While my previous relationship with TripAdvisor has always been a slightly tremulous one (it evidently has its advantages and no doubt occasionally the opposite effect) – I do find it impressive if a restaurant can ‘pretty much’ retain its No. 1 position in Cardiff for over a year. Situated on the Nantgarw campus, Nant – the training restaurant at Coleg y Cymoedd, is certainly an example of this, where the ‘excellent’ reviews just seem to keep raining on in! Intrigued by this ongoing praise for a dining experience, when I was asked if I fancied ‘heading back to College’ I naturally dug out my Hospitality textbooks and accepted the invite.
Having been out of College for a significant amount of time (ok almost 20 years…argh those textbooks are seriously out of date!) it was good to see that on site catering facilities have drastically improved since I was last in Further Education. While I am sure the canteen still serves up the obligatory carb laden, student hangover busting plate of chips, on entering Nant Restaurant it was clear to see that training restaurants have truly come on in the last two decades.
Nant is a contemporary training restaurant, where for a very reasonable price you can experience menus that have been designed and prepared by College students, under the guidance of their professional chefs and front of house staff. And when I say reasonable, I mean £12.50 for 3 courses and £2.40 for a glass of wine (although I’m not quite sure that the stated 183ml is a legal measure – ha ha). Nevertheless, at those prices I could already start to see where the positive reviews were coming from.
To say the restaurant was packed when we entered would have been an understatement, but it appeared to be running smoothly and the front of house team were polite and courteous as we were shown to our table. While the menu was understandably a little limited, the choice of dishes were well thought out and to be honest barring the marinated tofu (personally not so keen), I would have quite happily closed my eyes, pointed at anything and known I would have enjoyed my selection.
Starting off the evening we were presented with an amuse bouche of Laverbread – a traditional Welsh delicacy of seawood, oats and mussels. While tasty I will admit I found it a little stodgy and not quite like any Laverbread that I had eaten before. All the same, it was well presented and a good introduction to the menu.
With a choice of three starters, I opted for the game terrine, courgette with mint chutney and baked truffle croute. A thick chunk of well made terrine, it was meaty and well seasoned, and while the ability to spread or really eat it with the toasted bread proved a little bit of a challenge, it was a tasty and well portioned starter.
Moving onto the assiette of seafood, with a Caerphilly and potato puree (I am guessing in reference to the inclusion of the famous cheese and not a potato from the nearby town!) and roasted red pepper coulis; this was a beautifully presented dish. Served with new potatoes and roasted Mediterranean vegetables, the mackerel, scallop and essentially ‘posh’ fish finger were all well cooked and made for an enjoyable main course.
However, by far my favourite course was the well presented dessert of Summerberry parfait, home-made lemonade with lemon curd and meringue pieces. The sharpness of the lemon combined with the sweetness of the meringue and creamy parfait made for one tasty pud; and with a refreshing shot of lemonade to wash it all down…well I was incredibly impressed!
All in all the dining experience made for a very pleasant evening. If I could perhaps provide any constructive feedback it would be that the students appeared to not always understand the dishes that they were serving, or at least the elements that went into them. On a few occasions they seemed a little unsure of certain aspects of the dish. As a training restaurant, I feel that a member of staff shadowing them would have perhaps helped, in order to explain if something wasn’t quite right or to assist if necessary.
However in a restaurant where the menus are created, and dishes prepped and cooked by students who are just starting out in their culinary careers, I have to say the level that they achieve is unbelievable.
- Menus change on a weekly basis and are available to view prior to booking on the restaurant’s Facebook page.
- These are students…need I say more. If you can produce this level of food at this stage in your culinary career you have a bright future ahead.
- Towards the end of service, the student chefs come out to the restaurant to meet the guests and for feedback. I love this and personally I think some professional Chefs could learn from this practice!
Would I go again?
More than likely. The menus change on a weekly basis so it would be good to pop back and experience different dishes.
Would I recommend Nant Restaurant?
Nant Restaurant is fantastic value for money – it would be very difficult to find 3 courses at this standard and price anywhere else in Cardiff. While you do have to keep in mind that this is a training restaurant (as long as you are aware that service may not be quite as slick) I would highly recommend a visit. The restaurant is open Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for lunch (12-2pm) and Wednesday and Thursday for dinner (6.30-8.30pm), and based on my experience a reservation is a must!
Address | Heol y Coleg, Cardiff, CF15 7QY