‘Med Delight’ is a replacement of the unlamented ‘Agra’ on North Parade.
However, with the Morrocan ‘Casablanca’, Greek ‘Olive Branch’, several good Italians and tapas bars in Aberystwyth, we now have more Mediterranean restaurants per capita than Algeria or Zante.
So has this newcomer done enough to make itself heard in the noisy west-Wales Kasbah?
If you’re going to open a restaurant in the style of another in town, you might as well copy a successful one.
And with Casablanca number one on Aber’s Tripadvisor listings, they can be confident of success.
Indeed, at time of writing it has gone straight in at No.9 on the Tripadvisor charts.
Like Casablanca , the menu covers the best-known Mediterranean foods without anything too alarming.
Like Casablanca , it’s a BYO. Personally, I’ve always thought a large part of Casablanca ’s popularity has been down to this liberal and cost-effective move.
We love taking a £9 bottle of Marlborough Sauvingnon Blanc from Morrisons rather than paying £25 for the restaurant to source it.
The starters menu reads very well – garlic king prawns, stuffed vine leaves, falafel or filo pastry rolls all tempted us.
But we thought we’d try a wider range with the mixed mezze.
This proved to be delish.
The olves were first rate, the homemade hummus superb, the eggplant salad zingy and light.
The pepper & tomato salad was a little bland, and there was a bit much thin tzatziki, but these are niggles. We greatly enjoyed it.
The fish menu looked interesting – cod with sauce vierge, seafood provencal, Tunisian hake – but Bethan and I were feeling meaty.
In hindsight, I think we should have had a fish as the meat was a little limited.
I understand they’ve put steak au poivre (and chicken au poivre) on there because any restaurant in mid-Wales needs to have something for the unadventurous who’ve been dragged along by more experimental friends.
But a lamb Algiers sounded pretty similar to their lamb tagine, which left chicken or lamb brochette (cubes of skewered meat with onion and peppers).
The chickpeas gave a texture and flavour counterpoint, although the listed spinach & sultanas must have melted into the gravy. However, it was such a rich and tasty gravy that their sacrifice was not in vain.
However, Bethan thought it lacked punch and flavour.
This came with a bland pilau rice (no couscous?) and steamed veg.
Bethan enjoyed her chicken brochette but I found it disappointing. I found the dry marinade left a harsh (slightly metallic) taste and the chicken tasted “funny”. Yes, I know I should have a better word than that, but it did taste funny.
Her chicken came with some interesting salad but, like mine, a portion of carrots and green beans was incongruous and weird. Surely there are Mediterranean vegetables? I doubt anyone in Algiers has a carrot and green beans in the English Sunday lunch style with their tagine.
The dessert menu was short and to the point – choc cake or sticky toffee pudding. I’m guessing they’d bought these in but, in another similarity to Casablanca , we’d had too much starter to give a try.
Our final bill for all this was £31, which is very fair. You can see why BYO places are popular, can’t you?
Our final reactions were a bit similar to how we felt about Casablanca and Olive Branch.
Yes, it’s a nice burst of Meditteranean sunshine, a reminder of holidays taken, but there’s a feeling they haven’t tried very hard.
The menus and spicings feel conservative.
Bethan and I were teaching this sort of thing up at Tan Y Bwlch years ago – where are the more authentic ingredients and flavours?
Chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi have brought exotic ingredients like sumac, zaatar and preserved lemons to the masses.
Med Delight is a decent restaurant and will do well. But I’m sorry that in a crowded marketplace they’ve decided to play it safe.
Yes, I know, rather than talking about it I should just open one myself.
I even know what I’d do – there are two excellent restaurants within 100 yards of each other in Cardiff that offer more interesting flavours cooked on real charcoal barbecues (Lilo Grill and Mezza Luna)
That is what Aber needs, and that is the restaurant I’d open.
Maybe a goat tagine with couscous, eaten with fingers and bread, followed by pastries and seasonal fruits.
But Bethan and I are too old now. It’s time for a new generation to light some fires. I wish it had been Med Delight that had done it.