Having sampled the food on offer at The Classroom back last year after it all kicked off online with Jay Reiner slating the Cardiff food scene I thought I’d compare the offerings from the food college further up the valley and a bit closer to home at Coleg y Cymmoedd’s Nant Restaurant.
I started following the restaurant on Facebook back last year and have often been tempted by the ever changing weekly menu it was just finding a suitable time as they don’t open on the weekend and are usually fully booked unless you ring a couple of weeks beforehand but then you have to take a gamble on the menu.
Anyway we thought we would take a stab at it and hope the weekly menu stood up to our tastes and luckily enough we got in for the St David’s day special menu.
The Nant Restaurant is attached to the Coleg y Cymoedd campus in Treforest, opposite Showcase Cinemas and has it’s own entrance seen from the road heading onto the roundabout for McDonalds, Showcase and Makro.
The restaurant was a bit smaller than I had imagined although there was a big group of about 20 people sat on a long table near the window then id say about 5 tables for two or 4 people dotted around the room.
Being on the ground floor and netting on the window, the views didn’t quite match the top floor panoramic view of Cardiff at the Classroom but you can’t blame the restaurant for that and I was going to leave the food do the talking.
There is a set menu featuring a choice of 3 starters and 3 mains that changes weekly with a meat, fish and veggie option usually featuring on the menu and two desserts with a set price of wait for it…£12.50 for dinner! Yes you heard that right just £12.50 for 3 courses. The drinks prices couldn’t of been far off cost price either as I paid 2.60 for a glass of wine or could of got a whole bottle for under a tenner.
For starters we ordered the salmon fishcakes for Mwsh and the goats cheese and red onion tartlets. Being terrified of the thought of salmon passing my lips I grew some balls and mustered a fork full of the crispy coated fishy nuggets and I was pleasantly surprised. I don’t like salmon in fact in fact I detest the stuff but I gave it a try and the starter was good. Mwsh gave the thumbs up too as it was her choice but we do like to have a try of each others.
Mine was the goats cheese filo tart with a perfectly crisp filo pastry base, filled with a good measure of caramelised onion and golden crusted goats cheese. I am quite partial to a wedge of goats cheese and must of finished off a log to myself this week on toast with fig and chilli honey and this was equally as scrumptious. I think they must of layered a smudging of honey on top of the cheese before baking as it was beautifully golden and slight crisp on top. Expertly presented with doodles of balsamic I believe on the plate both adding decoration and flavour to the creamy, crispy plate of food before me.
We usually opt for two different mains but as the menu was smaller than your average restaurant we didn’t want to go veggie and neither of us fancied the trout so we both opted for braised shoulder of Brecon lamb on braised red cabbage with rosemary jus.
Again both presented to a high standard Mwsh’s was cooked perfectly pink with mine a bit on the well done side. By no means was it burnt and was tender and tasted delicious but it wasn’t as good as Mwsh’s as there was no pink juicy flesh in sight. The jus was scarce in it’s presentation on the plate and could of done with a little pot to add over the veggie bowl accompanied with the meal but what was there tasted excellent.
We couldn’t quite work out what the other round thin disk was on the plate it resembled a sort of nut stuffing and added to the flavour of the healthy chunks of lamb. The veggie bowl comprised of carrots, roasted potato cubes in what I think was paprika, a few green beans (3 to be precise) and neither of us could tell what the other ingredient was as it was very soft, had the texture and colour of potato but think it could of been swede. All cooked to perfection but would of been nice with a bit of extra jus to drown them in.
Thumbs up from both of us for the lamb main and at this point had us planning out next trip and even contemplating a monthly visit for the crazy price. I’ve spent more on a curry and pint in spoons in curry club on a Thursday after I’ve added a few sides to go with it.
Being only two desserts on the menu, the only right thing to do was have one of each to share. Mwsh went for the apple and cinnamon tart with barabrith ice cream and Penderyn Whisky and I opted for the Whisky chocolate fondant with honey cream.
the apple tart had a lovely crisp finish complimented by a spoonful of pure Welshness in my mouth from the barabrith ice cream and Penderyn Whisky and all came together really well. Couldn’t quite taste the Penderyn Whisky myself and wasn’t sure in what form it was on the plate but I only had a sample so could of missed it on my spoon but tasted great non the less.
I’ve been neglecting my old friend recently so it was time to be reacquainted for dessert. My good friend chocolate came in the form of a moist sponge with it’s inner liquid belly oozing out when eagerly stabbing it’s core with my fork waiting to see how well cooked it had been. Top marks on the chocolate fondant with firm exterior and perfect balance of gooey chocolate centre. A milk and white chocolate shard paired with the honey cream to tame the dark chocolatey fondant. Again I couldn’t quite pick up the whisky flavour in the dish but might just be compared to my overly generous portions of liquid fire i’ve added to my Penderyn Whisky cream when i’ve attempted it at home. Not for the faint hearted that’s for sure! I’d take a mark off for the lack of whisky flavour in both desserts but they still came out scoring very high so I wasn’t too dishearten.
The desserts rounded off an excellent first dinning experience at the Nant Restaurant. All 3 courses were presented well, tasted better than good and the students were so attentive I didn’t wait longer than 30 seconds between finishing a drink or course and they were gone from the table.
This is an excellent idea to get the students real world experience of the hospitality industry and even though I don’t think the final finish of the food wasn’t quite up to that of The Classroom I’d pick this over again next time as it wasn’t much in it and the little fact of it costing just over a third of the price of the Classroom. The bill there was just around £110 for 3 courses a bottle of wine and two cocktails.
The classroom did have more of a restaurant feel and vibe to it and featured a much better stocked bar and cocktail list and the view (if you sat on the right side of the room) is second to none in Cardiff but you don’t half pay for those additions. It was probably average for a good quality restaurant but at the end of the day the students are providing the service so you would expect a slight discount on the the overall price. At the Nant Restaurant it is all about the experience for the students with prices not much more than cost price that’s what the end goal is but The Classroom would in my eyes seem to be turning over a healthy profit in comparison.
Some feedback I would give the Nant is a nice wedge of bread and some butter or freshly baked roll wouldn’t of gone a miss and could of showcased some of the student bakers end products before we ate as everyone loves a bit of bread to start no matter who you are. One other thing was out table had a beyond rediculous wobble and drove both of us nuts we couldn’t cut into the food even gently without fear of spilling the wine so I had to sit with my elbow holding the table in place whilst we ate. We were sat just right of the bar and a bit of wood to wedge the table in place wouldn’t be too hard to remedy this for the future but all in all a very good first visit. I would highly recommend not only for the price but the quality of the food and the opportunity to give students some highly valuable experience in the hospitality industry and their future working lives.
We are looking to make it a regular visit maybe once a month if we can get in as the menu changes every week so we won’t get bored for a while eating the same thing like most restaurants.