In my youth, I was very much a last minute cram it (often failing it, but passing enough times to miraculously get ‘A’ levels and a degree) student and I hated course work and the drudgery of the classroom – attention span of a goldfish me.
How I became a lawyer is beyond me, with my careers advisor at school suggesting I become a handy man (I am many thing, but handy ain’t one of them). I do think he thought I would become involved in the legal system but as a prison inmate rather than a solicitor. It is fair to say he didn’t like me (the feeling was mutual) and would probably be amazed at the fact I haven’t (yet) been incarcerated.
Anyhow, as a result, I loathed course work in school and uni, as I couldn’t wing it. I now, however, very much like course work if it involves me working my way through a multi course meal.
As Mrs. SF will testify I am a tight arse miser when it comes to spending money, other than on wine and food and even then I love a bargain.
The student chef takeover menu on Tuesday lunch times at the Classroom (a place I already rate highly), as a result, more than piqued my interest. A seeming absolute steal at £12 for 3 bits (or should that be bites) of course work, this is certainly one that appealed to both the pig and the pauper (in my mind at least) in me.
As it operates on a Tuesday, this handily coincides with one of my allocated days (minimum two days at the moment) in Tatarus (aka the office). Actually quite like going in, as lunch with Kronus (works in litigation for his sins and calls himself Wayne these days) is always a treat.
At the advertised price you would be forgiven to expect nothing too fancy, but the menus for the first two Tuesday takeovers suggested otherwise. The likes of spiced hake fritter with dill crème fraiche, Tournedos Rossini and tarte tartin on previous days’ menus certainly raised the expectation for the menu on the day of my visit.
This duly delivered with a rather fine looking selection of starters, mains and desserts,
all for the princely sum of £12!
To kick of proceedings, I went for the red mullet (having toyed with the idea of the pork and apple croquette). I don’t eat enough fish and this was a prefect opportunity to redress the surf and turf imbalance a tiny wee bit. Also, I have never knowing had the grain, so beloved of hipsters, quinoa.
Decent bit of fish this, cooked so that the flesh flaked nicely. The accompanying tomato and lettuce salad was nicely dressed in a sharp vinaigrette, but quinoa’s appeal is a mystery to me (found it pretty tasteless). Bar from a pinch more salt (and perhaps the removal of the quinoa), this was pretty bob on. Great start and a generous portion to boot.
Kronus had the pork and apple croquette,
which was as pretty as a picture and tasted as good as it looked. Nice crisp coating and a generous pork and apple filling, all well seasoned, this was really rather good and again a generous portion size. The star of the show was a lovely grape and mustard compote. Decent bit of acidity to cut the richness of the croquette, with a well dressed salad adding nicely to the mix.
We passed on the offered bread, which just adds to the bargain, to avoid filling up too much
On to the mains, I always think it is rather a shame that you rarely see gueridon service these day. Who doesn’t love a bit of theatre with their meal, with a “voila” moment, and an at the table flambe is just the ticket. I love the retro 70s vibe of a Steak Diane, which is exactly the sort of thing I imagine Jerry and Margo from the Good Life (showing my age here) would order if eating out.
It was therefore a no brainer for me to go for the Steak Diane
and it was rather nice to see the “on the job” training of the students at first hand. Chap was a tad nervous at first, but warmed to his task admirably and did a sterling job of cooking the steak and making the sauce.
Really enjoyed this, with the steak absolute cooked on point for me and seasoned on the money. Generous portion to boot.
The leek gratin was rather fine too and although the pont neuf potatoes (chunky chips to you and me) looked tempting (other tables had what looked like huge bowls of them) I passed as it was a big old portion and with three courses having chips would have been just a bit too much for me at lunch (would have had to have had a kip in the afternoon, which is somewhat frowned upon in Tartarus – Sissyphean tasks to undertake).
The sauce was excellent, being rich and full of flavour. A job very well done I thought by our trainee server.
Kronos passed on the flambe, saying he gets enough of the fiery stuff back in Tartarus, and went for the pork.
Lovely looking dish this, which he said had a good flavour. He particularly like the jus and the light as a feather pomme dauphines. Good veggies too, nicely al dente, but the pork was just a touch over.
On to the puds and whilst the date sponge appealed the waistline militated against that choice.
As a result I went for the peach melba.
Nice juicy peaches, with a touch of char on the top adding a welcome roasted flavour, were complimented by a vanilla heavy ice cream, a good raspberry sauce and a smattering of dehydrated raspberry.
Kronus’ apple tart was even better
Good crisp pastry disc, well cooked caramalised apples and a good ice cream made for a well worked dessert.
On the drinks front, there is a short list, which includes non alcoholic cocktails, beers,
alcoholic cocktails and wine.
The short “on the table” wine list is cheap, if offering a rather dispiriting selection (Yellowtail, Echo Falls and Barefoot are wines that are rather unworthy of the quality of the food on offer here in my opinion). They do have a much better full wine list (lots of stuff of real interest on it and fairly priced) that you can request.
My advise is do so, if you are intent on drinking wine. The Portuguese white with the mullet, the Argie cab. sauv. with the steak and the sauternes with the peaches would have been my choice if circumstances had allowed.
As a school day, we default to the “One for the driver” offering.
My “Fifth Floor” was very pleasant,
being very refreshing and not too sweet.
Kronos equally approved of his quite fiery Ginger Punch.
Difficult to begrudge the pricing in this place (I mean £12 for 3 courses!!!!!), but booze based cocktails are oddly the same price as the non booze ones. Way to look at that, I suppose, is the booze ones are a total bargain (£5 for a full on boozy cocktail seems very cheap to me).
The price of £12 for what was a very pleasant and well proportioned meal is an absolute steal. If there is a better value lunch in Cardiff, I have yet to find it.
Even with drinks and a tip, we paid £20 each. For what we had that is an absolute steal.
I love the on the job training here, which to me is worth way more than multiple hours in a traditional classroom. You could see the initially nervous chap doing my Steak Diane growing in confidence by the minute. By the point of serving up he realised he had done a rather good job and was pleased as punch about that.
If you go (and you really should), be nice as when training not everything always go to plan. Mistakes happen and remember you are getting a bargain here in return for giving them the opportunity to provide on the job training of the next generation in hospitality. A noble, if inexplicitly underrated, trade in the UK.
If this meal is anything to go by the future of hospitality (currently a bit doom and gloom) looks bright with this the next generation coming through.
Would I go back? Absolutely!
Address: CAVC City Centre Campus, Dumballs Road, Cardiff, CF10 5FE (5 mins walk from Cardiff Central train station
Every Tuesday lunchtime in term time only (£10 per head deposit required on booking).
Check website for menu detail.
Standard lunch off (£17 for two course, £22 for three) is great value too.