That's the 'way to do it

Having left Canton last summer to move to leafy Penarth there are a number of things I don't miss - match day parking or pyjama clad girls rolling out of Miss Millie's with their bucket of chicken, for instance.  That said some of my favourite eateries are in Canton - Falafel Wales, Ichiban and Bangkok Cafe to name but a few. 

Another thing I miss are the pubs.  Having lived within the Golden Triangle of The Romilly, Robin Hood and The Conway, plus neighbouring pubs on Cathedral Road, we were spoilt for choice.  Now I'm sure Penarth also has good pubs but after 6 months here I've yet to settle on my "local".  A chance invite to review at The Conway was just the excuse I needed to head back to my old stomping ground and enjoy some good food and maybe a drink or two.

Heading into the pub I was pleased to see not much has changed since my move - the bar and dining room are still neutrally decorated in a pale sage green with bright accents of orange and lime courtesy of some rather funky chairs.

The menu is displayed on blackboards (gastro-pub tick number one) and is constantly changing to reflect the availability of seasonal and (where possible) local ingredients.  There are a few static dishes - sausage and mash, fish and chips (a whale on a plate!) and steak, but pretty much everything else will change over the weeks and months as new ingredients are bought or, as we were told proudly, foraged by chef Stefan Nilsson from the surrounding area.

As well as foraging, chef also likes to play around with flavours.  We were brought an appetiser of curried popcorn (50p for a small pint glass filled to the brim) which was chef's latest taste test.  Neither myself nor my partner are especially fond of popcorn but this was an unusual twist and surprisingly moreish. 

Hummus, olives and crispbread - oh my! [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
It was lunchtime so we decided to share a starter of hummus, olives and crispbreads (£5.50).  The hummus was thick, creamy and slightly on the coarse side.  Whilst there was a hint of tahini, any lemon juice in the dip was obliterated by a rather powerful garlic.  I happen to love garlic but if you prefer a more delicate flavour, this isn't for you.  Thin, crisp slices of baguette were perfect for scooping at the dip and the olives were wonderfully juicy.

Duo of lamb [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
Onto mains and it just wouldn't be springtime in Wales without a lamb dish.  The duo of lamb (£12.50) turned out to be breast of lamb confit and a lamb sausage on a bed of pan-fried butter beans and wild garlic with a jug of red wine jus on the side.  The lamb couldn't have been more different - a melting confit with crisped up fat was sweet and subtle compared to the gamey lamb sausage, packed with herbs and a hint of spice.  The butter beans were slightly underdone to my taste and the crunch was slightly gritty.  Wild garlic not only looked pretty with its pale flowers but tasted delicious and the sweet, sticky jus finished the dish beautifully.

Roast fillet of grey mullet [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
My partner ordered the roast fillet of grey mullet (£12.50) served with a potato sauerkraut salad.  The fish was well-cooked (maybe a second or two over but this didn't detract) - a mix of soft flesh and crisped up skin sat on top of a subtly flavoured new potato and sauerkraut salad.  He had worried that the vinegar would overpower the dish but luckily this was avoided and the shreds of white cabbage and halved potatoes were swiftly demolished.

We also ordered sides of hand-cut chips (£2.50 for a bowl big enough to share) and seasonal greens (£3.50 for large bowl of buttered spring greens, french beans, wild garlic and purple sprouting broccoli).  The chips were crunchy outside with light, fluffy interiors and weren't remotely greasy (more like a roast potato than a chip) and the vegetables were al-dente and full of iron cut through by the subtle garlic butter flavour.  The mains would have been enough without the chips but the vegetables were a welcome addition and provided some much needed greenery to the plates.

Deconstructed passion fruit cheesecake [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
Not wishing to go out into the suitably spring-like weather (it was chucking it down in Cardiff) and being monumentally greedy we decided to stay for dessert (oh the hardship!).  I dread "deconstructed" puddings but I have to admit the deconstructed passion fruit cheesecake with honeycomb (£5.50) was stunning.  Baked blobs of creamy vanilla "cheesecake" lined the bottom of an oven-proof dish, topped with crunchy biscuit and honeycomb and finished with fresh passion fruit and juicy strawberries.

Strawberry and lemon curd meringue nest [Photo: Cardiff Bites]
I ordered the strawberry and lemon curd meringue nest (also £5.50) and wasn't disappointed.  Crisp meringue layered with sharp curd, whipped cream, broken meringue and strawberries - almost a take on Eton Mess.  Strawberries out of season can be disappointing but these were juicy and sweet.  My only quibble is they were also fridge-cold, never nice.

A few small niggles but on the whole this was a good lunch and we left with happy hearts and full bellies.  Despite a similar approach to food, I don't think it's quite at the standard of some of it's city centre rivals (Potted Pig - I'm looking at you) but it's certainly the best pub grub I've had in the area.

Beer lovers should head to The Conway's sister pub (and Llantwit Major’s oldest pub), The Old Swan Inn, which will be kicking off the beer festival season next weekend (Friday 27th April-Sunday 29th April) and is offering any patron who has travelled to the event by public transport the chance to exchange their used pass for a free pint. Bargain!

In the interests of full disclosure, our visit was arranged by Working Word PR and as such the meal was complimentary.


rachael said…
I REALLY fancy The Conway but...I just find the food a bit over priced. I know that may make me sound a bit tight but at the end of the day it's a pub...£17 for a steak dish...
Yeah ok reading that back, I'm just being uber tight.
It's not the cheapest I'll grant you. I guess they sit somewhere between your average pub price and Cardiff restaurant prices (Pier 64 would charge you in excess of £17 for that steak plus the chips and salad would be extra!). The food is good though and well worth it for a treat.

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