Saturday, 8 October 2011

Shaun Hill at Ffresh

If the British food world has national treasures, then Shaun Hill must surely be up there with Fergus Henderson and Heston. The ‘chefs chef’ has gone from Belfast, to London, Ludlow and Abergavenny picking up stars and plaudits along the way, and for one night only the Ffresh 2nd birthday party. I was invited along to the party with a host of other welsh bloggers, for a free meal in reward for my often rubbish writing.

The evening started with a lovely welsh sparkling wine and canapés of delicate, light cheese biscuits and heavy, heavenly, dense arancini, in the restaurants revamped bar.

In the main restaurant I was lucky enough to be seated with an unobstructed view of the open kitchen and a smiling jolly Shaun Hill overseeing the restaurants head chef Kurt Flemming, and his small brigade.

The team kicked of the meal with a starter of Red mullet with Rachael’s crème fraiche. The fish was lovely and moist in a punchy anchovy sauce. I don’t know who Rachael is but let me tell you her crème fraiche kicks arse.

Onto the main of Shaun Hills partridge pudding, fondant potato and hispi cabbage. The dish hit the nose with the punch from the rich dark gravy. I’ve tasted many umami rich dishes, but this was the first dish that in a strange way, I smelt that fifth taste emanate from the sauce. The partridge pudding consists of small pieces of partridge and chicken in an eggy dough. I asked Shaun after the meal for the recipe but was too pissed to remember. I do however remember it tasted divine. The partridge leg and breast that accompanied it where though slightly underwhelming as was the fondant potato. The bird was too dry, and the potato needed salt and lacked the luxury that gives it the title of fondant.

The desert however was luxury on a plate. Chocolate fondant did deserve the title but had sadly split open before it got to me, denying me the pleasure of breaking into it. A minor disappointment in an otherwise excellent desert. It came with a praline caramel and a vanilla ice cream, and made for a childlike adult dessert. A delicious way to end a fantastic evening.

I’ve praised Ffresh on this blog before and it’s still in my opinion the best place to eat in the bay (an opinion I held long before they gave me a free meal might I add). The staff are fantastic and the restaurant has embraced an ethos of locality and terroir in their sourcing of ingredients that should stand as an example to a lot of other Cardiff eateries. They are proud of their connection with True taste Wales and are right to be. Were it not for this connection I wouldn’t have learnt that Wales produces beautiful red wine at Ancre hill estates. A meal and an education are a wonderful partnership. Finally I need to praise them for the idea of the guest chef evenings. Cardiff’s dining scene is still pretty (actually, very) dire, and I do hope that some of these chefs see what a craving we have here for better restaurants and perhaps take the leap of opening one up.

This piece was written in part to gloat at those who weren’t there, but mainly for @dpmumbles , @niajon and all the staff at Ffresh for their wonderful hospitality. Thank you.