Soliciting Flavours

Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine

From one bridge to another- Thomas by Tom Simmons, Pontcanna, Cardiff

Welsh chef Tom Simmons’ first restaurant is located at Tower Bridge in London and he has now crossed the Bridge (the Severn) to open a second restaurant this time in the Cardiff suburb of Pontcanna (another Bridge – for non Welshies Pont is bridge in Welsh).

I had envisaged my first visit to the place would be a full blown sit down affair, but with lockdown restrictions in Wales still affording restaurants little wriggle room (until 3rd August – how many have viable outdoor spaces before them – I do worry it will simply be too late for some) I decided to take the plunge based on their temporary take out options.

These comprised of a Sunday dinner,

steak night,

and a fish counter

It was damn hot the week we ordered, so Sunday dinner (by all accounts very good) was not top of the list and we didn’t fancy steak (despite it getting rave reviews) on the night in question.

It was, therefore, the seafood (perfect for a Summer evening – well the brief week of it in late June) option that Mrs. SF and I went for putting in an order for crab, lobster and seabass.

All to be picked up from their Pontcanna base at 12 noon.

The food

It all came nicely packaged, with the order being a dressed crab, seabass en papiotte and half a lobster with Montpellier butter.

Cooking instructions were nice and simple, which is always a bonus.

First up was a crab dish (£10), which we shared as a sort of starter. Whilst billed as dressed I always think of that as meaning picked and put back in the shell . This was more undressed crab to me, but it seems “dressed” merely means taken out of the shell with no requirement to put it back in.

Nice, fresh, sweet, white meat was studded with a generous level of herbs (mainly dill) and sat on a base of pickled cucumber and a brown crab meat mayo

We had some of Chez Vous’ (from earlier in the week) treacle bread left over and the crab was very nice piled on top.

My only minor quibble was I would have liked a bit more of the brown meat in the mix. I find the brown has much more flavour than the white meat so you don’t need much of it, but it was quite subtle in the mayo here. Just a matter of personal taste and notwithstanding that this was a very good dish

On to the mains, I opted for the half lobster (£12)

which was slathered in a Montpellier butter (tarragon, dill, anchovies and capers).

It wasn’t the biggest lobster to be honest, but it had a very good flavour to it and the proposed cooking time was bang on resulting in sweet, tender, flesh.

The herb heavy, salty, melted Montpellier butter added nicely to the mix.

It didn’t come with any accompaniments, so I added my own very chunky home made double cooked chips (quite pleased how they came out have to say, with a crisp exterior and a fluffy interior).

I rather enjoyed this little slice of lockdown luxury and I thought it was fair value.

Mrs. SF is not a huge fan of lobster (much preferring the flavour of crab – I don’t disagree with her on that front) and as a result decided on the seabass en papiotte.

This came with a Thai green butter, pak choi, various other shredded veggies and lime, which all sounded rather tantilising

Placed in the oven for 15 minutes, lovely fragrant Thai aromas wafted up upon opening the parcel

The fish was cooked on the money and was a beautiful piece of bass. It had taken on the Thai flavours, but the fish itself was robust enough in flavour to hold its own

The veggies retained a pleasing crispness and had been imbued with that beautiful fragrance you get from Thai herbs and spicing.

Mrs. SF described this as one of the best fish dishes she had had in a long time – from the taste she gave me I would endorse that assessment.

Exceptionally good dish this.

Wine pairing

They do have wines on sale in the shop (from a limited list on their website),

but I went for one I picked up from Bar 44’s #Mercado44 offering in the form a Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli from the Basque Country

Piercingly dry, the idea is to pour it from a height (usually much higher than I manage – in the bars in Donostia it is often poured from an arm’s length height over the head) to give it a touch of spritz.

The Basques know a thing or two about fish and shellfish cookery and this wine is perfect for this sort of food, with zingy citrus and sharp green apple on the nose and palate.

An alternative that would work well with the Thai flavours of the rather wonderful seabass dish would be a New World Riesling.

Something like this Polish Hill Riesling, with lime to the fore, would work very well I think.

Of course, you know what’s coming, there is aways a sherry (there is a sherry for pretty much every food) and I would say this Manzanilla Pasada en rama (can be picked upped from Curado Bar or Mumbles Fine Wines),

which has a nature affinity with seafood and would work a treat with the spicing on tbe bass and the crustaceans here.

The verdict

A takeaway was not how I imagined I would introduce myself to the food of Tom Simmons, but both Mrs.SF and I where very impressed.

Really good flavours, with the seabass in particular singing. The spicing to it was ansolutely on the money and easily up there with the best seafood dishes Mrs. SF has had in many a year. Going to be hard to beat this for my fish dish of the year I would say.

So good we (well Mrs. SF) tried to replicate it at home (pretty successfully, if not quite on a par with the restaurant effort).

Whilst not as stellar as the seabass, both the crab and the lobster were very good. Mr. Simmons and his kitchen crew are certainly dab hands at the seafood cookery.

On a waste not want not basis we used the lobstar shell as a base for a seafood stock

which meant we got an extra meal out of our Thomas at Tom Simmons takeaway (risotto the next day). All added to the good value it offered.

Would I go back? Yes, I would definately order take out from them again (the seabass was just lovely) and I very much look forward to visiting in person when they are able to open properly (not long now, hopefully, thank God).

They mix up the menus each week, so for instance this weekend included a Posh Dog and Fizz selection (loving the sound of the crab dog) and hake and scallop options on the seafood side. All sound rather good, with J due to report back to me on the Posh Dogs and Fizz (which she has ordered for next weekend).

As an aside, now more than ever is the time to support independents. The position for many is dire, with a lot simple not able to take advantage of the coming slight relaxation from the 13th July (so will have to wait until the 3rd August at the earliest to open for eat in customers).

Rather than waiting for places to fully reopen order that takeaway, buy those vouchers (in readiness for August) etc. Now more than ever the old adage of ” Use it or lose it” comes to mind.

The details

Address: 3-5 Pontcanna Street, Cardiff, CF11 9HQ

Tel: 029 2116 7800

Email: info@thomas-pontcanna.co.uk

Website: https://thomas-pontcanna.co.uk/shop/

Twitter: @Thomaspontcanna

Instagram: @thomasbytomsimmons

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