If Dante Alighieri imagined Hell’s gates with the inscription ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here‘ – and as a mission statement that takes some beating- then what happier slogan should you find at The Grange? After a series of heartily satisfying meals here on Grangetown, it’s tempting to imagine something which leaves you in no doubt as to the good things which go on here.
The menu is a familiar enough roll-call of pub favourites. Sausage and mash. Beef pie. Fish and chips. Mac and cheese. Chicken wings, onion rings, cheesy garlic bread.
If that doesn’t sing to you- and that last line has a rather pleasing rhythm to it, I think- you should probably check your pulse. The Grange is a pub which wants to feed you well, whoever you are.
Not that it has any restaurant airs and graces: it feels like a proper pub, one with dartboards and pickled eggs and a skittle alley and a Wednesday quiz night. There are shelves busy with bric a brac, with board games and toys and books for the children. The sort of place which is busy for the Sunday roast, and where a wall-mounted cartwheel is a reminder of the area’s hundreds of years’ worth of agrarian history.
…but if you try sometime you’ll find/You get what you need…
There’s a rotating range of Welsh beers- you might find Tomos a Lilford (I still have fond memories of their rosemary beer) from Cowbridge, Weston Super Mare’s 3D or Cwrw Ial of Mold; and happily, despite that crowdpleasing menu, a good selection of snacks. (Pet hate: pubs which stock no crisps, forcing you to order from their main kitchen menu. Give me my McCoys, you bastards…)
Here you find not only proper crisps, but that distinctive lime green packaging of the absolute pinnacle of the snackmaker’s art. Yes, Sampi Flavour Fries are here to save the day. Olympian level snacking, no question, and great with a pint of their local brewer collaboration, Dr Grange Love.
Though if you need something more substantial, their onion rings are piled high, sweet and piping hot in a beautifully light crisp batter. It’s ideal beer snack food: and the same goes for tart finger-long fried pickles.
…show me you love me/And buy the next round…
There’s a spacious beer garden, with its own pizza oven when weather permits, because why wouldn’t you take advantage of that famously balmy Grangetown microclimate?
…early in the evenin’ just about supper time/Over by the courthouse they’re starting to unwind…
Importantly, it feels like a local. During the day the same faces sit with the paper and quietly put the country to rights over a pint; at night the bar and kitchen are busy as it fills. The sort of place you can supply your pint while the odd lyric forces itself into your train of thought.
A tip of the hat to whoever picks the music: The Stones, Johnny Cash and Neil Young; Marvin Gaye, Bowie, Janis Joplin. REM, Beatles, Dylan. It’s not seventeen sub-genres of dubstep and junglist masssives around here, young people.
Anyway, where were we… ah yes. Hearty pub grub. GFC is their best seller, and one of my Unsung Heroes list (and although I hope you’ve managed to put a dent in that list by now, you’ll win nothing but my eternal respect, sorry.)
…you’ve got a way to keep me on your side/You give me cause for love that I can’t hide…
That chalkboard menu is chock-full of crowd pleasers, the kind of things which call to you. There’s plenty for vegetarians and vegans, and gluten choices too. A children’s menu.
Right here, right now, comfort food is exactly what I want. Well, that and needing some ballast before the rigours of a lengthy afternoon’s wine tasting. Sausage and mash is the obvious choice, and exactly as good as I want it to be on a grey day: the sausages taut-skinned and coarsely-ground, well seasoned and stoutly meaty, the mash a silky dollop of buttery, faultlessly carby indulgence and the lake of onion gravy rich and tangy. It’s as simple as it gets; but it’s rarely as well done as this. I like a silky dollop or two as much as the next man- more, probably- and this is gorgeous, a simple pleasure done beautifully. And who can resist that?
The only remotely cheffy thing about it is an angel hair tangle of lightly charred leek. No fanfare, no fuss, just proper pub grub in a proper pub. One of those quietly happy moments when you see exactly what you fancy and it’s done precisely as well you want.
Classic pub grub means fish and chips- halloumi if you must.
A thick slab of cod, lightly seasoned beer batter which is craggy where it needs to be. A coarse, tangy tartar sauce, skin-on chips fried a deep gold which are full of snap and less-is-more seasoning. Crushed peas done with a light touch, banishing memories of all the cackhanded ones you’ve had flavoured with all the minted subtlety of your morning Colgate.
…broadcast me a joyful noise unto the times, Lord/Count your blessings…
Beef stew pie arrives under a puff pastry lid, buttered veg and more of that mash. Now, your pie purists might quibble with the name but the menu sidesteps that by calling it a stew with a lid. Are you bothered? Perhaps. I’m not- not when it’s this good, And a lovely lid it is, too, managing to be millefeuille-light, thyme-flecked and richly buttery all at the same time.
That indulgent, seductive mash is back with a healthy crack of seasoning: its a hugely hearty plate for just £13.95,
…It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
It’s the end of the world as we know it
And I feel fine…
Well, maybe not quite yet. But as long as there are pubs like this in local communities, we can all enjoy the time that’s left a little more bearable. So, what should be emblazoned above these Grangetown doors? What sums up that the impression The Grange makes on you? ‘Come Hungry. Leave Happy’ perhaps?
Yes, that’ll do. Come hungry, leave happy.
The Grange, 134 Penarth Rd, Cardiff CF11 6NJ
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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.