After a flat-out week of Christmas markets, jam and chutney making and three back to back supper clubs I thought it was time someone else cooked for me, so as a pre-Christmas treat while my parents were visiting I booked a table at Cennin.
Cennin (meaning leeks in Welsh) opened about four months ago. Owned by Brian and Ffiona Thomas of MooBaaOink local produce deli in Beaumaris with award-winning head chef Aled Williams in charge. Aled won the Welsh heats of The Great British Menu and was the youngest finalist in 2010, he won the acclaim of Gordon Ramsey back in 2006 and seems to have worked everywhere from the Bathers Pavillion in Sydney to Heston Blumenthals Fat Duck at Bray.
Back home in Wales Beaumaris seems to be turning into the gastro centre of the North..I’ve long been a fan of the loft restaurant and brasserie at Ye Olde Bulls Head and The White Lion prides itself on its use of local produce (although i’ve not eaten there recently so can’t comment on the quality) so I wondered whether they had met their match with Aled moving into town.
Back in October I met Aled in passing at Conwy Feast and watched his demo, praise was high amongst the other chefs for this new venture so I’ve been really keen to visit. It was coincidental that on the day we were due to go I discovered MooBaaOink had won the Daily Post food hero 2011.
Cennin is small and personal. It seats less than thirty and booking is essential at the weekend, although on the day we visited it was less busy. It is a simple unpretentious place, comfortably decorated with local art adorning the walls. Of course as it was Christmas we were also treated to a Christmas tree and tasteful decorations.
We were offered three different menu’s to chose from; the a la carte, December special and a seperate vegetarian (with a really nice selection of dishes). We did struggle a bit because we wanted things off the three different menu’s; Rosie wanted a vegetarian starter but a main off the December menu, the parents didn’t want dessert so went for a la carte, it was all so confusing but eventually we managed to work out the best solution, I had a starter from the December menu so madam could have her chicken and Aidan could have a pudding!! In fact I decided to opt for a vegetarian main. I remember when I was a full-time vegetarian I was always hugely disappointed with the selection that supposedly good restaurants had on offer (mostly uninspired and tasteless) so I thought I’d try one out here.
Rosie opted for a tomato and fennel risotto with pesto to start and she actually ate it all! That is reference enough in itself.
Aidan (the nine-year old) chose sweetcorn soup with Anglesey ham hock and basil oil as did my Dad. The soup was deliciously rich and creamy and totally won us over although the sweetcorn somewhat overwhelmed the ham hock and basil oil.
Mum chose scotch egg of Llandudno smoked haddock, king prawn and Anglesey quail egg with braised leeks, watercress salad and sauce vierge which was her favourite dish of the meal. A unusual and unexpected combination that worked well with the leeks and sauce vierge. Balanced to perfection.
I chose the Ballotine of Anglesey ham hock with Welsh honey mustard and celeriac remoulade. I’m a massive fan of celeriac remoulade and this didn’t disappoint, a perfectly combination of creaminess and acidity . The ham hock was cooked to perfection, delicate, light and melt in the mouth but it was perhaps a little overwhelmed by the remoulade and I hardly tasted the honey mustard (I’m a woman who likes to be hit in the taste buds!!).
For main course Rosie chose the roast breast of chicken with pan-fried chestnut gnocchi, sautéed sprout leaves, wilted spinach and thyme leaves which once again she ate (mostly..the chestnut gnocchi was less popular with her), a sure sign that it was good.
Mum chose the pan-fried fillet of Menai sea bass with peperonata, roasted polenta, aubergine puree and marjoram sauce. Of all the dishes on the night I felt this was the least successful, everything was cooked beautifully but polenta is hard to pull off and is not to everyone’s taste and I know mum wasn’t that keen. She also felt that there was a bit too much peperonata for her taste, although I know she loved the fish.
Dad opted for the grilled fillet of halibut with sun-dried tomato and olive crusted Anglesey potatoes, wilted red chard and verjus sauce which he loved and I went for the vege option of field mushroom, spinach and pine nut filo galette with cumin roasted new potatoes…and I have to congratulate Aled because he impressed me with such a strong vegetarian main course. It really was a lovely combination of woody earthy mushroom, crispy filo pastry and a lovely rich sauce.
Aidan went for a burger and chips…oh well!
The food was fantastic, the service friendly and efficient I couldn’t fault it. My usual bug bear…portion size, was not an issue and actually we were so full even I turned down dessert (although I did ‘help’ Aidan out with his). Aidan just HAD to have a chocolate fondant with white chocolate bubbles and mint choc chip ice cream. I have to say it was the bubbles that enticed him but these were the least impressive part of the desert (I’ve never been one for froths, foams and bubbles!!). The fondant on the other hand was sublime as was the ice cream. We almost fought over it and I wished I’d ordered my own.
I have to say I loved Cennin. Everything was beautifully presented, but it wasn’t just art on a plate, it did actually fulfill the role that a meal out is supposed to; it filled me up. I knew I’d eaten well. Okay it might be a bit on the pricey side for most people in North Wales but perhaps that’s also the result of us not being used to having top quality, high-end restaurants around here. His attention to detail, use of high quality local produce and commitment to local suppliers justifies the price tag and although it would stop me from eating here regularly, it certainly wouldn’t stop me from coming back….in fact wild horses won’t keep me from Cennin and I can’t wait until my next visit.
At the end of the evening it was a pleasure to meet and chat to Aled and it was easy to see how much he loves what he does……oh and the little matter of the Daily Post food hero award? Well no competition really…they deserve every bit of their success.
Cennin is open Tuesday til Sunday 6.30pm til 9.30pm
For further information and to make a booking call 01248 811230