrooms, made this a delightful dish, both to behold and eat.
Moving onto the second course, a plump and juicy lobster tail, sat parallel to a lobster cheesecake made up of three individual layers. With a base of pistachio, oatcake and parsley, followed by a set lobster bisque and topped with a thin slice of tomato jelly, it was an extremely attractive plate of food.
Garnished with a rocket pesto, the pepper flavour complemented both the lobster tail and the sweeter tomato jelly. However, while I enjoyed these elements, I personally felt the remaining layers of the cheesecake were more a ‘work in progress’. Nevertheless, this was more to do with the textures of the dish, as opposed to taste.
Cegin Burlington | Chef’s Gareth Dobbs and Wil Atkinson
As I may have mentioned in a previous post, I love watching (or in this case taking an impressive amount of photos!) of a great chef at work. There is something special about an individual who works so methodically and with such precision, while taking pride in the dishes that their guests are about to receive. Plating is truly an art form where a steady hand and a fair amount of concentration is required; probably not assisted in this case, by an ‘annoying’ woman shoving a camera in your face and taking a shed load of photographs – apologies Chefs…old habits die hard…or so it seems!
A main course of two beautifully tender and pink medallions of venison loin, sat atop broccoli puree and an inspired broccoli ketchup. Reflecting the dishes that had preceded it, the seasonal colour palette continued, producing a plate that was both pleasing to the eye, and reminiscent of autumnal walks in the forest.
Accompanied with Tenderstem broccoli, pancetta and a pancetta crisp, girolle mushrooms, and a glossy damson and juniper jus, while I did find the dish a touch on the rich side, the combination of flavours and textures was superb.
N.B. only an idea Cegin Burlington, but if you ever fancy bottling the broccoli ketchup, I swear you are on to a condiment champion!
While ‘pretty as a picture’ , the true spectacle of the “Walnut Whip” dessert is best viewed in ‘real-time’. A stunning chocolate sphere with a walnut and marshmallow mousse centre, and served on a bed of chocolate soil with mini meringues, magically disappeared before your eyes, as a rich, warm blackberry and chocolate sauce was generously poured from above. And although I could have probably forgone the meringues as I personally found them a touch too sweet; when you are presented with a glorious chocolatey, nutty, gooey, berryey – is that even a word? – (nope, damn it…I don’t care!) bowl of goodness, every bit had to go. And when I mean every bit, no dishwasher would have been required. Communal dining! Etiquette in front of strangers? (nope, damn it…I don’t care!) – ha ha.
Feeling a tad on the full side at this point, I wasn’t entirely sure that making it through the fifth course was even going to be a possibility. However, life is too short to diet (I have an ongoing argument with my scales and lack of gym membership over this philosophy!), and when a pot of yoghurt and cardamom panna cotta is placed in front of you, there is simply only one winner and it sure wasn’t going to be my local Fitness First!
Accompanied with lemonade jelly, sour cream ice cream, and poppy seed shortbread, this was a surprisingly (and thankfully) light dessert. Almost acting as a palate cleanser, it was refreshing, and with the aromatic cardamom adding to the zingy, citrus flavours of the jelly, it was the perfect balance between creaminess, sweetness and tartness.
A final treat of a trio of petit fours, namely a coconut cheesecake with a pineapple gel, chocolate brownie ganache and a chocolate and cumin fudge tart, rounded off the tasting menu, and a thoroughly enjoyable evening, in style.
As for my carton of lentil and smoked bacon soup? Well I did finally get around to opening it, but frankly after THAT bowl of lamb sweetbreads and mushroom consommé, and in a competition for liquid foods, there really was only one victor.
In the words of Harry Hill – Which is better? There’s only one way to find out! Forget it!
Mushroom Consommé 1 – Lentil Soup 0
- It’s great to see that the pop-up scene is starting to gain momentum in Cardiff, and what better way to launch a new venture than with a celebration of Welsh produce.
- Both these chefs have bags of enthusiasm; the evening was a true demonstration of culinary pride and passion.
- A vegetarian menu and dish alternatives are available to meet dietary requirements.
- While my culinary skills leave a lot to be desired – Chef Gareth Dobbs thank you so much for the chocolate and cumin fudge tart recipe. I’ll let you know how it goes!
With a well-designed menu, delivering a number of surprises, and inspiring flavours and textures with every course, I would certainly recommend experiencing Cegin Burlington’s pop-up.
I was invited by Cegin Burlington to experience their pop-up as a guest. Our food was complimentary; however, this did not influence my review…promise!
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