The latest venue to open by the Knife and Fork Fork group, the team behind Cardiff and Penarth favourites The Conway, The Pilot, The Discovery and The Old Swan is Twenty Nine Park Place. Located at, you’ve guessed it 29 Park Place just across from the National Museum of Wales it is their most central Cardiff venue to date.
I’ve had a pint or two and lunch at both The Conway and The Pilot in the past and become acquainted with their no nonsense, good hearty pub food so it was interesting to see how the menu would differ being in such close proximity to the likes of Park House and The Laguna Restaurant at Park Plaza.
I’d followed the venue early on before they opened the doors and was impressed with the promise of a pretty decent selection of craft beers. They had one or two local beers at the two other venues under the Knife and Fork Food umbrella but they seemed to be ramping up their offering here, which had the thumbs up from me.
I wasn’t fortunate enough to visit the venue under the previous management that sadly went under less than 12 months ago so I wasn’t sure how it compared to the previous incarnation. The venue seems to be suited to a casual pint near the entrance and around the bar and the restaurant with seating split between round tables of around 7 seats to each in the middle and rows sitting 4-8 along the sides within a conservatory like extension to the main building.
The illuminated craft beer board stops you in your tracks as soon as you walk into the venue, enticing you in to sample the ample selection of fermented hoppy nectar. On closer inspection they have a growing selection of craft gins for those who fancy something lighter on the waistline too.
We scouted out some of the starters we’d seen on socials from the recent launch night with them averaging £7 mark.
I was intrigued by the sound of the giant scallop, cauliflower puree, pancetta sand and sorrel for £7.50 as I honestly didn’t know if this was an actual living shellfish or some kind of mutant creation from the kitchen as it’s hard to realise scale on an Instagram photo.
The other half and her mum opted for the ox cheek scotch egg, rarebit dip at £7. We also opted for some nibbles whilst we waited, which consisted of crispy cockles and muscles at £3 and some homemade bread for £2.50. I’d had deep fried cockles before but it was nice to try the muscles too. And the bread…well who doesn’t love homemade bread.
The giant scallop was served in a standard sized shell, which led me to poking and prodding the white squidgy mass in the middle to see if it was real or not. Not needing David Attenborough to explain to me in the end that this was a creation from the kitchen and not dredged from the waters of the English Channel.
The soufflé type concoction of what must have been scallop meat with egg quite remarkably resembled a scallop with a lighter, airier texture and more mellow flavour of scallop. Generous in size, it was enjoyable at first but became a little sickly towards the last bite or two. The pancetta sand added a nice crunchy texture and hit of bacony, fatty, lovliness too.
The scotch egg was decent in size although it could of done with a minute or two less as the yolk was almost hard boiled and meat a tad dry. The rarebit dip added a much needed dose of moisture though.
Opting to verge off main menu and try one of the sharing board specials. On the night, the options consisted of tomahawk steak, lobster or a picanha steak. Seeing as I was a tad hungry I know from past experience you don’t get much bang for your buck when it comes to lobster and even though the tomahawk looks pretty epic on a plate, you’re essentially paying for a steak plus what would normally be heading for the waste bin with the wing tip. If I was eating with dog Marley, I’d probably shared the tomahawk with him as it would have kept him quite for a few hours, gnawing at the bone.
Opting for medium / rare, the steak came out pre-sliced more on the medium to well done, which was a shame as the thinner ends of the rump were a bit more chewy than I would have liked. I know the Picanha, a favourite in Brazil isn’t the best cut out there but when you’ve sampled it as part of the £10 lunch menu at Asador 44, you know how good it can be.
The fries were good though and we opted for garlic butter to dunk both the steak and chips in. There were a couple of cuts to choose from with varying weight and relative price around the £30 mark and ours came in at £31.50.
The (future) mother in law went for the Roasted lamb rump, pearl barley risotto, radish, goats cheese with blackberries, which was a nice touch and priced at £16. Having had a taste of the dish I’d say it was the star dish of the night. Cooked a little less than our steak, the lamb was tender. The risotto still had a bit of bite, seasoned well and the goats cheese lent a rich, creaminess to the dish.
The Argentinian Malbec we opted for to wash both dishes down was a hit too at £23.
Onto desserts and after seeing it on Instagram whilst sitting down and reading the menu I opted for Thibault’s citrus tart, meringue, lemon and mint sorbet. Knowing the master creator behind said dish worked under Laurian at Cocorico Patisserie and made it onto BBC’s Crème de la Crème I was hoping for nothing short of a masterpiece.
Sadly it didn’t all work together for me. I think the citrus tart and meringue would have been fine as it was but the lemon and mint sorbet was rock hard and way to bitter for me. I struggled with the sorbet both chopping bits off to eat and because it was too bitter on the palate.
The Llio had ordered a coffee whilst we decided on dessert but decided to upgrade it to the Café Gourmand to include some small pastries. She said it was ok but nothing to write home about.
Her mum chose the Pina Colada Crème Brulee, coconut and almond tuile. There was lovely crisp, sugary top encasing the core of the dessert but for both of us who tried it, it was too fruity and overpowered the custard base layer.
To be fair to the restaurant it had been open for less than two weeks so it was a new venue, new team and new menu so it takes some time for that all to gel. The food was ok but could do with a few tweaks to get it just right and just a bit less in the oven on a few dishes.
The ideas are good but it’s just the execution that will come when they’ve found their feet. The desserts in my eyes need a bit of looking at as the lemon sorbet spoilt the dessert for me and the fruit in the crème brulee was just too much.
I will probably be back to the venue in a few months to see how they’ve developed or even to sample a couple of the beers they have on tap.