My partner and I spent the last 2 days near Cardiff, and enjoyed meals at the following:
Laguna Kitchen and Bar, Cardiff
Nags Head Inn (pub), Usk
Walnut Tree Inn, Abergavenny
Le Gallois, Cardiff
Laguna Kitchen was a very pleasant surprise. The food was very well-prepared, service very professional, and atmosphere airy, contemporary, and comfortable. 2 course lunch was 12 GBP and a bottle of a decent Spanish red was 14.50. We had risotto with smoked chicken and horseradish, antipasto consisting of several good meats, artichoke, pepper stuffed with goat cheese, and deviled quail egg, then braised brisket with wild mushroom sauce, and whole grilled plaice with homemade tartar sauce. All were delicious, portions very generous. Espresso was served with small biscuits and a small glass of sparkling water.
Nags Head, located in a very charming village, was worth the half hour drive
from Cardiff. Large portions of interesting food in a warm and cozy pub. The owner is very friendly and hospitable. We started with grilled sardines and a cheese soup with leeks and onion, continued to guinea fowl with fig sauce and a brace of quail stuffed with (apples?) and finished with strawberries with cream, meringue and ice cream, and roasted banana with brandy sauce. My only gripe is that they boil the vegetables so they are rather bland and soggy, a little more imaginative preparation or at least steaming rather than boiling would be so much better. Prices are quite reasonable and the ambience is warm and cozy, with upscale touches like candles on tables and cloth napkins.
The Walnut Tree would be worth a trip from just about anywhere. The chef, Shaun Hill, had a Michelin star at the now defunct Merchant House in Ludlow, England. Judging from the food here, I would expect one to be awarded here too. The simple but delicious canapés of cheese biscuits with sesame seeds and cheese wrapped in phyllo and sprinkled with parmesan were a nice beginning, and the breads were outstanding. Starters of crab cakes with chopped tomato and calf’s brains with the classic black butter and capers were perfectly executed. The brains were almost ethereal in their lightness. Main courses of wild duck with morels and stuffed partridge with a wonderful potato gratin were exceptionally flavorful. Desserts of roast figs with gingerbread, lavender honey and ice cream, andraspberry streusel with fresh raspberries and jersey cream were both irresistible. Prices are reasonable considering the quality. The total bill was just over 90 GBP including a 19.50 bottle of Argentine Malbec which was full and rich and went very well with the food. A couple of pieces of superb fudge, chocolate and butterscotch, were served with coffee. I wish I could eat here all the time.
Le Gallois is considered by many to be the best restaurant in Cardiff, and we were very impressed too. The food quality was very similar to the Walnut Tree, but was a bit more French in style. Dishes were beautifully presented, and service was extremely attentive. Pickled vegetables were served as canapés with our aperitifs, an amuse of cauliflower soup with green curry came next, we both had pig’s head terrine for starters, main courses were turbot with an intense watercress sauce, pureed potatoes with leeks, and oyster mushrooms, and pintade (guinea fowl) with mushroom sauce and julienne of vegetables. Desserts were cream cheese cake with ice cream and pain d’epice, and blueberry savarin with tea sauce and poached blueberries.
We were more than satisfied with the dining options in South Wales, and thank the Chowhounds who helped with recommendations.