Getting Ffresh with Shaun

After a less than impressive meal at the Wales Millennium Centre's flagship restaurant earlier this year, I was slightly astounded to be invited back for a second bite of the cherry.

The occasion was Ffresh's 2nd birthday and this time they were rolling out the big guns in the shape of Chef Shaun Hill of the Michelin starred Walnut Tree, Abergavenny.  Either the staff were feeling very confident or very brave as they had invited along a total of 12 local food bloggers, 6 members of the True Taste Committee and representatives from Visit Wales.  Could the food be that good?

The evening began with canapes of Warm Perl Las Cheese and Sesame Biscuits (pleasant and moreish but without that promised cheesy bite) and hot-from-the-frier Arancini, risotto balls stuffed with a creamy mushroom sauce - I must confess to being an arancini fiend (my dear nonna indulged her youngest grandchild in a way only a grandmother can) and I snaffled these up without a second thought.
Mr Hill in fine fettle (Photo: Cardiff Bites)
As everyone loosened up we were led through to the main dining room, with it's ships hull bar, and treated to a brief speech from the man himself and starters were quickly dispatched from the kitchen.

Red Mullet with Anchovies and Herb, Rachel's Organic Creme Fraiche (Photo: Cardiff Bites)
Fish can so often be overcooked, yet the red mullet was perfect - soft and flaking under the slightest pressure of the fork.  I'm a little squeamish about anchovies but found the sauce had a subtle saltiness amongst the creaminess. 

Roasted Partridge with its own Pudding, Puffin Potato Fondant, Hispi Cabbage and Lentils (Photo: Cardiff Bites)
After the success of the starter, it was onto mains.  I adore game and was delighted to see partridge on the menu.  The meat was a tad gristly with too many small bones left in, a common theme when I raised it with my fellow bloggers - perhaps a casualty of mass catering, or simply the fact it is a small, bony bird!    The potato fondant was a little cold by the time it reached the table and a tad too firm.  The pudding, however, was a revelation.  Sitting somewhere between a traditional white pudding and a pate, it managed to be light, creamy and rich all at once.  As with my previous visit the Ffresh the cabbage, a vegetable I have always loathed with a passion, was sublime - sauteed simply with some brown lentils, I ate the lot.

Hot Chocolate Fondant, Hazlenut Praline Sauce and Wild Fig Vanilla Ice Cream (Photo: Cardiff Bites)
Rounding off proceedings, we were treated to a chocoholics dream, chocolate fondant.  To paraphrase Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, to pull off one chocolate fondant may be regarded as fortunate, to pull off eighty is very lucky indeed!  It retained it's shape to the table, it oozed chocolate sauce when pressed and it managed to vanish entirely within 5 or 6 bites.  It wasn't the most attractively presented dish but it sure hit the spot.

Ffresh has certainly looked to up its game over the past few months, and a listing in the 2012 Good Food Guide has certainly given them a lot to smile about.  Whilst I still remain disappointed with my experience of their pre-theatre menu, I would recommend checking out their regular guest chef nights to experience some elegant Welsh food.


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