“ Address: Pendwyallt Road / Coryton / Cardiff / Wales / CF14 7EG / Tel: 029 20625037 „
The Hollybush in Cardiff is ideally situated just off the Coryton Interchange at junction 32 of the M4 near The Village Hotel. It is a pub restaurant that is part of the Crown Carveries chain. The chain has just recently been awarded the winner of the Great British Pub Food Awards 2010. The top prize was awarded for Best Food Concept which is all about good value for money, consistently good quality food and fantastic standards and friendly service.
I have visited this particular pub restaurant on numerous occasions in the past with family when in the mood for a nice roast meal. I've decided to write a review to share my experiences.
Driving into the car park you will notice that there is sufficient parking right outside the pub restaurant for approximately 40 cars. Although the car park can be busy at times I have never had to wait for a parking space or have to park away from the premises. The restaurant itself is an appealing early 19th Century public house with recent Carvery and conservatory extensions. Leading up to the restaurant is a nice beer garden full of wooden tables with a large canopy. Unfortunately, due to the smoking ban this area can sometimes be full of smokers which isn't very pleasant for those who don't smoke.
On entry to the restaurant you immediately see a small bar in front of you with the carvery serving area to the left. To the right there is the traditional pub area with large screen TV and seating. The restaurant seating area continues along side the carvery counter and into a larger back room with the conservatory extension overlooking the car park.
If I wasn't a regular to this restaurant I would probably be confused as to whether you find your own seats or wait to be shown to a table. The very same restaurant had changed owners several months previous and the previous management had a member of staff show you to a table but seemingly this is no more. You now have to find yourself a table and then order at the bar. Once you have ordered you are given a carvery receipt (if you haven't ordered an alternative meal) which you hand to the chef at the carvery counter. Sometimes there is a queue but this disappears pretty quick and if you time it right you probably won't have to queue at all. This brings me nicely onto the menu and pricing.
Menu & Pricing
I have never had the need to order any starters at the restaurant as I usually get full off the main meal but there is a wide selection available.
Gammon & Mushroom skins and Chicken Wings are served with a sweet chilli dip and salad garnish and Soup of the day is served with bread. The other options are Prawn Cocktail coated in Marie Rose sauce with Brandy and Pink Peppercorns and Garlic bread with cheese if you wish.
The carvery is priced at £3.59 Monday to Saturday and £6.50 on Sundays which I think is great value for what you get. The carvery menu usually gives you a meat choice of Turkey, Beef or Gammon with an optional Yorkshire pudding and stuffing. The portions of meet you get carved from the chef are very generous and are sure to fill you up with the plate sizes being adequate. You can have a mixture of meats if you wish but you cannot have 2nd helpings whereas the vegetables are all you can eat. You basically help yourself to the vegetables where they usually have bowls of peas, sweetcorn, carrots, swede, cauliflower cheese, new potatoes and roast potatoes, although the selection is sometimes substituted to include green beans for example. At the end of the counter there is a separate section containing various sauces such as mint sauce, horseradish and a meat based gravy or non-meat alternative.
You can choose not to have any meat on the carvery and go for the vegetarian option which is the same price where you just help yourself to any veg. Children's portions for the carvery are at a reduced rate (under £3 for under 10s) and consist of smaller plates.
The only other alternative to a carvery is the snack menu which consists of Quick 'n' Cheesy which is garlic bread, gammon and melted cheese, the Chicken-Tastic in a basket which consists of chicken wings served on a bed of lettuce with sweet chilli sauce, roast potatoes and sweetcorn and the Roasties with Chilli and Cheese which consists of roasties covered in sweet chilli sauce topped with cheese.
For those with allergies there is a clear warning on the menu that dishes may contain nuts, seeds, gluten or other allergens. I've never known the carvery menu to contain traces of nuts but I guess the warnings are there to be on the safe side (no doubt to avoid a law suit!).
