A lovely meal out with work at the Laguna Restaurant

Last week my department held a two day off site retreat at the Park Plaza Cardiff (not very far for me to travel I know :-p), and apart from two days out of the office the thing that excited me most was the prospect of eating in the hotels Laguna Restaurant.  I had been there previously as part of a day spa package at the hotel and really enjoyed the food and so was eager to try it again.

The restaurant is situated at the back of the hotel and overlooks the greenery of the old canal feeder and Cardiff’s civic centre.  It was very spacious and light with a high ceiling and modern feel. There’s a terrace for the summer days (and smokers), but what with it being November and rather chilly, we ate indoors.  This being a work event I didn’t have the nerve to bring along camera to capture the food and so, inspired by Ailbhe Phelan’s magnificent drawings on her Simply Splendiferous blog, I have attempted to recreate the meal through the medium of coloured pencil (unfortunately falling far short of her own skilled artistry).

The meal began with warm bread rolls.  Olive triangles, mini French loafs and rye buns were on offer and bowls of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were provided for dipping which proved to be a nice, lighter alternative to butter.  I had an olive triangle the first day and a rye bun the second.  Both were delicious and wonderfully soft, a lovely nibble while we waited for our starters.  Our meals were to be two courses, and the menu provided plenty of option with four starters, two “large or small” options you could choose as either starters or mains and four main choices.  There was also the option of dessert, but I ended up keeping it savoury both days.

The first day I went for a starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail which was served with granary bloomer bread and half a lemon wrapped in muslin to catch the pips.  The plate looked extremely elegant and appealing and I thought the lemon in muslin was a great touch.  The cocktail itself was succulent and full of flavour.  The lettuce was crisp and fresh and the rose marie has quite a kick in it which really lifted the dish.

My starter of prawn and brown shrimp cocktail

My main of seared salmon with squash sage and chilli risotto

For my main I chose the seared fillet of salmon which was accompanied by a squash, sage and chilli risotto.  The portion was enormous, a huge of fillet salmon with crisp skin and lovely soft flesh and a supreme quantity of autumnal orange risotto.  The sweetness of the squash was complemented by the sage and the subtle chilli heat which was much milder than that in the starter.  The combination of rich creamy risotto (I suspect there may have been a fair quantity of cream and butter involved!) and oily salmon was delicious, but far too much for lunchtime and I must admit to being unable to finish it all.

Having enjoyed my lunch so much on the first day I was excited to go to see what was on offer on the second.  About half the menu was the same as the first day, but there was still plenty I wanted to try from both the old and the new selections.  This time I went for a starter of seared spiced salmon with asian salad and pesto.  This was once again the picture of elegance, presented in clean straight lines.  I can’t say that I’m familiar with the concept of asian pesto, and on tasting it I would have to just say that it was just a mix of coriander and garlic.  Tasty, pretty, but not overly inspiring.  The tuna though was nicely flavoured and the salad had a great variety of flavour colour and textures including lambs lettuce, radish, carrot and sesame seeds.

My starter of seared spiced salmon salad with asian pesto

My main of confit belly pork apple sage risotto

For my main I decided to go for a risotto again (repetitive I know!).  This time I had a confit belly pork, sage and apple risotto from the “small or large” section.  Once again this was exceptionally rich and I dread to think juts how much dairy (and fat!) was involved.  The pork had been flaked so thst little nuggets of flavour were speckled throughout the dish as well as some large chunks of sweet red apple.  Overall this dish was rich, sweet and decadent.  This time I had eaten less for breakfast in preparation and was able to finish it all, but only just.

Overall I was impressed with the restaurant and I think I’ll be going back again.  The quality of the food was excellent and although the service was relaxed it wasn’t too slow.  It’s not too expensive either (£16.50 for a 3 course pre-theatre menu).  I wouldn’t normally consider the restaurant of a hotel chain when planning a meal out, but Laguna is a great lunch or early evening destination in a great city centre location.

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