The first thing you notice when you walk into the new Pilot is the chairs. Although there appears to be consistency in the tables, the chairs appear to have been sourced from the end of line aisle at <insert your favourite furniture retailer here>. Faced with the prospect of spending the evening sitting on some white plastic thing that appeared to have escaped from the garden centre, we swapped tables to one with nice sturdy wooden chairs and seat cushions. These were much more suited to the corpulent posteriors!
It’s a pity really because the rest of the décor is really well done. A nice modern fire burns invitingly, there are some comfy sofas, the décor is clean and modern, and the whole place is very nicely set out.
Owners Knife & Fork Food Ltd also own the new Conway and you can see that this is where the inspiration for the new Pilot comes from. As at the Conway the menus take the form of the blackboards on the walls chalked up with the classic favourites and seasonally changing dishes.
The other similarity with the Conway is unfortunately one that I find extremely irritating. Should you require to “open a tab” i.e. pay for your food and drinks in one fail swoop at the end of the evening then they require you to physically hand over your credit/debit card which they keep behind the bar, presumably to stop you doing a runner. Now I’m sorry but as someone who has in the past been the victim of credit card fraud there is absolutely no way in the world I’m going to give you sole charge of my card for a few hours. For as much as you obviously don’t trust me, then let me tell you I trust you even less. At the Conway I point blank refused to hand my card over, pointing out that should I do a runner the chances of a fat fifty year old being able to outrun a twenty something bar person was pretty slim. They capitulated; I didn’t run and paid my bill at the end of the meal just like I normally would.
Now I do appreciate that you could of course ‘pay as you go’ but as there is a minimum spend for each transaction of £10, that extra pint could get expensive.
Okay, enough of my quibbles, let’s get on to what I actually came for and that’s the food.
MrsA chose the ‘Flaked, Smoked & Poached Mackerel with Beetroot, Apple Salad’. She liked how the nice, oily smoked mackerel contrasted against the tartness of apple and earthiness of the baby greens. The crunchiness of the home-made croutons, adding the needed texture; makes for a starter with a lot going on. However, the smoke, sweetness and crunch come together to form a nice balance of flavours and textures. A good start!
I opted for the ‘Chicken & Pancetta Terrine with Cherry Tom Mayo’. A nicely prepared terrine, quite fatty but, because it’s predominantly chicken, fairly bland. The mayonnaise does help to lift it but also being quite fatty isn’t really sharp enough. The toast gives a nice crunch, but there’s nothing to cut through the fat. It needs something to give a bit of sharpness like a caper, a gherkin, or some little pickles just to give it a lift. With no flavour from the pancetta, the dish just comes across as tasting like a chicken mayo. A little disappointing.
For mains MrsA went for the ‘Marinated Lamb Rump, Carrots, Mash with Pea and Mint Dressing’. The lamb was a nicely cooked medium. If the jus were reduced a just bit more and so allowed to develop a richer depth of flavour, then this would have been a perfect dish. As it is, it comes really, really close.
I plumped for the ‘Pork Belly with Boston Beans’. Crispy, flavourful pork, very moist, a great match with the barbequed flavour of the beans with the ham hock. MrsA thought it needed a little green on the plate, but that was not an issue for me. The pork works well with the side of mashed potato, which could be a little creamier. A good dish that I would be happy to eat anywhere.
My dessert, ‘Baked Alaska, Sorbet, Cake & Meringue’ was very nice; the meringue was very light, moist, not dry and powdery. But the cake base was quite dry, very dense, and could have been a lot lighter and less cloying. Ice cream centre was very nice and tasty; there were some berries around it that, based on the taste, we struggled to identify (they turned out to be blackberries). The ice cream sorbet was sharp, tart and cut through the sweetness of the meringue. A bit of work on the cake base would lift this from good to great.
The ‘Trio of Chocolate Ganache, Vanilla Pannacotta & Coffee Caramel’ was really a duet as the Coffee Caramel was actually just a sauce. The chocolate ganache was made from a nice dark chocolate, not over sweetened, and still had that chocolate bitterness which was nicely balanced by the sweetness in the pannacotta and the caramel. Textures are all very smooth, the tastes nicely balanced, not over cloyingly sweet. All in all a very good dessert.
With starters and desserts priced at £5 or less and main courses between £8.50 and £19.00, with many being in the £10-£12 range there’s no doubt that the Pilot offers really good value for money. Service was friendly and accommodating and our waiter, Alex, did a really good job.
The £9.50 classic Fish & Chips proved to be exceedingly popular, with a steady stream of diners popping in to consume it during the course of our visit.
Quibbles aside, and they really are quibbles, I’d be very happy if Knife and Fork decided to open a similar venture at the end of my street. Any concerns about leaving a card behind the bar are easily sorted with a trip to the cash point, after all, and the food is good enough that I’m prepared to forgive them their foibles.
If you’re in reasonable travelling distance of Penarth and you’re looking for decent food that won’t break the bank, then I don’t think you’ll go far wrong with the Pilot, just take a cushion. 🙂
The new Pilot
67 Queens Road
T: 02920 710615
Disclaimer: We were invited to dine at the new Pilot by Working Word PR and as such our food was complimentary, however we paid for our own drinks.