The last time I visited the restaurant deserts were reasonably priced between £1.50 and £3. None of the items on the menu are exotic but there are a wide selection available consisting of Lemon Meringue Pie, Orange Jelly & Ice-cream, Toffee Apple Pie, Apple & Blackberry Pie, Treacle Sponge, Dairy Ice-Cream (with selection of flavours), Chocolate Melting Cake and Chocolate Fudge Sensation (for those with a large apatite or wanting to share). There is a choice of cream, ice-cream or custard to go with all of these deserts. If I was to recommend one of these deserts I would go for the Toffee Apple Pie or the Chocolate Fudge Sensation (if you are still hungry by the time you finish your meal). The Chocolate Chips, Ice-cream, fudge, brownies, chocolate sauce, whipped cream and wafers really do make the Chocolate Fudge a sensation, especially if you have a sweet tooth. Orders for deserts are usually taken from the waiter or waitress on collection of your main meal plates where you simply pay from them at the till on the way out.
On the drinks front, prices are probably just above average for your typical pub restaurant which is around the £3 mark for a pint. I remember soft drinks being quite expensive too although I usually prefer a cold lager from the wide range they have on tap.
Typically on draft they have Carlsberg, Tetley Smothflow, John Smith's, Carling, Stella Artois, Strongbow, San Miguel and Bulmers. Additionally, they provide Budweiser, Becks, Sol, Newcastle Brown Ale and Magners, Jaques and Woodpecker by the bottle including WKD. This is one of the best ranges of beers and beverages I have seen available in any restaurant. The range of wines is also impressive with a selection of 8 White, 4 Red and 4 Sparkling & Rose to choose from including Blossom Hill, Silver Bay and Rossellini.
If you are into your spirits then they also have a wide selection of Whisky and Vodka to choose from.
Considering the carvery is so cheap they probably have a nice mark-up on the drinks but you still end up leaving with more change in your pocket than a Beefeater or other chain restaurant for an equivalent meal and drink.
I have always known the staff at the restaurant to be very polite and helpful. Some of the staff have remained there since the management was changed although there do appear to be more foreign waitresses working there than before but the service has still remained at a respectable level. Tables are usually cleaned to a good standard at a reasonable speed (especially when you are waiting for one to be cleared during busy periods).
One of the main downfalls is that they don't accept bookings (unless it is Christmas Day) so this isn't the ideal place to go on the spur of the moment if you have a large party, particularly on a Sunday. You can usually find plenty of free tables for 4 persons but you would struggle to find anything for more than that. The Chefs always offer a great service and have always brought out fresh meat from the kitchen when it is running low. They are happy to give you extra Yorkshire Pudding or Stuffing if you request it which is a bonus. The kitchen staff are also very quick to replace stock of vegetables when they are running low so you never find yourself waiting at the counter. If you have young children waitresses are always happy to fetch you a wooden highchair which are located at the rear of the restaurant area.
As for tipping we never usually tip that much because there is never really a waiter service to speak of unless you order deserts. They don't expect a tip but they are always grateful to receive.
The restaurant has recently had some much needed refurbishment. The tables they used to have were very old and battered having been there for years and they had lots of scratches and ring marks on them which made the place look a bit scruffy. It was nice to see on my last visit that they had spent some money on replacing the furniture including the chairs with a lick of paint, new photos and wall paper on the walls. The pre existing décor is very pleasant and consists of brickwork and wooden panelling surrounded by brass hand rails in the newer part of the building. The traditional pub area has lounge chairs for extra comfort with Oak beams and stone wall surroundings. The new décor in the restaurant area is appealing as both modern and rustic which is well suited to what you would expect from a Carvery restaurant.
The Hollybush is one of the few Crown Carvery chains in the South Wales area to offer ESPN, Sky Sports & Quiz nights. I have not been to any of the quiz nights to rate their quality but if you are looking to attend they are available every Friday with a small prize available for the winning team. The bar area for watching sporting events is quite small so you would want to get there early to get a decent seat.
Overall this is a very cheap and friendly place to dine with family and friends and the food is very nice and filling. Some Carveries can taste bland and don't have a large selection available but this is certainly not the case here. The beer garden is a nice place to sit and have a drink in the summer months (if you're a smoker) and there's nothing stopping you having your meal out there if you wish. If I could improve the experience then I would probably encourage waiter service at your table and instate bookings to guarantee a table.
All in all, if you are visiting Cardiff and looking for a nice place to have a meal then I certainly recommend trying it out. I have been to a lot of Toby Carveries in the area and although the atmosphere is better and more relaxing the food at this Crown Carvery beats it hands down.