Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The Merrie Harrier, Llandough

The Merrie Harrier is the first pub in the Vale of Glamorgan you encounter on leaving Cardiff along the Penarth Road or from Cardiff Bay, and it’s located on one of the Vale’s busiest road junctions. It’s probably the least scenic location of all the pubs on this tour. Well, that’s the main negative - because everything else is pretty positive in this large and popular Brains pub.

There’s a huge food menu. In fact, there are two menus running at the moment: a standard Brains’ printed pub menu in conjunction with the pub’s own menu on the blackboards. The management are in the process of switching over to the latter.

On our first trip to The Merrie Harrier this year, we went for a 2-for-£10 lunch menu. I had the curry of the day (actually a choice of half-a-dozen curries of the day): chicken and coconut with half/half rice and chips. The rice and the chips were good, thought the poppadom was not the best. The rice was useful to soak up the curry, which was the opposite of dry. My partner had the lamb rosemary burger. Good-sized portions.

We returned in a group on an evening recently, to sample some of the unique dishes on the specials boards. Typical items include Peppered duck breast, with mushroom risotto cake, baby spinach and redcurrant jus (£12.95); Seared chicken breast with rice noodles and cherry tomatoes, shallots, chilli oil and rocket (£9.95); Poached salmon steak, ratatouille, new potatoes and green salad (£9.95); Smoked salmon and crab parcels, with toasted crumpets, chilli oil and balsamic reduction (£12.95).

My Braised brisket of beef, pineapple salsa, special fried rice and creamy Moroccan sauce (£9.95), promised more than it delivered. The meat was good, if a little dry. The rice and the creamy sauce not quite special or distinctive enough, leaving the tangy pineapple salsa doing all the work. Enjoyable though.

Pork loin steaks, mustard mash, fine green beans and red wine jus (£9.95) was a more successful unification of ingredients. The pub favours sauces served in white gravy boats. In this case, the jus was just the thing to bring the plate to a satisfactory conclusion.

Tuna steaks came with asparagus and avocado couscous, creamy pepper sauce and green salad (£9.95). This was the pick of the mains we ordered, with no-nonsense slabs of tuna and a successful pepper sauce combination.

There was also a chicken fajita on our table, which was not sizzling on arrival but was plentiful and apparently very good. There is a whole blackboard of vegetarian options, with some novel touches.

It’s an adventurous menu, which is good to see. The food is very much pub food, rather than restaurant food, but offers something a little different.

The Merrie Harrier prides itself on well-kept beers. There’s the usual line of Brains beers on draught. I had a pint of the Brains IPA (ABV 3.4%) on our first trip, which has only recently become available on draft, and Brains SA on our return (no Rev James though).

It might not look like an archetypal village pub, but there is a lively sense of community. There’s a dart board, occasional live music, and a pub quiz on Sundays. Large parties can be catered for because of its size, a local community club were celebrating when we were there.

An old photograph inside the pub, taken around the 1960s, shows the building before it was extended, with just a small traffic roundabout outside. Today, there’s a complicated series of traffic lights, an ill-conceived bus lane, and guaranteed tailbacks on at least one of the approaches.

The pub has a beer patio out back (and a couple of tables out front during the summer), where smokers can congregate. What a turn-around: it used to be you went outside for some fresh air from smoke-filled pubs, but nowadays pub gardens are smoky (doubly so in this case, because of the traffic fumes) and you go inside for some fresh air!

The Merrie Harrier
Penlan Road, Llandough, Vale of Glamorgan CF64 2NY
(029) 2030 3994

The Vale of Glamorgan pub tour 2012:

The Pelican in her Piety:

The Farmers Arms, St Brides Major

The Bush Inn, St Hilary

Lamb and Flag, Wick:

Blue Anchor, East Aberthaw

Six Bells, Penmark

Blacksmith’s Arms, Llanmaes

Plough and Harrow, Monknash

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