Having enjoyed several good quality and hearty meals at the Star and Garter before, my expectations on sampling its new menu - on a busy Sunday lunchtime two weeks before Christmas - were high.
And aside from an oversweetened salad dressing (a matter I put down to personal taste), those expectations were pleasantly met.
Warmly welcomed into the new-look pub by new manager Colin Barber, my husband, daughter and I were shown to a nice quiet table at the back, from where we had a good view of the open kitchen. The staff had already set up a highchair for our one-year-old and Colin was helpful in finding us a spot to place her pushchair.
The interior has been completely changed so that seating is now mostly in cosy and more private booths and on sofas. The tables are nice and big so they don’t feel cluttered once the food and drinks arrive, as is so often the case in the less formal eating establishments.
The menu is varied and offers a good choice of dishes, with traditional Sunday roasts as well as alternative meals. For starters, I go for the baked golden Cenarth cheese with truffle honey, while my husband chooses potted crab and prawns. The cheese is, true to promise, glistening, golden and mouthwatering to the eye. It comes with two slices of pear and a some elegant slices of fruit toast and is absolutely delicious - the savoury tang of the cheese and strong flavour of truffle complemented well by the sweet fruit and crisp toast. The potted crab and prawns are served with peppery rocket, fresh lemon and toasted sourdough and is creamy and melt-in-the-mouth with a touch of heat and zing from the accompaniments.
Not long after polishing off our starters, our mains swiftly arrive: for me, a superfood salad of quinoa, sweet potato, raw broccoli, baby spinach and pomegranate and a lemon and honey dressing, and for my husband, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with roast potatoes, a good selection of colourful vegetables and some bubbling cauliflower cheese to boot. My husband has absolutely no complaints about his hearty but stylishly-presented Sunday lunch: the beef is cooked on the rarer side as he requested, the Yorkshire pudding achieves that perfect balance of light and airy yet crispy as well, the potatoes are fluffy and not greasy - and by time his plate is squeaky clean, he is one full man - despite off-loading about half of the pudding to our demanding toddler.
My meal is also hearty, colourful and tasty - but for me, the lemon and honey dressing could have benefitted from a lot less honey and some kind of heat - maybe mustard? - to achieve the balance of flavour I was looking for. But I do enjoy the combination of salad ingredients and different textures in each mouthful - and those with a sweeter tooth than I would have most likely been completely satisfied.
The dessert menu comes with a whole page of cheese choices, but we are both far too full to contemplate cheese - something to try on another day. I instead opt for the lighter iced coffee and amaretto parfait with amaretti biscuit, while my husband chooses the classic pub pud of sticky toffee pudding with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream. Both are gorgeous and despite being full, we have no regrets about forging on with a third course.
Anyone who scans this new menu can see that the pub’s head chef Jakub Fijak likes to use British produce and sustainable fish - and has managed to create a good balance of traditional pub fare and modern dishes for a variety of diets and tastes.
There is also an unusual and impressive range of gins and cocktails, alongside the usual beers, wines and soft and hot drinks.
With friendly and highly efficient service and a relaxed and very family-friendly atmosphere, this is a pub I will certainly keep going back to.