I doubt many of you can have failed to notice Cardiff’s latest restaurant, Chapel 1877. How could you? Having made it's conspicuous entrance late in 2012, in the renovated Pembroke Terrace Chapel on Churchill Way in Cardiff Town Centre, it has been promoting itself as the hottest place in town since.
The website makes confident statements, describing Chapel 1877 as a ‘jewel in the crown for Cardiff’ and promising fine dining of “superb quality” with “one of the finest menus around” in a “phenomenal setting”. I was intrigued, and hoping that the reality could live up to the hyperbole.
They are proud of the building, and rightly so, it is quite lovely. Sympathetically renovated, the fixtures complement the beautiful architecture, by turns dramatic, secretive, glamorous, it is a great space.
|Gorgeous chandelier, very "Phantom of the Opera"|
The menu is ‘modern British’, crowd pleasing fare. Starters include the obligatory scallops with cauliflower puree, potted rabbit with piccalilli. A typical main might be pork belly with cider jus, Gressingham duck with puy lentils or a cut from the grill section. Not everything on the menu has provenance but there are sufficient producers referenced to keep the casual ‘foodie’ happy.
Whoever put the wine list together deserves a pat on the back for understanding their audience. A good selection at each price point with a varied and interesting selection at sub £20 a bottle. Bravo.
We started with drinks in the ground floor bar which inexplicably had numerous distracting televisions broadcasting muted Wales Today. 7 of us ordered drinks. Nothing was written down. 4 correct drinks arrived and it took a frustrating 3 attempts to complete the order.
My starter, a ‘Red onion tarte tatin, Pant-ysgawn goat’s cheese, rocket £5.50’ was slightly overdone, carbonised bitterness overpowering the natural sweetness of the onions. The creamy, salty goats cheese saved the day.
|Red onion tarte tatin|
A rib eye steak (£19), ordered medium, was well cooked but woefully underseasoned and bland. The pot of Béarnaise used for chip-dipping, was delicious with a good hit of tarragon. A half tomato had been grilled to the point of mush and without flavour.
|Rib eye steak, Béarnaise sauce|
I skipped dessert but tasted someone else’s ‘Merlyn liquor crème brulee, white chocolate cookies £5.50’. The brulee looked beautiful, but for me there was too much booze and I couldn’t taste the custard which was a shame.
It’s not hard to understand why Chapel 1877 is having an impact in Cardiff, and it's great to have a destination venue that isn't another chain. The setting is stunning and I’ll bet that it buzzes and hums of a Saturday night. Unfortunately for me, the food and service just didn't manage to live up to their own, self-aggrandising hype.
|Romantic, 2 person dining booths|
|Ground floor bar|