Restaurant review: Cen at The Celtic Manor Resort

Earlier this month, the five-star Celtic Manor Resort opened its first Asian fine dining restaurant, Cen (pronounced ‘sen’) at Celtic Manor with Larkin Cen, 2013 BBC Masterchef finalist and former co-owner of Hokkei, a popular pan-Asian pop-up and takeaway based on Crwys Road, Cardiff that went into administration in early January.

Whilst I was sad to see Hokkei go (there are no words to describe their triple cooked crispy beef!), the launch of Cen at Celtic Manor certainly helped to lessen my disappointment.

Inside Cen restaurant

The restaurant is based within The Manor House – an elegant, 19th century country house full of historic character and charm. Inside Cen, however, the decor is contemporary and vibrant with an Asian vibe created by an elaborate floral centrepiece, wooden shutters and a white linen ceiling canopy. 

Floral arrangement in restaurant

There is also a private dining room to seat up to 14 guests, pictured below.

A 19th century dining room with long table and chairs

The menu centres upon dishes from Chinese, Japanese and Thai cuisines, but British influences can also be seen in options like triple cooked chips, sirloin steak, Welsh beef rib roast and even a trifle for dessert. There isn’t an overwhelming range of choices – four small dishes, two salads, four filled steam buns, six main courses (for one) and three sharing dishes for two, followed by four dessert options. However, the focus definitely seems to be on quality as opposed to quantity. 

The Asian theme extends to the drinks menu, which boasts a variety of Japanese beers, sakes and wines. We sipped on a glass of champagne each as we examined the menu.

Two filled champagne glasses

We also shared some crispy, golden prawn crackers and a sweet chilli dip. 

Prawn crackers with sweet chilli dip

A starter of scallops with bacon dashi (£8.50) consisted of three plump scallops, fried until golden and served in a silky, broth-like bacon dashi, topped with Japanese Bonito fish flakes and decorated with edible flowers. The scallops were scrumptiously succulent and the bacon dashi was delicious.

Scallops on a plate
Meanwhile, a tender roast duck salad (£8) was served with Pomelo (like a large grapefruit, but sweeter and not as bitter), pomegranate seeds, beansprouts, fresh green leaves and coriander, drizzled with citrus-y Ponzu dressing. 

Roast Duck Salad

In addition, we shared a portion of Korean chicken bao £7; two light, fluffy Taiwanese steamed milk buns, filled with deep-fried spicy chicken, spring onions, kimchi, Gochugang chilli and tangy Yuzu mayonnaise. These were so good, I’d have happily ordered them again for my main course if I could. 

Two bao dumplings filled with fried chicken and spices

As we moved on to our main courses, a duck tamarind curry (£24) contained slices of lean, pink duck breast in a strong, thick and slightly spicy tamarind sauce, topped with lotus root flower crisps and fresh pak choi. 

Duck tamarind curry with fresh greens and lotus root flower
The curry was accompanied by a generous serving of triple cooked chips. A deep golden brown in colour, the chips had a crunchy coating and a soft, fluffy centre. They tasted pretty good as far as chips go, although they were a little too crispy. 

As much as I enjoyed the chips, it would’ve been nice to have had the option to switch them for rice. It felt strange eating a curry without rice and triple cooked chips aren’t the healthiest of choices for any guests who might be trying to eat a better diet. 

Small bowl of golden brown chunky chips

My guest ordered the sirloin steak (£27) for his main course. Medium-cooked as requested, the steak was so tender that the knife simply slid through it. It was served with a fiery, yet creamy wasabi dijon mayonnaise, spring onion, black bean jus and triple cooked chips. 

Steak on a plate

For dessert, I opted for the Welsh honey and yuzu cake (£7); a moist, zesty sponge accompanied by yoghurt ice cream and bubbly, aromatic honeycomb, finished with edible flowers and drizzled with honey. 

Cake and icecream
Fancying something chocolate-y, my guest went for the aptly-named ‘chocolate’ (£7); a rich, dark chocolate torte served with chocolate ganache, chocolate aero, malt ice cream, chocolate brittle and mandarin sauce. This looked very appealing and it would be the ideal dessert for any chocolate lover, although it would have been too sickly for me to eat as part of a three-course meal. 

Chocolate torte on plate

I really enjoyed my first visit to Cen and it certainly won’t be my last, although with main courses costing around £25 each (and £40+ for sharing dishes), I would only attend the restaurant if I happened to be staying at The Celtic Manor Resort, or for special celebrations like birthdays. 

Cen at Celtic Manor
The Celtic Manor Resort
Coldra Woods
The Usk Valley
Newport
South Wales
NP18 1HQ
www.celtic-manor.com
(0)1633 413 000

I was invited to CEN as a guest and our food and drink was provided complimentary. However, I was not obliged to write a positive review.

Do you like Asian food? What’s your favourite dish? Leave me a comment below 🙂

53 Comments

  1. emma white
    February 16, 2016 / 9:13 pm

    oh wow looks amazing I love that table and chairs I could do with that here. My eyes are always drawn to the dessert which looks incredible

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:59 pm

      Thanks Emma. It’s a lovely new restaurant 😀 The dessert was indeed delicious, too 🙂

  2. February 16, 2016 / 9:19 pm

    Look like you had a wonderful evening, I do love Asian food:-)

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:15 pm

      Thanks, we had a fab evening!

