“ Address: Thornhill / Caerphilly / CF83 1LY / Tel: 02920 859021 „
Whilst I enjoy trying and testing new products I cannot state that I am particularly adventurous when it comes to dining out, as I always tend to stick with what I know. A place that my family and I have frequented for well over 10 years is set in the most picturesque surroundings of the South Wales Valleys and is positioned at the highest point of Caerphilly Mountain, which is on the border of Cardiff City Council and Caerphilly County Borough. Its' name is The Traveller's Rest, which is part of the Vintage Inns chain and conjures up images for me of a weary man who has trudged for miles along the winding steep mountain roads in desperate need of a hot meal and some liquid refreshments. Whilst The Traveller's Rest markets itself as a country pub and restaurant I feel it would be safe to describe it as a tavern, particularly as it dates back to the 1800's and it still offers a quaint appearance some 200 years later, particularly due to its' stunning thatched roof. I was interested to learn that whilst many pubs and restaurants closed their doors during the Second World War, The Traveller's Rest continued to welcome its' customers. The restaurant is situated some 10 miles or so from our home, which is located within the heart of the South Wales valleys. The entrance to the restaurant car park is situated on as fairly nasty road bend, so extreme caution needs to be taken, particularly with the oncoming traffic from the Cardiff direction. Unfortunately, disabled parking spaces are very limited, as there are only three spaces situated directly in front of you as you drive into the grounds of the restaurant. However, during our last visit on Friday, 22 July 2011 the three spaces were blocked with beer barrels. Car parking is plentiful and during peak times the higher level car park can be used, but walking in this area is considerably problematic due to the loose gravel surface. ENTERING THE TRAVELLER'S REST We walk directly through an area housing a selection of expensive looking tables, rattan chairs and sun umbrellas that are situated directly in front of the restaurant and during the warmer months they are always filled with happy customers enjoying their food and drink. During our visit last Friday, two tables were occupied even though it was raining, as this area is also dedicated to smokers. We head for the old fashioned wooden door, which initially gives the impression that the head height is extremely low. Whilst I would describe myself as an average height of 5 foot 3 inches I always feel the need to lower my head, particularly as a notice above the door displays the comical words "duck or grouse". For my husband, who is 5 foot 9 inches it is most definitely essential that he ducks, as otherwise he will lose an inch from the top of his head! I would point out that accessibility for wheelchair users would be considerably problematic, particularly as there are two entrance doors; the second of which is located at a right angle. However, whilst there is a fire exit door, unfortunately, this is situated on one of the upper floors within the restaurant, which would prevent anyone in a wheelchair being able to access either the bar or toilets, as the only way to the lower floor is by a few steps. The first thing I notice each time I enter the restaurant regardless of whether it is sunny or dark outside is the extremely dim lighting, which for those with a sight impairment could prove to be somewhat of a hazard. Consequently, I feel a little more lighting is much needed, particularly within the entrance area and adjoining room. The welcoming ambience is evident the moment we step inside onto the stone flooring where during the winter months we are able to benefit from the heat given off by the beautiful open log fires, which are situated in various locations around the restaurant. Whilst the lighting throughout the restaurant can be described as subtle, it is more effective than that situated in the entrance and this is one of the reasons why I love visiting this restaurant, as it offers such a cosy and relaxing environment. However, there are a few double wall lights throughout the restaurant with missing bulbs, which may be a bid to save on the electricity or simply an oversight on their part. There is an instant feeling of comfort and relaxation when stepping inside with the old fashioned low ceilings with their exposed dark wooden beams. Whilst bookings can be made either by telephone or their website we've never felt the need to book, particularly when it's just the two of us. However, when we visit with my parents and sister we always make a booking several days before, particularly as there are a minimal amount of tables available to seat more than four diners. The majority of the restaurant is situated on one level although there are two areas that are reached via a few steps making them inaccessible for those with mobility problems. There is a range of seating and tables throughout, such as comfy chairs, wooden high backed chairs, padded benches and fixed sofa style seating. We always tend to choose a table in one of the far corners of the restaurant, so that we are not disturbed by customers entering/exiting the restaurant or going back and forth the bar area. As the floor is rather uneven in many areas caution needs to be taken when walking around. The floors are extremely quaint with a combination of coverings, such as rugs, carpets, tiles and flagstones, which add further atmosphere as well as the dozens of photographs situated around the restaurant; many of which show the pub in its' original state not long after it first opened. As I