It’s not often you get the opportunity to dine out in a 19th century gothic chapel. Sitting in Chapel 1877 recently, staring up at the intricate stained glass windows and the colossal chandeliers, I felt like I was sat in the dining hall at Hogwarts.
Built in 1877, Chapel was originally known as Pembroke Terrace Chapel; the mastermind of Henry C. Harris, a young architect from Penarth. The design was very daring for its time, challenging traditional Welsh non-conformist customs.
After the Second World War, church membership fell and congregations merged, causing the building to fall into decline. Following a short stint as an architect’s office in the 1980s, the building began to deteriorate.
Fast forward to 2008, when owner, David Bevan bought the chapel and set about refurbishing the Grade II-listed building with the aim of retaining its original character and charm. The plaster was scraped back to reveal authentic brickwork, while the looming glass arches were transformed into defining features; the finishing touch taking the form of two enormous antique chandeliers.
Today, Chapel 1877 has to be one of Cardiff’s fanciest restaurants and it’s quiet, intimate atmosphere makes it the perfect go-to for dinner with your other half. Or, in the case of a sad singleton like myself (*cue the violins*), my best friend.
With an emphasis on fine dining, the evening à la carte menu features a selection of eight sumptuous starters, ranging in cost from £3.50 for marinated olives all the way up to £9 for pan-roasted scallops. Main courses (ranging from £17-19) consist of classic British dishes made using fresh, locally sourced ingredients like pan-fried Anglesey sea bass fillet and roast St. Sever free range chicken breast, alongside steaks (£23-29; all beef is from Welsh and Cornish cattle, dry-aged for 28 days) and veggie options costing no more than £14, like Wye Valley asparagus risotto and wild mushroom ravioli. To round all that off, choose from several indulgent desserts priced from £6.50 to £9, including green tea-infused crème brûlée and summer berry Pimm’s pudding.
We skipped starters and ploughed straight on through to our main courses. I succumbed to the roast rump of Welsh lamb, perfectly pink and juicy, served with a neatly formed cube of potato gratin, courgette ribbons and pea and mint fricassee (£18). This was completely flawless; the lamb was tender and tasty, the potato gratin was flavoursome and well-seasoned and the veg was crisp and fresh. Furthermore, the portion was ample and I wasn’t left with a rumbling stomach, wondering what’s to eat for the next course, which is only too often the case in fine dining restaurants.
Opposite from me at the table, my friend Sarah tucked into Parma ham-wrapped monkfish served on a mound of fragrant saffron and pea risotto. This was the Catch of the Day dish, which can be enjoyed with half a bottle of wine for just £15 (on Mondays and Tuesdays only). I’m not usually very keen on monkfish because I’m a bit squeamish about certain kinds of fish and seafood and I find that monkfish can have a somewhat ‘fishy’ taste, but the Parma ham definitely enhanced the flavour. Thick and creamy in texture, the risotto had a fragrant, comforting taste and the portion was rather generous.
For dessert, I couldn’t quite make up my mind as to what I wanted so I opted for the trio of rich dark chocolate tart, tonka bean ice cream and pistachio praline (£7.50). And what an excellent decision that was! The chocolate tart was thick-set with a bittersweet taste and although it may have been too sickly to eat on its own, it was complemented beautifully by the spicy vanilla tones of the tonka bean ice cream. Tonka beans are becoming more and more popular in the world of fine dining; last year, I tried a tonka bean pannacotta at Laguna Kitchen and Bar at Park Plaza Hotel. Finally, with a texture alike that of crunchy honeycomb, the pistachio praline took the form of crushed pistachio nuts mixed with caramel to produce a nut brittle, before being smashed up into tiny fragments.
Sarah was so intrigued by the sound of the green tea-infused crème brûlée, she had to order it just to discover what it was like. At first impressions it looked just like a traditional crème brûlée, served in a small, round dish with a firm golden brown layer on top. However, a subtle hint of green tea introduced a fragrant, sweet and almost grass-like flavour to this time-old dessert favourite.
I really enjoyed my first visit to Chapel 1877 and I’m sure it won’t be the last. Cardiff has a number of decent fine dining venues, but for me, Chapel’s setting in a 19th century gothic chapel really helps to give it the edge. The prices are roughly on par with Cardiff’s other fine dining venues; depending on what you order, you’ll be looking at paying between £30-£50 per head at Chapel 1877, with drinks. However, before you go, it’s definitely worth checking the website for up-to-date promotions and set menus for special events. The Catch of the Day deal on Mondays and Tuesdays will get you a set fish dish and half a bottle of wine for just £15, while there’s a 5-course gala dinner including a flight of Rioja wine on 18th August for just £39 per person.
Chapel 1877 Bar & Restaurant
(029) 2022 2020
I was invited to Chapel 1877 as a guest and our food and drinks were provided complimentary; however, I was not obliged to write a positive review.
Have you ever been to Chapel 1877? Where’s the most luxurious place to dine out in your local area?