I was recently invited to the Kings Arms in Pentyrch to sample their special Christmas menu, which is available throughout the month of December. Mr W and I went along on Sunday to start getting in the festive spirit!
The Kings Arms is only a short trip out of Cardiff and a stone’s throw from the M4, but has a distinctly rural feel, tucked away in the leafy village of Pentyrch. The car park was full when we arrived (a good sign!) but despite the narrow, country lanes, we managed to find parking on the road only a short walk away. It’s a proper country pub, with a cosy bar area, but we ate in the separate restaurant area, which manages to blend a cosy, traditional environment with a clean, contemporary feel which told us straight away we could expect something better than standard pub grub. Tasteful, understated Christmas decorations – rustic branches on the ceiling intertwined with twinkling fairy lights – added to the cosy, Christmassy atmosphere.
To start, I chose carpaccio of Welsh beef, served with pickled girolle mushrooms and watercress. The beef was deliciously tender and tasty, well seasoned, with the sharpness of the pickled mushrooms providing a nice contrast. Syrupy balsamic also worked well with the peppery watercress.
Mr W chose smoked haddock, home cured bacon and cockle chowder. This was a hefty portion in a big, steaming bowl, served with a chunk of what we think was homemade soda bread. The dish was full of flavour and would have made a hearty meal in itself. Other starter options included a sweet potato, squash and coconut soup and a vegetarian option of Arancini with Hafod cheese.
Next dish for me was panfried salmon with cockles and laverbread butter, served with wilted baby gem and truffle mash. The salmon was moist inside, but with a crispy skin and crispy outer layer, and the cockles and laverbread gave it an unusual flavour. I couldn’t detect much truffle in the mash, but it was creamy and comforting, and the wilted baby gem was an inspired addition!
There were two roasts on the menu – Welsh breast of turkey and silverside of Breconshire beef. Mr W went for the latter, and enjoyed a generous helping of tender beef with all the trimmings, including a crisp, light Yorkshire pudding, parsnip crisps and plenty of thick gravy. I think you can tell a lot about a restaurant by how well they serve a roast dinner, and the Kings Arms certainly gave a very good account of themselves in this respect! A selection of veg was served on the side and comes with every main course, although I didn’t really need anything extra on my plate! The final main course option on the Christmas menu was a vegetarian offering of chick pea, lentil and parsnip terrine.
Neither of us could settle on one dessert, so we shared two between us. First was a chestnut and whisky cheesecake with crystallised ginger and vanilla syrup. This was absolutely delicious, rich and creamy with a hit of whisky that was satisfying but not overpowering and an indulgent blob of clotted cream on the side. Second was a lemon and lime tartlet, again with clotted cream and a chocolate coulis. This divided our tastebuds more than the cheesecake – we both loved its sharp, citrussy flavour and crisp pastry case, but Mr W wasn’t so keen on the fact that the filling was fairly runny in texture, and I was unsure about whether the rich chocolate coulis was necessary, but on the whole, we both still enjoyed the dish. Other options would have been traditional Christmas pudding or a selection of ice creams.
Service was relaxed and friendly, and crackers on our table added a bit of extra fun. The set Christmas menu is £22.50 per head, which I think is excellent value given the quality of the food and the focus on fresh local ingredients. Sometimes, set Christmas menus seem to compromise on either quality or quantity of the food, but that wasn’t the case here, and I’d have been more than happy with this meal on any day of the year.
If you haven’t booked your Christmas party yet and you fancy somewhere rural and cosy that’s a bit different from the usual city centre venues, or even if you just fancy a festive meal with family or friends, I’d highly recommend trying the Kings Arms. We had the Christmas menu for Sunday lunch, but the dishes would work just as well for an evening meal. I also really liked the look of some of the specials that they had on offer, and some of the ‘standard’ menu dishes that I saw fellow diners enjoying, and I’ll certainly be heading back in the New Year to try more of what they have on offer.
We dined as guests of the Kings Arms and as such our meals and drinks were complimentary.
The Kings Arms, Church Road, Pentyrch, Cardiff CF15 9QF