Tempus: Take 2

It's been nearly seven months since my first visit to Tempus, located inside Cardiff's five-star St David's Hotel and lots has changed.  With a new head chef, the venue has decided to ditch the Masterchef stylings in favour of a more local, seasonal menu.

What we found was pleasantly surprising.  In contrast to the sauce daubed plates and some overly sweet dishes we'd eaten in March, Head chef Dominic was concentrating on delivering flavour and seemed determined to put his own stamp on the menu.

Gorgonzola Stuffed Gnocchi [Photo:Cardiff Bites]
My starter of gnocchi (£8 for a starter or "small" plate, £14 as a main) certainly showed a man who knows classic flavour combinations. The salty cheese was a perfect foil for the sweet acidity of the dressing, whilst the walnuts gave a bit of bite to an otherwise soft (albeit very large!) dumpling.  Personally I prefer my gnocchi a bit firmer as these melted in my mouth rather too quickly.

Smoked Haddock Scotch Egg with Curried Aioli [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
The smoked haddock scotch egg (£8) was similarly inventive, taking the classic combinations of kedgeree and turning it into something all together more interesting.  The crumb was crisp, the egg perfectly soft boiled and the fish delicately cooked but the whole thing lacked seasoning and a dash of salt would have perked the flavours up no end.

Grilled Lemon Sole with Caper and Lemon Butter [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
Keeping with the fishy theme, my partner's main course of grilled lemon sole with caper and lemon butter and new potatoes (£22) was an exercise in simplicity.  The fish was perfectly grilled and the capers and lemon gave a light, clean taste which managed not to overpower.  It was also interesting to see that the fish hadn't been filleted and, instead, cooked on the bone which my partner didn't mind but did mean he got a couple of little bones in his meal toward the end.

Confit Belly Pork with Colcannon Mash [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
I'm a sucker for anything piggy so after flirting with the idea of sea bass for a while I gave in and ordered the confit of belly pork with colcannon mash, served with green beans, apple sauce and a shard of crackling (£17).  I wasn't disappointed.  The confit had left the pork soft and unctuous, cut through by the tart apple sauce.  The mash was smooth and salty and laced with spring onions and bacon (because there is never such a thing as too much pig) and I did enjoy chomping on the crackling at the end.

As chef had heard I'd been eyeing up the wild sea bass fillet (mainly for the crispy risotto Cake) he sent it the risotto cake out as a little treat.  It was outstanding and I'd urge you to give the dish (£19) a go just for this - soft, creamy and well-seasoned, this was the closest I've had to real arancini in a long time.  In fact so enamoured was I with the taster I wolfed it down, forgetting completely to take a picture!  
Blackberry & Apple Crumble and Crème Anglaise [Photo: Cardiff Bites]

Finally we tucked into pudding.  My partner liked his dish of blackberry and apple crumble with custard (£8), particularly the oaty crumble topping.  It was packed with fruit but whilst the custard was a good consistency to coat the dish, it was overly sweet and masked the acidity of the apple and tartness of the berries.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Raspberry & Pomegranate [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
The pannacotta (£7) had a better balance of sweet vanilla milkiness against the explosion of flavour from the raspberries and pomegranate, which were sharp and bursting with juice.  As a palate cleanser after the pork dish it worked a treat.

The addition of the menu to their website was also welcome, especially when going down the seasonal route and whilst chef needs to watch the seasoning on some dishes, this was certainly an improvement on our first visit and made me much more inclined to visit again in the future. 

This was a special preview of the autumn and winter menu and as such our meal was complimentary.


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