With Mr. B.B. in Cardiff ‘suffering’ through a Five Guys (no choice: it was a work social), I took the other man in my life to Cefn Mably Arms for pie. Have they kept up the standards since his last visit in… 1993?!
One of the unexpected perks of volunteering with Contact the Elderly is the fact I’ve become good friends with a fellow foodie – even more excuse for noshing adventures!
My nonagenarian friend, Mr. A., loves his “proper pub grub” (as he puts it) and recalled how he used to enjoy frequenting the Cefn Mably Arms in Michaelston-y-Fedw (just outside Cardiff).
A quick check on Trip Advisor revealed the establishment was still in business, so I quickly arranged a dinner date…
Would it live up to its historical reputation?
Or was I about to ruin a dear old friend’s fond memories?
A welcome start
Having successfully managed to negotiate the lanes between Caerphilly and Michaelston-y-Fedw, we arrived at a very busy car park. Fearing I was about to dash Mr. A.’s hopes by failing to book a table, we were relieved to find the pub was quiet – mainly a few locals propping up the bar.
From the outside, it had that unmistakable country pub vibe – with a tidy and inviting beer garden (if the sun ever shines again, maybe we’ll get a taxi over).
Inside, the pub is split into two: bar to the left and restaurant to the right.
The décor has been well thought out – a simple mix of modern and traditional. It felt very cosy, in fact – reassuringly, it’s not trying to be something it’s not. Clearly, popular with the locals, but we didn’t feel unwelcome.
Don’t gnocchi it without trying
We were quickly seated.
There was only one other table occupied at the time (6:30pm). Over the course of our meal, it did become busier – but the tables are generously spread out, so it still felt quite intimate.
In the evening, both a ‘pub classics’ and restaurant menu are on offer.
Mr. A. suffers with macular degeneration, which severely affects his eyesight. So, I had a thorough review of both menus as I read out the options.
The bar classics had everything you would expect / demand, with fish and chips, pie, gammon steak, burger, scampi, pub curry… Although, I was a bit disappointed to see just two vegetarian options – penne arrabiata and a vegetarian burger.
The restaurant menu was a bit more ‘adventurous’… well, as adventurous as lamb shank.
Mr. A. went for the steak and ale (Butcombe real ale) pie with chips and peas. I chose beetroot and goats cheese gnocchi with pesto and spinach fricassee (from the restaurant menu).
We skipped starters – Mr. A. is an unashamed ‘puddings man’, and he wanted to make sure he had room left after his pie!
I was bit surprised when my main arrived – a humungous bowl of…pink potatoes?! Not what I’d expect from gnocchi – even if it looked fabulous!
“Truth be told, it was quite exciting!”
I was a bit nervous.
They were a tad dense. However, they were cleverly filled with light, fluffy goats’ cheese.
Truth be told, it was quite exciting!
The creamy and satisfyingly shiny pesto sauce was full of flavour, but, despite packing a real punch, it didn’t overpower the goats’ cheese. A clever combination. With a fresh rocket salad it was a real winner of a dish.
However, given the denseness and the portion size, I was struggling from about a third of the way in – and fretting that I would miss out on a pudding!
I didn’t finish it.
Mr. A. was very pleased with his pie – even if it did lack a base and sides.
The pot was densely packed with quality, tender meat. It was topped with a light, flaky puff pastry – and the ale flavour real came through in a deep gravy.
The chips were also nice and crispy – I couldn’t resist stealing a few! – if nothing special.
It was so good in fact that Mr. A. cleared the lot – even if it meant the pudding was at risk!
Desserts – or Terrible-su
It’s seems odd to complain when there are seven desserts to choose from – three specials (sorbet, tiramisu, white chocolate cheesecake) and four on the main menu (Eton mess, Belgian waffle with berry compote and white chocolate ice cream, vanilla crème brule, cheese board). However, Mr. A. was disappointed not to find anything with custard.
Maybe these are the summer choices – hmmm, an excuse to come back again?
They were out of Eton mess, so I went with my second choice: tiramisu.
I can’t fault the presentation – it’s one of the best-looking tiramisus I’ve ever had.
However, it was a tough old thing. Although you could taste the alcohol (I assume it had been soaked…in 1993?), the sponge was stale. And the mascarpone was pretty much solid, lacking any creaminess.
Mr. A. played it safe with the vanilla and strawberry ice cream – in fairness, they were more than happy to accommodate this request, despite not featuring on the menu.
I don’t know if the Cefn Mably Arms make its own ice cream, but it was something special – super creamy with chunks of real strawberry.
Mr. A. left a very happy man. For him, the Cefn Mably Arms today is as good as it’s ever been – if not better.
(Phew! I hadn’t sullied any memories.)
It wasn’t perfect, however. The gnocchi were enjoyable enough to start with, but the dish did become a chore. And the tiramisu was an absolute disaster.
Still, I was won over – and the resident dog (Alfie) played a part in that (so cute!).
It’s a welcoming establishment, with polite and attentive service, and fair prices for the decent pub fare on offer. I’m sure if I make use of the beer garden before my next meal, they’ll pick up an extra burp!