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eating out: Delightful seafood by the seaside.

Byline: Lydia Whitfield

DON'T let the fact Pebbles Bistro With Rooms was formerly an old people's home deter you from trying out this impressive restaurant.

It has been The Seacot Hotel since then and is one of the few restaurants on Penarth Esplanade not dominated by ugly scaffolding.

Light and airy, it's just the breath of fresh air the restaurants on the seafront have needed for some time now. With neutral walls, dark wooden tables, dark high-backed leather seats and colourful prints on the wall of sea and water scenes, it's a chic little restaurant.

Both times we've had dinner here recently, Pebbles has been a tranquil refuge from hammering rainstorms, but on a sunny day the views are as glorious as the food, which is consistently first class. For summer, there's a pleasant terrace for pre-dinner drinks.

Offering a bold selection of French and Welsh flavours, we are always some time negotiating what to choose at Pebbles.

It always feels so right to be eating seafood at the seaside, so, this time I settled on the smoked haddock fishcakes with caper and vinaigrette dressing three miniature patties were perfectly crunchy outside while tender and fluffy inside, the soft, smoky haddock sliced through beautifully by the capers. The dressing also meant I devoured the green salad accompaniment too, which can sometimes be a bit dull.

The duck liver and cured bacon pate with pink peppercorn dressing also soon disappeared, and two portions of grilled Portobello mushrooms glazed with Welsh rarebit and smoked bacon with crusty bread and fine herb oil also got the thumbs-up. The combination of melted cheese and large, sturdy mushrooms is always a winner and presentation was pretty with the fresh crusty bread with them cut into discs and added to the mushroom tower.

The herb oil added a delicious kick to the mushroom and cheddar, which don't often have the strongest of flavours.

Two of us moved on to the tender lamb shank with basil scented mash and carrot and courgette spaghetti, which lived up to its name, falling off the bone and then melting in the mouth.

The traditional section of the menu at Pebbles offers plenty of favourites from the former lunchtime menu. The flexibility available from choosing from the lunch and salad menu at dinner time is a nice touch and caters well for families with children or people with smaller appetites and budgets.

Sandwiches like Glamorganshire sausages with caramelised onions, smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato, hand sliced honey roasted ham with homemade coleslaw or smoked salmon with chive creme fraiche are available for just under pounds 5 from noon until 6pm.

We had the Pebbles fish pie from the traditional menu, which was the perfect comfort food when the weather was so foul.

It was brimming with tender salmon, haddock and prawns in tarragon cream and topped with mash - very moreish.

There was also a Thai scented fillet of salmon with Oriental vegetables, egg noodles and sweet chilli broth, pictured.

The salmon was generous and fleshy, with skin blackened, crispy and great to eat, with plenty of lemongrass, carrot, courgette and peppers in the hot and spicy broth.

We were pleasantly full but decided to plough on ordering the orange-scented panacotta with orange and passion fruit salsa, the Amaretto mille feuille with butterscotch ice cream and the Thai rice pudding scented with five spices and lemongrass with mango and coconut compote. Finally, there was the chocolate overdose, pictured - a trio of milk chocolate creme brulee, dark chocolate mocha tart and white chocolate and kirsch milk shake.

All were adventurous creations, with the creamy panacotta with sharp salsa and malty creme brulee in the chocolate being particular all-round favourites.

ON THE MENU

Roasted plum tomatoes glazed with parmesan on a crisp pastry base and topped with rocket pounds 4.95

Pebbles breakfast tian with a baked bean puree and roast tomato dressing pounds 5.50

8oz Welsh fillet steak with a wild mushroom and goats' cheese gratin, served with fondant potato, buttered green beans and Burgundy wine jus pounds 22.50

8oz Welsh rib-eye steak with hand cut chips, roasted field mushroom and beef tomato

Sage infused loin of pork with black pudding and potato galette, savoury cabbage and caramelised apple essence pounds 10.95

Grilled supreme of chicken on a potato and herb rosti with wilted spinach and a fricassee of wild mushrooms and shallots pounds 13.95

Fillet of haddock with plum tomato confit, chorizo sausage, fondant potato and sherry liquor pounds 11.95

Lambs liver with bacon lardons, creamy mash and rich onion gravy pounds 9.50

Ham with free-range eggs and hand cut chips pounds 7.50

Chicken and bacon salad with wholegrain mustard dressing pounds 8.95

Apple and winter berry crumble with hot creamy custard, pounds 5.50

Two-course set menu Sunday lunch pounds 12.95

THE BILL

Bottle of Pinot Grigio pounds 14.95

1 pint Stella Artois pounds 2.90

Two Portabello mushrooms with Welsh rarebit and bacon pounds 10.50

Smoked haddock fishcakes with a caper and vinaigrette dressing pounds 5.50

Duck liver and cured bacon pate with pink peppercorn dressing pounds 5.25

Fish pie pounds 8.95

Two lamb shank with basil-scented mash pounds 25.90

Thai scented salmon with Oriental vegetables and egg noodles pounds 13.95

Orange-scented pannacotta with orange and passion fruit salsa pounds 5.25

Chocolate Overdose pounds 6.50

Amaretto mille feuille with butterscotch ice cream pounds 5.50

Creamy Thai rice pudding with mango and coconut compote pounds 5.50

TOTAL: pounds 110.65 for four

CAPTION(S):

YUMMY Waitress Bryley Hinton serves up a delicious treat at Pebbles on Penarth esplanade, PICTURES: Mark Fraser
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Nov 22, 2008
Words:950
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