prefer to be sat upright when eating my food we always opt for dining style seating as opposed to the benches; some of which do not seem high enough to reach the table and always make me feel that I need a seat riser! The restaurant is child friendly and baby chairs are available on request. Whilst I enjoy listening to music, particularly when visiting a bar or pub, I find it somewhat intrusive when I'm eating, so I am pleased that the restaurant is wonderfully quiet. DRINKS AND THE FOOD MENU The bar area is considerably large and is situated directly in front of the entrance, but unfortunately, it is often poorly staffed and large queues tend to form across the walkway. The one side of the bar is dedicated solely to food orders; something which I find frustrating, as it is then a case of initially queuing for drinks, then joining a further queue to order food. However, this process seems to change from one visit to the next where last Friday I was able to order our food at the same time as purchasing our drinks. There is a large choice of both soft and alcoholic drinks, which I feel are rather pricey, but I always opt for a soft drink, as the majority of the time I am driving. You are provided with a wooden spoon with a number and are asked to point out the area of the restaurant in which you are seated. You can either choose to leave your tab open or pay in full although we always opt to pay later, as more than often we will purchase deserts, teas and coffees. During the ten years or so that I have been frequenting the restaurant I have had only one grumble and that is a few months ago when I ordered an orange juice and on reaching our table I noticed lipstick on the glass. Consequently, I returned to the bar and advised the staff member who began to tip the juice into another glass until I advised that I required a replacement drink. There was no hassle or arguments and he provided me with a new drink within a matter of minutes. There is a selection of menus on each table; all of which are clean and well presented. Food choices are considerably varied with a choice of three menus, namely children' fixed price and main food. I cannot speak of my experience with regards the children's' menu, but I have many friends with youngsters who regularly frequent the restaurant due to their child welcoming environment. The fixed price menu offers a few good choices, but is fairly limited and will cost £6 for one course, £8 for two courses or £10 for three courses. Both my Father and I chose meals from this menu last Friday where we opted for the shepherd's pie with rosemary, buttered carrots and garden peas with my choice of desert being chocolate torte with crème fraiche and my Dad's being ice cream and summer berries. Unfortunately, the choices of deserts on the fixed price menu are very limited with only four options. Whilst I never opt for a starter, there are four choices, such as soup of the day or beer battered mushrooms served with a garlic dip. The main part of the menu caters for most tastes with a number of vegetarian dishes, fish dishes, chicken and meats. There is a huge choice of starters on this menu, such as warm Mediterranean breads, sautéed tiger prawns and baked Cornish brie with prices starting from £2.25. The selection of main meals caters for all people where there are many fish dishes, chicken dishes, home made pies, pastas, steaks, mixed grills and vegetarian options with prices starting from £7.55. Both my husband and I are rather predictable when eating out as I either opt for a chicken dish or a hearty meat pie served with chips and peas with my husband either selecting a mixed grill or a rump steak. There is always a blackboard displaying the chef's choices for that day with the identical details being located on each table. Whilst my Mum isn't a vegetarian she always tends to choose a meat-free dish, such as fish or pasta. Another favourite main meal of mine is their chicken, leek and ham pie that is topped with an apple wood cheese sauce topped with a flaky pastry crust and served with chips and garden peas at a cost of £8.25. This is an absolutely mouth watering dish with huge portions of tender chicken breast, small chunks of ham covered in a wonderfully tasty creamy cheese sauce. Cutlery is located in a tankard in the centre of the table partially wrapped in paper napkins and this is not something I favour, particularly as it can become dusty and on several occasions we have found the cutlery to display tiny fragments of dried food. Food generally takes anything from 15 to 20 minutes to be brought to the table by a friendly waiter/waitress and it is always piping hot. A problem my husband and I have experienced when we eat elsewhere is that there is often a problem with meals being brought out together and there was one occasion when we had gone out for our wedding anniversary meal only for my husband to have finished his entire meal before mine arrived. Consequently, a complaint was made with us receiving a simple "sorry" and as a result, we never ate at the restaurant again. The waiter/waitress always warns us that the plates are hot and to be careful and enquires whether we would like any condiments, which are then brought to us. However, on numerous occasions we have sat patiently waiting for the waiter/waitress to return, which resulted in me fetching the large tray myself! The meals are generally extremely tasty and the shepherd's pie that both my Dad and I ate last Friday was absolutely delicious, particularly with the hint of rosemary, which offered a slight kick and an interesting taste to the food. The carrots were somewhat of a disappointment, as they had been over cooked and were