Restaurant review: Seafood Shack – High Street, Cardiff

I’ve been looking forward to the launch of Seafood Shack in Cardiff for months. Le Monde (St. Mary Street) aside, I can’t think of any decent restaurants in Cardiff city centre specialising in seafood, so I was excited about the prospect of Seafood Shack opening. The restaurant officially opened last night, following a launch evening on Wednesday, and I made sure I booked a table in advance.

A nautical theme

Spread over two floors, the restaurant seats up to 200 guests when full, and the first floor boasts a classy champagne and oyster bar. The decor has a nautical theme throughout; the restaurant kitted out to make it seem as though you’re dining on the wooden deck of an old fishing boat, complete with a mast. In the middle of the restaurant, a traditional Victorian-style fish and chip bar is tiled in shades of green and blue.

The menu

The menu has been perfected with the help of David Sykes, an Irish chef who has worked in Ireland, Manhattan, Australia and China to name just a few locations. Although David won’t be based at the Cardiff restaurant permanently, he has played an important role in fine tuning the new menu. David has been assisted by sous chef, Scott Durham (formerly of Pier 64), who will continue his good work after he leaves.

At the moment, Seafood Shack is running a soft launch menu and the choice is somewhat limited, but the selection is set to expand within the next couple of weeks or so. Notably, you can’t order lobster currently unless you go for the lobster burger; a buttered lobster tail topped with crispy calamari, smashed guacamole, cucumber spaghetti and gem lettuce in a soft brioche bun. It sounds delicious, but I’m not sure its worth the £22.50 price tag.

All of the dishes are rather inviting – although somewhat overpriced – and it is reassuring to know that Seafood Shack has teamed up with the National Lobster Hatchery (NLH) to ensure that, for each lobster they buy, a baby lobster is released back into our waters. Furthermore, the fresh fish and shellfish is locally sourced from Celtic Fish and E. Ashton Fishmongers in Cardiff Indoor Market. I was surprised to discover that the restaurant also serves burgers, chicken and steak, as it’s name implies that it specialises solely in seafood. 

Starters

We waited over half an hour for our starters before asking our waitress how much longer it would be. She checked with the kitchen and then confessed they’d had a problem with the printing system, and so our order hadn’t been processed. However, the restaurant was pretty quiet at this time of the evening and so I would’ve expected her to notice that we still hadn’t received our food and chased it up for us before we had to query it. We waited a further 30 minutes for our starters to actually arrive at our table, during which time we were offered a drink on the house. 

A generous heap of mussels in a silky white wine, cream, garlic and chive sauce, teamed with a crispy, garlic-infused ciabatta slice (£7) had me thinking things were starting to look up. I couldn’t get enough of the sauce and I’ll hold my hands up to drinking the remains from the bowl when I’d polished off the mussels, although unfortunately the mussels themselves were fairly gritty and could’ve done with being left to soak for longer prior to cooking. 

Mussels in white wine with ciabatta

It was frustrating that I had to request a side plate for the shells and a bowl of water with lemon to cleanse my hands as opposed to this being provided when the mussels were served; especially as the guests dining next to us received these as soon as their mussels arrived.

In the meantime, my friend and her partner tucked in to chicken wings deep-fried in buttermilk batter, served in a smoky paprika sauce with a fiery kick which crept up on us slowly (£6.50). This was probably the best dish we tried all evening, but we did wonder whether five chicken wings would be a little too heavy as a starter, had it been just for one person. 

Buttermilk chicken wings at Seafood Shack, Cardiff

A waiter began clearing our table before we had all finished eating our starters and, unfortunately, the bowl of water and lemon I had used to wash my hands after handling the mussels was left on the table for a further 30 minutes before it was taken away. By this time, our main courses still hadn’t arrived.

Main courses

After another word with our waitress, our mains were with us in the next ten minutes. My friend’s partner ordered Shack’s 6oz burger, made from 100% beef, bourbon glazed and accompanied by maple smoked bacon, tangy cheddar cheese, baby gem lettuce and Shack’s relish in a soft white bun. This looked pretty good and, in his words, it was a “good quality, meaty burger”.  All of Seafood Shack’s burgers are served with chunky, chip shop-style chips. Admittedly, the chips were a little starchy in the centre and could’ve done with a few more minutes in the deep fat fryer to soften them up.

Seafood Shack's 6oz burger

My friend opted for the salmon fillet, which was seared on the ‘plancha’ (flat-top grill/griddle) to seal in the natural flavours during cooking and matched with more of those chunky chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce. There was a choice of caper brown butter, salsa verde or white wine chive cream sauce to accompany the salmon. My friend ordered the salsa verde but she was given the caper brown butter sauce, which wasn’t ideal because she doesn’t like capers. In addition, the salmon was dry in the centre. We had waited so long for our food and we were all starving, so she couldn’t be bothered to send it back to the kitchen to have the sauce changed.

Salmon at Seafood Shack

However, I was so disappointed by the sight of my main course that I really didn’t want to eat it, especially at a cost of £13.50. I ordered the deep fried cod in batter with homemade chips and mushy peas. Shortly before our order arrived, I saw what can only have been the very same dish I had ordered being taken to a gentlemen sitting opposite us, and it looked very promising – a large, crispy battered fish fillet – just what you’d expect for a traditional serving of fish and chips. 

So, imagine my dismay when my plate was placed in front of me and I saw four broken up pieces of cod in a light dusting of batter sitting on my plate, mixed in with wilted greens and samphire, served with a limp side salad, chips and tiny serving of dried-up mushy peas. If it was any consolation to me, the guy opposite ended up sending his battered cod and chips back to the kitchen and leaving without eating, so his food can’t have been that good either.

