Close up of gnocchi

Creating brand new memories at the Cefn Mably Arms

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).

cefn-mably-arms-front-view

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.

cefn-mably-restaurant-bar-view

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!

Mains

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.

plate-pink-goat-cheese-gnocchi

They were a tad dense. However, they were cleverly filled with light, fluffy goats’ cheese.

Truth be told, it was quite exciting!

inside-pink-goat-cheese-gnocchi

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.

steak-ale-pie-chips-peas

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.

plate-tiramisu-sauce-strawberry-sugar

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.

glass-strawberry-vanilla-ice-cream

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.

 

Overall, relief

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!

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I believe I can fly: Traditional afternoon tea at the Park Plaza

Not your typical traditional setting perhaps for afternoon tea, but the trendy interior and jovial crowd of the Park Plaza’s Laguna restaurant was a good setting to get high (on sugar)…

The Laguna Kitchen and Bar at the Park Plaza Hotel is a large open room with full windows along one side – which is where I’d have preferred to be seated (we were on the opposite side, which meant glum lighting and constant traffic – both a challenge to my photography skills!).

park-plaza-laguna-afternoon-tea

We arrived just before 3pm – and it was busy, with large tables mixing traditional, gentleman’s and Hendrick’s (curse being the designated driver) afternoon tea. On our table, I’d gone traditional and Mr. H. had opted for the gentlemen’s afternoon tea (read his review here).

A good selection of teas (including jasmine green, orange and lemon rooibos, and hibiscus berry) – however, I played it safe with breakfast tea. Mr. H. went even safer with decaf breakfast tea. Both were loose-leaved, and the waitress’s recommendation to brew for 3 minutes was spot on. Mr. H. usually ends up with warm milk and a hint of a tea, but we were both very satisfied on pouring.

park-plaza-laguna-tea-served

My afternoon tea was served on a three-tiered plate. I was impressed with the presentation, and who wouldn’t be?!

park-plaza-three-tier-tea

 

Would you like moisture or flavour with that?

The bottom tier comprised a selection of finger sandwiches (smoked salmon and cream cheese; cucumber and crème fraiche; egg mayo and cress; and roasted ham).

tea-sandwiches-ham-egg-salmon

However, the sandwiches were a total let down – the bread wasn’t the freshest, but it was the ratio to filling that was the main culprit. Triple thick (that could be a thing, right?) slices of bread, with measly fillings – it was a struggle to even taste the egg mayo. Fortunately, Mr. H. needed some bread to mop up his bloody mary sauce, so the chore was cut short.

A worrying start – surely, it’s not that hard to make a sarnie? Even I can manage to do that!

 

How about a bag of sugar?

With some trepidation, I moved on to tier two: a sultana scone with clotted cream and jam, and a welsh cake.

Phew!

The scone was nothing special, but thanks to an ample serving of butter, and high-quality strawberry jam and clotted cream (not too sickly), this was pure joy. I do like a bit of warmth with my scone, but in fairness, I only had myself to blame for its cooling (well, the room lighting didn’t help) with my initial photography preoccupation.

fruit-scone-cream-jam-butter

The welsh cake was a nice touch (being in Wales and all that), but it was a bit dry – and I think somebody dropped the whole bag of sugar on it.

 

Just give me more tea!

Now I had to decide where to start on the pretty collection of dainty cakes on tier three (that I’d been rushing to get to from the very beginning).

On reflection (now I’m writing this!), I probably should have taken up the waiter’s offer to describe them – but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise at the time (or waste any time for that matter!).

top-tier-jelly-cake-selection

I started with the mini-cupcake. This was a coconut sponge (a little too dense perhaps) with a cream icing that simply overpowered the coconut flavour. The two-bite portion was just enough!

The raspberry macaron was a delight. Normally, I find macaron’s dry and uninteresting, but this one was perfectly gooey, falling apart after the initial crunch with an intense raspberry filling.

We were on a run. The thin pistachio sponge finger was gone in an instant, but the light sponge and marzipan flavoured cream were a heavenly combination.

tae-cakes-sponge-chocolate-macaron

At this point, my blood sugars had rocketed. I was sweating, light-headed and thirsty – drinking more and more tea to try and keep my anxiety at bay and cleanse my palate.

I stopped for a breather.

