Express & Star

'I had an epic hot dog at a restaurant that's marvellous both inside and out'

You should never judge a book by its cover. Apart from the times when you should. And in the case of The Smokey Cow, it’s a really good book that’s marvellously presented and has a captivating beginning, middle, and end.


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The exterior looks great – welcoming, modern, and clean. And if first impressions count – and, let’s face it, they really do – then everything that follows is in keeping with that glowing first pass.

The Smokey Cow is the fifth member of the Craft & Jam family – a mini-chain of independent pub/restaurants.

Located at Beckbury, in verdant countryside, between Bridgnorth and Shifnal, not far from Sutton Maddock, off the A442, it’s the archetypal country pub. Previously known as The Seven Stars, it’s been given a new lease of life by its present owners.

If you like classic homemade meals, authentic smoked pit BBQ and pies in every form; from beef to full-of-greens to gluten-free, and if you like them all served with traditional sides (with some funky twists), then it’s a must-visit destination.

There’s good ale, too, for those who like a tipple, while the restaurant has been renovated, undergoing a complete transformation. It is now light and spacious with a social bar as the centre feature and a log burner fire to cosy around in the winter. In addition to delicious food, it offers a well-stocked bar of ale, lagers, wine and spirits in a comfy country setting.

The Smokey Cow sits on the roadside in leafy countryside

So whether you’re looking for a Friday night pie & a pint, a baby shower, a Christening or a sing along to live music on a Saturday, The Smokey Cow is there waiting with a smile to serve you.

It’s very much on-message with the Craft & Jam brand, which was was born out of a passion for life to be fun and fulfilling and to shape venues that inspire, serve and excite.

It is the brand’s mission to bring the best in craft beer and spirits as well as turning up the jam with awesome live music every weekend. Fresh, quality food underpins that and an experienced team of chefs pride themselves in creating menus with a difference that use local and ethically sourced ingredients where possible.

The others in the group will be familiar to local diners. The Malthouse, at Ironbridge, for instance, brings an eclectic mix of world street food and British gastronomy to that World Heritage Site. A leafy river scene is the backdrop to this friendly historic pub, which was established in 1854, and recently refurbished and refreshed to now offer craft ales, cocktails, live music and world food all under one roof.

The Swan, at Ironbridge, is also popular. With a soulful reputation for a loving combination of English Classics and American Pit BBQ, The Swan has it’s own unmistakeable style and flavour.

Meats are smoked for up to 16 hours over real wood, giving the legendary ‘pink ring’ effect gained from traditional pit BBQ.

There is something for everyone at The Swan from beasty burgers and messy fries to a menu jampacked with creativity and a whole lot of messiness.

Food that people like to eat is on the menu

There are others in the group – The Last Inn, The Bull, and The Tilley Raven – providing the region with good eating, decent service, enjoyable music, and a haven for good times.

The Smokey Cow is an ace in the pack – a pub restaurant that does an immaculate steak and chips, a generous Sunday roast, and much more besides.

It welcomes all-comers – from dog walkers who’ve been out for a ramble to couples on a date night, from besties catching up on the week’s gossip to young families with kids. Inclusive and diverse, it’s a venue for four-legged friends and children, for real ale aficionados and those in search of sustenance.

The menu is a selection of tried and tested classics, from mac’n’cheese to a five bean chilli, from crispy pork belly with wholegrain mash and seasonal vegetables to an 8oz rump steak with tomato, mushroom, and hand cut chips.

There’s a huge gammon with a fried egg or pineapple, a variety of pies – from steak and ale to chicken, ham, and leek – and a southern shrimp cocktail to start, or halloumi fries with salsa dip.

It is, in short, a perfectly formed pub menu where nachos, wings, fish and chips, and burgers mix with messy fries, and regular specials.

The smokehouse element is particularly interesting, with chicken and rib combos served alongside 16-house Texas brisket, or a babyback rack of ribs offered as well as a colossal chicken with buffalo glaze.

I started with the halloumi fries and salsa. They were delicious.

The delicious halloumi fries

The dusty, floury coating of batter was crisp and hid a mild, milky cheese inner. The salsa was a little underwhelming, truth be told, while the salad might have been more imaginative. It was simple food, cooked well, though lacked a little je ne sais quoi.

The Smokey Cow hot dog, in contrast, was epic. Served with a creamy mac‘n’cheese topping, crunchy bits of onion, a side of fries, and a small pot of coleslaw, it was the mightiest of dogs. A touch of BBQ sauce added sweet and acidulated flavours while the dog itself was magnificent – woof, woof, and triple woof.

The bun was a little tame though it was an indulgent, satisfying, flavoursome plate of food that under-promised and over-delivered – and you can’t say much fairer than that.

It was also the straw that broke this camel’s back, and while such desserts as a banana split, apple crumble, and chocolate cookie pie all sounded great, I was pretty sure my stomach wouldn’t have been able to consume the additional calories and so I called it quits.

The Smokey Cow, however, had made a good impression.

The owners have a good reputation, based on their work at similar venues, and their determination to maintain high standards.

The food might be a little more interesting – though it’s moving in the right direction and satisfies a crowd that looks for maximum flavour at an affordable price. And who could possible argue with that.