An overlooked gem in Llandaff, or digital pretence? We braved the elements on a cold, wet Saturday evening to find out why Cardiff’s food bloggers are on mute when it comes to Seren Diemwnt – and Mrs. B.B. braved the beef main! (I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for you with the main image.)
With the expense of Green Man – and four days of festival food stalls – on the horizon, I had resigned myself to, at best, a home-made stir fry this Saturday night.
But as Mrs. B.B. rightly pointed out (why didn’t I do this years ago?!), “now that the blog’s live, we have a duty to spend large and stuff our faces at least once a week.”
We did agree – with four days of continuous boozing also on the horizon – that perhaps we should be sensible and go alcohol-free. As a result, we had the car, and opened up our horizons from the limitations of the Rhymney to Penarth line.
Err, we went to Llandaff.
A seren (or star) in the making?
Trying our best to find a restaurant which hadn’t been championed to death (it will be a while before we make it to Tommy Heaney’s new gaff) by Cardiff’s foodies, we eventually came across the website for Seren Diemwnt.
How did we not know about this place?
Why isn’t every South Wales food blogger waxing lyrical?
It certainly looked the business, with references to Michelin and #madeforinsta food photos – plus a menu promising 4-bone rack of lamb!
I was sold.
Did we visit the wrong website?
No – I checked as soon as we returned that evening, but anyway…
It’s been far too long since we visited High Street, Llandaff, but considering it is home to both Porro and our favourite Chinese (Summer Palace Restaurant), we’ve come to expect a certain standard – professional-looking website or not.
Our expectations were tempered somewhat when we arrived to see this sign out front:
…it was hardly indicative of haute cuisine.
Inside, the room was open, but the décor was unassuming and unnoteworthy – although Mrs. B.B. was a fan of the light bulbs:
It had a café feel, so we weren’t surprised when our table included flyers promoting the breakfast and lunch time takeaway deals.
Bizarrely, given the restaurant was largely empty when we arrived (and we wouldn’t see more than four tables dining at any one point), they had made up our table in the centre of the room, but right next to the ‘bar area’ (or the cafe’s till) – this is also where the three people on service spent much of their evening darting back and forth.
With the door also ajar wide open when we arrived (it was lashing it down outside and more than a little chilly), Mrs. B.B. asked to be moved without hesitation – although that did lead to some confusion as our waiter for the evening struggled to communicate where we could sit as an alternative (at least we didn’t end up on the very uncomfortable looking high chairs at the back).
“All three failed to tell us about the evening’s specials.”
He didn’t seem all that comfortable when we asked to order the non-alcoholic wine either – although, perhaps, that’s understandable. It wasn’t that bad!
Service switched between himself and two female waitresses – the younger of whom was very polite but mainly nervous.
At least one of the trio appeared like she had experience of interacting with the public. In fact, she was quite charming – for that reason alone I feel a little guilty for what I’m about to write.
But all three failed to tell us about the evening’s specials – we overheard them informing another table after our starters had arrived.
Please look away if you are easily offended
Six starters and nine mains: surely enough choice for most people – although no sign of the rack of lamb (it was a totally different menu to what I’d viewed online), and it was slightly random (crispy duck with hoisin sauce, Indian spiced chickpea potato cake, soup of the day, cheese souffle… you get the idea).
The price point was reasonable (mains from £10.50 to £16.50 – add a few quid on top for a steak…who goes out to a restaurant for steak?!), but it all felt like it was being done on the cheap.
“It was a waste of a duck’s life.”
There were no nice subtle touches to elevate the experience (surely a couple of rolls and wedge of butter wouldn’t have set them back too much?!), our cutlery was wrapped in paper napkins, the table water tasted…well, put it this way, we drank all the non-alcohol wine!
Crispy duck is one of my all-time favourite guilty pleasures.
Any joy had been removed from this version. Crispy? I’d say incinerated.
It was a waste of a duck’s life – just adding grease and saltiness to an otherwise fresh-tasting salad.
The hoisin sauce provided some necessary sweetness, but it wasn’t anything special.
