Saturday, 8 October 2016

JOL's, Merthyr Tydfil restaurant review

When it comes to eating out for dinner, Mrs G and I are a well-oiled machine.

We book a table at 7pm, arrive five minutes early and get our orders in and food down the hatch before the 8pm hordes arrive. As a result we’re usually in and out within an hour and a half and home in good time to binge on the latest boxset #LivingTheDream.

So, when I made a right royal hash up with the sat nav on our trip to Merthyr Tydfil to visit JOL’s, the thought of arriving 30 minutes late for our 7pm booking brought me out in a bout of the cold sweats.

Thankfully, with food as good as that cooked by Jamie O’Leary (the JOL in JOL's), it was no hardship to spend the evening savouring it.

With a background as sous-chef at Stephen Terry’s legendary Hardwick in Abergavenny and the accolade of best Welsh street food vendor at the British Street Food Awards in 2015, Jamie O’Leary has serious cooking chops. It’s evident in his menu of complex sounding dishes with a smattering of global influences.

As we waited for our starters I supped on a cracking bottle of Valley Pilsener (£3.50) from Aberdare-based Grey Trees brewery. Hoppy and light, it’s exactly the kind of beer I could make a session of. 

I’m a sucker for a good Welsh Rarebit (£6) and the example at JOL's is an absolute knockout. Toasted Alex Gooch sourdough was slathered with a bronzed mix of intense cheese, mustard and beery goodness. Accompaniments of crisp streaky bacon and well-dressed leaves completed dish.

Mrs G’s starter was just as impressive. A whopping crisp-skinned oily mackerel fillet (£8) was counterpointed by the freshness of citrusy orange, warmth of red chilli, earthiness of beetroot and fragrance of coriander and fennel. 

Mains were equally lush.

Breast and confit leg of partridge (£18), so easy to overcook, were beautifully tender, golden and delicately flavoured. Accompaniments of light gnocchi, sweet and soft pumpkin, sage-twanged bacon-flecked green lentils and a compellingly tasty piece of bread soaked with all the flavours of the dish all hit the mark.

Across the table, blushing pink slices of roast lamb rump (£18) were served with smooth as you like creamed potatoes, pieces of slow-cooked deep-flavoured braised lamb shoulder, buttery and garlicky cavolo nero and plate-lickingly good roasting juices. 

When you’re told there’s going to be a twenty-minute wait for a pudding to be cooked to order, you cross your fingers that it’s going to be worth the wait. It was, and some.

Delightfully flaky pastry nestled thin slices of sweet roasted black fig drizzled with honey. A scoop of wonderfully smooth vanilla ice cream completed the dish (£9). 

It’s rare that a dish is improved by deconstructing it but JOL's apple cheesecake (£8) managed to succeed. A scoop of not to sweet vanilla-flecked baked cheesecake was joined by a super short and crisp piece of shortbread topped with sweet apple compote. Wow. 

Dinner at JOL’s was absolutely frigging cracking. I'd recommend a trip to Merthyr to try Jamie O’Leary’s cooking as soon as you can.

The Details:

Address - JOL's, 30-31 High Street, Merthyr Tydfil CF47 8DP
Web -
Telephone - 01685 267878


  1. Never thought I'd be craving a trip to Merthyr!

  2. Never thought I'd be craving a trip to Merthyr!