Friday, 23 November 2012

Peek a boo - Hide N Sea by Celtic Manor, Cardiff Restaurant Review

2011 seemed to be the year when things popped up everywhere. Restaurants, bars, galleries, and shops all popped up and popped back down again. This is a trend that is all about being in the know and quick off the mark.

Pop ups have been praised for making use of empty shops and units and for giving less established chefs the means to make a name for themselves. South Wales has embraced the supper club trend with several examples now established, but pop up restaurants haven't seriously caught on here but that may be about to change.

Now The Celtic Manor is getting in on the act, taking over, for 4 nights only, the unit on King's Road that Mimosa occupied for approximately 30 seconds this year. Pop ups are often themed and by their nature require limited menus and Hide N Sea is more or less a direct copy of the very successful Burger and Lobster, the London mini-chain with a haiku length menu of 3 items.

We booked in for opening night, trekked through some pretty torrential rain and wind, and arrived soggy and slightly grumpy for 7.30, surprised to find ourselves at the tail end of a launch 'party' that did nothing to improve my mood. Around 30 people, dressed up to the nines, were jostling around the cramped dining area and we had to push through to get to our table. The offer to hang our wet coats up was gratefully accepted and promptly forgotten which irritated further. Subsequently placed under some pressure to order food, we continued to be jostled and were unable to hold a conversation over the din. A quick complaint to the front of house team and... the problem was swiftly and professionally resolved. The party guests who were eating were encouraged to their tables, orders taken and good humour was restored.
The Bowery cocktail
The Bowery cocktail
I ordered a drink from the cocktail menu, The Bowery (Champagne, Dubonnet, Hendricks, Angostura Bitters) £6.95, expertly made and prettily presented. The drinks here are clearly as important as the food.

To eat I ordered a Lobster Roll at £20, (Fresh lobster meat smothered in spicy Marie Rose sauce in a sweetened brioche bun, served with smoked sea salt seasoned fries and dressed side salad), which actually arrived with a gravy boat of Bearnaise sauce. Plenty of lobster, lightly sauced, a good quality roll and the fries were good. If the salt was smoked, I couldn't taste it but I didn't care. By the time I finished I was stuffed.
Lobster Roll
Lobster Roll

He ordered the 8oz Welsh Beef Burger £15 (A succulent homemade prime Welsh beef burger on a sweetened brioche bun, topped with mature Welsh Cheddar, crispy bacon, tomato, lettuce and sliced gherkin, served with smoked sea salt seasoned fries and dressed side salad) which I was informed was cooked well and very tasty.
8oz Welsh Burger
8oz Welsh Burger

The other options are basically lobsters at 1lb for £20 or 2lb for £30 with the fries, sauce and salad and this is what most people ordered.

The atmosphere inside was jovial, and adjoining tables chatted away, making for a thoroughly fun dinner experience. I have to praise the front of house staff too, organised, efficient and keen to ensure that everyone had a good time. As an advert for The Celtic Manor they did well.

If you haven't booked in, you might be lucky to get a table before Hide 'N' Sea closes, if their aim was to create some buzz I'd say they've done a pretty good job. I have no idea what the overheads are, but assuming the venture turns a profit, I'd be very surprised if they didn't pop back up somewhere else at some point soon...

Hide N Sea by Celic Manor
22nd to 25th November 2012
Formerly Mimosa Lounge, 175 Kings Road, Pontcanna, Cardiff, CF11 9DF

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