The Market Place in Cowbridge was, until recently, one of the numerous restaurants on my list of “heard good things about it but not managed to get there yet” venues, but after I was fortunate enough to be taken there for a working lunch a few weeks ago, which was excellent, I decided it was worthy of a return visit, this time to be reviewed. Mr W and I visited for Sunday lunch, which was a slightly different menu from my first visit, but still with a lot of choice.
Unusually, I chose a vegetarian option for my starter. After spending most of my teens and twenties as a vegetarian but having seen the light since then, I tend to shy away from anything herbivorous these days, but I didn’t regret my choice of onion tart tatin with herbs and goat’s cheese. Amazingly sweet onion topped a thin puff pastry base (thinner than on a traditional sweet tart tatin, but with good reason as it wasn’t drenched in caramel!) and was finished with a pleasantly mild and creamy goat’s cheese (I’m not a fan of goat’s cheese that is too sharp or ‘claggy’ in texture) and the aforementioned herbs, which were mainly chives, plus a small, dressed salad. This was a fantastic starter, and would have made a lovely vegetarian main course. Incidentally, on my first visit, one of my fellow diners chose a vegetarian special main course which was apparently incredibly tasty and very innovative compared with the usual vegetarian offerings that can be quite boring and repetitive – albeit less so than in my vegetarian days when broccoli bake and mushroom tagliatelle were pretty much standard!
Mr W went for a distinctly Spanish-sounding dish of prawn and chorizo skewer with smoked paprika and patatas bravas. This was another excellent dish, again served with a small salad, with just enough of each of the elements of the dish to give a great flavour without being excessive as a starter portion. The prawns in particular were exceptionally juicy and the smoky paprika gave the whole dish a lovely bite.
We were thrilled with our starter choices, but in fact could have happily eaten just about any of the eight different options on offer – a crispy poached egg was a very tempting second choice and I hope to try it on a future visit!
For the main course selection, there were three roast meats, a roast cod, a pan fried sea bass and a vegetarian dish of the day on offer. I decided to have the tantalisingly described rolled, braised and roasted pork belly, filled with garlic and rosemary, served with black pudding and feta stuffing, crackling and apple compote (I did have to ask for the apple compote which was brought separately but this wasn’t a problem!) The pork was excellent, with whole cloves of garlic in the centre, melting fat and moist, juicy meat. I’m not a lover of crackling so Mr W benefited from that part of the dish and declared it very crispy but in need of a bit of extra salt. The black pudding and feta stuffing was really tasty and the two flavours worked well together, especially against the soft, unctiousness of the pork belly.
Mr W went for a roast leg of lamb. Like my roast, it was served with a silky smooth swede puree, roast potatoes, greens, green beans, carrots, and cauliflower cheese. The roast lamb was really good – Mr W himself makes excellent roast lamb and this was the first time I’ve had roast lamb in a restaurant that’s come close to being as good as his home made version – praise indeed. The vegetables were all excellent, cooked just right, and the cauliflower cheese was particularly delicious (although the jury is still out for me as to whether it’s appropriate to have cheese on your cauliflower if gravy is involved – answers on a postcard, please). Talking of gravy, the gravy can make or break a roast dinner, and this definitely made it – thick, flavoursome and plentiful.
We rounded off our meal with two traditional puddings. I chose sticky toffee, which was served with butterscotch sauce and ice cream. It really couldn’t be faulted: moist throughout with a rich, buttery toffee taste.
Mr W chose a bread and butter pudding, which was served with crème anglaise and ice cream and was studded with both chocolate and fruit. All I can say is that he raved about it for the rest of the day, declaring it “sublimely good” and “one of the best puddings I’ve ever had”. You can’t say fairer than that!
The service throughout our meal was absolutely excellent: friendly without being over-familiar or intrusive, and we had a lovely round table which gave us lots of space. I love the décor in the Market Place too: it manages to be somehow cosy (it has lots of nooks and crannies to the dining area so you feel as if you’re in a much smaller restaurant than you actually are) and at the same time light and airy, probably due to the light wood and tasteful lighting. The presentation of the food was lovely too – even the roasts, which are hard to make look pretty, looked good on the plate.
So it seems I have another restaurant to rave about in Cowbridge, along with the original Bar 44 and Arboreal. We had one of the best Sunday lunches we’ve had in a long time at the Market Place and we’ll definitely be going back soon.
Food: ***** Service: ***** Ambience: ****
The Market Place, 66 The High Street, Cowbridge CF71 7AH