I was so pleased this week to be asked to review The Ashbridge Inn in Pontrhydyrun, Cwmbran, part of the Table Table restaurant brand. I have lots of memories of visiting The Ashbridge growing up, back when it was part of a different chain - many moments of sibling rivalry were played out to their natural conclusion amidst the organised chaos that was Charlie Chalks' Fun Factory...
When you walk into The Ashbridge today it's like a different world. Gone is the acrid tang of sweaty feet emanating from said Fun Factory and the accompanying screeching, in its place is modern decor, comfy seating, and an atmosphere of cheerful calm.
We - my Mum, Anthony, Marianna and I - went for a late lunch, with the table booked for 1:30pm. As soon as we arrived we were shown to our table, a swanky leather half-moon booth with a view out to the bar, and provided with a highchair for Marianna. She was grouchy and clingy, whingy and loud, but there were lots of other families eating, and the layout of the restaurant gives each table enough privacy that you don't feel as stressed as you otherwise might with a screaming baby.
There were Easter activities available: some awesome looking face painting (which sadly I knew Marianna would not keep still for), and some easter egg colouring sheets with little packs of crayons. We went for the latter which kept her amused while we ordered our drinks and looked through the menu.
There was such a fab choice of food though, in the end, my Mum and I still opted for our usual gammon steak and chips (£8.79). Anthony had the cauliflower and asparagus macaroni cheese (£7.99). Our food arrived really quickly, and tasted absolutely gorgeous. I find gammon can often be a bit dry when eating out but this wasn't dry at all, something my Mum commented on too. Even Anthony cleared his plate!
I knew Marianna wouldn't eat much, but we decided to order her something from the kids menu and see how she went. I was so impressed with it! You can get two courses from the main kids' menu for £1.99 before 5pm, Mon - Sat, or £3.99 in the evening - even better you can pick and choose from a selection of mains and sides. We settled on poppin' chicken nuggets, skinny cut fries and baked beans. True to form she just picked at it (and threw some chips on the floor *sigh*), but for that value I didn't really mind!
After the main course the staff were around really quickly to clear the plates, and refill the drinks. They were wearing bunny ears in readiness for Easter, and some had gone the full hog and sat for a face painting session. Marianna was most impressed with a minion on one waiter's forehead! The staff were so friendly throughout our entire visit, and I never once felt like Marianna's fussing and grouching was an imposition.
For dessert I chose vanilla dairy ice cream with raspberry sauce (£3.59), Anthony had a scrummy looking chocolate and caramel tart (£4.99), while my mum went for apple and blueberry crumble (£4.49). Marianna had the best dessert of all: the scary face sundae! All the kids' desserts are really cool; my favourite was the 'Graveyard Horror', a wafer coffin filled with chocolate mousse soil, gummy bones and skulls! Other options include a design your own iced biscuit, and lime slime jelly.
Again, the desserts were gorgeous, and Marianna forgot her fussiness as soon as ice cream was involved...
It was so lovely to go out for lunch - it's been months since the last time we did - and, although it's a much different experience with a baby than without, the restaurant is so family friendly. The laid back atmosphere, cheerful staff, and the Easter activities going on combined to make us feel really welcome and at ease.
I've been writing about visiting as a family, but the restaurant covers a lot of floor space, and has plenty of private booths - if you visited as a couple, or a group of adults, I definitely don't think you would feel overwhelmed by children and families, even in the day. There is a nice bar area too, if you're waiting to be seated, or just want a drink, and picnic style benches outside for when the weather is fine. Plus, if you're visiting from further afield, there's a very handy Premier Inn which is literally right next door.
A quick mention of the other amenities: the car park is large and doesn't require any walking, a bus stop on the main route through Torfaen (X24) is situated almost directly opposite, and it's only about a 25 minute walk from Cwmbran Shopping. The loos were spotless, and the dining area itself was really clean too. The value for money was fab. I really couldn't find anything to nitpick about.
In short, I'd recommend The Ashbridge Inn to anyone. Why not book a table for Easter? I'm sure we'll be making many more visits over the next few years!