Holm House Hotel, Marine Parade, Penarth CF64
3BG. Tel: 029 2070 6029
It’s fitting that we’ve been invited to Penarth’s Holm House Hotel just as the latest winter snap begins to dig its teeth in. With views over the Bristol Channel the complex is clearly a hit in summer, but even without the view there’s a lot to be admired about the boutique hotel’s century-old surroundings, with a warm appeal in no small part to the designer fireplace that emits its glow and balminess over the spacious eating area. Boasting a new a la carte menu that champions locally sourced ingredients as well as the refined skills of the chefs looking to impress both visually and gastronomically, the ever impressive Welsh culinary industry has another triumph on its hands.
A cursory glance of the menu reveals a thorough understanding of timeless cuisine with a fervent desire to excite and evolve British staples to new heights. The starter of expertly hewn duck and pheasant roulade is a forthright example, with three sublimely presented slices of game wrapped in ham and topped with a dainty quail’s egg.
The addition of fresh blackberries – whether or not they’re taken from bushes just yards from Holm House wasn’t confirmed – with a luscious fig jam makes for an array of distinct colour, texture and taste, while across the table braised artichoke, lightly seared goats cheese and a smidge of truffle are enveloped by an opulent watercress veloute. The main courses of duck and salmon are more familiar in nature but don’t skimp on clever touches, with the fish’s beautifully seasoned pistachio crust in particular making for prolonged satisfaction. The delightful orange flavoured duck breast and bundle of joy that is the cabbage-wrapped duck confit are both executed flawlessly. Attention to detail, be it simply seasoned and buttered vegetables, moreish roast potatoes and intensely rich jus, underline that getting the foundations perfected are the keys to success.
Holm House still has a few kinks to work out, for example you’ll struggle if you’re a vegetarian with only one option per course, while the pistachio cream that forms part of an intricate dessert alongside concentrated blueberry sorbet, light dacquoise and mini meringues may be a touch overpowering for some. Yet when the chef is capable of a faultless honeycomb soufflé with the most sublimely fragrant lavender ice cream it’s clear that plaudits and satisfied diners will be leaving Holm House in their droves.