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Stray off the beaten track to this Ponty pub and you won't be disappointed; EATING OUT The Bunch of Grapes, Ynysangharad Road, Pontypridd Telephone: 01443 402934.

Byline: Martin Wells

IT'S a clever man indeed who can create the perfect modern pub: good food, great beer, diners who don't feel intimidated by the drinkers and vice versa.

Nick Otley, the man behind the Otley brewing empire, may just have done it.

His flagship pub, the Bunch of Grapes, may look from the outside like a humble, almost downtrodden inn, stuck on the end of an unprepossessing terrace on the edge of Pontypridd.

But inside is a different story: a bar area, large enough to host the local Third Age group having a natter, plus an assortment of other serious drinkers, with seven different own-brand cask beers.

Next to that is the pub's famed deli, dishing up delicacies also found on the menu (preserves, milk etc.), and this opens up into a large multi-roomed restaurant, entirely in keeping with the rest of the pub but, importantly, not dominating it. Diners here, enjoying celebrated chef Sebastien Vanoni's varied and imaginative menu, can exist in their own world, oblivious, if they choose, to the host of activities planned by the pub to keep their locals amused and occupied.

Great pub it may be but it's the Grapes' restaurant which has really captured the imagination recently.

A glowing review in a national newspaper has lifted trade and it was clear from our own experience that those tempted to stray here off the beaten track will not be disappointed.

My devilled kidneys on toasted focaccia (pounds 5) were tender and drowning in oodles of spicy sauce while my wife's venison and pigeon soup ( pounds 4.50) was more of a stew.

Her main course, the very popular Welsh belly pork (pounds 15.70), with caramelised apple sauce, crackling, spring onion and crushed organic Desiree red potatoes, was quite exquisite if a tad on the dry side. The pan-fried breast of Forest of Dean pheasant with grain mustard mash, roasted artichoke and Gwynt-y-Ddraig cider jus (pounds 14.80), while plentiful, was fine but not, with hindsight, what I was looking for on a wild and windy Monday night.

The jus, too, didn't hit the spot. Call me a philistine but when I've got a plateful of mashed potato I'm crying out for gravy!

The icing on the cake, to mix metaphors, was the splendid Otley beer (two pints for pounds 5.40), already a hit with us in bottled form but a revelation straight from the barrel.

If ever I needed an excuse to move to Pontypridd, this was it.

by Martin Wells
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 29, 2011
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