extremely soggy and were far too buttery, which I found quite sickly. My Dad equally enjoyed his choice of food and we were both first to finish, as the fixed menu dishes are what I would describe as average sizes. Unlike some other pubs and restaurants where we've previously eaten, my Mum required potatoes as opposed to the advertised chips and we were advised that this was no problem and there would be no additional charge. Whilst I did not try any of my Mum's food she informed me that she thoroughly enjoyed it although the meal was rather huge. My husband had opted for his usual choice of a rump steak, which again he had thoroughly enjoyed. I cannot report of ever having a meal that we did not enjoy although I would state that during a visit a few months ago I had opted for pie served with mashed potato on the side. When it arrived my Mum asked me if I had grilled cheese on the top and on closer inspection and taste I realised that the mash was in fact, powdered potato and the "grilled cheese" was in fact where it had dried due to overheating. Only my Dad and I were greedy enough to opt for deserts and mine was simply delicious and arrived on a huge plate sprinkled with icing sugar and a sprig of mint located on top of the torte. My Dad's ice cream with summer fruits was simply strawberries and ice cream with no wafer as advertised. Whilst my Dad wasn't bothered and thoroughly enjoyed his desert, my understanding of summer fruits is a mixture of raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, so their menu description is somewhat misleading. Whilst our visit last Friday was absolutely first class, I found our previous visit somewhat frustrating, particularly as a staff member decided to clear some of our empty plates when other members of our party were still eating. My very first job when I was 17 years old was as a waitress and one of the first things I was told is never begin to clear a table until the entire party has finished their meal unless one of them requests you do so. The waitress returned to our table once during our meal to enquire whether everything was alright, which in my opinion, always evidences a high level of customer care. On the majority of occasions the bill is brought to our table, but during busy times we have often had to ask for it. I'm not a fan of leaving money on the table, so I tend to chase after the waiter or waitress that served us to leave them our money and of course, a tip. Unfortunately, I am unable to offer much experience with regards Sunday roasts, as we only tried one or two a few years ago where we found the vegetables to be rather strange, such as leeks and cauliflower cheese. In addition to this, the gravy resembled that of coloured dish water, so the only place we ever eat a Sunday roast is at home. TOILETS The toilets are situated at the one end of the restaurant where they are named as ladies, gents and easy access. The ladies toilets are located behind two entrance doors where you will find three cubicles. On my previous visit I was met with the most disgusting stench of urine that made me wretch and my husband informed me that the gents were exactly the same and we immediately made a staff member aware. However, during our last visit the aroma was clean and fresh and I did not feel the need to hold my breath during the time I spent my penny! What I found particularly disgusting on my last visit was that the inner tube of one of the toilet rolls situated on the rear of the system was soaked in blood and I couldn't wait to get out of there. Fortunately, there was one fault on this occasion and that is only one of the three doors had a bolt that was operable, as the remaining two were out of alignment. There was plenty of toilet paper, Radox liquid hand soap, paper towels and hand dryers. Unfortunately, I was unable to see any baby changing facilities, which is something that surprised me particularly as the restaurant openly welcomes children. I asked my husband of his opinion of the gents, which he advised were also smelling clean and fresh although he stated that the hot and cold water taps were not clearly identified, so he didn't have a clue which he was turning on. OVERALL OPINION The restaurant is always clean and tidy and I cannot state that I have ever witnessed any glasses or dishes awaiting collection from the tables, which is something that really puts me off when eating out. The heavy wooden tables are always clean and free from any signs of the previous diners' meals and a real positive for me is that they are non sticky or greasy. The staff are always very professional, friendly and well presented and are happy to deal with the customers' needs. Whilst we are always thanked by the staff member who has been waiting on our table, we are often thanked also by the person/s who is/are serving behind the bar. The restaurant offers a comforting and relaxing environment and as a result, it is a place we have frequented over and over again and will continue to do so. Whilst I would like to be able to give The Traveller's Rest 5 stars, I am unable to do so due to the few minor issues that I have discussed and for that reason the restaurant receives 4 from me, together with a huge recommendation. OPENING TIMES AND CONTACT DETAILS The Traveller's Rest is open on Monday to Saturday from 12 pm to 11 pm and 12 pm to 10.30 pm on Sundays. The Traveller's Rest Thornhill Caerphilly Telephone:- 02920 859021 For further details, please see their website at:- http://www.vintageinn.co.uk/thetravellersrestcaerphilly/restaurantsfood/ I hope you found my review useful and would thank you for reading. This review appears on both Dooyoo and Ciao under the same user name.