I rarely write about a restaurant if we visit on its first day open, but at Rocket & Rye, the experience and skills of John and Ceri Cook meant the team hit the ground running from the moment the doors opened, and we had an absolutely wonderful meal with friendly and helpful service.
Based in Cowbridge – about 12 miles West of Cardiff – this is the latest venture from the couple behind Arbennig restaurant (now closed), the Lamb & Flag pub in Wick, the DIRT and Ember pop-ups, and Nook (which they launched alongside Phill and Deb from Dusty Knuckle).
Though not a large town Cowbridge has a reputation for great food, and Rocket & Rye joins a number of popular local eating options on and around the high street.
While we are dithering over the menu, we order Garlic and sea salt foccacia with olive oil and balsamic (£4), which is so good that we quickly order more. Generously oiled before cooking, the foccacia has an addictively salty, crunchy surface, and a typically soft and airy crumb inside.
My starter of Roast octopus, red pepper, tomato, green sauce (£9.5) is one of the best octopus dishes I’ve had. The octopus itself is perfectly cooked – tender and firm at the same time. The rich tomato and red pepper stew with dollops of fresh, herbacious green sauce is the perfect foil. Only the expectation of mains to come stops me from ordering a second bowl of this!
As always with John Cook’s dishes, the Buffalo mozzarella, preserved orange, tomato, harissa honey (£7.5) is a wonderful balanced dish, the complex flavours of creamy dairy, peppery rocket, sweet and sour preserved tomato, sharp citrus and spiced, sweet honey create a delightful play of flavours and textures in this light and summery starter.
Unable to choose, we decided on two mains to share between us. Both are tasty, but don’t quite reach the heights of the remarkable starters. Duck bolognese, papardelle, parmesan (£19) is rich, savoury and comforting – the kind of thing I could just as happily eat curled up on the sofa watching telly – but seems a touch pricey against the other dishes on the menu.
We both really enjoy the components of the Beef blade bun, roast garlic aioli, pickles, chicken butter sauce, beef fat potatoes (£16) but struggle to eat it in the bun as intended, given the huge size of the blade of beef. In the end, we ditch the bun (which contributes little) and dig in to the rest with knife and fork. The meat is tender and delicious, and all the condiments work together really well.
A side of Roasted greens and sesame (£4) is a surprise standout, offering great flavour and texture alongside both mains.
We only have space for one dessert between two, picking the Chocolate mousse with tonka bean caramel (£8.5). Not only is this a visually gorgeous dish, it’s also a delicious way to finish the meal, providing a punch of good quality chocolate flavour, sweet caramel and cream.
All this on the opening night is impressive indeed, even given the pedigree of a couple with so many successes already under their belts. We can’t wait to head back again soon and see the latest selection of dishes, though I’ll be hard pressed not to just order bowl after bowl of the octopus!
Thanks to our friends, Mr and Mrs Not Leafy with whom we dined for sorting the booking and organising this lovely evening.