Kathryn Lewis checks out one of the city’s most popular gastro pubs
Positioned in the centre of Cardiff’s bustling gastronomic hub, The Corner House restaurant faces stiff competition from the plethora of chain restaurants and swanky cocktail bars that frequent Mill Lane. With every eatery you can throw a celebrity chef name on or 2 for 1 voucher at near by, this small name pub has a job on its hands coming up against these big name competitors.
The interior of the large building has all the traditional attributes you look for in a cosy pub with the modern commodities and stylish touches you expect from the city. A comforting warmth, materialised by the flickering candles on rustic wooden tables was a welcomed sight on a blustery Cardiff eve. Taking a seat upstairs, the maze of steps and corridors can at first be a little confusing, yet are worth the expedition for the intimate pockets of seating they carve within the spacious pub, perfect for our party of 18.
Labelling themselves as a gastro pub, the menu stays true to its branding with an intriguing yet somewhat predictable menu. Along with the classic burgers, steaks and fish & chips there are a few more inspiring dishes such as the king prawn, crab and chorizo linguine and the garlic and buttermilk battered halloumi for those with more adventurous palettes. With such a large party we were asked to pre-order our meals, which despite being understandable was a bit of annoyance as you can never predict what may take your fancy on the night, and as expected glancing over the menu again I’d wished I’d opted for the panfried butternut squash gnocchi, but alas the duck salad awaited me.
Our waitress was very punctual throughout the evening, taking drinks orders swiftly and topping up water bottles as they ran low, though unfortunately she seemed to lack any personality whatsoever. After arriving at 7:30 I was pretty hangry (an unpleasant mix of hunger and anger) when the food still hadn’t reached the table at 8:30. With the food finally delivered an hour and a quarter after we’d arrived, I thought this was pretty poor on any standard, let alone having pre-ordered our meals.
However, with a beautifully presented sticky, crispy duck salad sitting in front of me, the hanger had somewhat subsided and tucking straight in was the only option. Smothered in a sweet and sticky hoisin sauce, the salad of mooli, cucumber and carrot ribbons with plenty of rich green spinach was fresh and delicious, forming a tasty base. On top was a modest mound of crispy duck which, not too fatty and perfectly seasoned, fell apart in the mouth and was sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. In between was a littering of hot red chillies, spring onions and just a hint of ginger, which brought the dish together with a fragrant Asian aroma. Maybe slightly over crisp, the duck provided a welcomed contrast to the silky smoothness of the vegetables ribbons and the chillies dotted between brought a punchy end to the dish.
Although delicious, at £14 including service charge this was a pretty hefty price to pay for a salad. Even though it was a pleasantly filling and rounded dish, I definitely expect something a little more substantial when spending that kind of money. However, the entire experience was much more welcoming, comfortable and enjoyable than many of The Corner Houses’ well known neighbours. With a bit of work on timing and a slight re-evaluation on pricing this house on the corner has real potential to provide the entire package and wave the flag for the little man in the big chain city.