The last time I wrote about On The Rocks was back in 2014 when it arrived above Quigley’s – a Rugby institution that’s far more than a pub, serving up some great live music and plenty of raucous nights. Back then, I hoped it would survive and continue to provide the town with at least one extra venue for eating out.
Since then, On The Rocks has gone from strength to strength. The basic concept has remained – a ‘lava rock’ restaurant where you order from a range of steaks and meats, brought to you at your table raw with a selection of sides, and left for you to cook yourself.
But in the years that have elapsed since On The Rocks opened, as a business and a restaurant it hasn’t stood still. What had a basic feel in its early years has become more slick, but in look and feel and in operation.
A few years ago the restaurant space was extended slightly to allow for more tables, and everything just has a bit more of a polished feel. Once upon a time the menu was a blackboard on the wall, but now there’s a bigger selection on a more permanent printed menu, along with specials that still sit up on the brickwork. The extraction’s better too – which may sound like something small but makes a difference during a busy dinner service full of amateur steak cooks at their tables.
The menu has expanded, from grazing bites to kick things off to starters including Portuguese garlic prawns that I’ve had twice now and enjoyed both times from the moment they arrive sizzling in their cast iron pan, to the final mopping up of the garlicky butter with some bread. Jamie swears by the thick slice of a goat’s cheese log, baked and then drizzled with honey and sprinkled with walnuts.
If sharing’s your thing, there are sharing boards including bread selections and mezze boards to start your feast. Just remember you’ve got a big hunk of meat to get through too.
The menu remains predominantly meat-based, with a range of steaks from local butcher’s Joseph Morris on offer, from fillet right through sirloin and rump to Porterhouse and a 20oz Tomahawk. There’s a growing range of additional options too, from duck and marinated lamb rump to fish options and they’ve continued to offer vegetarian choices for the non meat-eaters among us.
There’s a ‘Rocks butcher feast’ board that gives you a taste of everything and no matter what option you go for, you’ll get it served with chips or sweet potato fries, with alternative options of mash or cheesy mash as well as salad and optional greens.
Each steak comes with three sauces, including house garlic butter, and you can also double-up on your meat or add extras like scallops or prawns if a regular portion isn’t quite enough.
The wine list is decent and I may be wrong, but it seems more comprehensive than it started. There’s also a cocktail list, and they do a good job of putting together set menus for special occasions like Valentine’s Day. The homemade desserts are still there, reminding you that On the Rocks may have grown up, but it hasn’t forgotten its roots. It’s still about giving local people a good time, serving up simple food that no, isn’t groundbreaking, but does what it says on the tin and does it well.
Staff are friendly and knowledgeable, and on our last visit were completely unruffled by a busy Valentine’s night service, staying calm, cheerful and helpful – always a winner in my book.
Living in a small town can be hard. We moan about a lack of choice when it comes to food and drink. We crave the big chains, the small independents, the new openings, and what always seems to be greener grass in some towns and bigger cities.
But amid all that we forget some of the things we have got. The small businesses that started out simply and grew into stalwarts. The ones that might not be winning awards or pushing the boundaries, but are chasing their dream, doing what they do well, and pushing to be the best they can be. They’re the ones that are full every night, providing decent food and drink and giving people the experience they’re after. They matter just as much and we shouldn’t forget them.
[Disclosure: We have paid in full each time we’ve dined at On The Rocks]