The Hardwick is either a pub with restaurant quality food or a restaurant with the feel, atmosphere and furnishings of a pub. Either way, it is the place to sample the food of one of Wales’ leading chefs – Stephen Terry. We are here for lunch and it shouldn’t come as any surprise to learn that our expectations are very high.
We are welcomed at the bar in the first room of The Hardwick – a room with deep leather sofas and wood panelling on the walls. Rock chooses an elderflower pressé from Belvoir while I decide to try the Sundown golden ale from the Untapped Brewing Company – a Welsh brewery based in Raglan. The Sundown is a refreshing golden ale with hints of sweetness and spice – very good indeed!
The sourdough bread here is made by award winning baker Alex Gooch and it is wonderfully light and has a fantastic flavour. I want to be adventurous and so I choose the panzanella (Italian style bread & tomato salad) & puntarelle (a variant of chicory) salad with grilled halloumi. The dish is a blockbuster of strong flavours that work wonderfully together – by the time I finish it I doubt that my tastebuds will ever be the same again.
Rock has the roast beetroot and heritage carrots with Neal’s Yard goat’s cheese, pine nuts, grilled castelfranco (aka edible rose) and tardivo ( a variety of radicchio). It is a beautiful dish, with texture from the pine nuts and the rich creaminess of the goat’s cheese. If anything, there is too much goat’s cheese and it slightly overpowers everything else.
Rock moves on to a starter size of the braised rabbit with deep fried polenta, soffrito (a braising liquor of finely chopped vegetables and olive oil) & parmesan. The rabbit is tender and the soffrito brings everything together. I have the pan fried mackerel with deep fried crushed new potatoes, watercress & anchovy mayonnaise, purple sprouting, chard & a lentil salsa. My tastebuds are brought back to life by the stunning mayonnaise and the salsa which both complement the perfectly cooked mackerel. Wow!
We’ve been overwhelmed by a myriad of flavour combinations and interesting quality ingredients. It looks like a pub, it feels like a pub ….but it tastes far better than most restaurants!