A glorious late October Saturday and not a lot to do, sounds like the opportunity to have lunch out. Where to go for a memorable meal?
Well, often on trips to North Wales the A470 had led me past the village of Felin Fach, near Brecon and the well-respected Felin Fach Griffin, a country pub with rooms that features in Welsh Rarebits (hotels of distinction) and with a special connection for me in that the owners are Ballymaloe trained.
So, into the car and heading for mid-Wales.
On arrival a number of horse boxes were in the car park, their owners and contents slowly approaching having enjoyed a leisurely hack. On our way round to the front door we passed a number of crab apple trees groaning with fruit that would surely soon be converted to that deep pink rich jelly that goes so well with Pork, or with the addition of mint, Lamb.
Entering the bar we had to decide on drinks and to enquire whether we could be accommodated for lunch, not having booked. Whilst the driver opted for the non-alcoholic Orange Juice I contemplated a good range of beers. Though many looked good I chose the Waen Brewery’s “Tidy Pint” a particularly Welsh sentiment and one that did what it said on the pump, it was a tidy pint! Golden and lightly hopped a refreshing almost citrus flavour made this one to order again, looking at the website it was described as a 4% “session beer” and I would imagine that a good session would ensue.
The lunch menu offered a range of options on the a la carte and three levels of set menu so something for everyone. I noted the regular inclusion of Cornish ingredients, unsurprising as sister establishments the Gurnards Head (Zennor) and The Old Coastguard (Mousehole) are located there.
Shown to our table, and with a jug of iced tap water immediately provided, the Ballymaloe influence kicked in as a small board of Soda Bread and butter arrived along with hot cheese puffs.
Our starters arrived shortly after, for Mrs K a Caramelised Pear on Onion Brioche with Stawley Cheese and Almonds, for me Fried Lemon Sole with Potato Salad and Rocket. The pear was warm, sweet and sticky and contrasted well with the acidity of the cheese and the melding softness of the brioche whilst the almonds added a little crunch. I am not normally a huge fan of sole, finding it to be often too soft and flaky, preferring a more solid fish such as Monk or Halibut, but in its crisp, crunchy golden coat of breadcrumbs it was cooked to perfection and retained good texture. A bed of julienne cornichons and a good potato salad which incorporated some pickled cucumber and dressed rocket completed the dish and completed it.
For mains I had chosen the Hafod Cheese Ploughman’s with Homemade Pickles and Soda Bread – this surprised Mrs K as the menu had Roast Calves Liver and I am a total addict to liver, but I also love Hafod. The open Minute Steak Sandwich with Onion Marmalade Triple Cooked Chips and Leaves, was her choice and, as with the starters, we happily shared tasters.
A perfectly rare steak, topped with a fried egg, the crunchiest, fluffiest chips, a well-dressed mixture of salad leaves and a sweet, dark red onion marmalade with good bread made the Steak Sandwich one which I would definitely opt for on a future visit.
My Ploughman’s was so hearty that I could not quite finish the breads, having filled up on the main event. Three generous slices of the Hafod cheese came with a range of accompaniments. Hafod is a traditional hard cheese handmade by Sam and Rachel Holden on Wales’ longest certified organic dairy farm, Bwlchwernen Fawr.
The Holdens only use the raw (unpasteurised) milk from their 65 Ayrshire cows to make Hafod. Ayrshire milk is rich in butterfat and protein, widely regarded as being ideal for cheesemaking. The unique combination of creamy organic Ayrshire milk and traditional cheesemaking techniques give Hafod its buttery, rich and nutty flavours - almost a supercharged Gouda.
Balance is important in any dish, even one as simple as a Ploughman’s and this had balance. Crisp sweet slices of apple were offset by a sharp home-made Piccalilli, destringed celery gave an earthiness contrasting with the rich fruity chutney and again a really good dressing enhanced the salad leaves. If I had one criticism it would be the lack of butter to spread on the soda bread, oh and the Soda Bread is more of a Wheaten Bread – Soda usually being made with white flour.
Despite the obvious attractions of the Dessert Menu
I was elegantly sufficed and decided to move to Espresso though Mrs K ordered the Bakewell Tart and chose the Plum Sorbet to go with it. Thin, crispy golden pastry held a sweet layer of jam, a moist frangipane and almonds scattered over the top had toasted during the baking. I was afforded a very small taster on which to base an opinion though the rest of the dish disappeared before I could get a photo – except for a very small piece of tart and a few sorbet swirls on the plate.
Was it good, definitely, would I go back, undoubtedly, was it value for money? Absolutely!
And this winter the three hotels are offering an amazing value offer of a Winter Escape, one night’s Dinner Bed and Breakfast from £140 at the Griffin or £125 at the Gurnard’s Head or Old Coastguard per couple!
Next stop the Gurnard’s Head!!!
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