We’ve been out on our travels recently – after the excellent Park House in Cardiff we travelled to Pontypridd to try out the Good Pub Guide’s Dining Pub Of The Year 2016.
It’s a little far from Aberystwyth, but well worth a look.
** May 2017 Update **
I’m leaving the review below to show how good this place used to be, but having visited recently I”m sorry to report the food has gone right downhill.
Beer’s still excellent, but the blackboard of specials have gone – there’s a short & uninteresting menu instead.
Prices have gone up, the old chef has left, and portion sizes have gone down.
They served me this as a £20 main course:
It’s barely a starter.
It arrived, I stared at it, and asked for some chips (£3) so I actually had a meal.
Service was lousy – slow, inattentive, didn’t bring us any bread.
They seemed short staffed and more interested in the manager’s birthday (not that we saw him).
£50 for two small main courses and a drink each was a rip-off.
It used to be well respected – it’s now abusing that position by serving poor value lazy food.
**2016 review follows**
Finding the Bunch of Grapes isn’t easy, mind.
It’s just yards from the A470 as that pesky crow flies, but all the nearby junctions have limited and confusing access.
You’ll have to punch the postcode into your satnav and strap yourself in for a hairy ride.
There’s ample parking once you’re there – either in the car park or on the street – and it’s on the edge of Pontypridd so you needn’t worry about your car being used in an insurance scam.
The reason I first visited The Bunch a few years ago was for their excellent range of beers – usually several from local owners Otley, and an interesting range of other brewers.
This time, their own range was a little limited, with their own Hop Angeles easily outdone by Llandmark from Waen Brewery of Llanidloes.
Behind the bar is a surprisingly large, and unsurprisingly popular, dining area, with a strikingly modern feel after the traditional bar.
We’ve had some excellent food here – a medium rare duck breast and well-done skin will live long in the memory – and we were delighted with the interesting, reasonably-priced and creative menu we saw.
At this point, I should mention the excellent service.
We hadn’t made a reservation, and they were full, but they found a table that was only needed in 90 minutes, and we promised to be out in that time.
Furthermore, when I ordered three halves, the nice waitress recommended I go for the 5x 1/3rd option, which was an excellent idea.
I had the rib eye from Breconshire, which was roasted and sliced as a joint, rather than the usual steak.
This really suited the meat, which came out flavourful and soft.
The only fat was the eye in the middle, which I normally leave, but this time I had to have, it was so soft & tasty.
The garlic gave the soft mash a nice lift, the fashionable kale gave a nicely contrasting crunch, and the red wine jus kept everything moist without the over-thickened faff of most gravy.
My pint-sized pal was nearly defeated by her huge slab of pork belly.
OK, it doesn’t look huge in that picture, but it was immense.
(Not my best week of food pix, sorry.)
If I hadn’t helped out, she might have failed this one.
The pork had been slow-cooked for 12 hours, rendering most of the fat down, and leaving super-soft porky goodness.
A slice of black pudding took the piggy levels even higher, and the spicy chorizo was a nice contrast.
A homemade apple sauce gave a little acidic kick, the mash was fine, and a superb piece of crackling (so crisp, so rectangular) gave Bethan her fourth taste of oink.
Service was efficient, so we were out of our Reserved chairs and back in the bar in no time. Thank you, Super-Staff!
We settled in with the papers and more Waen from the bar.
Now, I accept this wasn’t a very thorough review.
We didn’t have starters or dessert, although both sounded wonderful.
But we were too full – the pork did for us.
We would be more than happy to go again, even though our hidden South Wales gem is now better-known.
I know it’s a long way from Aberystwyth, but if you’re ever heading for the airport, or you want a treaty tea after shopping, then I urge you to go.
Just make sure you have it in the satnav first.
The Bunch of Grapes
Beware – all of Otley’s websites are terrible – style beats content.
Their website doesn’t have the address (!) so I’ll tell you that it’s:
40 Ynysangharad Road , CF37 4DA