And to ask for another pot of tea – promptly delivered at no extra cost!

“I saved the best looking for last.”

Once I’d composed myself, it was time to eat the beautiful looking jelly, which served as a bit of a cleanser – even though it was probably just on there for decoration.

glass-jelly-cream-chocolate-spoon

All that was left was the chocolate tart – I saved the best looking for last. In fairness, it had more to it than an eye-catching sheen, with the light, mousse-like chocolate containing an intense orange tang. Wow.

 

The ‘high’lights

The ultimate sugar-fest. I can tell you it took me a good few hours to come down again.

But whilst I found it all a bit too much, that’s not really a reflection of a high-quality dessert offering.

However, there were issues – the welsh cake, scone (saved by the jam and clotted cream) and cupcake were all on the dry side, and the sandwiches were an abomination.

It’s such a shame as it looked so impressive, the tea and the service were spot on – and that top tier had some special little creations.

It wouldn’t take that much to make this brilliant – when I come back down to earth, maybe I’ll give it another go. – Mrs. B.B.

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Heck sausages cooking on a pink BBQ

Mr. B.B. gets his pink Barbie out to play at Hideaway Campsite… Oh, Heck!

Our first (hopefully not our last) camping trip of 2018. Two tents (just in case), a pink bucket BBQ, pack of sausages, beer and prosecco – let’s rock’n’roll…

After a lengthy internet search (well, the length of the England v Sweden World Cup quarter final – zzzzzzzzzzz!) for campsites that fit my specific requirements – i.e. small with cute animals nearby – the Hideaway Campsite near Narberth in Pembrokeshire sounded promising.

 

So how well is Hideaway hidden?

Hideaway Campsite is located at Whitley Farm, about quarter-of-a-mile down a track, just off the A478 in to Narberth. Well sign-posted off the road, further signs along the track reassure you that your destination is nearing.

No sign of life at the farmhouse when we arrived – besides the dog who was trying to hitch a lift – we did spot a sign that informed us we could pitch up if we’d pre-booked (we had, through pitchup.com). Otherwise, it’s ring the bell and make your presence known!

The big appeal was the strictly tents only policy and just 10 pitches – there were 3 left when we arrived, although it took us a few hours to spot two of the signs, so we didn’t really have a choice.

hideaway-view-wood-trees-field

It’s a decent size field but you can still hear other campers – we strategically placed the car to create a private area for ourselves. In fact, the only life we could then see were these friendly creatures:

hideaway-field-fence-sheep-grazing

…and to be fair, they made most of the noise!

We were on a slight slope (the downside of arriving later in the day and lose the prime spots), but not enough to risk human pile up at one end of the tent. Generally, the field was flat and well maintained.

 

How strong is the tent – and our marriage?

Eager to get set-up and relax in the natural surroundings (and, for Mr. B.B., to crack open one of the ambers he’d bought en-route), we quickly put our marriage to the test – i.e. it was time to erect the tent!

And it was the big boy – the four-manner which we last used about 3 years ago!

We weren’t confident we could do it (we brought the 3-man as an emergency back-up just in case), let alone if we’d be on speaking terms for the rest of the evening (we brought the 3-man as an emergency back-up just in case)… But… we had it up in record time (well, quicker than the first and only time three years ago). Go Team H!

big-blue-tent-field-grass

 

It was playtime!

It was too late to walk into Narberth (and we didn’t fancy the long walk down the narrow farm track and main road – shame there’s no shortcut through the fields), so Mr. B.B. popped open his first cold beverage of the evening and I eagerly (you may want to say childishly) ran down to say hello to the farm animals.

Three alpacas with an attitude problem (although looking very cute after their summer shave), a pair of friendly Shetland ponies, two ostriches, one very large pot-belly pig, two bunnies and a coup of chickens were in in residence.

Mr B.B.’s highlights:

My highlights:

campsite-field-animals-alpaca-pet

97% perfection

Once I had satisfied my curiosity grown up, I returned to find Mr H. playing with his pink Barbie.

Clearly not feeling the need to prove his cave-manliness, Mr B.B. had also gone for instant light charcoal so our meatylicious sausages (we checked the content of every Morrisons sold pack of sausages and Heck seem to be in a league of the own – 97% pork!) were already coming along nicely

The sun was out, a cool breeze was blowing, the sheep were baaing (and trying to steal Mr B.B.’s beers – more on that later), and Mr. B.B. was on BBQ and DJ duties (well, his phone was connected to two mobile speakers and Spotify was on shuffle).

