Newport in Gwent doesn’t have lot to recommend it – a bit of Chartist history aside – but tucked away next door to a huge Tesco Extra is a restaurant that is well worth the time and trouble to find. Gemelli‘s is an almost hidden treasure. Goose and I were lucky enough to be taken there by my mother and her husband earlier this year, and they took us back there this weekend as a pre-Christmas treat.
Gemelli’s is much more than a restaurant and it sells a range of Italian gifts and food. In fact its interior is so packed with products it resembles a sort of Roald Dahlesque wonderland. The sweet counter alone could keep you spellbound for hours and unwary diners might easily get sidetracked on the way to the (one) toilet (which is disguised as a bookshelf…).
What Gemelli’s serves is good Italian food. Lots of pasta, risotto, well cooked meat and fish. Its not a pizza house but then pizza isn’t really a part of Italian cuisine anyway. So expect chicken with a a choice of a dozen different sauces, or a variety of steak served however you might like it. But if the menu contains all the things you might expect it is the way this food is interpreted and presented that makes Gemelli’s such a unique experience.
Goose had only just recovered from a migraine and was a little fragile when we arrived but she was determined not to miss this. So I have to say (and let’s get this in early and move on…) the Marilyn lookalike chanteuse by the bar was a little too much. The singing was fine, quite nice in places, and the woman put a shift in! But a little less volume next time please, it was quite hard to think let alone talk and if I want live music I’ll go to a bar or a club.
However, don’t let this put you off because that aside it was a great evening with tremendous food.
The theatre is evident from the moment you sit down. The table was crammed with stuff: glasses, bread-sticks, crackers (it was xmas) and golden menus – nothing is understated here! It took us ages to decide what to have because there were at least two pages of starters and I’d have happily eaten any of them. Eventually I plumped for scallops and sea bass (Pan seared sea Scallops served with a fresh black Ravioli of Sea bass, Razor clam, Prawns , Sea-food consommé) at about £9. The scallops were soft and the ravioli was delicious, packed with favour. I could have done with a hunk of bread to soak up the consommé (hint hint) but that was a lovely way to start the meal.
The little sticks sprouting from the scallops are baked pasta so you can eat them – a very nice touch!
Goose went for smoked duck fillet (“Cherry -wood smoked at the table with Tropea`s onion chutney, grilled polenta and Bellini foam”) which arrived on a cheese board under a smoking dome which was revealed at the table. A shot of Bellini (or Proseco?) on the side set it off nicely. You can see what a beautiful colour the duck was and this is another Gemelli’s signatures: the vibrant colour of their dishes.
Service was quick even though the place was really busy. D & M come here quite often for lunch when they have a much more relaxed and cheaper menu. I can imagine they have lots of regulars and when you consider the rubbish that passes for food at many British retail parks Gemelli’s is a little oasis of indulgence!
There are 8 pasta dishes on the dinner menu and Goose and I decided to pick one each and then swap halfway through. She chose the Sea Shell and this was basically seafood linguine but with spaghetti. It was fabulous to eat and there were huge amounts of it. Prawns, razor clam, shrimps and more all served in a huge conch shell. What a centre piece!
My main (or half of it anyway!) was a lamb bolognese with tagliatelle. I would have expected this to be served in a bowl but it came on a plate – and as a rectangle. They call it Tagliatelle Cymru and it is rich and simple. I’m not sure about the presentation as it doesn’t make it that easy to eat but that’s a minor grumble. We could have gone for their penne Catherin Z. Jones which as you might imagine was created especially for the actress.
Starter and main (and a glass of house red) was enough for me so I ordered a Manhatten to finish but Goose decided to visit the ice cream bar. I have to admit to wishing I’d followed her lead. She picked coconut ice cream and it was really good, but she might have had a whole host of different flavours. Italians can certainly DO ice cream and this one was light and packed with real taste.
One final thought: we probably wouldn’t normally order a side dish with pasta (a salad perhaps) and certainly not chips. But this time we were recommended to try Gemelli’s chips – as something different.
They don’t resemble chips, in fact they are more like pomme soufflé (perhaps that’s what they are). Round and light and very well seasoned (as all their food was) – apparently they won’t let on how the make them so something for us to experiment with.