Until recently, Caerphilly hasn’t been well known for its dining scene, which for a foodie is really frustrating. We’ve always had to venture into Cardiff for a decent meal, favouring The Chapel, Steak of the Art, or The Old Cottage for a good Sunday Lunch.
This Sunday, we thought we would give 13 Market Street another go. Now, this place has divided opinion since it opened late November last year. It took approximately two years to complete the project due to the amount of renovation needed to convert the old Wheatsheaf into this stylish establishment you see today.
13 Market Street has had what can only be described as a shaky start. It’s taken a slamming on Trip Advisor, and mixed reviews on Facebook. The general feeling is that people feel it’s expensive for the area, the service slow and food quality poor.
I totally disagree that it’s too expensive for the area. If you want cheap, Wetherspoons is just up the road. I cannot stand it there, full of old stale smelling men getting their cheap beer. 13 Market Street has been priced to ensure they attract a certain clientele. A client that enjoys good, seasonal food, quality cocktails (not a litre of WooWoo in sight! ) and a great wine list.
My honest review is based upon four visits at various times. The owners of the restaurant have no idea i’m writing this and is not affiliated in any way.
I first visited here with my girlfriends for a midweek meal the week it opened, and had an ok experience. I was wowed by the attention to detail of the interior, but slightly disappointed by the beef brisket I had. It didn’t have enough BBQ sauce and I had nine chips to accompany it.
I came again on a Saturday in December for a ‘date night’ with my Husband. On this occasion, the dining room was full to capacity. The staff were visibly stressed, frustrated patrons complaining all over the dining room floor. We had a lovely evening. Yes, we waited ages between courses, however, we bloody love a good drink, so leisurely consumed two bottles of Merlot between our starter and main. I ordered a filet steak on this occasion, which was beautifully cooked medium rare, with a melt-in-the-mouth texture and came with tasty hand cut chips.
On leaving, We made a point of congratulating the owner Kelly on what they’ve achieved with the restaurant. She was thrilled to get some constructive feedback and invited us to talk to the chef, who was run ragged and really appreciated the positive experience we had. Kelly also asked me to let her know when we return, as she’d come and chat to us.
The next visit was a disaster!
We told all of our friends about our fabulous night, and decided to have a pre Christmas get together. On booking the Table, I let Kelly know that we were returning. She couldn’t come to say hello as she had another engagement, however, she reserved an area for us in the bar, and arranged a complimentary drink which was a lovely gesture. Then it all went tits up!
We waited about two hours between courses, got steaming drunk on wine and nearly ordered Dominos Pizza to our table. We didn’t enjoy our food when it came, the hand cut chips had been replaced with frozen chips which is bad news for me! So, after raving about this place to my friends, We left bitterly disappointed with the food, the service and the general experience.
Enter February 2019. Such a great deal can happen in a short space of time. 13 Market Street took a roasting on social media, and for a long time didn’t respond. Then the owner defended his restaurant on Facebook, explaining that they were new to the hospitality industry and had got it wrong at the start. They had taken big steps to put it right again. Now, that’s not easy. When an establishment gets a bad reputation, it’s so hard to shake it.
We visited Sunday 3rd February at lunchtime. We had a drink in the bar first, where I had an Espresso Martini, as I was feeling a bit poo, so this was kill or cure…I’m pleased to say it cured
Whilst we sat in the bar, we looked through the Sunday Lunch menu. They do a set price for two or three courses. There are other options if you don’t fancy a roast, however, if you’re Veggie or Vegan, you have very little choice at all.
After finishing our drinks, we took to our window table in the dining room. Our order was promptly taken, however a ropey start as we had to chase up our bottle of Pinot Noir which hadn’t materialised after twenty minutes. I was getting thirsty! Jon noted the menu lacked description. ‘Roasted Beef’ is not a thorough description on the meal you’re purchasing, and the waitress had to ask the kitchen which cut of beef was being served. We were informed it was Topside.
My starter arrived shortly after the wine, which was Garlic Mushrooms on Ciabatta. The ciabatta was lightly toasted, the mushrooms were plump and plentiful, but somehow lacked seasoning. I very rarely add salt and pepper to a meal, but needed to on this occasion.
On to the main. The Topside of beef looked suspiciously like Sirloin on arrival. I’m not complaining as this is generally a tastier cut. I asked for it served pink, however, it was more well done. The lunch which was beautifully presented, came with seasonal veg – Parsnips, carrots, braised red cabbage, crispy roasties, and two mini copper pans with gravy and cauliflower cheese, all topped with a sizeable Yorkshire Pudding! The veg was perfectly cooked, nice and firm. I ate every bit of this lunch, and didn’t need to add any additional seasoning.
After clearing our plates, the waitress tempted us with a dessert. I took this opportunity to point out the spelling error on the menu (can you spot it?) and bored her with the history of Eton Mess…(I’m such a geek, and deserve to have my food sabotaged by waiting staff!) I decided to order it. Jon ordered the ‘Seasonal Crumble’ which was apple and raspberry. I took great delight in informing the waitress the raspberries are not seasonal and are actually a summer fruit. Jon rescued her by butting in with “They’re seasonal somewhere!”
The Eton mess was a very light dessert. probably only about four mouthfuls. The meringue was sadly not restaurant made and quite obviously smashed up nests which were powdery. This could be massively improved with chewy meringue, some slightly crushed berries running through it, streaked with a lovely coulis and served in a sundae glass. That’s just my opinion.
Anyway…Wine bottle drained, it was now time to leave. The bill came to a reasonable £63, that was three courses each and a bottle of Pinot Noir which was a mid range wine.
A friend visited last week, and made a very strong statement that it was the best food he’s eaten in South Wales. Now, this chap is a fellow foodie, who, like me has eaten in Michelin quality places, so I was desperate to come back and try it. Although I enjoyed today’s lunch, I don’t think it’s up there with The Hardwick in Abergavenny or James Sommerin in Penarth, I do, however, believe that 13 Market Street is a much needed addition to the Caerphilly dining scene. Yes, it had a shaky start, but I believe the owners are working hard to establish this as a great venue to serve the clientele that want good quality and don’t mind paying for it.
In summary, ignore the bad reviews and publicity it’s had on social media, and let’s get behind this new independent restaurant and help make Caerphilly a foodie haven.