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Restaurant James Sommerin

by Lorna Oakley

I know I shouldn’t be talking gourmet food as everyone is in to throws of  being super healthy what with new year’s resolutions and resulting gym passes, but one evening just before Christmas, we probably ate the most aesthetically diverse taster menu so far on our travels via The Bespoke Black Book.

Restaurant James Sommerin overlooks the glittering lights of the Pier in Penarth, festooned with a mixture of all year-round lights and an extra helping of festive sparkle that contrasts the inky night time waters of the Severn Estuary.

A short drive from the Welsh capital, Penarth is a Victorian seaside town that boasts beautiful bars and restaurants, with an abundance of independents that are either tucked away in the town centre or are overlooking the sea front.James Sommerin has picked prime location for his restaurant, the open plan interior overlooking the kitchen, with a private dining room that runs alongside the main body of the restaurant, next to the bar, is contemporary but welcoming.

The décor albeit a seaside restaurant is more of a modern nod to it’s surroundings and the food that is served, rather than a cliched maritime setting.

We sat at a table near the front on teal blue banquettes. Catherine who served us introduced us to each course of the taster menu, we chose not to have the wine flight as we were driving however I am confident that the choices would have been perfect.

To start with the bread was laced with laverbread, a traditional welsh addition accompanied with homemade butter, paired with light and fluffy crab ‘muffins’ to compliment the contemporary presentation of an otherwise standard start to the meal.

The following course in my opinion was the most creative. Edible pebbles rested on a bed of tapioca seaweed, grey and dappled white chocolate pebbles filled with pureed lasagne. A true delight to the palate as well as the eyes.

After this we had a stunning plate of venison carpaccio delicately balanced with tarragon and carrot, this was presented on what looked like a slice of a tree trunk, very unusual!

After the venison, there was a fish course, this was a cloud like piece of Hake on a bed of crispy kale. The delicate flavour once again was offset by the more robust kale, with the textures creating interest throughout the dish as well as the food itself.

The next course was the best combination I have had in absolutely ages, once again using the traditional local meat for this course via a fillet and confit of lamb. This was drizzled with a cumin and coconut sauce with a side of pak choi. The surprising combination of lamb and coconut, the delicate sweetness and the strong taste of the meat.

The final course was a sauterne poached pear, with honey spuma and hazelnut ice cream. The flow of the six courses finished with a balance of aesthetics, flavours and textures; sweet but not to sickly.

The restaurant was full, but not crowded. Even so, the timing of each course was spot on and the staff that served us were knowledgeable and friendly.

To conclude, this is such a special meal and so unusual, you couldn’t compare it to another tasting menu as the presentation itself sets it apart. I started on the surroundings at the beginning of this review, so I thought it’d be nice to go full circle. As we left, after a truly magnificent meal, we realised how beautiful Restaurant James Sommerin would be on a summer’s evening watching the sun set over the water, and with that we vowed to return.

Restaurant James Sommerin
The Esplanade
CF64 3AU
United Kingdom

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