Situated just outside Cardiff, Newport isn’t the first place I would’ve thought of going for a fine dining meal – until now.
Inside, the restaurant decor represents understated glamour; satin lampshades with hanging crystal chandeliers and brightly coloured plush velvet cushions, juxtaposed against a typical fine dining backdrop of white tables and leather seating.
Putting a creative, contemporary twist on fine dining classics, Mojo uses local ingredients wherever possible and the Head Chef, Rob Evans, has previously worked at the nearby Celtic Manor Resort and Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth.
As you may have guessed by its name, Mojo doesn’t just do food; it also does drinks, and it does them very well at that. The cocktail menu has been perfected by award-winning mixologist, Christos Kyriakidis, former owner of the Vanilla Rooms cocktail bar at Park House, Cardiff. If you’re not keen on cocktails, the bar boasts over 120 different kinds of gin and they really know their stuff when it comes to wine.
Keen to taste a variety of dishes and drinks, we opted for the six-course taster menu (£39.50). There was an option for 10-courses (£60), but we didn’t think we’d have room for that much food. Served from 6pm – 10pm, the six-course taster menu comprises of six carefully crafted courses (£39.50), with the option of adding wine pairing (+£20), or wine and cocktail pairing (+£30). Of course, we went for the wine and cocktail pairing.
We kicked off with a trio of canapes, consisting of carrot arancini, well-balanced sweetcorn and bacon panna cotta, and creamy smoked cod on crispbread.
Our starter was an innovative concotion of crispy confit chicken wing, slow-cooked hen’s egg, glazed potato and chicken terrine, setting the stakes high for the courses to follow. The slow-cooked hen’s egg was the main attraction. Kept warm over a low heat for several hours, the white was just cooked, with a creamy, somewhat runny texture, while the yolk was plump and rich in flavour.
The dish was paired with a glass of Graham’s Port. Golden in colour, this white, slightly sweet port certainly warmed us up and helped us to relax ahead of the the feast that was to follow.
Moving on to our second course, we were presented with a display of torched mackerel with cucumber ribbons, tomatoes, horseradish and dill. I’ve never tasted mackerel cooked in this way before. It was fresh, succulent and juicy – it almost tasted like a different fish compared to the intensely flavoured, slightly dry grilled mackerel I’m used to eating.
The strong flavours of the mackerel were toned down by a light, sweet pink cocktail topped with ice and sugar.
For my main course, I succumbed to the duck breast with honey & lavender, crispy chicken leg and Vitelotte potatoes, served with fresh greens and garnished with date sauce. This was definitely up there with the best duck dishes I’ve ever tasted in my life (along with the duck shawarma from Mezza Luna, and the Keralan Barbary duck from Mint and Mustard, both in Cardiff). Pink and tender, just looking at it really was enough to make me drool – I couldn’t take the photo quickly enough! The crispy morsels of chicken leg were the perfect contrast, while the purple skin and flesh of the Vitelotte potatoes introduced vibrant colour, and a slightly nutty taste, to the dish.
Meanwhile, my mother ordered the mature beef sirloin from the a la carte dinner menu; succulent, medium-rare matured beef sirloin, rich bone marrow croquette, salt-baked turnip and shallot rings, served with baby carrots and fresh greens. This looked just as delicious as the duck, and the bone marrow croquettes certainly gave the dish added oomph.
Our main courses were paired with a deep red wine, designed to complement the strong, meaty tones of each dish.
The penultimate course took the form of a traditional cheeseboard featuring a pungent blue cheese, Welsh Celtic Pride cheese, and French brie, complete with artisan crackers, grapes, celery & chutney. I’d choose a good cheeseboard over a dessert most of the time, and I was very impressed by Mojo’s version. Simple yet satisfying, it only included three cheeses but there was a great range of flavours and textures between them, and the seeded crackers were particularly tasty.
The cheese selection was carefully complemented by a glass of Beckett’s London Dry Gin with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic, infused with English juniper berries and locally picked mint, and garnished with thinly sliced apple to finish.
Luckily, I didn’t have to choose between a cheeseboard and a dessert at Mojo, as their tasting menu includes both. Our final course was a bold presentation of thick and smooth, sickly-sweet chocolate mousse, offset by a scoop of fragrant Earl Gray Ice Cream, gingerbread fragments and orange puree, served on a glamorous gold plate.
This was matched with a sweet, velvety dessert wine with chocolatey undertones; the perfect end to the perfect meal.
My mother and I were both absolutely blown away by the presentation and the quality of the food we tried at Mojo, and it’s refreshing to see a restaurant attach the same importance to the drinks selection as they do for the food itself. Not to mention the service, which was flawless; from the moment we entered Mojo, we were treated like special guests. Okay, so I was there doing a restaurant review and they were bound to be lovely to me. However, as always, I made a point of observing how other guests were treated upon arrival, right through to when they left, and they received the exact same level of attentiveness, friendliness and speed of service.
A visit to Mojo doesn’t come cheap, but when you compare it some other fine dining restaurants (such as those located within the nearby Celtic Manor Resort, for example), it offers far better value for money. I’d happily pay to treat my mother (or any of my close family or friends, for that matter) to the tasting menu here again, as I know the food will be fantastic and we’ll always be made to feel welcome. What’s more, as the menus changes every season, we’ll never get bored of eating the same dishes.
Mojo the Food Bar
01633 449 948
I was invited to Mojo the Food Bar as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.