BBQ and Beers in Caerphilly

It had been a while since I’d ventured out of Truro, so I thought a little train trip to Caerphilly was in order.

When I was a carefree teenager, I’d often spend my summers visiting family friends in Wales. Every time I return it brings those childhood memories of underage pints and breathless nights of laughter back, a wave of nostalgia that I welcome as often as I can. Luckily for me, those friends are still living in the same area so I return most summers to tour round the excellent pubs, indulge in some good food and even better conversation.

The train journey from Truro to Caerphilly is often filled with holidaymakers like me, slightly older folks who are looking for a bit of gentle hiking and some lovely sights. As I tuck into my packed lunch and watch the scenery pass by I’m given the opportunity to consider how much has changed since those hazy days of summer. As teenagers we weren’t limited by the time of day, pocket money could be amassed through chores and the cost of living meant that we were able to afford everything that we needed (beer and pork pies) to while away the days.

Things are a little different now. My friend Joe always had an entrepreneurial spirit, so it didn’t surprise me when I found out he was a starting a cleaning business in his home town of Caerphilly. Although I was never a huge fan of the manual labour, I was happy enough to do the work for the beer money but clearly Joe felt like this was his ticket to success. He bought the cleaning franchise idea from a man in America and now he spends his days travelling around the Caerphilly area scrubbing BBQs and grills. It might not be the life that I would choose, but it’s certainly one that I admire.

Joe met me at the station, a big grin on his face and black grease staining his work trousers. We took a short walk back to his childhood home and caught up. I’ve never been much of a phone-person, so whenever Joe and I meet we tend to have a lot to catch up on. After dropping my stuff off, it was off to the first pub of the trip. The walk to The Black Cock Inn was one that we were both very familiar with. This was the pub that we used to frequent in our early days of drinking, after a day of labouring in a local orchard or painting fences we would nonchalantly walk up to the bar and order our ciders, growing bolder with each pint that we drained.

Today the pub is under different management and they no doubt operate a much stricter policy on underage drinkers, not that Joe and I remotely represent young people anymore…

The Black Cock is an example of a classic pub that (barring their Challenge 25 drinking policy) has remained unchanged my modernity. Even the regulars look like they’ve walked out of our memories, I was quite content drinking down their still excellent cider and whiling away the evening.

Lunch Break in Philleigh

Village pubs are a dime a dozen here in Cornwall, but they’re not all made equal…

I’ve been driving around the country lanes of Cornwall for most of my life; they’re twisty, treacherous and not to be tackled whilst under the influence.

Back in 2003 I made the decision to quit my day job and try something new. For years I’d day dreamed about working for myself; about striking out alone, setting my own agenda and finishing when I darn well pleased. The problem I had was that I was unsure of what business I could set up and run by myself.

I’m a Cornish boy, born and bred, who’s spent the majority of his life working and living in the same village. Like many lads from the local area I’d fallen in love with farming at a young age. I always knew that I belonged on a tractor, so I was more than a little bit shocked to find out that, roughly 15 years in, I was horribly, horribly bored.

The life of a farmer, as idyllic as it might sound, is not hugely varied. Depending on the crop that you are growing there are a variety of jobs that you’ll be doing throughout the year which are fine enough, but carry on for more than a few years and the monotony soon sets in. Now, I’m not going to say that all farming jobs are like this, but that was certainly what my experience was like.

Don’t get me wrong, it still took me 10 years to get bored (and then another 5 years to actually do something about it), in the mean time I was able to invest in my passion for pubs. My weekends would be spent gallivanting around the countryside looking for the perfect boozer, although it wasn’t until I started my oven cleaning business that I was able to fit my hobby around my work life.

The Roseland Inn in Philleigh holds a special place in my heart as it was here that I stopped on my first day as an oven cleaner. My first call out as a travelling oven cleaner had taken me to Trewithian. I’d bought my van, had my training and loaded up with all the gear that I needed to get the job done, all I needed to do now was get on with the job!

After spending 4 hours taking apart a filthy oven and giving it a good going over, I was happy to have completed my first job and eager to quench my thirst. I spent my first self-made pounds in The Roseland Inn, so I tend to return there every few years to soak up the nostalgia and the excellent ale.

Set on the edge of the Roseland Peninsula, pubs don’t get much more scenic than this one and the views are backed by well poured beers and a great menu. Because I’m a soppy traditionalist I tend to order the same thing every time. I start with Scallops which come served with creamed Cauliflower and Chorizo, then I fill up on the excellent Dark and Stormy Pork Belly all washed down with a lovely pint of Tribute.

Now that’s something I know that I’ll never get bored with.

An Expensive But Enjoyable Pie and Pint

Pies, pints and the smell of the sea air near Padstow

I take a trip to The Pickwick Inn to see what all the fuss is about.

I’m often asked what it’s like to live in Cornwall, my first response is usually less of a reply and more of a whimsical smile. I’ve been here for decades now and to say that ‘I’ve grown accustomed’ to my environment would be a bit of an understatement. I believe quite firmly that Cornwall is the perfect place for men of a certain age to retire to.

After all, it has pretty much everything that men aged 40+ need to sustain a base level of happiness:

  1. Mildly exerting country walks
  2. Plenty of benches to stop along the way
  3. An abundance of pubs serving ale and pie

Some may argue that men of a certain age would be better off with the following:

  1. A stable, well paid job
  2. A home with a good mortgage
  3. A loving family to care for

But those who have made this argument are liable to already have been saddled with kids and are therefore excluded from having an opinion.

With my schedule blissfully free of any responsibilities last weekend (as is the case with pretty much every weekend, as a matter of fact) I decided to take a little drive out of Truro to a corner of Cornwall that I’m very much fond of.

The Pickwick Inn is one of those fancy well-to-do pubs that men like me usually scoff at initially. We look at the faux-worn tables, the Laura Ashley textiles and exposed brickwork, and then sigh audibly. ‘Why don’t they make pubs like they used to?’, we usually say. But then we tuck into a hand-made gourmet pie and take a sip of a carefully kept local ale – suddenly all of our doubts disintegrate.

Although I can vouch for the useful anonymity that the gloom of a dark dingy pub offers a solitary drinker, there’s something very liberating about taking this habit out into the bright white light of a middle-class paradise as verdant as the Pickwick Inn. Whilst you’re unlikely to strike up a dour conversation with any drunken miscreants here (yes – that’s something that I actually look forward to doing) there is a very winning wholesomeness that envelopes you as soon as you arrive here.

It’s worth warning the casual drinker that the Pickwick is more of an uber-holiday complex than a simple boozer. As you approach it you’ll see that a bulky extension offers a bed for the night (for those that book ahead, not those who drink too much) and there are even tennis courts for happy campers too. The proximity to the seaside, ample outside seating and abundance of families breathes life into this otherwise utilitarian building making it an ideal spot to unwind in for a few hours.

Be prepared to dig deep into your pockets if you wish to sit down for a full three-courser here. Starters can cost up to £13, their 8oz Fillet Steak is an eye-watering £30 and puddings, although uniformly lovely, are a standard £8 per portion – Wetherspoons this ain’t. However, should you wish to simply pop in for a pie and a pint you’ll only have to part with £20; well worth it, when you consider the quality that’s on offer.