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The Admiral St David, Cardiff: restaurant review

One of Cardiff’s most iconic hotel restaurants has had a complete refresh, promising Australasian-inspired food – but does it deliver?

Check out our review of this new restaurant in Cardiff, or see our pick of Cardiff restaurants here…

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The Admiral St David in a nutshell

A relaunch of the restaurant at The St David’s Hotel, in Cardiff Bay, sees Wales’ first Australasian-inspired dining spot. Docked within a striking sail-shaped structure on Cardiff Bay, The Admiral promises to marry Welsh produce with influences from Australia, Indonesia, Thailand, Japan and Sri Lanka.

Executive chef Martyn Watkins
Executive chef Martyn Watkins

The Admiral St David review

The former Tempus at Tides Restaurant has been thoroughly refashioned, with a swanky bar area – think nautical colours, entwined driftwood tables and sand-filled terrariums – leading to a window-lined dining space with unrivalled views over the water.

Pan-fried sea bream with Malaysian spiced vegetable rice
Pan-fried sea bream with Malaysian spiced vegetable rice

A “twisted classics” cocktail list puts regional spirits to good use – Brecon Gin adds a celtic kick to the Welsh 75 (a twist on the French 75), while the addition of Penderyn Whisky in George’s Marvellous Medicine (ginger wine, lemon and honey water) creates a pleasurably punchy tonic.

Welsh 75 cocktail served in a champagne flute with lemon on top
Welsh 75 cocktail

Executive chef Martyn Watkins’ dishes are just as playful: daily changing soup (on our visit a fragrant tom yum gai) comes with a fluffy bao bun (check out our bao recipe here); local lamb rump is marinated in lemongrass, while steaming mussels swim with salty spiced black beans and scorched lime.

Welsh Mussels
Welsh Mussels

Heady with cumin and coriander, plump South Coast scallops dressed with vibrant carrot purée, smoky charred cauli florets and caramelised slithers of root ginger were a good start. The catch of the day, a rosy tuna steak on our visit, was another prize plate, accompanied by torched Baby Gem lettuce, Pembrokeshire potatoes and a simple prawn and lemon sauce. To finish, a modest dark chocolate fondant gave way to a rush of rich molten chocolate, mellowed by a slowly melting tonka bean ice cream.

Service stood up to The St David’s five-star standards, with the French maitre d’ on hand with witty comments and cocktail recommendations.

Dark chocolate cremeux
Dark chocolate cremeux

Menu must-order

A main course of chicken laksa with chunky noodles, stir-fried Asian veg and crispy onions, in a coriander-spiked coconut broth, topped with a glossy fried egg was as good as we’ve tried in Malaysia’s street stalls. A slick step-up from a hawker market plastic plate, stick your nose right into the sizeable bowl for a euphoric hit of sweet ’n’ savoury aromatics.

Chicken laksa
Chicken laksa

Misfire

Pan-Asian may be a more honest description of the food here and certain dishes on the lengthy menu, such as breaded Pant-Ysgawn goat’s cheese and Carmarthen cured-ham salad, don’t gel at all with the Australasian billing.


Price range

Expect ever-so-slightly inflated hotel prices, however dishes such as chicken laksa (£15), Welsh mussels (£14) and Thai sweet potato curry (£14) are reasonable. Half bottle measures of wine, though, do allow ample exploration of the concise list without causing any serious damage.


Words by Kathryn Lewis, October 2017, thestdavidshotel.com

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Photograpahs by Admiral St David, Cardiff