  3. February 16, 2016 / 9:47 pm

    The food looks so amazing! I love eating out at a good restaurant.

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:50 pm

      Me too, it’s great to visit new places for food.

  4. February 16, 2016 / 10:12 pm

    I love the idea of a load of different Asian cuisines! A bit of thai and a bit of Chinese x

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:16 pm

      I agree, it’s good as there’s usually something to suit all tastes then 😀 As long as you like Asian food that is…

  5. February 16, 2016 / 10:21 pm

    Oh wow! The food looks absolutely amazing – you are making me hungry!

  6. hannah
    February 16, 2016 / 11:00 pm

    I love asian food. I personally love my chips but they never go well with curry x

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:57 pm

      I like chips too and I do like them with curry when I’m having them from a chip shop, but from a restaurant like this I thought it was odd they didn’t at least offer rice as an option. xx

  7. February 16, 2016 / 11:07 pm

    mmm delicious! The bao looked amazing-I really want someone! x

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:18 pm

      Thanks, the bao was my personal favourite from this meal 🙂

  8. February 16, 2016 / 11:54 pm

    Oh wow this all looks and sounds delicious! It is nice to have the option to dine somewhere that little bit unusual so close to home for me! Will have to try it out.

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:17 pm

      Thanks Leanne. It’s well worth a visit but it is rather expensive, so I’d definitely save it for special occasions!

  9. February 17, 2016 / 12:35 am

    Those Taiwanese buns are my favourites!!! Such a lovely looking restaurant with what looks like great food too 🙂

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:20 pm

      They were my favourite course too 🙂 So good!

  10. February 17, 2016 / 7:12 am

    Triple cooked chips sounds intriguing, although, like you said, is not the healthiest option. It looks you had a wonderful evening. xx

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:17 pm

      Definitely. They were nice but it all felt a bit naughty, haha.

  11. February 17, 2016 / 8:59 am

    The chips look fat and chunky just the way I like them!

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:20 pm

      I’m the same with chips. They were pretty good, just a little too crispy.

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:18 pm

      Thanks Danii, it was very yummy!

  12. February 17, 2016 / 11:07 am

    really like that ceiling canopy. Food looks nice, but portion sizes are a bit small. You can tell I am a bit of a pig LOL

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:19 pm

      Haha me too 🙂 It was lovely, I found it quite filling but there was definitely room for more.

  13. February 17, 2016 / 2:44 pm

    Love the canopy. The food looks great too. I need to try chicken bao! x

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:54 pm

      Thanks Charlotte. The baos were just out of this world 🙂

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:15 pm

      Thanks, it was very nice here.

  14. February 17, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    That looks wonderful, great food and a fabulous atmosphere. GG

  15. February 17, 2016 / 6:49 pm

    What a lovely restaurant, the ambience looks great as does the food.

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:54 pm

      Thanks Nayna, I love it here too 🙂

  16. February 17, 2016 / 10:31 pm

    The decor and presentation look amazing. I’m not sure the food would be for me but it all looks beautiful.

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:48 pm

      Thanks Leandra, the decor was lovely. The food was good too, but if you’re not into Asian food then you’re right, it probably wouldn’t be for you. Each to their own 🙂

  17. February 17, 2016 / 11:15 pm

    The duck tamarind curry looks great but I couldn’t imagine paying that price as it’s a pretty small dish. The chips look nice though

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:14 pm

      Yes, it was nice but not nice enough for that amount of money. Mind you, I wouldn’t be happy paying on average £25 for any kind of meal.

  18. nicol
    February 17, 2016 / 11:29 pm

    i love the interior. the food looks so delish as well. i would love to visit there one day

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:47 pm

      It was very elegant in here! I had a great evening 🙂

  19. Idaintyit
    February 17, 2016 / 11:49 pm

    It looks beautiful with lovely food! I really like the private dining area, so elegant

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:13 pm

      Thank you! I thought it was very elegant too. Perfect for a dinner party!

  20. February 18, 2016 / 2:33 am

    This looks like my ideal meal; those scallops look absolutely delicious. Yum yum yum! xxx

    • February 19, 2016 / 7:13 pm

      Thanks, they were delish 🙂

  21. February 18, 2016 / 6:12 pm

    Would love this place. Filipino and korean food are my top taste. 🙂

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:53 pm

      Thanks Jessica. I would love to go back here, it’s just a shame it’s so pricey!

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:45 pm

      The scallops were a great way to get things started 🙂 They were so yummy!

  22. February 19, 2016 / 11:30 am

    Tripple cooked chips sounds yummy to me at the moment. Could do with a bowl of them right now. I do love Asian flavours. I usually go for duck because that is something I don’t cook at home often.

    • February 19, 2016 / 6:44 pm

      me too, I tried cooking duck once and it was a disaster… so I haven’t tried again! Lol

  23. February 20, 2016 / 5:35 pm

    I am intrigued by the chips with the curry, which is usually my preference over rice x

    • February 20, 2016 / 9:07 pm

      I like curry and chips, but just think the option should be there to choose from. The chips were tasty though 🙂

  24. February 23, 2016 / 11:18 am

    The food looks lovely. I’ve stayed here too and it is a lovely place.

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