When looking for somewhere to head for a pre-theatre meal near to the Welsh Millennium Centre, we were struggling to think of where to go. Cardiff Bay is now so full of chains, albeit some good ones, it all becomes a bit of a muchness.
Ffresh, which is based within the impressive Welsh Millennium Centre, stands out as different. It is listed in the 2016 Michelin Guide and has received high praise from the Guardian. Head Chef Marc Corfield has previously worked in the Michelin Starred Walnut Tree and has dishes which celebrate seasonal Welsh produce, so on deciding to pay it a visit, our expectations were high.
On walking into the restaurant my first impressions were not the best; crushed beige velvet chairs, an almost empty dining area and some ornate copper tree sculptures, which if I’m honest looked like something my son could have made in primary school, meant that I felt like turning on my heels and getting straight out of there!
The friendly waitress and her welcoming smile meant that I just didn’t have the heart to leave, and also I’m not sure where we’d have gone or if we’d have got in elsewhere. To be fair, after eating there I am really glad that we stayed, as whilst the decor may not have been to my taste, the food certainly was.
The menu was presented with an option of around six choices per course, with two courses at £19.50 or three courses for £23.50 and had a good choice of fish, vegetarian and meat dishes.
We tucked into the FFresh-ly made bread rolls with salty butter while perusing the menu with a bottle of easy drinking Merlot, which was reasonably priced at around the £18 mark. It was not long before we were joined by a few more diners, which whilst not creating a buzz as such, did ensure a nicer ambience and at least a bit of chatter.
I chose the ham hock and parsley terrine to start, which whilst didn’t wow with it’s plate appeal and limp salad garnish, did not disappoint on flavour, especially the vivid orange coloured pickle which added a sweetness and sharpness that really complemented.
My mum ordered the smoked salmon and potato pancakes which were well received and my sister ordered the elegant beetroot and horseradish panna cotta which was reported as particularly yummy. With starters so tasty we were looking forward to the mains.
All being fish lovers we all opted for the fillet of bream with watercress sauce, which was supposed to come with gnocchi, but as none of us were fans, they kindly swapped to sauté potatoes. We also ordered a side of buttered seasonal vegetables.
The perfectly cooked fillet of bream with it’s crispy skin came with a side of generously buttered vibrant samphire, perfectly seasoned sauté potatoes and delicate a and smooth creamy sauce.
With room for dessert, between us we sampled the welshcake cheese cake, rum walnut and apricot sponge and the chocolate and Merlyn mousse cake.
The cheesecake really did taste of welshcakes and had a sweet jelly top and a crumbly welshcake base which was most ambrosial. My mum’s pudding of sponge was moist and oozing with rum and the mousse was rich and chocolatey and probably warranted a taxi home with the amount of alcohol in it.
The service through out the evening was pleasant and attentive. The waitress had a good understanding of the menu and was able to answer our questions about the ingredients.
Whilst the food was very good, the whole ambience let it down as it was so quiet. We asked the waitress why it was so empty and she said that it depended on what show was in the Millennium Centre. Apparently it is almost always fully booked for the opera nights and for shows that appeal to couples, but for girly shows, such as Sister Act, clearly less so.
I have to say I really enjoyed my food, but I wouldn’t rush back because of the lack of ambience and the strange pantomime like decor. But I wouldn’t say never, and if I did find myself there again, I would happily order that Welsh Cake cheese cake all over again!
Address: Welsh Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay
Tel: 029 2063 6464