Restaurant James Sommerin will be opening at the Esplanade in Penarth in a building that has been designed and built specifically for the venture. The venue will also have nine bedrooms for overnight guests.
Sommerin said: “I’ve been looking for the past three years to do my own thing. It’s the dream of most chefs to open up their own restaurant, myself included. It’s been really exciting watching things happen at the building and seeing two and a half years’ worth of work coming together. I can’t see the doors open soon enough.”
Designed from scratch
Restaurant James Sommerin has been built from scratch in the style of an old Georgian building like the one that previously stood on the site, aiming to retain and improve original features and grandeur. Sommerin told us he took some time to find the perfect site.
He said: “I’ve been looking for the past three years to do my own thing, and to find the site I started looking round and about the Cardiff area, but I couldn’t find anything suitable. Then the owner of the site at the esplanade approached me with a site drawing, which was basically just a big hall that said 3500sq.ft on it.
“We’ve designed everything about the restaurant ourselves and the building work has been going on since January last year. It’s right on the esplanade with a sea view out over the Seven Estuary which is great. The building itself is multi-coloured building with different blues and yellows, a bit like a Balamory sort of style.”
The hotel part of the venture has nine ensuite room, five of which have sea views, and will also be run by Sommerin and his wife.
“It made common sense to have the bedrooms and make the venue more of a destination restaurant,” said Sommerin. “That way we’ll have a definite stream of revenue from them too.”
Offering the best experience
Sommerin informed us the restaurant was designed with a relaxed atmosphere in mind and he intends for his customers to have a comfortable and enjoyable experience. There are large windows right the way round the restaurant to make the most of the sea view, and the décor is ‘light and airy’, combining white leather with deep purples and a feature wall of Welsh slate.
“We wanted to take advantage of the sea views, and we also have a window at the end of the restaurant looking into the kitchen so customers can see what’s going on and observe the magic of it all,” said Sommerin.
The restaurant has no dress code and will seat 70 diners in total, including a private dining room that seats 12 and a chef’s table for two to four diners.
Sommerin told us: “My whole philosophy and plan for the restaurant is that I want to give the diners the best experience possible and that doesn’t just come from food, having great service is very important. I want our service to exceed everybody’s expectations.
“I always put myself in the customers’ shoes and think about the kind of dining experience I would want, then try to give them that. If I’m ever eating in a fine dining restaurant I try and learn from the experience and implement it into my team too. At this restaurant we will get to know regulars and locals and find out their quirks and whims so we can maximise their experience.”
Tasting menus and a chef’s table
The restaurant offers three different tasting menus priced from £55 to £150, with the option for wine pairing too. Dishes featured include Langoustine with turnip, Tonka bean and white chocolate, and Monkfish, seaweed and grilled leek.
Sommerin said: “We want to use as much local produce as possible, from local lamb and beef to local veal and seabass, and all our salad leaves are foraged. Obviously it’s quality driven so if the quality is not there locally we will look further afield, but primarily it’s fantastic local produce.”
The restaurant also features a chef’s table in the kitchen itself, which offers 14 courses for £150.
“Wherever I’ve been before, I’ve always dreamt of having my own chef’s table,” said Sommerin. “There’s quite a lot of people out there that really enjoy a chef’s table, the team can interact with the customers and be served by the chefs themselves.
“People think a lot of mystery goes on in the kitchen when really it’s just a lot of hard work. We just want to have a laugh with the guests and give them a really special evening, and there isn’t anything like this in this neck of the woods so it’s going to be something different.”
Sommerin is also open to hosting weddings and other private dining events at the venue and hopes to be as flexible as possible with his customers.
The restaurant will open on 14 May and already has close to 2000 bookings.