Restaurant James Sommerin

 

The Victorian seaside resort of Penarth has long attracted artists looking for a flash of inspiration. But while the striking strata of the nearby cliffs excited Sisley and Mary Lloyd Jones, it’s a sense of freedom that is felt most at Restaurant James Sommerin.

 

Following thirteen years at The Crown at Whitebrook, where he secured a Michelin star, the Caerleon-born chef sought a place he could call his own. In 2014, he found the perfect spot on the esplanade in Penarth.

 

A year has passed since he opened his doors and the response has been overwhelming; universal acclaim from Welsh foodies and critics alike. So I was thrilled to receive an invitation to review the five-course tasting menu, aptly named Traeth (Welsh for ‘beach’).

 

The evening began with an impressive amuse-bouche quartet, the highlight of which, for me, was the ravishing sweetcorn panna cotta. Next came the heavenly one-two punch of haddock and pancetta crunch, and I say heavenly because it was truly to die for. 

A lovingly crafted and swiftly devoured cauliflower panna cotta – offset by a perfectly piquant onion powder - introduced a new depth of tastes and textures to the menu. The sensory thrill that followed was a pumpkin terrine paired with a sharp blue cheese.

 

The fruity Chateau du Seuil Rosé (2012) enhanced the Bristol Channel-sourced Sea Bass; the strawberry notes worked in pure harmony with the smoked butter and caviar sauce. It was utterly moreish. Indeed, all wine pairings were a winning marriage of flavours; the light red Armand Salmon Sancerre (2013) with the rich and creamy rabbit dish, in particular, was a triumph. The rabbit itself was a magnus opus that taught me that meat can be so tender I’d want to describe it as “ripe.”

 

A duo of delicious desserts brought the meal to a close; a playful popcorn panna cotta, preceded by a sultry sweet russett apple terrine.

 

The evening underlined a technical mastery coupled with the soaring sensibility of an artist unleashed in the kitchen. Treat yourself to a visit to his seafront studio in Penarth.

 

Restaurant James Sommerin

The Esplanade

Penarth

Vale of Glamorgan CF64 3AU

T. 029 2070 6559