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Grub Kitchen Pop-Up Restaurant at The Celtic Manor Resort

The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport recently held a special pop up menu for National Insect Week at the Newbridge on Usk venue featuring Grub Kitchen who hail from St Davids in West Wales. The Grub Kitchen aims to educate people in the benefits and environmentally friendly importance of using insects in our diet compared to the labour and energy intensive cattle farming.

They have a restaurant in St Davids that features varies insects in many forms throughout the menu and they’ve also devised and packaged up insect based cooking ingredients such as ground mealworms that can be used to make pancakes and ready made cookies that can be purchased from their website. After speaking to one half of the Grub Kitchen team who happens to be a doctor and researched the use of insects for sustainable farming methods as part of her doctorate and they now do a lot with schools and education on their farm too.

The Celtic Manor decided to bring the grub farm team and owner/chef to cook up an I’m a Celeb esque feast for some lucky patrons and I was half happy, half terrified of accepting the invitation to join them for the launch of the pop up menu. I’ve been to both the other hotels under the Celtic Manor umbrella but this was my first visit to the Newbridge on Usk. After nearly launching my phone and google maps out of the car window for sending me several miles in the opposite direction, we arrived at the idylic riverside location. I was so suprised when we walked inside as it was almost tardis like in size compared to the outside as it looked quite small when we parked up outside.

 

Insect cocktail and crickets at grub kitchen pop-up The Celtic Manor

Cricket belini with salmon at The Newbridge on Usk

bug farm insect flours and food

 

We were treated to a choice of buggy drinks on arrival at the bar with the options of ant infused Eccentric gin and tonic, pimms with some critters floating on top or a non alcoholic mojito with something else from the insect kingdom taking up solice in the glass. Opting for one of each of the stronger options so we could try both. It wasn’t long until the creepy crawly laden canapes started to appear on trays to sample.

No worm and mud sandwiches in sight luckily and what we treated to sounded pretty good on the menu if you can get your head around the main centrepiece being something you would try and fish out of your plate or drink on any other occasion. The first bite sized nibble was the hardest to embrace but once you got over the initial fear they weren’t actually that bad.

The only one I couldn’t bring myself to try from the canapés was the vol au von with the mealworms as unlike the other dishes this looked a bit slimy and reminded me of mini gooey grub worms that explode slime when I’ve seen them eaten on I’m a celeb and it would of sent me over the edge.

 

bug farm vau le vauns

Vexo insect sausage roll

 

After the initial canapés, some people left and those who stayed on were treated to a sumptuous three course meal featuring even more insects in its various forms.

Not shying away from the challenge I went for the Entomophagic tasting board featuring black ant and Pant-Ysgawn goats cheese croquette, curried cricket pakora, toasted cumin and mealworm houmous, bug burger bite and dipping sauces.

 

Insect tasting board at The Celtic Manor

 

If I hadn’t been told I would never have known there were ground down insects in each of the items on the tasting board but because I did know, I was playing a constant battle with my brain to re-assure it I wasn’t going to die. Well at least I was hoping I wasn’t. I think if i hadn’t been told about the insects I would of wolfed everything down and enjoyed it more, it was just the thought of what i was eating made me a bit hesitant. I did polish most of the tasting board off though.

For mains i went for steak. This came with baby and pureed carrot, roasted lettuce and a vexo bolognese. Vexo is Bug Farm’s own creation and is a plant and insect based protein that can be added to meals. The steak was a whopper and cooked perfectly for me at medium rare. What I’d learned here is that the insects were a bit less in your face as the canapes and you could easily eat around them with the main meal if you were’t feeling brave. I was happy to give most of the things a go though as this was a great opportunity and very different experience i just had to take by the (cricket) balls.

 

Steak with vexo bolognese at The Celtic Manor - Bug Farm popup

 

The vexo was put into a little pan so to use at my leisure and being in control of how much I wanted on the plate instead of it being served to me swimming in the stuff and spoiling the whole meal had I not liked it. Obviously it wasn’t beefy like a normal bolognese but it was totally edible.

For dessert I went for the dark chocolate terrine. Oh don’t worry there’s a few additions lurking in there too with a toffee mousse, salted clotted cream and cricket ice cream. The chocolate terrine was heavenly and I tried my very best to have half a spoon of each item on my spoon as I went on a mission to destroy the plate of dessert but I failed half way through the ice cream.

I annihilated the terrine and the salted clotted cream but by this point I was all bugged out. I think if I hadn’t done the canapes I could of powered on through but the constant battling with my brain and pictures I kept seeing in my mind of the insects as I took a bite just took their toll. I got half way through the ice cream but there were just a bit too many crickets for me in the end. The other half on the other hand said it was the best ice cream she had ever tasted so there you go!

