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Wales Online
Wales Online
Bethany Gavaghan

The once rough pub that's become one of the best places to eat in town

Before Covid it wasn't a highly regarded pub in Porthcawl - say the current owners of the Rock Inn. But Rob and Mariah Leonhardt have completed something of a transformation of a bar many would have avoided in the past.

Since they took over in 2019, it has now become the place for foodies in the area, and beyond. With a pizza oven, popular steaks, a thriving open mic night and a chef who takes inspiration from food from the Philippines- they have turned the place around. Now, the pub has just been named the Regional Gastropub of the South East at Food Awards Wales. And married couple Rob and Mariah couldn’t be more delighted.

It is clear there are many different facets to the business when you walk inside the Rock Inn. When you first go through the door, you’re met with a cosy, traditional bar area with a lovely, local feel. You can get more Porthcawl and Bridgend news, and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.

Read more: Historic pub that's now a beautiful wedding venue and restaurant is crowned the best in Wales

Smiles all round from Maria and Rob Leonhardt, whose business has just been named the Regional Gastropub of the South East at Food Awards Wales. (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
The bar area of the Rock Inn, Porthcawl (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
The Rock Inn has had a complete revamp to it's business over the last few years (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

Then, walking through to the other side of the pub, you will find a restaurant area that has a whole different vibe. It is in here that you get a real sense of attention to the high quality nature of the business, and a sense that you are experiencing something special - all while still in keeping with the tone of the pub and maintaining a relaxed atmosphere.

Adjoining this section, when you go to the back, there’s a trendy beer garden and outdoor space. This area really feels like you could be anywhere, and on a hot day, with a drink in hand, would definitely trick your brain into thinking you were on holiday.

The restaurant area at the Rock Inn, Porthcawl (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
There's plenty to choose from on the creative menu at the award-winning gastropub (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
The trendy beer garden has an almost exotic feel to it, making you feel like you could be anywhere in the world with it's creative use of space (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

Also outside, is what looks like a small annexe-style part of the pub. This is where, as Rob explained, people can book a space their for the day and sit with their laptops to work, or have a meeting, and it seemed like a true sign of the times - showing how the business has really won over the hearts of people in Porthcawl and kept up with the trends.

Rob spends most of his time in the kitchen, where he takes inspiration from his years travelling, and has been loving every minute of it so far, as well as creating a buzzing space for the local community. He said: “We really wanted to have everything we could here that would give people a different experience. That’s why we have things like the pizza oven outside, the restaurant area and also the bar itself because it’s really important that we do still have that local space.”

Rob working away in the kitchen at the Rock Inn. (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Tempura prawns (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Checking out the incredible menu at the Rock Inn (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

WalesOnline visited the modern gastropub and got to see all the things that make it special, as well as meet the lovely staff members. They were even kind enough to let us try out a few dishes on their menu.

And let's just say, we could see what all the fuss was about. Rob cooked up a storm in the kitchen, and brought out some cauliflower wings with a peanut and soy glaze and wasabi mayo, some sweet potato and goats cheese bhajis, some beautifully-presented tempura prawns, Korean fried chicken wings and a gorgeous bruschetta with cherry tomatoes.

Bruschetta at the Rock Inn, Porthcawl (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Sweet potato and goats cheese bhaji (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

All of the dishes were incredible. Each one was bursting with character both in flavour, and in its aesthetic. But our favourite one would have to be the cauliflower wings which tasted amazing, were perfectly cooked and something totally different.

The chicken wings were a close second, which offered just the right amount of spice.

Cauliflower wings with a peanut and soy glaze and a wasabi mayo (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Korean fried chicken wings (WalesOnline/Rob Browne)

To find out more about the Rock Inn, check out their food or find out more about the events they regularly put on, you can find their website here.

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