The Fig Tree, Penarth – A Bank Holiday Sandwich

After a long trek round the headland from Cardiff Bay we were pretty hungry by the time we reached Penarth.  From a choice of three restaurants on the waterfront, none of which I’ve ever been to before, we decided to try The Fig Tree.

Set back from the road in a restored Victorian beach shelter (with the unusual touch of having the public loos situated on the ends of the building), the restaurant overlooks the waterfront.  Inside the decor is modern and restrained without feeling sterile.  Although the restaurant is quite small (maybe 35 covers) and slightly cramped, the light walls and high ceilings prevent it feeling claustrophobic. Despite this, the open kitchen and sheer quantity of staff moving quickly around can leave you feeling as if the whole place exists in a state of controlled chaos which is not entirely relaxing.

From a choice of around 15 meals priced from £5 – £16.50 we both choose the Bookmaker Steak sandwich (£8) with a portion of chips (£2) to share and this unfortunately is where the problems started to appear.  The restaurant was almost full and everyone seemed to have ordered just before us resulting in it taking around 40 minutes for our meals to be served. By this time I was afraid I might faint with hunger and  this seemed excessively long for a sandwich.

The meal had the potential to be really tasty and satisfying; however despite the chips being gorgeous, the majority of the sandwich seemed to be slightly off.  The bread was over toasted and burnt at the edges; the steak was similarly overdone (no trace of pink to be seen) resulting in it being a tad tough and tasteless. I was very surprised to have not been asked how I would have liked it cooked.

There was far too much wholegrain mustard which washed all other flavours away with its vinegary sharpness. The salad contained both spring onions and raw red onion which again smothered the other flavours, and stayed on my breath for the next few hours.  Overall the meal seemed to have too many harsh flavours which stripped away the lovely touches such as the sweet beetroot in the salad and wonderfully soft slow cooked onions in the sandwich. This left me feeling a little let down (especially after being so ravenous).

The restaurant had a great charm and the location would be stunning on a better day (it was fairly overcast) and I think, despite the meal not being quite right, I would still like to give the place another chance and eat there again.  I don’t think a bank holiday is necessarily the best time to judge a restaurant and I would love to try of their fish dishes as these are their speciality. Although I’m not ready to go and recommend the place to friends, I don’t think I’ll write it off just yet either.


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