For Steak & Stamp, it all started in New York-New York. That’s not a typo: Stacey Roberts and her husband Gareth were in the infamous Las Vegas hotel of that name, reminiscing about the old Cafe Petite in Pencoed, when an idea was born. Remember how it was open until 4 am, they asked; how you could get a steak in the early hours? And now? Nothing. But people still talk about how they miss it…
The idea took root – and when they returned home, the village post office was up for sale. The couple already owned The Little Penybont Arms pub just yards away, so it seemed an ideal restaurant location. They looked at a few other properties nearby, but none were quite right: the post office was perfect. The name, meanwhile, came about when a Mr Knobby removed the heavy, decades-old counter, and there on the floor was a long-forgotten, solitary book of stamps. And so Steak & Stamp was born.
That was six years ago. Since then, Stacey has run the kitchen alone, making it the popular restaurant it is today. Steak & Stamp is clearly doing something right: you won’t get a weekend table for five or six weeks, Stacey tells me, at which I have to ask her to repeat herself. Even the most sought-after restaurants in Cardiff are easier to get into. What, then, is their secret?
There’s an undeniably cosy feel to the small dining room. Many of the six tables are taken by familiar faces, a testament to the loyalty of regulars, but with more and more new diners too, drawn here by word of mouth, by that enthusiasm we feel when we find a local gem. Somewhere which has fed you well, and at a reasonable price, whether it is a weekday or a special occasion. Larger parties can book one of the wooden cabins outside for something novel.
There’s a good range of starters too. Cockles and bacon on toast are coastal Wales on a plate, a richly bracing smack of salt air. The Chinese-inspired crisp beef and peppers are a hit too, with a gentle gingery twang.
Unsurprisingly overall, meat is front and centre: literally, in the case of the ageing cabinet in the dining room holding locally farmed slabs of beef, and the chalkboard detailing available cuts by weight. Sharing is caring, my nine-year-old tells me, and there’s justifiable renown locally for The Banquet, a beefy behemoth of 60 (yes, sixty) ounces of beef, seven sides, and all the sauces. It’s meant to feed four comfortably, but we couldn’t finish our smaller sharer for two – so don’t be surprised if you find yourself walking back to your car with a few takeaway containers.
Our more modest serving arranges the cuts by age: a ribeye aged for three months, a two-month fillet and a six-week sirloin. It is a hearty display of things done well: well-sourced, well-seasoned, and cooked exactly as requested. Chips have to be good and they rustle and snap very happily indeed, while there’s a welcome body in the Stilton sauce.
Steak & Stamp does what it does with quiet assurance and skill. It isn’t flashy or showy, but it doesn’t need to be: it’s a one-woman kitchen making people so happy with their meal they come back and back again. That’s the essence of hospitality, but an idea so many fail to grasp. Local gem? Absolutely. But it’s time Pencoed’s best-kept secret was more widely shared.
Steak & Stamp, Pen-y-bont Road, Pencoed. Info: 01656 860393 / here
words & photos JONATHAN SWAIN
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