Dinner at "Garcon"

Some time last year, my friend Greg emailed me raving about some new place in the Bay. This is quite common and as usual, I've never heard of it and promised to visit there as soon as I could.

Greg - I have fufilled my promise!

Garcon is situated on the first floor of Mermaid Quay, nestling between the likes of Bellini's and Cafe Naz. We'd passed there on Valentines Day, when every restaurant in the bay was filled with couples paying over the odds for middle of the road food from unimaginative menus, listening to Westlife being played on the violin admist the heart shaped balloons (for those of you who need to know, we went bowling instead). The Valentines day menu had been promising - featuring a glass of Kir Royale and an "Amuse bouche" as part of the five courses. They were charging £40 a head. At the time, we balked at the suckers who were forking out so much money for a simple meal.

I was wrong, the food at Garcon is anything but simple. Mixing traditional french fayre (Steak Tartare, Chateaubriand) with more modern takes on classic dishes (Filet de Rouget Grillé, Ratatouille, Fenouille Grillé - grilled fillet of red mullet, with ratatouille and grilled fennel) the menu was possibly the most exciting thing I'd seen in a long time - there were just so many wonderful dishes to try! But more of that later...

The restaurant itself is long and narrow, but they have used the space well. The style was hard to pin down, somewhere between modern european and being ever so slightly American, with it's leather seating and mirrored walls.

On arrival we were shown to our table by a charming young french waitress (Garcon's staff seem to be almost exclusively French). We surveyed the (expansive) wine menu and chose the VDP Sauvignon Blanc at £14.95 - it was wonderfully light and fruity. After much deliberation we decided on Escargots de Bourgogne au Beurre à l'Ail (for him) and the Terrine Maison (for me) to start. The Escargot arrived with their own tongs and a tiny fork (both very neccessary!). The shells were filled with garlic and parsley butter and, of course, the snails themselves. Hot, garlic infused and slightly chewy, Andy adored them but found the cutlery took a while to get used to - I even tried one! It wasn't bad - somewhere between a prawn and calamari. The Terrine that day was chicken parfait - light, soft and incredibly moreish, is came served with some fresh baguette slices and a side salad.

For mains we both opted for the Cassoulet au Confit de Canard (confit duck leg, belly of pork, toulouse, sausage, in white bean and tomato sauce) - wonderful, rich duck, with the spice of the sausage and the creamy wholeness of the beans, tomatoes and belly pork - it was a thoroughly soothing meal. Sides were ordered seperately, and we decided to share - Gratin Dauphinois (two perfect little rounds, crisp on top and with the slight curdiness of the cooked cream) and Légumes Vapeur (steamed vegetables - green beans, mange tout and cabbage, steamed til tender and oh-so buttery).

The meal was finished off with Tart Tatin served with vanilla ice cream for Andy, with it's wonderful hot apple taste mixing with the vanilla and cinammon, and Tart au citron for me, a lemon curd cream on a soft pastry base, the tight mix of sharp and sweet.

This is definitely one to save for special occassions, though they do have a special bistro menu for lunch times and a pre-opera menu. The total bill came to £76 for three courses and wine. It was well worth it!

Visit Garcon
Mermaid Quay
Cardiff Bay
South Wales


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