Radisson Blu Hotel
As a newcomer to the world of food blogging, I was delighted and surprised to be invited to take part in a Masterchef experience at the Filini restaurant within Cardiff's Radisson Blu hotel. The invite promised a live cooking session with the head chef Mattias Wenngren and the chance to sample both dishes from the Filini menu and some of chef's other creations.
I somewhat nervously set off for the Radisson Blu, wondering whether my culinary skills were up to it. I needn't have worried since it was a wonderfully informative and fun evening throughout. There was a small group of people taking part, fellow food bloggers Cardiff Bites and Ur Last Mouthful, a journalist, and two of the PR team who set the event up. The small size of the group meant that the experience was informal but chatty and it was great to talk to the rest of the people there about cookery, restaurants and so on.
The evening began with a glass of Rose Prosecco and a wide range of antipasti including cheeses, meat, rosemary bread, olives, sundried tomatoes, some delicious piquant balsamic onions. Yum. After watching our desserts of panna cotta being made, chef Mattias knocked up a very simple salad of grated courgette, almonds, lemon and parmesan. This is something I could definitely try to recreate at home and was delicious and simple with some fresh flavours and bite from the almonds.
We moved on to make a squid salad – a dish that is on the Filini restaurant menu. Again, this was a simple but tasty dish of hot squid cooked in olive oil and lemon with chilli flakes and served on a bed of rocket, parmesan and sundried tomatoes. I was entrusted with mixing the salad ingredients and the dish overall was fabulous – the combination of squid and parmesan with the salty tomatoes was a taste revelation.
Our fourth dish was a pizza made by Mattias who added some rosemary oil, sea salt and pepper to a pizza base before topping it off with honey! When cooked it was topped with prosciutto and parmesan and to my surprise, the sweetness of the honey and the saltiness of the ham did work well together. Another very successful sample.
The next recipe was a bit of a challenge and was, by chef’s own admission, thrown in to challenge us and push our boundaries of taste. He rustled up a strawberry risotto which is as odd as it sounds. Mixing risotto rice with strawberry jus and chicken stock sounds weird and when it was finished off with some mascarpone cheese, parmesan and small pieces of strawberry soaked in balsamic vinegar it was a truly different taste experience. The texture and colour were not to my taste and the group remained divided over the success of this particular dish. One I’m glad to have tried but not something I’ll need to try again!
Although approaching the point of being very full, the food continued to arrive. Next up was another dish that can be found on the restaurant menu – a delicious spinozi pasta with crab, cream and mussel jus, and some wine, tomato and parsley. This was my dish of the night and I could happily have taken the leftovers home and carried on eating. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce and crab were delicious. I’d absolutely order this dish if at Filini.
The final course of the savoury dishes was lamb with mixed forest mushrooms. The lamb was tender and pink (as it should be) and the mushrooms had great flavour despite being cooked fairly simply.
After our journey through the savoury courses, we retired to the restaurant for a coffee and our desserts. Not normally a dessert fan, I found these to be sweet and creamy and just the right size to finish the meal. After some further chatting, I made my way home, stuffed but happy and having picked up a few cooking tips along the way.
Overall, this was a wonderful evening and a real privilege to be able to spend time with the chef who not only produced some fabulous food for us but was a pleasure to talk to. Whilst I remain unconvinced by strawberry risotto, I’d certainly visit Filini to try some of the other dishes on the menu in the future.