James Lawrence swops the bright lights of London for Wales’ proud and dynamic capital, Cardiff.
When it comes to great food, the many varied delights of Wales are often overlooked by the fashion conscious London crowd, who refuse to believe that anything of interest could be found outside their beloved city. And while it’s clearly the case that London remains the centre of the UK’s gastronomic scene, it would be foolish to overlook what chefs are doing further afield. For one thing, not every great cook wants to live in London!
So it was with great enthusiasm that I headed over to Cardiff a few weeks ago, to see what the Park Plaza hotel could do for my appetite. Cardiff’s leading hotel, the Plaza is ideally situated for just about everything: a stone’s throw away from the central shopping district of Queen Street, it’s also very accessible from the main train station and the city’s handsome University buildings. We arrived on a quiet Monday evening, but there were still a few patrons enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail in the stylish bar. The bar area is all stripped back modernity and soft lighting – we went for a round of strawberry Daiquiris, which started the evening off in fine style, thank you.
Without feeling at all rushed we were asked to take a seat for the main event in the dining room. The Laguna kitchen is of a similar vein to the bar area; soft lighting, sofa tables and an open kitchen at the bottom half of the restaurant. Our charming waitress presented the menu; essentially a homage to a cross section of European culinary tradition with an eclectic selection of pasta dishes, grilled fish and, of course, a steak or two.
The highlights of our feast included: Tortellini stuffed with ricotta and spinach, smoked haddock fish cakes, welsh handmade beef burger and 24-hour slow-cooked honey glazed pork belly. All lip-smackingly delicious and perfectly executed. Full to bursting, we nonetheless decided to overindulge and ordered two desserts to share: Apple crumble and sticky toffee pudding, a major favourite of mine.
Service, incidentally, was exemplary through-out, as is the choice of wine. Oenophiles can often feel slightly neglected in the land of our fathers, but not so at the Laguna bar, which has one of the best lists this side of the Severn Bridge.
But the delights of the Park Plaza do not stop here. Enticed to return just before Easter, I enjoyed a lovely afternoon-tea in the bar area – the restaurant was child infested – complete with a glass or two of rose Champagne. All the prerequisite treats were served: sandwiches, delicious scones and pretty Easter-themed cupcakes. Moreover, compared to say London the price is exceedingly reasonable, at under £20 per head. Small wonder then, that the dining room was full to bursting. I anticipate a swift return.
Laguna Kitchen and Bar
Greyfriars Road, Cardiff, CF10 3AL, Wales
02920 111 103
Afternoon-tea starts at £17.50, or £23.95 with a glass of Champagne.
Note: I travelled to Cardiff from London with First Great Western – http://www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk
(Singles are available from under £25 each way)