After our recent appalling experience at The Pier Hotel, we hastily adjourned next door, to the rather cheesily named ‘Romeo’s by the Sea’, also on Penarth Esplanade, where we had quite a decent meal – so much so that we’ve been back again since, and I decided to review the experience.
Until a year or so ago, Romeo’s by the Sea was Mediterraneo at the Boathouse (you follow?!) but changed its name at the same time as the management swapped over with Positano in the centre of Cardiff (still keeping up?), which then decided to dispense with its winning formula of traditional Italian food and become Manhattan’s – a sort of New York/Italian fusion, which, unfortunately, if not unsurprisingly, didn’t last long. This was disappointing, as I’d always quite liked Positano for a casual lunch, but happily, the menu seems to have moved pretty much in its entirety to Romeo’s. If you’re still with me after all that, you’re doing well!
The menu is very, very traditional Italian. There’s a set menu that’s served at certain times of the day and is quite good value, or a fairly extensive a la carte with a good selection of pasta, pizza, meat and fish dishes, including a fish of the day. We started with some olives, some mussels – which were very good, and some garlic bread, which was excellent: crisp ciabatta, dripping with garlic butter and served with a salad garnish to make it a bit easier on the eye than just a piece of bread plonked on a plate.
To follow, we both opted for pasta. I chose lasagne. When Positano was open, I always thought it served one of the best lasagnes in Cardiff, and, thankfully, the recipe at Romeo’s seems to be the same. Delicious ragu with plenty of meat sat between firm but not undercooked layers of pasta with a béchamel topping, plenty of stringy mozzarella and an extra helping of tomato sauce around the outside, which meant the dish was moist but the lasagne itself isn’t sloppy – a balance that some restaurants find it difficult to strike correctly. This really was one of the best lasagnes I’ve tasted.
Mr W’s pasta dish of Penne al Salmone was also very good: a generous portion of flaked salmon (again, not sloppy) and a tarragon cream sauce served with penne. This was quite a salty dish, but full of flavour and very satisfying. A side order of chips (I know, carb overload – I wish I could say I went for a run afterwards but I’d be lying) were crisp and fluffy.
We didn’t have room for a dessert on this occasion (funnily enough!) but have had one before and they have a good selection of obviously homemade Italian desserts including cheesecakes and tiramisu.
Mediterraneo’s used to get a bit of a bad press (sometimes deservedly), but Romeo’s is head and shoulders above and, although from the outside it might look a bit dated and underwhelming, is a serious contender when choosing somewhere good to eat in Penarth – I’d go as far as to say it’s the best Italian food in town, definitely the best lasagne for a long way, and it also benefits from a lovely location with outdoor seating – although not so lovely in the winter, as the inside seating is a little bit cramped and ‘cosy’. Service is pretty good on the whole, and the owner/manager is particularly friendly, chats to customers and seems to take a genuine pride in his business – which is a world away from our experience next door at the Pier.
Romeo’s by the Sea, The Boat House The Esplanade, Penarth, South Glamorgan CF64 3AU