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Jun 29, 2014 09:11 AM

[Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire] Four places

Meals this week

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    The restaurant is attached to the St Brides Hotel and has a great outlook from its position on top of the eponymous cliff, overlooking the beach, harbour and much of the village. It’s a light, contemporary room with comfortable seating and enthusiastic staff. That’s “enthusiastic” as in what I always think of as an American style of service – and I really can’t recall so many “is everything OK” check-backs outside of that country. It really is unnecessary. Totally.

    Pea and ham soup tasted of pea and ham and was all the better for the simplicity. Very summery. A halibut starter was a bit of a letdown. Not through any poor cooking but was, to my mind, a victim of simplicity this time. A small fillet of fried fish, four small slices of courgette. Both elements topped with tomato sauce. It was just a bit underwhelming and you’d have hoped for more. There was something of a redemption with the rack of lamb. Perfectly pink, perhaps a tad under seasoned. Buttered leeks and some well made Anna potatoes. And a very savoury meaty sauce.

    The other main course was a fillet of welsh beef. It was difficult to see how on earth they justify its twenty eight quid price tag, coming as it did with a simple rocket and red onion salad (undressed until we asked for some). The menu also suggested truffled chips – but these seemed nothing more than bog standard frozen, straight from the catering wholesaler. Béarnaise sauce was a belter with bags of tarragon. But they really do see you coming with this dish.

    Desserts were OK. Perfectly fine but nothing to rave over. Nectarine Melba was menu speak for a roasted nectarine (served cold), a blob of raspberry sorbet, which sat on a disc of meringue and a drizzle of vanilla custard. Chocolate tart was a workmanlike job which came with crème fraiche, a few raspberries and a raspberry coulis.

    1. COAST

      We’ve eaten Will Holland’s food before. That was when he held a Michelin star at La Becasse in Ludlow. We had a good lunch there and were surprised that the star was lost so quickly.

      Coast has a great location, literally on the beach and, as you’d hope, the menu puts its emphasis on seafood.

      There was a fish soup to start. It reminded of the jars of rich shellfish bisque we’ve brought back from trips to France . Intensely flavoured but, of course, lighter and fresher than the jars. There was a clear intent to present a French style soup – there were Gruyere topped croutons to sprinkle on. And rouille that would have stood a much more assertive kick from garlic. Pork rillettes were also good, although perhaps a tad underseasoned. A scattering of walnuts and raisins was a good contrast in flavour and texture.

      A fillet of John Dory sat on a bed of mashed potato. I have a thing against fish skin which isn’t crispy and this wasn’t. Fish and mash could easily have been bland but it was perked up considerably by the caper sauce and strands of fennel.

      As evidence that you can take the girl out of Salford, but you can’t take the Salford out of the girl, herself ordered the fish fingers. Of course, this wasn’t Findus but three big strips of an unidentified white fish (probably haddock). Breaded and perfectly fried. Triple cooked chips were so nearly perfect. The fluffy interior was there. The taste was there (of course, Pembrokeshire is well known potato growing country). But it just missed out on the crispness. Adding mint to your crushed peas is often a good idea – although not with fish, I’m afraid. Tartare sauce was well made.

      Baked Alaska is a dessert you don’t see too often these days. It suffers from a “Mum’s been to Iceland” thing, but here it was well made – a zingy blood orange ice cream, encased in soft meringue. The other plate – a classic well made crème brulee, came with strawberries and a couple of good crisp shortbreads.

      So, here’s the good things – a modern room in a great location, serving good well-priced food. And then there’s the not so good thing that lets it all down – the service. This was the most hapless front of house crew that we can recall in quite a while. None of them looked like they were enjoying their work. In fact, quite the contrary. They were hanging about, seemingly unsure what to do and waiting for someone to tell them. You can forgive that in obviously inexperienced staff but they were getting no support or direction from the manager who seemed as clueless as the rest. We’d been sat down and given a drinks menu. And waited for over 15 minutes without a order being taken. In the end, we just flagged someone down and gave them an order. It was a service style that followed throughout the meal. We were not alone. The neighbouring table was giving the manager some stick about service – something the tosser decided to argue about. Coast really needs a sharp front of house manager who can train and encourage the team. At the point, the experience will match the food.

      1. MARINA

        Chippy at the harbour. Eat in or get it takeaway and pick a nearby bench overlooking the beach – guard against seagulls nicking your chips if you choose the latter.

        Food cooked to order (at least for “eat in”). Enormous cod fillet. Crisp batter, not oily. Big flakes of fish. Good chippy chips. Mushy peas a little too mushy for me. White sliced for the chip butty, of course.

        1. MULBERRY

          Now it’s fair to say that, in a small village like Saundersfoot, there’s not a lot of competition for restaurant trade. So, not a lot of imperative to do better. I really wouldn’t rate Mulberry as better than OK – but then I’m a visitor coming with my “big city ways”, as opposed to it being the place of choice for the next table – a party of locals celebrating a birthday. Mulberry isn’t going to win any awards – not even “Best in Saundersfoot” with the recent opening of Coast – but it is going to do you a reasonable dinner, served up by engaging staff.

          There was good bread – granary rolls made on the premises. And potted shrimps with toast as a starter – perhaps one of Britain’s unsung classic starters. Simple and delicious. Crab “bonbons” showed something of an effort – local crab, breadcrumbed and fried. They came with a sweet chilli sauce that was, almost certainly, straight out of the bottle. It didn’t quite hit the mark – not crabby enough and the sauce overly sweet and lacking in chilli.

          For mains, Glamorgan sausages were a new addition to the menu. Two hefty sausages made from local cheeses – Preseli White and Gervine (? – my notes say the menu described it as Gervine but I think it’s more likely a misunderstanding of Cerwyn). They were breaded and fried and were really tasty. From the day’s specials – lamb shoulder also came from nearby Preseli. It had been boned, braised and served up in thick slices, with a port and thyme jus.

          You’ve been asked if you want your mains to come with salad or veg and new potatoes or chips. So we managed to try all four. A bowl of mixed veg – beans, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and peas – the sort of selection that, twenty years back, would have arrived on a half moon plate. The salad and chips were pretty much as you’d expect. The garlic new potatoes tasted a bit odd. Neither of us could quite put our finger on it – perhaps the cheese topping.

          So, as I suggested earlier, an OK dinner if you’re in the area.