When I see the words sale and World (as in for instance Le Monde) together I am usually instantly suspicious. Think World of Leather et al and you think permanent sales which represents the norm rather than offering any form of bargain. Has anyone for instance ever bought anything full price from DFS or their ilk?
Le Monde in this instance is a restaurant and something of an institution in Cardiff. I therefore felt on safer ground in terms of bagging a bargain.
Over the years I have lived in Cardiff, having gone to University here in the late Eighties (and never left), there have been so many changes to the city (most for the better) and many restaurants have come and gone. Le Monde has remained and remained virtually unchanged in that time. I went there for a celebratory meal after my graduation and during the 90s was a regular visitor. Back then it was the height of sophistication (well I thought so) to have fresh fish and meat on display and to go up and choose your meal.
When it came to choosing the next spot for lunch with J, the fact that they are currently running a 50% off the main menu, from 1pm to 7pm, influenced my decision just a wee bit. I do like a bargain and all that (or as Mrs. SF puts it – being a tight arse) and 50% off everything on the menu sounded pretty good.
The place really has not changed much at all since I was last there. The entrance is somewhat understated with a stairway leading into a large room with lots of wood, an open kitchen and the same counters displaying meat, fish etc as on my first ever visit (obviously different actual content). I am pretty sure there is even the same board on the wall displaying wine prices including a bottle of Chateau Yquem1957 (I think) for a rather optimistic (for the restaurant and Cardiff in general) £1577. Good luck with selling that in the restaurant guys!!! I distinctly remember the board on the wall back on my graduation meal including the same said wine (albeit I think it was below a grand then). I suspect it is actually the same bottle.
It is a pleasant enough dining area and seemed lighter than both J and I remembered from our respective previous visits. I am not sure I would go as far as the website description of “a sumptuous art deco interior” mind. That is gilding the lily somewhat I think.
We were quickly shown to our table and given menus. You can either go up and pick your dish from the counter display or, if you are lazy buggers like J&I, tell the waiter what you want.
On looking at the full price menu it cannot be regarded as cheap (£19.95 for an 8 oz ribeye steak – £3.95 more than the Potted Pig rib eye and £22.95 for a whole lemon sole), but the 50% off made it look a whole lot better (£12.50 for a 7oz fillet steak for instance – odd weight that mind as is usually 6 or 8 ozs – is pretty good ).
For my starter I had whitebait, a fish dish that always makes me chuckle due to a meal cooked by my late and great grandpa, George. On cooking them he complained bitterly along the lines of “well I’m not doing them again it took me all bloody afternoon to fillet the little buggers”. We didn’t have the heart to tell him.
The Le Monde ones were breaded rather than simply dusted in seasoned flour (my preference) and I suspect therefore they come out of a frozen packet. They came with a nice enough tartare sauce and a very token bit of salad as well as a lemon wedge. They were OK if a bit pedestrian. At £2.87 (with the 50% off) though, I was happy enough with them, particularly, as it was a decent sized portion.
J went for prawn and scallop skewers (two) which she pronounced to be nice and cooked properly (scallops can so often be overcooked and thus become rubbery). I had a taste of one of the scallops and it was indeed cook to the right level of doneness and was nice and sweet. Personally I wasn’t convinced of the need for the red pepper pesto referred to on the menu as accompanying the dish (garlic, lemon and butter would have done the trick for me) and actually looking at the picture not sure it was there at all. Notwithstanding this the prawns and scallops were nice and good value at the reduced price of £3.38. Again they did not skimp on the portion size.
For my main I was tempted to go for a nice big juicy steak, but feared anything too substantial would make me want a nap in the afternoon (something strangely frowned upon in my work). I therefore took the compromise route of the beef kebab (rump), with a homemade tomato chutney.
The efficient and pleasant waiter asked how I liked it cooked and it duly arrived the correct level of rareness for me (medium rare/rare for a rump).
The meat was nicely seasoned especially after a few cracks of pepper from the ridiculously large pepper grinder wielded by our waiter (which I think would have been offered on any pudding we had if he had the chance). The chutney was nice with a bit of a bite to it and went well with the rump which was interspersed with veg (courgette, onion, mushroom and rather bizarrely a whole tomato on the end – all duly counted by me as part of my five a day). Chips, which came in the price, were plentiful and nicely crisp.
A personal bete noire of mine at the moment is the increasing propensity of steak joints to have any sides at an extra cost. Does anyone really go in to these places and just order a steak and nothing else? OK maybe not everyone wants chips, but include in the price one side at least for pity’s sake. I love everything about Hawksmoor (come to Cardiff please, pretty please) bar from their general all sides are extra policy.
Anyhow, rant over. I enjoyed my kebab especially as (with chips) it came in at £7.98.
J went for what was billed on the menu as ” Maddaford’s famous fish pie”. I have no idea why it is famous or who or what Maddaford is. Whilst this looked a bit (well actually very) scruffy it was a big old portion with plenty of white fish (it seemed a bit lacking on the shellfish – advertised on the menu description – front to me) in a cream sauce under a potato topping. J said it was very nice and from the taste I had the fish was tasty and not overcooked. The whole thing was well seasoned. My only real gripe was that the cream sauce the fish sat in was a little bit watery and made the dish overall a little bit wishy washy.
For the reduced price of £6.98 it was in J’s opinion good value for money. Not sure I would have agreed if it was at the full price of £13.95 mind.
Despite the 50% off there was no question of portions sizes being skimped on here. The service was efficient and friendly and we were in and out within the hour – all in all a very pleasant lunch.
They do also have an express lunch menu (dishes priced at £5) and a fixed price two course lunch menu (£12.95 I think) both of which look good value for money (the later is I believe only on offer – and in any event only worthwhile – when the summer sale offer ends).
Would I go back? Yes I think I would – decent food and good portions at a good price tends to float my boat. Good for lunch or a bargain pre drinks early dinner. Not so sure at the full price mind once the summer sale offer ends – maybe then would go back for the express lunch or two course fixed price lunch menu.
One thing about these sort of offers (welcome as they are) is they do get me thinking “what sort of margin are they making on the full price menu if they can afford to slash the prices by 50%?” Hmmm I wonder.
Le Monde Fish Bar and Grill
60 – 62 St.Mary Street
029 2038 7376