After a cold early morning start, we are excited after successfully finding some elusive Hawfinches, and now we are in need of Sunday lunch comfort food. We have crossed the border into Wales to arrive at the Inn at Penallt. This is a 17th century country inn in the Wye Valley with great views over the Forest of Dean.
I am delighted to find local ales on tap and start with a pint of HPA from the Wye Valley Brewery. This is a very pale, pale ale with vibrant citrus notes – refreshing and smooth. We decide to share the Italian ham, pea & basil arancini served with a spiced tomato sauce. The arancini is crisp, full of flavour and works beautifully with the home-made tomato relish.
We are not huge fans of a traditional Sunday roast unless we are at home or at a place where the chef can match or surpass the quality that Rock produces in our own kitchen. Is the Inn at Penallt up to the challenge? I choose the roast rib of rare breed Gloucester beef, served pink with Yorkshire pudding & roast potatoes. Rock goes for the slow roast version of the same dish but her cut is a top rib slow roasted for 8 hours. I move on to a pint of Wye Valley Bitter – a darker ale with more malt than the HPA.
Overall, the Inn meets the challenge – good selection of vegetables and Yorkshire pudding – though maybe not quite as good as at home. My beef is very good but Rock’s slow roasted top rib is fantastic – absolutely packed with flavour. Plus, great gravy, and plenty of it.
After that, for dessert, I want more hot comfort food but there are no hot puddings on the menu! Instead, I pick the lime & ginger panna cotta with a lemon tuile. The panna cotta is beautiful, the lemon tuile is fascinating – a crisp, sharp slice of lemon and there is a smear of berry compote with tiny chunks of fresh lemon and a trail of crumb to decorate the plate. Not hot but delightful.
Plus we have had great, friendly service from Wendy, Becky and others. It has been a good day – we found the elusive Hawfinch and we found another elusive creature – a decent place for Sunday lunch!
There are some days when absolutely nothing goes the way it should. Today our train to Cardiff is running 45 minutes late. Along the way, rather than picking up time, we lose another 15 minutes. On arrival we race to The Potted Pig and, because we have abandoned all our pre-lunch plans, we are only 10 minutes late.
The Potted Pig is a restaurant housed in a bank vault beneath the city centre. The menu looks good and I’m always impressed with a place that stocks local craft beer. I order the Session IPA from the Pipes Artisan Brewery. It is really good – well flavoured with some fruity notes. Things are starting to look up! And….lunch is due to be followed by a trip to the theatre – which we have been looking forward to with great anticipation.
Rock orders the brace of quail with an orb of joy and matchstick fries. Apparently the orb of joy is a slow- baked, whole red onion basted in poultry stock! I order the breast of duck with a duck faggot, girolle mushrooms and spinach. We wait patiently as there is plenty of time before we need to leave for the theatre.
How long is reasonable? We certainly don’t expect fast food. The restaurant is by no means full. Twenty minutes, thirty minutes….now I’m on to my second beer. Eventually we start to get concerned about our theatre visit. The food finally arrives – it looks good, mine tastes really good…but while Rock’s quail is piping hot, my duck is barely lukewarm. We don’t have time for them to start over and decide to leave. Thankfully, they are very apologetic and do not even attempt to charge us for anything.
We go on to the theatre…and after a fairly uneventful first half, walk out at the intermission. It is definitely one of those days.
It is the morning after the long weekend before and the lack of home comforts has left us feeling like wild beasts. I am with Gino, LN, Eskimoh and Frida travelling home from Green Man. It is in our collective nature to nurture a rising need for a breakfast stop. Gino knows a place that is not too far out of our way….Kt’s Coffee & Bistro in Abergavenny. It is a small courtyard cafe with indoor and outdoor seating.
Gino and I both order a full breakfast formation of bacon, egg, sausage, mushrooms, beans, toast and coffee. The bacon and sausage are both quality and everything is freshly cooked to order. It is lush. Eskimoh has a bacon baguette and an Earl Grey tea. Frida is at a stage where she just needs toast.
LN wants a baked potato with a mountain of tuna mayonnaise from the lunch menu but we have arrived well before lunchtime. I love the fact that the ladies of Kt’s recognise that a baked potato is a member of the slow club and has to go in the oven. A potato that goes briefly in the microwave is not the same thing. They are concerned at their inability to provide a proper baked potato at this time of day. LN, gracious as ever, is happy to accept the fast version.
The place is buzzing – I see rivers of people arriving and their babbling tongues show Kt’s is clearly popular with the locals. We can see why.
Postscript: there are at least 12 Green Man 2016 related words in this blog for anyone who is wearing white denim and feels the need to look for them.
If you’ve already read my travel blog Thursday@GreenMan you will know that I’m with some friends at the Green Man Festival in Wales and we have set ourselves a challenge to sample 25 different beers and ciders over the festival weekend. This is the fourth Beer & Cider Festival at Green Man and the wide and varied choice includes 76 beers and 30 ciders.
Members of our group have all taken the time to develop personal favourites. The extraordinarily elegant LN has a thing for Jemima’s Pitchfork, from the Glamorgan Brewing Company. With notes of citrus, pear & melon, it is an award winning golden ale named after the Welsh heroine Jemima Nicholas. In 1797, Jemima rounded up and captured 12 drunk French soldiers armed only with a pitchfork. LN does not have a pichfork but she does round up a few festival goers using a furry snake on a stick!
Gino’s favourite tipple also comes from the Glamorgan Brewing Company. My Darlin’ Lemontime is an ultra pale ale inspired by the Italian community who settled in Wales during the 19th century. It was developed to help refresh drinkers when the temperature starts to get Mediterranean. An ironic choice in some respects – the climate of rain and wind and more rain at Green Man never really reminded us of anywhere except Wales!
The unbelievably fabulous Frida has gone blonde! She loves the Elderflower Blonde from Newport’s Bluestone Brewing Company. It is a straw coloured blonde ale with some malty notes and a hint of Elderflower. I am also very impressed with the huge level of enthusiasm she has shown for the beer tasting challenge. I like Bluestone’s light and golden IPA, Summer Rocks. And, of course, summer always rocks at Green Man….(sorry, couldn’t resist). I also have a penchant for Blorenge from Llanhilleth’s Tudor Brewery – a pale ale with a citrus undertone which has deservedly won a Great Taste Award.
Our group includes one none beer drinker, but that gives us an ideal excuse to sample several ciders. The beautifully wild Eskimoh finds that Sweet Biffyn from The Williams Brothers is her cider of choice. This cider has won awards every year for the last 5 years. I’m not sure how many pints of Biffyn she consumed to confirm this was her favourite, but at a strong 6.0% alcohol, she was clearly having a very good time.
So fantastic beer and cider, enjoyed by our whole group and I haven’t even mentioned the Ginger Mojitos, the Rum Daquiris, the Bloody Marys or the wine. There has been nothing dry about Green Man 2016.