Like most of us, I love food. So, when I first heard that three MasterChef contestants were holding a fine dining experience at Wales’ largest castle, I was instantly intrigued and determined to find out more about this event and the exciting new catering business – SALT Kitchen.
SALT Kitchen is run by three food loving chefs called Stephen, Alex and Thomas, who recently met on BBC1’s MasterChef. With a strong desire to cook top restaurant quality food (using the abundance of rich, local ingredients available in our beautiful part of the world), these three chefs are looking forward to hosting an arrange of exciting dining events around the UK; starting with the beautiful Caerphilly Castle.
It was therefore with great excitement that I headed over to this much anticipated event last week.
The pop-up fine dining evening was organised in The Great Hall of Caerphilly Castle, which had been beautifully arranged for the evening. We were greeted with a glass of prosecco and were directed expertly to our table. Here we had the opportunity to meet with our friends and some fellow foodies before we all headed up to try some of the scrumptious canapes on offer. It was here that I started to relax. I had been a little worried that with such great cuisine on offer that this might be a stuffy affair, however I was delighted to see that this was going to be a fun evening as well.
Shortly before the food began to arrive, the friendly and efficient waiting staff filled our glasses with the appropriate glass of wine to accompany our first course of fillet of hake on pearl barley risotto Nero and herb emulsion. I was a little bit nervous about this dish. I had eaten pearl barley risotto before and as I didn’t overly enjoy it, I was unsure what to expect. However, as soon as I tasted a mouthful of the delicious hake with the risotto, I was a complete convert; it was absolutely delicious. The fish had been seasoned perfectly and the pearl barley nero (squid ink) risotto was exquisite. The hardest part here was not to look too greedy and eat it all too quickly, particularly as there was a glass of beautiful dry white wine to enjoy alongside it. This was definitely one of my favourite dishes of the evening.
After the first course, as everyone relaxed we had the opportunity to talk a little more to the other guests on our table. Like us, they loved food and lived locally. They had also eaten in many great restaurants so I was interested in hearing their views on the food. They were also bowled over by the first course and we all agreed how wonderful it would be to see more events like this in Caerphilly.
Therefore, it was with high expectations, that we all looked on as the waiting staff brought over our second course with the accompanying red wine. This dish looked simply beautiful. There was the panko hen yolk (which ran out perfectly when cut into), the delicious fondant potato, the succulent pan-seared duck breast and the tasty surprise of a filo parcel of crispy duck. This meal was delectable and was my husband’s firm favourite.
There was a little gap in service between the second and third course, which was perfect to help our first two courses settle. We ordered a bottle of prosecco and I was surprised (and very happy) to discover that it was only £18. With many venues of this stature using events like this to place a ‘mark up’ on alcohol, it was great to see that this was not the case here.
We then quickly moved on to the third course. Although this was the smallest dish of the evening, I have to say that I absolutely loved it. The rhubarb sorbet with the ginger crumb just took me back to my favourite childhood desert. Matched with a beautiful rhubarb flavoured sweet wine this was delicious but still light enough not to ruin our fourth and final dish that evening; a cocoa bean bombe filled with chocolate mouse and a raspberry core.
When I think back to this course, the only word that comes to mind is ‘Wow!’. Created by Alex (who I later found out was aptly named the Queen of Puddings), every spoonful of this desert was perfect. The crunch of the chocolate, the texture of the mousse, the sharpness of the raspberry… I could wax lyrical about this desert for eternity. The flavours were also enhanced by the sweet, red wine (to my surprise as I always thought I hated desert wines) that was paired with the course.
The evening ended with a fun question and answer session with the three chefs, where it was clear how passionate they were about food and cooking. It was also exciting to find out that I had eaten food prepared by experts, who had not only cooked for some of Britain’s best chefs but pop stars too. I was feeling rather spoiled.
As the evening drew to a close, I had the opportunity of meeting and talking to all three chefs. This had been their first pop-up kitchen and they (quite rightly) were very satisfied with how it had turned out. They have many events planned but are hoping to return to Caerphilly Castle in the future. Stephen Ford, who lives in Caerphilly and does a lot of local charity work (including headlining the infamous Megaday in August), commenting on how much he loved the experience of cooking in such an iconic building and how he longed to bring more fine dining experience to the area.
To find out more about SALT Kitchen and their future events, please head here to follow their page online.
Disclosure: We received a 35% discount to in exchange for the review and the promotion. However, our friends (who are amazing amateur chefs themselves), who paid full price said they felt that the experience was definitely worth the full amount.
Please note that whilst I did not personally try the vegetarian and vegan options, I spoke to another guest later on in the evening, who was incredibly impressed with the food and said that the creamed asparagus risotto was one of her all time favourite meals.
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