Cardiff Tasting Menus: A Gastronomic Delight for the Sustainably Savvy
Our columnist Jane Cook known for her esteemed authority in culinary delights, indie PR and being the mind behind Cardiff Wine Passport. As an advocate for sustainability, Jane shines a light on the subject.
In recent years, the Cardiff restaurant scene has witnessed a growing trend towards tasting menus – where diners are treated to a carefully curated selection of dishes for a fixed price per head.
But it’s not just a matter of local chefs blindly following a fad. In the midst of 2023’s ongoing cost of living crisis, there are lots of reasons why tasting menus and set menus are becoming almost as popular as their à la carte counterparts.
Tasting menus, as well as being heaps of fun to eat, can help to reduce food waste, a significant and costly issue in the industry. Traditional menus often lead to unwanted waste, as chefs needing to prepare a wide range of dishes based on unpredictable customer choices. By offering a tasting menu, chefs can instead plan and execute every order with precision, whilst also encouraging diners to be more adventurous with everything on their plates.
He explained, “As a pop-up, it makes perfect sense for me to serve a tasting menu because it allows me to have absolutely no waste. With a traditional à la carte menu, it’s close to impossible to guess exactly what you’ll sell, and often you’ll be left with surplus food.
A tasting menu also means I can serve everything at the peak of deliciousness, whether it’s a piece of aged beef, a stiff-fresh mackerel or a bunch of radishes, everything has its optimum window. When I know, for instance, that I’ll be serving 18 portions of mackerel that night, I can take my pick of the very best there is.”
This promise of ‘the best there is’ is often met by using exclusively local and super-seasonal ingredients. This in turn supports nearby farmers and producers, and keeps money circulating within the local economy.
Chef Andy Aston, co-owner of Hiraeth restaurant and pub in Cowbridge, believes that their tasting menu offering enables them to “have a greater emphasis on the produce, how it was made, and the food miles it travels before it reaches the kitchen – and this will only improve as we establish ourselves and build up our network.”
Finally, the act of limiting diner choice makes for a more mindful, ‘quality over quantity’ approach. It’s easy to spot on the Middle Eastern set menus offered by Lahmacun, a pop-up supperclub that will be returning to Kings Road Yard later this month. Here, the hearty menu is centred around an abundance of seasonal veggies, with centrepieces coming from the likes of Atlantic Edge Oysters and Penrhiw Organic Farm. By only offering a single set menu, Lahmacun are able to focus on using the best and most sustainable ingredients available, confident in the knowledge that not a single mouthful will go to waste – a strategy we can all aim to emulate at home, too.
Five fine-dining tasting menus to try in Cardiff:
- Parallel, City Centre: Ten shared courses, £45pp
- Heaneys, Pontcanna: Ten seasonal courses, £80pp
- Thomas by Tom Simmons, Pontcanna: Six seasonal courses, £75pp
- The Heathcock, Llandaff: Eight seasonal courses, £70pp
- Home by James Sommerin, Penarth: Four course lunch, £68 pp
UPCOMING DATES FOR YOUR DIARY:
- 29th & 30th July: The Welsh Street Food Awards at Tiger Yard. A host of local traders will battle it out to become Welsh champions, before going on to the UK final (@ welshstreetfoodaward).
- Sunday 6th August: The summer Cardiff Wine Passport kicks off! Spend eight weeks of swapping stamps for delicious glasses of wine at the city centre’s best wine bars (@cdfwinepassport).
- Sunday 10th September: The 25th anniversary of Riverside Farmers Market. With plans for an extra special Sunday market with guest traders, live entertainment and more (@cardifffarmersmarket).