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Review: The Custom House, Penarth

(September 01, 2017)

Review: The Custom House, Penarth

The Custom House, Penarth Marina. Image Robin DraytonThe Custom House, Penarth Marina
Photographer: Robin Drayton

The Custom House contains two restaurants, 'La Marina' and 'El Puerto', each set on its own floor in a beautiful and imposing two-storey Baroque-style building. Erected in 1865 at the entrance to Penarth Docks, now Penarth Marina, The Custom House is one of the very few historic buildings left in Cardiff Bay that haven't been demolished or left to rot; witness the sad state of Marine Buildings, the wonderful three-storey French Renaissance-style site next door.

We have eaten at The Custom House a number of times, both with guests and as a couple, and have enjoyed every visit to these lovely Spanish influenced restaurants. The décor of both restaurants is modern and very clean, I especially love the mix of rich colours and textures, which feels very comfortable and luxurious.


La Marina, at The Custom House, Penarth
La Marina, at The Custom House, Penarth

The Custom House is known for its excellent wine list, with over 800 wines it is apparently one of the most extensive in Wales. If you were celebrating a special occasion, this is certainly the place to do it in style.

We invariable have lunch at 'La Marina', the upstairs restaurant, which seems less busy and more intimate than its sister restaurant downstairs. Although the ground floor restaurant, 'El Puerto', has a great sense of atmosphere and is perfect for people-watching.

Seated by one of the large sash windows, you will be afforded with impressive views across the Cardiff Bay, the Severn Estuary and Cardiff Bay Barrage; the lock gates are just a couple of hundred yards away. Away from the windows, the restaurant itself has a lovely atmosphere, and marvelling at the stock (including some giant-sized Champagne bottles) behind their 45 foot long bar is a pleasant distraction.

The menu choice is extensive, and you can order either from the daytime lunch menu, or choosing from the fresh meat/fish displayed behind glass counters, with prices determined by the weight and seasonality of each item. All the meat and fish dishes are cooked to order. See their sample menu here:


La Marina, at The Custom House, Penarth


For starters I had calamari (one of my favourite seafoods), which was beautifully fresh, with a crisp batter and buttery squid, accompanied by a generous dollop of tartar sauce. The squeeze of fresh lemon really complimented an unfussy, clean starter.


Calamari starter, at La Marina
Calamari starter 

My partner had the seared scallops, served in a richly flavoured sauce, which was beautifully presented and very delicious.

Seared scallops starter, at La Marina, Penarth
Seared scallops starter

For my main, I had the seared hake steak (which was selected from the extensive fresh fish counter), seasoned with charcoal sea salt. To accompany this I had a portion of triple cooked chips (all mains come alone, so side dishes need to be ordered seperately, and at a seperate cost).

 Seared hake steak seasoned with charcoal sea salt.
Main course: Seared hake steak seasoned with charcoal sea salt (awaiting vegetables)

Seared hake steak seasoned with charcoal sea salt.


My partner had the lemon sole (which was huge) and a side order of new potatoes, herbs and butter – all delicious.

Lemon sole main course at The Custom House, Penarth
Main course: a huge lemon sole (awaiting vegetables)

Service was swift and efficient, and at no point obtrusive. The Custom House is a place to return to again and again... and we certainly will.


Lunch and dinner are served every day (La Marina is closed Monday and Tuesday) at the usual times, but check the times on their website ( if you need to eat a late lunch or early tea as the kitchen closes between lunch and dinner. The bar is open for drinks and tapas all day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Parking is available free just outside... as long as you note your car's number plate at reception (ground floor entrance).

Claire Meredith, September 2017

The Old Custom House
Penarth Marina
Bro Morgannwg
CF64 1TT

El Puerto - 02920 705551
La Marina - 02920 705544

More hotel and restaurant reviews by Claire Meredith:


The Lighthouse Kitchen, Tenby; September 2017
The Belle Vue Bistro, Swansea;June 2017

Gemelli, Newport; June 2017
The Potted Pig, Cardiff
; March 2017

Etc..., Penarth; March 2017
32 Townhouse, Arberth
; December 2016
The Star Inn, Treoes, Bro Morgannwg
; September 2016
Shore Kitchen, Y Mwmbwls
; September 2016

La Luna, Tonysguboriau; June 2016
La Trattoria, Tonysguboriau; June 2016
Junction 28, Newport
; March 2016

Y Talbot, Tregaron; September 2015
Manorhaus, Llangollen; June 2015
Ty Croeso, Crickhowell; December 2014
Ruthin Castle Hotel, Rhuthun; September 2014
The Manor Town House, Fishguard; June 2014
Llandeilo; December 2013
Tenby / Dinbych-y-pysgod; September 2013
The Old Chemist Inn, Saundersfoot; September 2013
The Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd; September 2013
Gwesty'r Emlyn Hotel, Newcastle Emlyn; June 2013
Photographic study of Newcastle Emlyn; June 2013
Lake Vyrnwy Hotel; December 2012
The Drawing Room, nr Builth Wells; December 2012
3 Pen Cei Guest House, Aberaeron; June 2012
Escape 5* B&B, Llandudno; June 2012
The Bunch of Grapes, Pontypridd; June 2012
Photographic study of Myddfai; February 2011
The Crown at Whitebrook; February 2011
The New White Lion, Llandovery; February 2011
Ty Mawr Mansion Country House, Cilcennin, Lampeter; December 2009
George Thomas Hospice 'Style In the City' event; May 2009

cylchgrawn Cymru Culture magazine
Published by/Cyhoeddwyd gan: Caregos Cyf., 2017

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