Dated would probably be the kindest word to describe the former incarnation of the Old Cottage in Lisvane.
Tucked away next to Cefn Onn Park it’s right at the Northern edge of Cardiff before the roar of the M4 engulfs all and sundry – and it was a perfectly standard boozer. A good crowd of locals and decent food was served, but in a reasonably affluent area without many good restaurants the need for raising the bar was clear.
The cottage itself is a listed building and the owners have had to work within the planning constraints to try and transform it from cosy pub into upmarket bustling pub-restaurant. And they’ve certainly suceeded in making it more of a restaurant than a pub.
The main bar remains, with a good choice of guest ales, and a fantastic beer garden out the front to enjoy when the weather decides to stop playing silly buggers with us all.
A raised section to one end allows an elevated dining experience, and also a nice quiet area for private parties wishing to dine without the prying eyes of other guests.
Behind the main bar an huge open-plan kitchen has been revealed, with metalic service hatches greeting you as you step forward into a large, light and spacious dining room.
There’s a nice atmosphere and mix of diners, with some family groups, another young couple and a couple of pensioners heading out for a slap up meal.
We can through the menu and find a great choice, with a good mix of daily specials to boot. For starters we plump for lamb koftas and Arancini risotto balls. What makes the starters is their respective sources, the koftas have a delicious mini yoghurt alongside them and the risotto balls benefit from a mouth-watering and homemade tomato jam to dip them in.
The portion sizes are the right amount, leaving us ready for the main course. My partner goes for something a little unusual – a smoked salmon pizza. I certainly hadn’t seen salmon on a pizza before, and our attentive waiter informs us they swap the tomato in the base for lemon creme freche.
I decided to stick with the fishy theme and ordered a sea bream, whole grilled, which came with a refreshing carrot, orange and olive salad.
Both were cooked excellently and I’m pleased to say the smoked salmon pizza works – while the sea breem was cooked very well and worked well with the flavours in the salad. A glass of chardonnay, with the sea bream, and a pinot grigio with the pizza worked well.
There was just enough room left for dessert and we moved onto an eton mess and a sticky toffee pudding. There’s no nonsense with the sweets – just good old fashioned pub choices, although for the more discerning diner there’s a selection of after-dinner cocktails to work your way through.
The spacious surroundings of the dining area certainly help lend a relaxed feel, but also get away from the darkened and slightly clostrophobic atmosphere of some pubs and their restaurant rooms. The only down side are the ridiculously heavy chairs – which need some serious strength to shift out when you need to nip to the loo!
It’s clear the owners have paid attention to their local demographic, and taking the Old Cottage upmarket should reward them as they offer an excellent service and a dining experience which means a taxi won’t be needed to get home. It’s also worth the more adventurous diner heading up, spending a morning seeing the flowers of Cefn Onn, savouring the views across Cardiff and then calling in for lunch and a will earned chillout in the beer garden.
Meal details and cost: Starters: Arancini risotto balls, pea, mint, feta, homemade tomato jam (£5.95) & Lamb koftas, mint yoghurt, kohirabi, cumin and carrot salad (£5.95). Mains: Smoked salmon pizza, courgette, lemon creme fraiche, horseradish, rocket (£10.75) & Whole grilled sea bream with a carrot, orange and olive salad (£14.95). Dessert: Etons mess (£4.95) & Sticky toffee pudding (£5.25). Drinks: 2 pints Doom Bar ale (£6.50), Coke (£2.15), Rubini Pinot Grigio (£4.95) & Luigi Leon chardonnay (£3.95). Total: £65.35
Disclosure: The meal and drinks were complimentary from the Pub PR company.