There are some really lovely places to eat in Cowbridge but I rarely get up there so I was very pleased to be invited to review Arboreal Cafe-Kitchen-Bar. The current owners only opened after a reburb in October 2011 and I have heard quite a lot about Arboreal in that short time with reviews by fellow bloggers and articles in local magazines.
We managed to park right outside and Arboreal looked very inviting through the window with groups of people sitting inside by the bar. When we got in we could see that it was very busy but we were still greeted immediately by a friendly man behind the bar who took our name and showed us to our table.
The decor was striking. It had a clean fresh feel with white walls, pale furniture, big windows and a glass ceiling at the rear of the restaurant. The walls and the ceiling in places were cladded with reclaimed wood, washed white. The walls housed some unusual decor along the same theme including shelves made from wooden pallets and the table numbers were written on pebbles.
A chat with the owner at the end of the meal revealed that the theme was based round the name. Arboreal means ‘relating to or resembling a tree’. It is a very novel idea and worked well. Until I knew this, I thought there was a beach house theme as both seemed to fit with the decor. Either way, it was very appealing and is a nice twist on the traditional rustic theme.
We took our seats right next to the open kitchen. We were so close I was tempted to reach up and get my own dinner when they called service. It was great to be so close to the smells of the kitchen and I could literally smell some of our dishes coming but perhaps we were a little too close. The restaurant is quite small but the space has been utilised well. It felt intimate but not squashed.
The menu was quite minimal but varied with only three starters but there was also a range of sharing platters which looked really good. I went for the duck rillette, winter slaw of red cabbage, apple, beetroot and raisins with crustini and Mr. V went for mussels cooked with cider, leeks and pancetta, finished with fresh herbs and cream. Both were delicious and were our favourite dishes of the night.
I had a very generous helping of rillette and the accompanying winter slaw was just gorgeous. There were a lot of flavours on my plate as even the salad dressing added more but nothing overpowered, everything complimented each other perfectly.
Mr. V’s mussels were equally as lovely. They were beautifully cooked and the sauce was delicious with a good depth of flavour. Mr V was very pleased that they came with the accompaniments he likes; a bowl for the shells, a bowl of water to wash his hands and some bread. Both starters were a good size and a good price at £6.65 for the mussels and £5.95 for the duck rillette.
Even though the restaurant was full, we didn’t have to wait long for our mains. Staff were efficient and friendly and we could see the chef in action. For our mains, I went for the Braised Beef Chilli and Mr. V opted for the Coq Au Vin. There were some seriously good pizzas on the menu too which I will be sampling next time.
My chilli was lovely. I don’t usually choose chilli but I liked the idea of it being made with braised beef instead of mince and it was a great way of doing it. It was the perfect heat for me and topped off with lime and coriander sour cream and served with wild rice. The beef was tender and the favours worked well together.
Mr. V’s hearty Coq au vin was well received. The chicken was moist and the mash was smooth and light. The plate was small but the portion was a good size. It was nicely presented without being pretentious, just as a classic should be presented. Some of the mains were a touch expensive at £15.95 each but the starters and desserts were priced very well, as were the pizzas.
Moving onto dessert I opted for the vanilla cheesecake and Mr. V had the Chocolate and rum torte with passion fruit cream. Both were excellent. Dessert is usually my least favourite course but for me these desserts were up there with the mains.
My cheesecake was delicious accompanied by boozy raisins and toasted hazelnuts but Mr. V’s was my favourite. The chocolate and rum torte was beautifully soft and dense and the passion fruit cream complimented the bitter chocolate.
Verdict: We had a lovely meal and I would definitely go back. Arboreal had a great atmosphere and staff made us feel welcome. For me a restaurant that can combine a laid back comfortable atmosphere with good quality, delicious food is a winner and Arboreal definitely delivered in this area.
My Last Mouthful: The duck rillette with winter slaw
We were invited to Arboreal as guests so our meal was complimentary