Our inspiration for Rocket & Rye, was born out of a desire to bring good food and a friendly environment to our local community. After moving to Cowbridge over a decade ago and falling in love with the area, we saw an opportunity to open a restaurant when the space, previously occupied by the long-standing Ogmore Vale Bakery, became available. In a bid to avoid yet another chain restaurant occupying the small High Street, or even worse that the property remained empty, we decided to bring our business closer to home.
At Rocket & Rye, our decision to offer small plates stems from both our experience in the culinary industry and the limitations of our small kitchen space. We believe that by focusing on small plates, we can provide our customers with excellent food sourced from local suppliers, while creating a relaxed and inviting dining atmosphere. It truly is a family-run operation, with John leading the way in the kitchen, Ceri taking charge of the front of the house, and the support of our daughter Emily and nephew Will. Of course we couldn’t do any of it without the help of the rest of our incredible team.
We want our customers to feel comfortable regardless of their budget, ensuring everyone can relax and genuinely have a good time. We aim to provide delicious food, sometimes with unique twists, and reassure diners that everything they eat has been consciously sourced. The restaurant itself is designed to be a soft and chilled-out space, complemented by a well-stocked bar offering a variety of wines, cocktails, spirits, and beers. Our team at Rocket & Rye are known for their friendliness and genuine passion, and are dedicated to ensuring that customers have a relaxed and enjoyable experience from start to finish.
At Rocket & Rye, we consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to have established strong relationships with our local suppliers and producers. Many of these partnerships have endured for a significant period of time, and we are continually grateful for the support and expertise they provide. Our network of suppliers includes Richard Vaughan from Huntsham Farm, Tom from Three Pools Farm, Glamorgan Brewing Co. in Llantrisant, Richard Ballantyne, our neighbour at Noble Grape, Claire & Tom from Barry Island Spirits, the talented ceramics artist Matt Jones, and even Caroline Skarkovsky, whose remarkable artwork graces our walls.
Our commitment to supporting local producers and suppliers goes beyond simply sourcing ingredients. It’s essential for us to personally know the people behind these businesses and understand the passion that drives them. We believe in forging meaningful connections that extend beyond transactions. This personal connection allows us to communicate the stories and dedication behind the dishes we serve, enriching the dining experience for our customers.
When crafting our menus, we focus on the offerings of our trusted suppliers. For example, if Tom from Three Pools Farm notifies us that his Hoggett is ready, or if Richard Vaughan informs us about a whole Middle White Pig, we feature these items on our menus. We have confidence in the correct rearing and excellent quality of these animals, knowing they have enjoyed a good life. Our passion lies in providing our customers with exceptional produce that is ethically sourced, and we are dedicated to maintaining these high standards.
Supporting local businesses and showcasing their incredible products is at the core of our values. We strive to celebrate the remarkable work of our suppliers, ensuring that every customer who dines with us can savour not only delicious food, but also the stories and passion behind each ingredient.
John embarked on his culinary journey many years ago, starting as a pot wash at a local restaurant known as the Sizzler Steakhouse. It was there that he discovered his passion for the bustling and vibrant atmosphere of the kitchen. With his natural dedication and hardworking nature, he quickly embraced the life of a chef, realising that it was the path he wanted to pursue.
After studying catering at Bridgend College, John’s culinary skills and experience led him to the prestigious Coed-Y-Mwstwr hotel, where he worked his way up to the position of Sous Chef. His talent and expertise garnered recognition, and he was nominated for the Young Welsh Chef of the Year award.
John’s career continued when he opened Oscars on Cowbridge High Street. Leading the team for many years, the restaurant achieved many accolades along the way. It was while working here, that the opportunity arose to open our own first restaurant – Arbennig in Pontcanna.
My background is rooted in the service industry, starting with long-term employment at McDonald’s during my A-Levels and throughout my university years. Despite having a degree in law, my passion for HR and training led me to work for Welcome Break, a motorway services company. When the opportunity arose for us to open Arbennig, we realised our complementary skill sets could create a successful partnership.
Arbennig became a renowned establishment in Cardiff, achieving a Michelin recommendation, consistently receiving the highest rating in Cardiff in The Good Food Guide, and being awarded Best Restaurant of the Year for Wales. It was during this time that we cultivated strong relationships with suppliers who continue to support us. As well as loyal customers who, thankfully, still visit us to this day.
While at Arbennig, we expanded our venture by taking over the adjacent property, transforming it into the cosy Arbennig Emporium. Additionally, we successfully ran The Lamb and Flag pub in Wick, with John overseeing menu creation, sourcing of produce, as well as the training of the team.
With the lease of our business coming to an end and the arrival of our second child, Gruff, we made the decision to transition into event catering. This led to the establishment of Ember and Dirt events, where we had the opportunity to host a variety of gatherings at different venues in Cardiff. This new venture provided us both with a sense of freedom and a balanced lifestyle while the children were younger.
An exciting opportunity arose to give Ember a more permanent home, leading to the creation of Nook in Cardiff, specialising in the small plates concept. However, the desire to return to a better work-life balance led us to sell our businesses in Cardiff and open Rocket & Rye, closer to our home in Cowbridge.
Ceri & John x