The Verdict

Ok so what did I think about the whole experience? I thought it was an amazing idea to be fair and they were so creative with everything from the ant infused gin, the canapes and the three courses of delicious food we were treated to. Having a chance to speak to the guys who run the bug farm and hearing the back story on how it all started, what they do now and dreams of the future. I love how they get the kids involved and do a lot with schools too.

It’s definitely an area we should start to explore too to try and cut down on the amount of energy and waste we go through in the world with traditional farming. I’m really glad I tried the food and the nibbles and would definitely recommend it either at the Bug Farm in St David’s or if The Celtic Manor put on a similar pop up again.

I can imagine kids loving the chance to eat some insects without being shouted at for digging up the garden in search for them by their parents and the majority of people on my table devoured everything on their plates. It depends how weak a stomach you have or how much your brain takes over when you are eating something you think you shouldn’t be and everyone is different.

I thought it was an amazing experience personally even if I was playing a constant battle in my mind but I did try my best and finished the majority of my food.

To see what other events and special menu’s are coming up at The Celtic Manor take a look here.

The Mulberry Cocktail Bar review at The Celtic Manor, Newport

I’ve always been a fan of The Celtic Manor down in Newport and like the fact they are always evolving, changing and enhancing what they have to offer under the roof and in the mass of acres surrounding the Luxury Hotel Complex.

Not content with trying the afternoon tea once i’ve been back 3 times for the ever changing specials they run such as the Willy Wonka Chocolate and the Easter themed one i’ve taken my younger sister to. I love the afternoon tea that much I’ve booked in for a 4th time in March for their afternoon tea with a twist and exploration of world cuisine with the Ribs Slider Afternoon tea that is there for the month of March. I’m equally keen to try out the Asian themed afternoon tea there in June.

Then there’s the inaugural Polo at the Celtic where everyone gets glammed up I’d like to say to watch the Polo but it’s an excuse to put some smart summer wear on, shades high heels / loafers and quaff measurable amounts of Pimms and Champagne in sun kissed Newport Countryside. I attended the event last, 2 years ago but contemplating adding it to this summers list of events.

I was saddened to hear about the fine dinning restaurant closing at the Celtic Manor back last year but when an invite landed in my inbox to the vacant spaces latest incarnation the Mulberry Cocktail Bar I was more than happy to check out what they had mustered up in it’s place.

Mulberry Cocktail Bar Celtic Manor Resort

The Bar

I’ve stayed and ate plus attended a couple of years at the Digital Wales events at the Celtic Manor but I was unfortunate not to eat at the Epicure restaurant when it was open so can’t compare what the decor was like before the Mulberry opened but I thought it did make a lasting impression walking through the glass doors with the bar in front, swooping chandeliers, large high backed chairs, mood lighting and classy fittings.

Mulberry Bar cocktail lounge Celtic Manor

There were scutterings of tables in all shapes and sizes to fulfil groups of varying sizes from small tea seaters, large canvas backed lounge seating to hold small groups that was occupied by a friendly gaggle of locals and regulars at the restaurant who were enjoying their first round of Mulberry fizz’s. There were offshoots with rooms and couches curtailed by thin threads giving a sense of privacy that can be booked out for groups and parties I was informed and then weather permitting (which it wasn’t on Thursday sadly) outside parasol entombed tables centered around a modern fire pit, which i’m sure would be well exploited come early spring and into the late evenings in summer after feasting on one of the many current restaurants across the resort.

Not being one who prefers the element of surprise, I had – had a sneak peek of the menu before the evening to see how they compared to recent visits to some of London’s favourite cocktail haunts such as Duck and Waffle, The Shard and the legendary Savoy. Sticking to my mantra of doing a smaller menu very well rather than an excessive menu very badly there were 11 cocktails to choose from. If you would of asked me what the ingredients to most of them were 12 months ago I wouldn’t of had a clue but to anyone whose graced the pages of my Instagram recently they’d know I’m partial to a cocktail or two these days.

There were a few familiar faces in attendance and not just fellow foodies and bloggers but Welsh Rugby hero Gareth Edwards, who i’m guessing is a keen golfer down at the Celtic Manor and none other than TV favourite Bradley Walsh who was staying at the hotel during filming of an upcoming show.

The Drinks

Price wise the cocktails were around the £15 mark, which for a Cardiff City Centre before 10pm might sound excessive to some but most of the venues in town who offer two for one generally in my eyes based on taste just use the same amount of alcohol but spread over two glasses so you’re just getting more juice or ice for your money. Having visited one venue well known for their two for one pricing the night after my visit I was quite appalled to see they were charging £9.70 for an Aperol Spritz outside of the happy hour window.

