Friday, 23 March 2012

The Six Bells, Penmark

The Six Bells in Penmark is only a couple of miles outside Barry and you can see Cardiff Int. Airport from its car park, but it’s definitely in the rural Vale of Glamorgan. Over the road from the pub is the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin (dating from 1200) and nearby are the remains of a 13th-century castle. The village (population a little over 500) is surrounded by prime agricultural land.

With a traditional bar at its heart, The Six Bells retains its role as the village pub. However, a modern dining room extension at the front is in marked contrast; and it describes itself as a “village pub and restaurant.” There is also a modern function room at the back and tables for outside drinking.

Food can be enjoyed in the bar and restaurant. The menu offers familiar pub favourites, some alternative starters and main meals, and daily specials: soup (vegetable on the weekday lunchtime we visited), pie (turkey and leek), curry (chicken madras) and fish (haddock). Main courses come in at around £9 (up to £14 for rump steak).

For starters, I chose the Smoked haddock and spring onion fishcake. This was attractively presented, with a drizzle (I blame Masterchef) of sweet chilli sauce (also drizzled on my last pub meal starters – is this a pattern emerging?). The sauce was not necessary for the flavour however, because these excellent fishcakes could easily stand of their own, with their strong yet soothing smokiness.

My partner had the Deep fried brie, which was served with a cranberry relish. The brie was pleasingly runny and the casing crunchy. This was one of only a few vegetarian dishes on the menu; there was also a sun-blushed tomato and pesto tart and a risotto. Good options, but limited choice. More surprising was the lack of salads or lighter meals on the menu.

For my main course, I went for Chicken Madeira in a cream and mushroom sauce. The chicken breast was expertly cooked, as were the vegetables. I opted for the new potatoes: a good choice and they were the pick of the vegetables on the plate. There could have been more richness (maybe more Madeira) in the sauce, but maybe I am expecting too much from pub food these days (the bar has definitely been raised).

My partner had the Supreme of salmon, which came with sautéed potatoes. A generous amount of salmon was cooked so it developed a crust, and was moist and full-flavoured. It was served with a citrus sauce, which I was told could have been stronger in flavour and more plentiful on the plate.

I had read an online review in which someone thought the portion sizes at The Six Bells were small. The chef may have once taken the small plate gastropub route, but I don’t think anyone could complain about the portion sizes they currently serve.

We can recommend The Six Bells. There’s a pleasant atmosphere, friendly service and good food. However, the food is not as adventurous or distinctive as you might expect from some reviews of a few years ago; although we did go for lunch rather than an evening meal.

The Six Bells is a Hancock’s pub, which means it is owned by Brains and run under their Hancock’s brand (Brains purchased Hancock’s in 1999). Therefore, Hancocks HB will usually be the beer of choice at the bar.

This post forms part of a series, which during 2012 will feature village pubs from around the Vale of Glamorgan. Events in the Vale this year include the National Eisteddfod (August at Llandow), not far from some decent hostelries. Meanwhile, there are several pubs handy for the Vale’s excellent Heritage Coast walks and beaches. And, as the outer limits of our holiday destinations this year are likely to be Tenby and the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons, we’ll be making the most of the great attractions on our doorstep (including the country pubs!).

The Six Bells, Penmark, Barry, CF62 3BP, Vale of Glamorgan
Tel: 01446 710229

See also:
Blacksmith’s Arms, Llanmaes

Plough and Harrow, Monknash

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