Here’s great news for anyone who loves eating out in Swansea: the former chef from PA’s, John Blackadder, is now cooking up a storm at Swigg in Swansea Marina, ably assisted by commis chef Nickolas Jones.
I’ve always been a fan of Blackadder’s cooking so it’s brilliant to know I can still enjoy it in Swansea – and I absolutely love what he has done to the Swigg menu. All the classical skills he exhibited in PA’s are there, but within a modern, imaginative, small plates format that brings together flavours and ingredients from sunnier places. Broadly speaking, the cooking is Mediterranean, ranging from the fresh, herby flavours of Morocco to the tomato brights, melting mozzarella and seafood treats of Italy, but there are also Welsh elements: Welsh rarebit, for example, or a platter of native cheeses – and the many-flavoured dessert brownies are a dream.
I visited on a buzzy Friday night with my friend Annette and we felt comfortable immediately thanks to a prompt welcome, a choice of places to sit and an equally prompt offer of drinks – including a bottle of water for the table.
The seating in Swigg is nicely spaced out, so even on a busy night you don’t feel crowded. The interior has a trendy warehouse feel, with lots of exposed brickwork and bistro-style furniture. We opted to sit at a high table, giving a great view of the whole restaurant, but there is also plenty of regular seating if you prefer a lower perch.
Our meal began with olive and sun blushed tomato tapenade with thin, crisp slices of sourdough toast – some of the nicest tapenade I’ve tasted. The addition of tomato worked well, giving added freshness and lightness. It was nicely moist and not too salty, and the accompanying thin, crisp slices of toast worked very well for scooping.
For our main course, we placed ourselves in the hands of the excellent waiting staff (smooth, efficient, genuinely friendly) who brought us a selection of four surprisingly generous small plates plus a side order of Aspen fries.
The giant meatball in a spicy tomato, pine nut and sultana sauce, glazed in mozzarella was an absolute barnstormer. The meatball was meltingly tender, and beautifully seasoned – I loved the perfumed fennel notes. It came with a zingy tomato sauce – again, perfectly seasoned, and sweetened with bursts of sultana. The slick of melting mozzarella was generous, glossy and hugely satisfying.
Another delight was the baked avocado stuffed with brie, wrapped in parma ham and served with sun blushed tomato dressing. The avocado was beautifully buttery and soft, the cheese properly molten, the saltiness and bite of the ham provided interesting and harmonious contrast, and the tomato dressing tied it all together neatly.
I know from PA’s that Blackadder is a dab hand with fish and he did not disappoint that night, serving up pan roasted fillet of hake with ratatouille and lemon butter sauce – a stunning, fresh piece of fish, faultlessly cooked, with a very finely chopped ratatouille – again, the sunburst flavours and judicious seasoning were spot on.
The mixed leaf salad with chargrilled halloumi, sweet balsamic onions and bell peppers, crisp croutons was a pleasingly rustic affair, the croutons and halloumi cut into big chunks. The sweetness of the onions worked especially well, proving a perfect teammate for the salty halloumi.
As for the Aspen fries – I loved the hollowed-out cut of the chips; it meant the Parmesan settled into the grooves instead of falling off them. The fries were good and crisp, topped with plenty of Parmesan, and suitably truffly – gorgeous.
We finished with peanut butter brownie with a creamy peanut topping – really moist and properly chocolatey, the cocoa bitterness of the brownie a good foil for the sweetness of the topping. It made a memorable close to the meal – and one brownie was plenty between two.
In all, this was a note-perfect performance from both the kitchen and the front-of-house staff. For an informal, lively, fresh dining experience, Swigg is now very hard to beat. The dishes are interesting, the cooking supremely assured, the welcome warm and friendly. What more could you ask for?