Cod and chips at Seafood Shack
Teething troubles

After complaining to our waitress,  she acknowledged that the restaurant is still ironing out  a few issues after its launch. Apparently, the waiting team haven’t had the chance to sample the menu for themselves, and they haven’t received a great deal of training on the different dishes on the menu. Indeed, we saw several waiters and waitresses looking confused as to which table they were meant to be taking the orders to.

At one point, a waiter tipped a tray carrying a glass bottle of water and ice in glasses, there was a commotion and the ice cubes fell all over the floor. He was extremely apologetic to the table in question and we took pity on him because he was so nervous and it seemed as though he hadn’t received adequate training. No one thought to pick up the ice cubes from the floor, so by the time we left, puddles had formed. To be honest, we felt sorry for the waiting team because they were polite and friendly, and they did the best they could in the situation they found themselves in, but it genuinely seemed as though the training had been lacking.

We eventually spoke to General Manager, Andrew Baker, who kindly offered to take care of our bill after hearing our complaints about the food and the service. He explained that the restaurant has had a number of teething problems because it has opened in a bit of a whirlwind to meet pressures from contractors. I pointed out that the restaurant was actually meant to open back in April of this year and I believe the launch has been delayed again since then, so I’m not really sure why things have had to be rushed last-minute. Judging by the answers  I got from him, and a conversation I had with Operations Director, Terry Rogers on my way out, it sounds like both the managers and the owners of Seafood Shack are already aware that there is room for improvement in several areas. I really hope to see them take action on this as soon as possible, as I know I wasn’t the only one in Cardiff who was excited about the launch of this restaurant and I would like to see it grow into a  a success.

I have been invited to return to Seafood Shack in a few weeks, when the restaurant has found its feet and the new menu is in place. I have agreed to do so, on the condition that my visit will not be pre-arranged, and I will arrive unannounced. To be continued… 

Seafood Shack
5A High Street
Cardiff
CF10 1AW
www.seafood-shack.co.uk
029 2167 5746

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20 Comments

  1. June 16, 2017 / 9:06 pm

    I look forward to reading your return review… Let’s hope it’s improved!

    • June 25, 2017 / 5:58 pm

      Thanks 🙂 It certainly will be interesting to see if things change; I genuinely hope they do!

  2. June 18, 2017 / 10:14 pm

    It does look like a good place to eat, especially if you like seafood

    • June 25, 2017 / 5:57 pm

      Shame it wasn’t what it was built up to be actually, but let’s hope things improve over the course of the next few weeks.

  3. June 19, 2017 / 1:21 pm

    I love reading about places I have not been yet! John mentioned this place a while back and the food looks amazing – John eats everything and although I don’t eat fish I still love going to new places and John loves Tuna, Calamari, Cod and shrimp. It’s a pity you had to complain and I would also be disappointed about only have 4 small pieces of something with such a sad looking salad for £13.50 – I hope your next visit is better and they put more time into training the staff

    Laura x

    • June 25, 2017 / 5:56 pm

      I’d been looking forward to Seafood Shack launching for months as they really hyped it up and when the launch was delayed, it only served to build my anticipation. It was shockingly bad, but let’s hope things improve in time and that they spend time on training staff properly 🙂

    • Jim Paterson
      July 14, 2017 / 4:19 pm

      Don’t bother it’s aweful

      • July 21, 2017 / 3:33 pm

        I’ve heard a few people say they went back recently and it’s still lacking, so I’m going to leave it a little longer before my return.

  4. June 21, 2017 / 5:54 am

    What a shame this restaurant is SOooo very far away from me down here in the land of Oz huh as I’d adore to go and try those mussles. What a shame the rest of the menu didn’t impress, nothing worse. It sounds like the restaurant was having a lot of opening dramas, good thing it’s only in soft launch. Fingers crossed they get all the crinkles ironed out and be all you’d love in the way of a fave restaurant.

    • June 25, 2017 / 5:55 pm

      Yes, will be updating my post in a few weeks time if things change 🙂

  5. June 23, 2017 / 8:26 pm

    Oh looks like a great place to check out. I am seafood crazy, but yeah the prices are often a game changer…like here.

    • June 25, 2017 / 5:54 pm

      Well, we’ll see if it improves with time!

  6. June 29, 2017 / 3:22 am

    It’s refreshing to find an honest review of a restaurant! But, let’s hope for their sake they are able to iron out any of those teething issues. Clearly it takes more than good food to make a good restaurant.

    • June 29, 2017 / 10:36 pm

      Thanks, I have had a good response to this review. I hope to see things improve when I go back in a few weeks time.

  7. July 10, 2017 / 8:42 pm

    Bless you, it sounds like it certainly needs some improvements. I hope you enjoy it more next time x

    • July 21, 2017 / 3:48 pm

      It does indeed, I am hoping to update my review with more positive feedback after my next visit!

  8. Jim Paterson
    July 14, 2017 / 4:18 pm

    Quite honestly the worst service and food I’ve had in years . For the prices you expect excellence not aweful food and terrible service.

    • July 21, 2017 / 3:34 pm

      I agree with you, not sure if things will improve or not but will go back to see soon.

  9. Keijoy Mtume
    October 10, 2017 / 8:50 pm

    Have you been back? What was it like

    • October 11, 2017 / 3:21 pm

      I haven’t been back yet, but I actually spoke to someone today who told me a few more horror stories. I’d be surprised if they’re still going by Xmas.

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