Here though at The Mulberry Bar they aren’t just using your standard house spirits such as red labeled vodka or sub £20 London Dry Gin they are using some of the best spirits available to make up the cocktails, which I think does warrant the slightly higher prices one would be more accustomed to in nearing Welsh cities. I’ve never actually been to a hotel for their amazing cocktail deals anyway as you come to expect to pay a little bit extra as it’s not just about the drink it’s about the experience, the service and having everything under one roof.

mulberry Fizz cocktail and canapés Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

First up we were served a Mulberry Spritz containing vodka infused mulberries, Blackberry Pimms and Ice Cuvee. This wasn’t just some berries thrown in some vodka and shaken to within an inch of it’s life with ice with a straw. some thought and preparation and been involved from the steeping of the mulberries, the ice shaped carriages to hold the berries and the overall presentation of the drink. The first sip was quite potent but a little stir and muddle of the ice and it was a lot smoother.

We were treated to a decadent selection of canapés to go with the drinks with fois gras and truffle, lobster with scallops and a mushroom with mozzarella. These were later joined with a panko crumbed raspberry with poppet of boozy liquer along with a rich chocolate and rose pot.

candyfloss cocktail at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

Next up was the Candy Floss Royal. Not a drink I would normally opt for myself as I don’t go for anything that sounds overly sweet but it was a lot better than i thought it would be and not too sweet at all. A chunk of candy floss drizzled with black muscat and finally drenched in Champagne. What’s not to like with anything topped with Champagne?

Negroni and Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor review

I got to choose my next drink so obviously went for a classic gin cocktail and what’s more classic than a Negroni, but not just any Negroni… a Posh Negroni with Martini Rosso, Roby Italian Roby Marton gin and bitter Campari. This was the biggest glass of Negroni I’ve ever set eyes on. They’re an acquired taste if you’ve not tried Campari before but i’ve had my fare share over the past 12 months and got a taste for it now. It was good as is but the bar manager offered a splash of Prosecco, which just lifted it perfectly.

Japanese Whisky Cabinet at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

The Whisky Cabinet didn’t escape my radar right by the entrance to The Mulberry Bar and on further inspection they’ve added a few Japanese Whisky’s that I’ve had a soft spot for since my visit and Whisky flight at A Bull in a China shop in Shoreditch, London just before Christmas. I’d also treated myself to a sexy bottle of Nikka From The Barrel for Christmas. I’d not seen the Nikka Coffey in a bar yet though and been dying to try it. It didn’t disappoint either so if you like your Whisky, next time you’re at a bar or take a trip to The Mulberry Bar at the Celtic Manor make sure you sample one or two in their ever growing list of Japanese Whisky’s.

Cheese trolley at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

Did we mention the cheese trolley they have too? Just our luck they plonked it next to us with it calling out “EAT ME!” for the duration of the visit. Sadly it was just to entice us back as it was just for show but we were informed it was around £14 for a choice of 4 cheeses. To make up for it though the friendly and attentive bartender rustled up a the showpiece of the cocktail menu the Cheese Delice featuring Monkey Shoulder Whisky blended with Kahulua and hazelnut liquer in the centre of a plate adorned with nuggets of cheese and drops of chocolate.

Cheese Delice cocktail at Mulberry Bar Celtic Manor

The idea is to dip the cheese in the chocolate, take a bite and then have a sip of the drink. This was definitely a dessert to share much like a cheeseboard. I loved the different flavour combos going on with the dish / drink but it would of been a struggle to finish on my own and was a great sharing drink after some food.

The Verdict

We both loved our first visit to The Mulberry Bar at The Celtic Manor and will no doubt be back to finish off where we left off. I loved the surroundings, the vibes and of course the cocktail and whisky list. We had a good chat to the bar manager who talked us through some of the drinks on the menu, techniques they’ve employed to deliver the epic cocktails and plans for the future with drink and menu development, which sounded more than promising.

The waiters and bar staff were very knowledgable and more than happy to explain some of the more unusual ingredients and offer recommendations based on our tastes.

If you are staying at the Celtic Manor and booked in for food at one of the restaurants then the Mulberry Bar is a must to end a perfect evening in Wales most prestigious Hotel. Even though it’s in the afternoon, we’re off for the afternoon tea in a few weeks and I’m definitely going to see if they can sneak us in if it’s close to opening time.

The Bar is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm but closed Monday and Tuesday and to find out more visit The Mulberry Bar website.