Steak. Phwoooar. Flames. Huge hunks of meat. Tattoos. Burly, bearded six-footers innit? Forearms like slabs of sirloin. That’s not Lynx Africa, that’s the reek of testosterone. Big manly stuff. Tony Soprano on the grill, and he’s not cooking aubergines.
But in this Jubilee year, let’s never mind that particular set of clichéd bollocks: because here’s Stacey Roberts, the one-woman dynamo at the heart of Steak & Stamp, turning this former Post Office into a thriving local restaurant.
Now approaching its sixth birthday, this small Pencoed steakhouse is hugely popular. The bad news: it’s harder to get into than Mother Teresa’s underwear. (Now, I mean; not in her flirty pomp.) Fancy a weekend table? Not for six or seven weeks, usually, sorry: and how many restaurants can boast that level of demand?
You don’t have to order the beef, though. There’s fish, pasta or a veggie burger, though at heart this is unreservedly and unapologetically a steakhouse. From the artwork to the slabs of beef on display to chalkboard lists of cuts, Steak and Stamp is red in tooth and claw.
It’s there in the dry ageing cabinet in the dining room, though Steak & Stamp is so small it’s less ‘open kitchen and a dining room’ than one room in two zones. It’s immediately cosy, with Stacey greeting regulars warmly. It seats just twenty-two although they have extended outside with two six-seater private dining sheds. ‘Sheds’ is their name, though in my Urban Elitist Food Ponce way I’d suggest they rebrand them ‘Meat Cabins’. Picture it: clad only in bearskins, Bowie knife between clenched teeth, snarling at whatever nature throws at you as you glory in your apex predator status. A winner, no?
(Memo to S&S’s marketing people: call me. Let’s talk. You’re buying).
Meat Cabins, then. Rather fun they are, too: not your usual extension perhaps, but then most chefs don’t have a little pub the other side of the wall, owned and run by their husband.
To start, creamy cockles and bacon on toast. It’s a hug in a mug- or whatever the equivalent on toast is- and more about flavour than elaborate presentation, a creamy tumble of bacon and cockles which carries an unmistakable hit of sea air. As we’ll find throughout, it’s a generous serving. And it’s an unexpected treat to find a plate of crispy beef and peppers, tangily gingery.
Judging by the dimensions of the £60 sharer we had, the Banquet (£120, and their best seller) is presumably brought to your table by pit ponies, cranes and whatever apparatus was used to assemble Stonehenge. The tale of the tape is formidable: 60 glorious Imperial ounces, or 1.7kg in new money, of beef. Seven sides, all the sauces. It’s meant for four. No one will be leaving hungry.
It’s a world away from those awful eating challenges which were a stain on hospitality a while back. Remember them? When eating to queasy excess got you into the Treherbert Argus? This isn’t that. This is all about sharing, about conviviality. It’s about enjoying simple, lusty pleasures, not gurning at the camera as you feel pieces of your soul dying within you.
Even our dry-aged sharer for two is formidable. Chips have to be good in a place like this, and happily they make them just how you want- a crisp deep gold with snap and rustle.
A mellow garlic sauce, a rather more tangy Stilton and you’re all set. The beef is arranged by seniority: ribeye aged three months, a two-month fillet and a six-week sirloin. It is locally farmed, well seasoned and cooked exactly as we ask, a hearty array of things done well: beef, if you’ll allow the expression, with legs. And full disclosure: we make our way back to the car, sated and content, carrying enough for the next day’s lunch too.
I love restaurants which are more than the sum of their parts. Like this: essentially, a cosy, locally-cherished restaurant hiding in plain sight on a small town high street. And places like this are always a joy to tell you about, these under-the-radar places which do good things, thriving outside the chatter of online ‘foodies’. Clearly this isn’t a slick Bristol transplant, or a nationwide chain occupying prime city centre real estate, but a small independent, locally owned and run, which welcomes you and feeds you heartily. Because going out for dinner is more than just taking up space in a room while someone plonks a plate in front of you to save you the trouble of cooking.
Steak and Stamp doesn’t do anything revolutionary. It doesn’t need to. But it does do something very valuable; it feeds you well-cooked food with enthusiasm and sends you away content. And we should never underestimate how important that is when daily we are assailed by horrors like war, disease and Gareth Bale’s ‘hairstyle’.
And now, while I go and wash out my mouth for using the ‘f’ word in that closing paragraph, you can book via telephone on 01656 860393.
Steak & Stamp 13 Penybont Road, Pencoed, Bridgend, CF35 5PY
Open: Mon 5pm to 11pm
Weds to Sat 5pm to 11pm
Sun 12pm to 5pm
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.