To complete this contented scene, I proceeded to indulge in a nicely chilled bottle of prosecco:

camping-prosecco-glass-table-view

The sausages were charred but wonderfully moist – and went surprisingly well with the garlic butter (the only option at Morrisons if we didn’t want to consume or bin the best part of 200g). We also couldn’t resist the soft cheesy rolls – or a good helping of ketchup.

hot-cooking-barbeque-pork-sausagesbarbeque-sausage-ketchup-fresh-bap

Ah, the simple life…

 

Beer + flip flops + woodland = why am I here?

After our sausage feast I wanted to join our friend in the next field for a nap.

sleep-asleep-field-grass-tired

But, Mr. B.B. had renewed energy and wanted a little adventure by exploring the farm’s small woodland.

In flip flops!

I’ve no idea why I followed Mr B.B. along the overgrown path of soft leaf-strewn ground (probably teeming with spiders) and brambles in inappropriate footwear.

Fortunately, the wood is so small (or perhaps it just turned into complete wilderness, it was hard to tell) that the danger didn’t last too long, before we came out to say hello to this fine-looking chap:

big-fat-hairy-pig-muck

We returned to our abode (surprisingly, without any broken bones – although a thorn had pierced through Mr. B.B.’s right flip flop stopping just before his foot – lucky boy!) to be entertained by the neighbouring sheep who were enjoying a good scratch on the fence.

One cheeky youngster even attempted a grab at the empties lined up along the fence ready for binning (I was happy to find a glass recycling bin on site!) – clearly ready to wean off its mother’s milk and try something stronger.

 

Early birds ensure early birds

After nightfall, the campsite was exactly what I had hoped for – i.e. peaceful… well, until 4am.

Those cute cockerels I’d clocked earlier in the evening got a bit mouthy in the early hours. They were cock-a-doodle-doing it with gusto – only stopping once the sheep stirred at around 5am to take over the racket.

For me, it’s all part of the camping experience – but I could imagine some fellow campers lying there cursing.

As early risers we were the first to use the facilities: a single toilet and single shower.

The toilet and free shower were both housed in their own little cabin room.  The toilet was very clean, loo roll was adequately stocked, and hand wash was also readily available.

toiler-shower-building-table-chair.gif

I didn’t use the shower myself, but Mr. B.B. reliably informs me that it was surprisingly powerful and clean, although he did have to share it with a few creepy crawlies (including a spider on the shower curtain!).

Post 7.30am, a queue did start forming for the facilities, so we were glad we’d already moved on to our Shredded Wheat.

camping-breakfast-bowl-cereal-milk

Also available were use of a communal freezer and phone charge point, pot wash, dog wash, and small kids play area. I believe BBQs and fire pits were available to hire and coal and/or logs for sale on site.

It was only a short stay, but Hideaway made a good impression overall. It was easy to book, well-priced (just £16.50 per pitch – max 4 adults and kids tents for free), and the location made us feel like… well, that we were in our own little hideaway. 

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Close-up of scones topped with jam, cream and fresh fruit at Pettigrew Tea Rooms.

Ladies had (and have had) their day at Pettigrew Tea Rooms

You can never have too much cake. Or can you? Meeting up with a group of friends at the picturesque setting of Pettigrew Tea Rooms had been highly anticipated, but would it provide a fairy-tale or a fairly lame experience?

You’ve got to look for the positives in life.

Friends moving back to their home town: sad times.

A reason to meet-up with the girls for cake: happy days! Plus, I’d always wanted to try Pettigrew Tea Rooms.

 

Oh, it was all so Buteful

Conveniently located in Cardiff city centre, the old 1860s West Lodge Gatehouse to Bute Park provides a suiting venue alongside the River Taff, with both outdoor and indoor seating.

As well as cake and afternoon tea, the tea room offers breakfast, brunch and lunch – seven days a week. Yep, you can have cake seven days a week! Sounds good doesn’t it?!

Afternoon tea for one will set you back £16.95, and tea for two is £29.95.

The tea room boasts homemade bread and cakes, and sourced locally ingredients.

