In recent years, Penarth has done well for new restaurant openings, with favourites such as Bar 44 and The Pilot, not to mention Restaurant James Sommerin and the reopened Holm House making it a pretty good place for a foodie to live.
Penarth foodies will no doubt have had mixed feelings about the latest addition to the High Street, in the form of a large Prezzo restaurant, rumoured to have had some £750,000 invested in its set up. Regular readers of the blog will know that I’m not always a lover of chain restaurants, particularly not the proliferation of them that now inhabits both the centre of Cardiff and Mermaid Quay, but if Penarth has to play host to a chain, then it could do far worse than Prezzo, which is an occasional choice of ours for a quick lunch, and one of the ones I actually rate, along with Cote and Pizza Express.
Since the Penarth branch opened, I’ve eaten there three times, and on the last occasion I decided it was time I blogged about it. We went on a Saturday night and it was packed to the rafters – it’s spread over two floors and is a large space, but it was full. We’d booked, but others who hadn’t were being turned away at gone 9 p.m.
We did have to wait a while to be seated, which was a bit frustrating, as we could see a table for two that was free, and that we thought was probably ours, but three staff asked if they could help us, then seemed way too busy to actually seat us and told us to wait at the bar, before the fourth one finally took us to the table that we’d known all along was going to be ours. One staff member in particular had a rather unpleasant attitude which wasn’t overly welcoming! Fortunately, our waitress who looked after us for the majority of the evening had a much nicer manner and once we were seated, the service improved.
To start, I chose crab cakes, which were served simply with garlic mayonnaise and a small dressed salad. These were absolutely outstanding: all too often, crab or fish cakes are bulked out with potato and lack any discernible taste or texture of seafood. Not so with these, which seemed to be almost 100% crab, with a lovely sweet flavour and a crisp breadcrumb coating. I’d have been happy to have eaten these in a much higher end restaurant.
Mr W chose grilled goat’s cheese, which was served with beetroot and balsamic onions and rocket on ciabatta, and a balsamic glaze. This was a lovely flavour combination that worked well together.
I was in the mood for pizza, and went back to the 70s with a Tropicana: ham and pineapple. I chose the VIP Pizza base, a larger, thinner base, reminiscent of traditional Italian pizza bases. It was a good pizza, crisp and tasty, with plenty of toppings.
Mr W went for one of the specials, Penne Zafferano, which was penne pasta in a creamy garlic and saffron sauce with chicken. I’m not a massive lover of chicken with pasta (I’m led to believe that most Italians would throw their hands up in horror at such a combination too) but the flavour of the sauce was lovely and Mr W enjoyed the dish.
Despite having had a big meal so far, I couldn’t resist a pudding, and I went for a new addition on the menu – a chocolate hazelnut cheesecake. This was described as smooth vanilla cheesecake rippled with chocolate hazelnut ganache and finished with a ‘special treat’. The special treat turned out to be a Ferrero Rocher (Ambassador, with these you are spoiling us) and the cheesecake also had a thick layer of ganache on the top, so it was really delicious, and had a pretty crisp base as well, which is all too unusual for restaurant cheesecakes, especially chain restaurants where I am under no illusion that they are made on the premises. And with Nutella seemingly very in vogue at the moment, this will appeal to Nutella lovers too, I am sure!
Mr W went for a special again, an Amaretto bread and butter pudding, which was served with vanilla ice cream and was a nice Italian-style twist on the traditional pudding.
As chains go, I really like Prezzo, and as Prezzos go, I really like the Penarth one. Whether the figure being bandied around is true or not, they’ve certainly spent some money on making it a lovely restaurant to visit, one of the nicest Prezzos I’ve eaten in, and we’ve had some good meals there so far. So long as they can improve the service from the management team on arrival to get it up to the standard of the waiting staff, it’s definitely going to become a favourite of mine for a relaxed lunch or dinner in Penarth.
Prezzo, 16 Windsor Road, Penarth CF64 1JH