Tuesday, 4 October 2011

ffresh bar and restaurant

ffresh bar and restaurant is celebrating its second birthday in the Wales Millennium Centre, in Cardiff Bay, and its recent inclusion in The Good Food Guide 2012. Last night, Michelin-starred Chef Shaun Hill (Consultant at ffresh and Executive Chef at The Walnut Tree) and ffresh’s own Head Chef Kurt Fleming prepared a stunning meal as part of the restaurant’s celebrations.

There was a veritable smörgâsbord of food bloggers among those invited, spread over three tables (so you won’t need to look far for a second opinion).

Politicians present included Alun Davies, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes. ffresh is notable for its policy of sourcing locally (around 80% of its ingredients) and working with Wales the True Taste partners (an annual awards initiative funded by the Welsh Assembly Government).

The wine for the meal was supplied by the Wales the True Taste award-winning Ancre Hill Vineyard, Monmouth, whose owner Richard Morris was present. A sparkling rose accompanied the canapés, which included a very tasty wild rice arancini (breadcrumb-coated fried riceballs).

Red mullet with anchovies and herb crème fraiche was an exceptional dish; the herby saltiness enhancing and not overpowering the fish’s subtle flavour. The crème fraiche was sourced from Rachel’s. An Ancre Hill Chardonnay had the right citrus notes to accompany this fish dish.

The Roasted Partridge with its own pudding was an uncompromising dish, with a deep and intense gaminess. It was accompanied by some hispi lettuce and the mysterious round puddings. Partridge is a feature of Shaun Hill’s menus. The taste evoked memories of an off-the-beaten track gamekeeper-supplied rural pub I knew in my youth. Shaun also seems to like working with lentils, but pureed so it’s not obvious they are lentils. The main course was helped along by a fruity and full-bodied Ancre Hill Pinot Noir 2009, the pick of the night’s wines for me.

Hot chocolate fondant, hazelnut praline sauce and Wild Fig vanilla ice cream was nothing short of sensational. The hush that descended on the dining room was an indication that something special was going down. A honey-sweet wine accompanied this, which tasted way-to-sweet before the pudding arrived but made perfect sense against the intense chocolate.

There were a couple of other restaurants in this unit before ffresh, but being operated by the Wales Millennium Centre itself has worked to ffresh’s advantage – it feels more integrated into the building and it’s activities. With its open kitchen, enabling diners to see the chefs working, programmes of bar music and guest chef nights, ffresh serves up Good Food Guide quality food and an entertaining dining experience.

ffresh, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay:

Ancre Hill Vineyard, Monmouth:

The Walnut Tree, near Abergavenny:

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