Friday, 2 March 2012

The Blacksmiths Arms, Llanmaes

One strand running through this blog during 2012 will be a tour of village pubs in the Vale of Glamorgan. Some have become fairly well-known outside the area, for example, The Plough and Harrow at Monknash, while others have not. There are some hidden gems.

The village of Llanmaes lies just north of Llantwit Major (Llanilltud Fawr) in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan; it’s the other side of the B4265 to Llantwit Major (and a footpath from that road means it is an easy walk from Llantwit Major). Llanmaes has a 13th Century church dedicated to St Cattwg (St Cadoc) and a pub: The Blacksmiths Arms.

The food is traditional, with some original twists. There is an oriental influence, and a creative use of cheese and nuts.

We often skip starters at pubs, but not here as they sounded so intriguing. The choices included Venison & Chilli Pate and Breaded Camembert Wedges.

I had the Stilton and Mushroom Knot. Crisp filo pastry parcels (literally knotted) sitting in a Chinese restaurant-style sweet chilli sauce prepare your taste buds for something oriental, but when you bite into them you get a hit of creamy Stilton with mushrooms and walnuts. The parcels shared a plate with salad leaves with a dark balsamic drizzle. This was an entertaining plate of food (in a good way), and a substantial starter.

My companion went for the Ginger and Lemongrass Chicken Sticks. These were skewered chicken breast fillets marinated in ginger and lemongrass, served with salad leaves and a Caesar dressing. The dressing came in its own pot (there was much more than required). The flavouring on the chicken was subtle; and apparently it could have been stronger.

Main courses on the current menu include Sirloin and Ribeye Steaks, Pork Medallions, Steak and Ale Pie, Stuffed Chicken Roulade, and Stilton and Vegetable crumble. There are also fish dishes, including Piri Piri Salmon Fillet, Whole Sea Bass, and Garlic and Ginger Swordfish Steak; salads as main courses; and interesting pasta and noodle dishes, including Hoi-Sin Beef and Teriyaki Chicken.

I went for Lamb Shanks with Vegetables and Minted Braising Liquor from the today’s Specials Board. The lamb was melt-in-your mouth. Not a youngster this time of year, but I really liked the slow-braised muttony flavours coming through. The rich minted gravy was a dream, especially concentrated on the greens under the shank (was that flipper shape deliberate, I wonder). The tomato added colour, rather than taste, while the vegetables served in a separate bowl – batons of carrots, peas and mange-tout - were fresh and well-cooked.

My companion had the Mushroom, Cranberry & Brie Wellington. This vegetarian wellington dish was an original creation. The golden puff pastry contained sautéed mushrooms, spinach, cranberries and hazelnuts, topped with Brie. This was served with a bowl of chips – good crunchy pub chips - and a share of the vegetable bowl.

Desserts include Wild Fig ice creams.

There is an admirable policy of sourcing locally and seasonally. Main courses peak in the £8 to £12 price range.

A good range of beers can be found on the handpumps; The Blacksmiths Arms has an entry in the Good Beer Guide 2012. There’s a pleasant seating area out front (the road’s not busy; it’s a quiet village). Yes: I’ve noted it as a potential summer pint stop off (handily just off the B4265)!

The interior has been remodelled, but with a good feel for what a traditional pub should be. The word ‘gastropub’ is bandied about on the website (not my favourite word; I like a pub to be a pub). However, there are locals at the bar and it certainly feels like a Vale of Glamorgan village pub. It’s probably referring to the creative spin the kitchen puts on their dishes.

The Blacksmiths Arms do Sunday Roasts, Tuesday is Steak Night, and Thursday is a themed night (each month food from a different country's cuisine is served). You get the impression the chef likes his work.

Next stop: The Six Bells in Penmark.

The Blacksmiths Arms, Llanmaes, near Llantwit Major, CF61 2XR, Vale of Glamorgan
Tel: 01446 795996

See also:
Plough and Harrow, Monknash

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