It’s fair to say that a lot of us are just too busy rushing about in our own little worlds to notice things sometimes. Permanently darting from one place to another and utterly fixated with our smart phones. It’s easy when you are in this constant state of distraction that you can often forget or ignore what’s around you, I for one am guilty of this. Cardiff has some amazing buildings and case in point is the stunning building which is home to Chapel 1877 Bar and Restaurant on Churchill Way. Built in 1877 this French-Italian Gothic style house of worship was then an architect’s office in the 80’s but since has undergone a meticulous renovation to the highest standard. It is utterly stunning and I am ashamed to say I've only just realised its beauty.
The feast for the eyes does not stop there, once you enter the building through a reassuringly heavy door you are met by the main bar area which has its own menu and is decidedly more relaxed than the main restaurant.
It’s from here that if you are dining in the restaurant you are escorted through a door and up a beautiful spiral staircase. What greets you is quite extraordinary! The sky high wood panelled ceilings, prominent arches, beautiful tile and brick patterns, an open kitchen and the huge twin chandeliers are just stunning.
We were sat in one of three rather sexy booths a mixture between a confessional box and a train carriage on the Orient Express. A play on the ecclesiastical past of the building that may seem cheesy but I loved it.
The menu in the main restaurant is more formal and fine dining in nature. To start my dining partner an old university friend, let’s call her Mrs M, went for the salmon ceviche (£7.00) and I the smoked duck breast (£7.50).
The salmon ceviche with vanilla, pink peppercorns and dill crème fraiche initially raised alarm bells as I have never had vanilla with salmon. I needn't have worried, the thin slithers of melt in the mouth salmon had only a hint of vanilla, slight heat from the peppercorns and a herby hit from the dill.
The smoked duck was equally well balanced, accompanied by blood orange segments, fennel and pine nut salad. When something claims to be smoky I want to taste it and with this dish you definitely could without it being overpowering. The duck breast was still pink, the fennel providing an aniseed flavour counter point to the smokiness and along with the pine nuts some much needed texture. The carefully carved out blood orange segments were perfect to cut through the whole dish. Both starters were subtle and rather well executed.
The mains; Mrs M went for pan fried Anglesey Seabass fillet (£17.00) and I went for roast loin of Middlewood farm venison (£22.00) the menu going to great length to reassure you of the provenance of its food.
The sea bass was accompanied by a crab and sweetcorn fishcake (the crab of unknown origin) samphire and a mango, cucumber and chilli salsa. The sea bass sitting proudly on a generous crab cake and a stack of samphire was cooked well, crispy skin and moist flesh. The samphire gave texture and saltiness. The crab cake crispy on the outside with a distinctive crab flavour was substantial. The zingy salsa however elevated the whole dish. Lovely.
Venison happens to be my favourite type of meat so I was especially looking forward to this. The dish arrived with the loin carved into three pieces sat on top of piped smoked garlic mash, salsify, wild mushrooms and a Penderyn whiskey jus. The intense game flavour of the well seasoned venison powered through, earthy salsify and wild mushrooms coated in the intense jus were beautiful. The smoked garlic flavour in the smooth as you like mash was subtle and maybe could have been more prominent. Sadly the venison was overcooked for my liking which did detract a bit from an otherwise good dish.
Finally to end our meals Mrs M went for hilltop wildflower honey and thyme crème brulee (£6.50) and I the dark chocolate and malt tart (£7.50).
The brulee had a delicate top that did crack at the tap of a spoon, underneath the crème was heady with honey flavour and almost floral in finish. The accompanying short bread was well made.
The chocolate tart when it arrived smelled amazing, an intense dark chocolate smell emanating from the slab of tart on the plate. It was almost too dense to cut though at the wider end, that’s not a negative, I just picked it up and ate it instead. The chocolate sorbet was perfectly smooth and refreshing served in a delicate brandy snap. Delicious on both accounts if a little pricey.
To drink we shared a bottle of Franschhoek Cellar Pinotage from South Africa (£23). A beautiful red wine heavy in cherry and raspberry flavour. Delightfully drinkable and not as heavy as other red wine I would tend to go for.
The service was excellent I could not find fault at all. We were made to feel welcome, our waitress was attentive, friendly and professional. Although a Wednesday night there were plenty of people in to create a great atmosphere, I can imagine when it’s busy the atmosphere is very different.
We were very impressed with Chapel 1877, this being our first visit it has made a great impression. I love the building, I love the style of the place, the food is delicious and the service is excellent. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Chapel, it embodies one of my favourite sayings; good food, good wine and good company. What more could one ask for.
All food and drink was complimentary but this did not influence the review.
Address: Chapel 1877 Bar & Restaurant, Churchill Way, Cardiff, CF10 2WF
Telephone: 02920 22 20 20Website: www.chapel1877.com