Lunch@The Hardwick, Abergavenny

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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

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Lunch@The Meadow, St David’s

After a beautiful walk along Whitesands and an interesting visit to St David’s Cathedral…we are ready for lunch.  The Meadow is a cafe in St David’s which has an impressive policy on sustainability, the environment and using local food ingredients.  The menu also looks interestingly different.

The owners are Em & Nick – who met on a surfing holiday. It is therefore only polite, when ordering a beer, to ask for the Surfin IPA from the Bragdy Conwy Brewery. It is an American style IPA with notes of fruit and hops and a decent amount of bitterness.

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Rock likes the sound of the Taste of the Meadow – a homemade beetroot & feta burger with tomato relish, sweet pickled onion and rocket in a brioche bun.  It comes with sweetcorn slaw and skin-on fries tossed in feta & oregano. The fries are fabulous, the slaw is very good indeed but the burger isn’t really a burger….it has the consistency of a thick paste.

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I’m drawn to the homemade Welsh Cawl – ham hock & chunky vegetables in a clear broth served with fresh bread and Welsh cheddar.  Decent bread, decent cheddar and the cawl includes good sized pieces of ham but the broth is rather bland and uninspiring.

Certainly the food is fresh, certainly the food is local and the fries, slaw and beer were all very good.  But the burger needed some body and the cawl needed more flavour.

Lunch@The Shed, Porthgain

After a beautiful coastal walk from Porthgain to Abereiddy and back…we are more than ready for some lunch.  The Shed describes itself as a ‘fish & chip bistro’ and serves local fish and shellfish within hours of being landed.  It has developed a reputation for quality and we are very keen to see what they can do.  The place is packed and we are lucky to find a free table!

Clearly, at a fish & chip bistro we are going to have fish & chips – but there’s more to the menu than that.  If you want something else there is an a la carte menu with fish, meat and vegetarian dishes.  But we need a drink first.  I’m back on the OSB from the Tomos Watkin Brewery.  Rock has an elderflower pressé from Bottle Green.

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The fish & chip menu has cod & haddock, as you’d expect, plus hake, monkfish tail and John Dory.  Not sure I’ve ever had John Dory battered before – so that is what I choose.  And, having seen the portion sizes, we decide to share together with side dishes of green leaf fennel & apple salad for Rock and mushy peas for me. The John Dory is beautiful – very fresh with crisp, delicate batter. The chips are pretty average.  The fennel & apple salad is enormous and very good.

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Sharing has left room for dessert and we choose the lemon polenta cake served warm with Greek yoghurt ice cream and honey.  It is one of the best polenta cakes we have tasted – moist, full of flavour and works fantastically well with flavours of Greek yoghurt & honey.

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It is easy to see why The Shed has a reputation for good food and why it is so popular.  The use of fresh, local ingredients shines through and, overall, our experience was a very good one.

 

Lunch@Y Polyn, Capel Dewi

We are on the road to spend a few days in Pembrokeshire and we have spent some time researching the best place to stop on the way.  Y Polyn is an award winning restaurant/pub owned and run by Mark & Sue Manson for over 10 years. It should be the perfect spot for lunch.

We are warmly greeted as we arrive and the place is already quite busy with diners. I’m keen to try a Welsh ale and they have two on tap from the Tomos Watkin Brewery.  I decide to start with the IPA which is a golden ale with an extraordinarily smoky taste. Initially, I find it too smoky but once the food starts to arrive – the smokiness makes more sense.

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Bread, butter and oil are placed on our table – both styles, foccaccia and seeded, are excellent.  The restaurant is using a Spotify playlist of 1980s classics….ok, but I would prefer something a little more interesting and contemporary. Rock begins with the duck ragu served with papardelle, pangritata (a mixture of breadcrumbs & fresh herbs toasted in olive oil) and parmesan.  It is very good.

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Duck ragu with papardelle, pangritata and parmesan

I have the roast guinea fowl breast, pithivier of slow cooked leg, roast root vegetables, savoy cabbage and parsley velouté.  The breast is moist and succulent, the pithivier is made with melt in the mouth pastry and the filling is full of deep flavour.  The root vegetables (a mix of carrot, parsnip & celeriac) are sensational. I don’t usually rave about root vegetables, but wow!! To celebrate I move onto to the Tomos Watkin OSB – darker than the IPA and much more to my taste.

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Roast guinea fowl breast, pithivier of slow cooked leg, roast root vegetables, savoy cabbage and parsley velouté

The main dishes and the sight of desserts being delivered to other tables have encouraged us to try one or two desserts ourselves.  Rock has the warm treacle tart with maple & pecan ice cream.  The treacle tart is obviously sweet but there is a noticeable citrus element that really heightens the flavour experience.  The pastry is fantastic and the ice cream is really nutty.

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Baked egg custard tart with blackberry ice cream

I have the baked egg custard tart with blackberry ice cream.  Again great pastry and the baked egg custard is probably one of the richest custards I’ve ever tasted – full of cream.  The blackberry ice cream is nice but I’m not entirely sure it is the best accompaniment for the egg custard.

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As coffee comes with ‘sweeties’ we cannot resist.  A small bowl of biscotti, shortbread and a rich chocolate fudge leaves us feeling well and truly fed.

We have had fantastically friendly, efficient and well-informed service from Gloria and Steve, the food has been fascinating and high quality – this has set the standard for our trip.  Let’s hope that some of the other places we visit can hit this standard.

Sunday lunch@The Inn at Penallt

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.

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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!

Lunch@The Potted Pig, Cardiff

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.

Breakfast@Kt’s Coffee & Bistro, Abergavenny

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.