 

But it was nearly flushed away in instant

I made the mistake of popping into the ladies as my first port of call… I was horrified.

There was a notice that there are renovations scheduled, but leaky toilets and wet floors is never a good look – and I’d prefer to lock my cubicle.

“The tea room has a quaint traditional British tea room feel.”

Fortunately, the charming little tea room I found on exiting dispelled any bad vibes. The glass cabinet cake display looked magnificent – showing off some seriously impressive baking!

The tea room has a quaint traditional British tea room feel, with antique furniture and china crockery, bowls of sugar cubes, bunting, and vintage tea-themed paraphernalia. However, the multitude of modern looking pictures that adorned the walls did confuse the experience somewhat.

window-sill-tea-pot-display

pettigrew-tea-room-tables-pictures

 

Sandwiches, and lots of them

Once we were shown to our table upstairs, our waitress handed out menus and explained how tea was to be served. We would choose our drink, which would accompany our sandwiches and a scone. Later we could make an order for cake, one choice each.

Fourteen different teas were on offer, or alternatively you could have coffee or a cold drink (primarily traditional type lemonades, juices or water). It was a relief they offered an alternative. It was absolutely roasting, and I just needed water (bottled – but they do supply tap).

Customers can choose their sandwich fillings and bread type (granary, white or mixed), which is the first time I have come across this at a tea room. An excellent idea, especially given the eight available filling varieties, and dairy free, gluten free and vegan options were also offered on request.

“The bread was as fresh and light as you like, and the fillings generous.”

Given that we were a party of eight, we opted for the ‘chef’s selection’, which basically provided a bit of everything – chicken; beef; brie and chutney; egg mayo; cheese and tomato; cucumber and cream cheese; smoked salmon and cream cheese; and ham and cheese. It was all served on a tiered tea plate.

tiered-plate-variety-sandwiches-scone

Seriously good sandwiches. The bread was as fresh and light as you like, and the fillings generous. I was also pleased to see that the egg was free range and the brie organic. Mr. B.B. doesn’t buy into the whole ‘organic thing’ (“it’s just a marketing con”), but I think more effort should be made to use organic ingredients – and maybe Pettigrew could extend their organic offering and serve free-range chicken in their sandwiches, too.

For those that took tea, they each received a decent size pot – certainly enough to see you through an hour of cake scoffing.

 

Time for cake… and CAKE

The top tier of our plate was occupied by scones. There were served with quality strawberry jam (nice chunky strawberry bits!), clotted cream and butter, presented beautifully with fresh strawberry pieces, blueberries and mini-meringues.

Although a little on the small side (a slight relief given I was already pushing the limits of fullness following the mountain of sandwiches I’d consumed), the scones, served warm, were perfect. A slight crunch to the outside, light and delicate inside – and taken to another level by simply dusting with icing sugar. Even without the cream and jam (nope, I couldn’t either), you would no doubt munch through a few of these quite happily.

And then it was time for the grand finale…

We were offered a slice of a cake of our choice from the mouth-watering creations in the display cabinet. But this is where it all went wrong for me.

“It’s a bit of a tease to have all these wonderful cakes available… but you’re only allowed to try one.”

Afternoon tea is not sandwiches, a delicate scone, a nice cuppa and then…a massive slab of overly sweet dense cake that I cannot finish and must take home in box! Where was the traditional selection of dainty bite-size treats?

It’s a bit of a tease to have all these wonderful cakes available – twelve alternatives in total – but you’re only allowed to try one. Maybe it’s a ploy to keep you coming back?

I also think offering some lighter choices would be a welcome alternative – perhaps a meringue or pastry, maybe a fruit tart…

With a bit more variety, perhaps I would have avoided that sickly feeling from overindulging in one sweet thing.

My peach melba cake was actually pretty good, but it was too heavy and overwhelming.

plate-slice-peach-melba-cake

big-slice-chocolate-beetroot-cake

I did try a mouthful of the chocolate and beetroot cake and the coffee and walnut cake – again, tasty enough – but I would have struggled through a slice of either.

I left Pettigrew tea rooms feeling a little disappointed, and with mixed opinions. It’s in a lovely location, offers quality fresh home made food and great service, and is not too pricey. I would certainly like to return (maybe once the toilets have been renovated), but I’ll be sticking to savoury. I’m all caked out!

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