Simply the Best Family Friendly Pub in the Brecon Beacons – The Star Inn at Talybont-on-Usk
I booked us dinner out on the first night of our holidays (When LittleStuff Went To Wales ) – traditionally for us, first night is chip-shop-ships night, but as it was the husband’s birthday I felt he deserved a little something more.
I’d been recommended to try the Star Inn, but when we pulled up outside I was a little cautious – it looked like a very ordinary village pub in a residential street, right on the road, and just the sort of place we’d probably sail past as a tourist looking for ‘somewhere nice’.
But I’d booked a table for 6.30, so in we went… and were greeted by a wall of noise and people. It’s been a long time since we went to pub that was actually thriving as a ‘pub’, and it was such a welcoming atmosphere. Barely making it to the bar, we were greeted with warm smiles by the bar staff, shown our table and handed our menus.
We had just settled in our seats when the lovely landlady arrived, said hello to all the children, and then immediately warned us that as they were very busy, there would be quite a wait for the food – were we okay with that? Whilst we’re not keen on long waits, obviously, it was refreshing to be warned before we ordered, therefore giving us the choice. We were early enough for us not to mind an hour’s wait, and being pre-warned saves all the narky irritation of waiting in ignorance. So we were quite content to settle in and relax with a drink.
We were also pointed to a large basket tucked into the wall, which contained all sorts of things to occupy the youngest members of the family. I always go equipped with pencil and paper in my bag, but this was the first time we’ve felt the children were so welcome in a pub that they had specifically been catered for – colouring books and pens, Jenga, puzzles etc – all good table activities that meant the wait really wasn’t an issue.
The menu itself was great too – the ethics of a gastropub (freshly made food using good local ingredients), but simple straightforward dishes that everyone understood immediately. The husband and two sons opted for the steak (£13), I went for the chicken from the specials board – stuffed with chorizo and cheese, wrapped in bacon. No.2 son opted for the burger – with reservations. He badly wanted it to be delicious, but had concerns about it’s size (caused by our recent jaunt to a ‘fancy restaurant with pretend food portions’), and the fact that it contained ‘stinky cheese’. He was reassured by our grinning host who absolutely guaranteed he’d have a humongous man-sized beast of a burger, and offered cheddar as an alternative, much to his delight. The 6yr old was the only one selecting from the brilliant children’s menu – spaghetti bolognese was her dish of choice. We were impressed by the fact that under 2’s get bubble & squeak with gravy for free – such a nice touch but one so few restaurants catch on to.
True to their warning, we did wait an hour for our food – but none of us minded. There were a couple of chats with the owners of the Star Inn (who are very lovely). There was a coke mishap – which Anna the landlady magically whisked a cloth out to mop up in approximately 3 nanoseconds. She wasn’t even at the table when it happened, but the cloth appeared before the coke puddle had started to spread. That’s some experienced parent skills. There were some tense and competitive rounds of Jenga (and the atmosphere was such that no one minded the clatter of the bricks falling), plus some serious wall designing with the bricks. The colouring book was put to the test, and bestie best of all, the children were all whisked away by Anna-the-lovely-landlady to see the new rabbits in the garden. SO exciting!
This is no tourist food stop though. The pub was full of locals, too – it’s always reassuring to see a pub being actually used as a pub, rather than having a few rebellious souls stuck in the corner away from the tables that fill the place. The Star Inn was packed with walkers, families, groups of beer mates, a couple of dogs… and the staff were brilliant, managing to combine efficient service with a warm and friendly chat.
When the food did arrive, it was great. Honestly – really really great, and exactly what we were looking for. The Steaks were cooked perfectly (though the adult meal was WAY too big for the 10-yr-old-who’d-already-drunk-a-can-of-coke… *sigh*), the chicken was utterly delicious (you know those meals where you start to eat slower and slower just to make sure you don’t finish too soon? Yes. That). The spaghetti bolognese was deemed “really very yummy”… and I’m happy confirm that it actually was a humongous man-sized beast of a burger.
Including two rounds of drinks, the whole meal for six came to less than £80. We left relaxed and chattering, having had just a Really Great Family Evening – in possibly one of the most child-friendly pubs we’ve ever eaten in. We will certainly be returning!
(one main had been kindly covered for the purposes of the review)
Beacons Farm sirloin steak cooked to order served with chips and full grill garnish £13.00
(ask at the bar for sauces available – add £1.50)
Welsh lamb shank served with spring onion mash, a rosemary and redcurrant jus and vegetables £14.95
Star burger served in a bun with Stilton, bacon, salad and Lydia Morgan’s Cowboy Pickles and chips £9.95
Beef lasagne served with choice of potatoes, garlic bread and salad or peas £9.50
Star steak and local ale pie served with a choice of potatoes and fresh vegetables or peas £10.50
Fresh fish and chips with our own beer batter, tartare sauce and peas £9.50
Cooked Welsh ham served with bubble and squeak and a local free range egg £8.50
Roasted vegetable lasagne served with choice of potatoes, garlic bread and salad or peas (V) £9.50
Butternut squash and mushroom pie with choice of potatoes and vegetables (V) £9.95
CHILDREN’S MEALS – Under 12s
Sausage and mash with gravy £4.95
Children’s spaghetti bolognese with garlic bread £4.95
Fish with our own batter, chips and peas or beans £4.95
Cottage pie with peas or vegetables £4.95
Bubble and squeak mash & gravy free