The pic does it way more justice than it deserves – and it was tiny. Gone in a few mouthfuls.
Mrs. B.B. faired a little better with her cheese and leek souffle, shallot and tomato salad.
Not really what you’d hope for from a souffle – dense and airless, it held its shape enough to have been extracted from the typical ramekin we expected to see.
It was more like an omelette in texture, but it tasted nice enough, with a strong cheese flavour – although the unadvertised mustard dressing was overpowering.
Despite the luxury of TWO vegetarian options to choose from – Mrs. B.B. went for the meatiest thing on the menu. And when I say meatiest, I mean obscene:
Not what I used to visualise when I thought of beef brisket – unfortunately, it is now.
It just looked wrong.
And whilst it was moist enough, it didn’t taste all that dissimilar to tinned stewing steak.
There was far too much of it in relation to the other elements on the plate. And if you are serving up this many cows on one plate, you really need to provide a jug of thick gravy vs. a barely there red wine jus.
“The best thing about this dish was a wedge of red onion.”
The butternut spiced puree was served cold. The crispy carrot and parsnip looked nice visually when the plate arrived but became lost in the eating. The potato fondant was soft and buttery but outshone by a wedge of red onion that was packed with flavour.
I repeat: the best thing about this dish was a wedge of red onion.
My pheasant breast rolled in poppy seed, lemon and chili sounded so promising. But I’d be embarrassed if I’d cooked this myself – if I’d cooked it FOR myself.
It didn’t look that great – although you can see they are trying. With three tiny potatoes, three beetroot crisps, two (maybe the chef plated too close to the edge so I lost one) roasted tomatoes dotted around the plate – and a splash of chocolate jus – it had the first round of MasterChef: The Professionals written all over it.
Based on the cooking, the chef would struggle on the amateur version.
“I was tearing it apart with my knife and fork.”
The pheasant was overcooked to the point I was tearing it apart with my knife and fork – it took a fair bit of effort I can tell you! The beetroot crisps were like pieces of card. And the buttered potatoes were undercooked and lacked any buttery flavour.
The best part of it was the chocolate jus – nice and bitter – but there was so little of it. A crying (I was on the verge) shame when the meal was so dry.
I didn’t mind the seared red cabbage, but I couldn’t taste the sherry pearls or the lemon on the pheasant – the poppy seed dominated.
For such a simple dish, you really need to nail every single element – the fact there was gristle and cartilage still attached to the pheasant summed up the lack of skill and attention to detail.
There wasn’t much to leave, but there was enough to raise questions.
The plates were nervously taken away – the younger waitress seemed flustered when we spoke to her. We smiled.
Given the measly portions to that point, there was room in my tummy for Seren Diemwnt to make it up to me with a knockout dessert. Mrs. B.B. had less room in hers (did you see her main?!), but she isn’t one to be left out – plus there was an unexplained half-hour delay, which helped.
Disclaimer: under normal circumstances, we would have left the restaurant at this point – and I would have expected a refund for the main I received (at least). Given this was to form part of a review, I was keen to complete the ‘experience’ without influence.
Her summer pudding was a simple delight. Very light, not too sweet – with a hint of tartness from the berry fruits. It was the first dish to deliver:
Unfortunately, it was the only one…
My lemon & white chocolate mousse wasn’t a mousse at all. It wasn’t light or airy – it had a texture more akin to a posset (I’m being kind). And it was a deceptively large portion.
The cinnamon meringue added some nice texture if nothing more, but the real star was the tart candied lemon peel, adding more than just crunch and decoration.
I would have liked more of the raspberry sauce to tame the sweetness of the faux mousse. It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever tasted, but finally the ordeal was over…
Time to spread the word?
To be honest, I left feeling a bit confused. On reflection, I felt cheated – what they are promoting vs. the reality is miles apart. And for north of £60?!
From the waiting staff to the food served, it was pretty amateur, which suggests this was more than a ‘bad night’.
So…now we know why nobody is talking about this place.
Maybe more people should be.