A 12-seat dining room tucked away in the upstairs of a cafe in Pontcanna is probably not where you’d expect the best food currently served in Cardiff.
But it’s here at the popular Cafe Milkwood that Lee Skeet, a chef who trained under Gordon Ramsay and Marcus Wareing and was head chef at Michelin-starred Hedone, runs his pop-up restaurant 40 Days, 40 Nights. .
Amazingly, Lee single-handedly cooks every lunch and dinner with only one hob and hob.
At £70 for a six-course tasting menu, 40 Days, 40 Nights is truly a place for special occasions. You can take the luxury even further with matching wines (£35), a dozen oysters (£25), tuna sashimi (£12) and lobster for two (£40).
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Unlike many library-style fine dining restaurants, 40 Days, 40 Nights has a relaxed atmosphere; a soundtrack of hip hop accompanied our meal while there was no trace of stuffiness from the excellent waitress.
For starters, half a dozen native oysters (12.50 lb supplement) were beautifully plump and tasted like the sea. A generous squeeze of lime and a grueling spoonful of garlic-chili oil brought the clams to life.
Snacks were both superb. A thin, nutty rye cracker was topped with a rich smoked mackerel pate balanced by a slice of Granny Smith apple. A delicate tapioca crisp, topped with sweet white crab and avocado and pistachio mash, was the ultimate quaver.
A bowl of smooth and meaty bone marrow custard may sound a little strange, but it delivered buckets of flavor. A layer of savory sourdough bread sauce, slightly sour pickled mushrooms and golden croutons all added extra dimensions to one of the meal’s standout dishes.
Lee’s seafood dishes are always a standout and the three dishes that followed were no exception. The crispy mackerel was seasoned with the delicate heat of mustard and accompanied by the freshness of cucumber puree and grape chunks and the crunch of toasted hazelnuts.
A tender and meaty lobster tail (£40 supplement) was put on a smooth and sweet pumpkin puree and combined with a glossy chicken sauce, toasted pumpkin seeds and chunks of oyster mushroom.
Cod, which flakes easily, was dressed with a buttery beef sauce studded with the smoky hit of two types of smoked fish eggs. It was another dish that delivered a huge flavor bomb.
Tender duck breast, with well rendered fat and crispy skin, accompanied by a light piece of caramelized baby gem lettuce and a rich, savory seaweed sauce. The pop of sweet blueberries provided a clever counterpoint to the dish’s indulgence.
A wonderfully creamy and tangy lime zest was buried under a rich hot chocolate mousse. The contrast of the two temperatures was brilliant. A thin, buttery chocolate chip cookie topped with intense raspberry powder and a dollop of mascarpone finished off the masterful pud.
To round out the meal, a few thin dark chocolate skulls were filled with silky smooth salted caramel.
We had a phenomenal meal at 40 Days, 40 Nights. Lee Skeet is a chef who uses premium ingredients and classic techniques to deliver modern, flavorful dishes that are free of gimmicks.
If there is one chef whose food I would recommend eating in Cardiff at the moment it is Lee Skeet’s.
While Lee’s current run of dates at 40 Days, 40 Nights is fully booked, he plans to announce more pop-up dates or a permanent location in Cardiff after Christmas. Judging by how quickly it tends to sell out I would book soon.
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