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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Inn at theElm Tree

We had a manic day, driving to Aberystwyth to pick up some tickets, then down to Pembroke Dock to see how long it would take; we are seeing a band in Aber then getting the ferry to Rosslare for our pre-Christmas sourcing expedition. From Pembroke Dock it was a trip to Bridgend and then home.

Leaving home at 8:30 and still being on the Motorway at 6, and having missed lunch, I didn’t feel particularly like cooking but remembered that Colette from Elmtree Foods (great pies and pasties) had recommended the “Inn at the Elmtree”.

Turning off at Newport and navigating our way across the marshes and reens to St Brides the inn was a welcoming site, especially as they started serving at 6:30 and could accommodate 2.

We settled into comfortable chairs in the bar with an orange juice for the driver and a Pint of Badger Beer “Golden Glory”. This hoppy 4.8 pint has a distinct aroma of Peaches though on the palate a bit of Melon cuts in. Not oenophile hyperbole, it really does smell and taste that way. Pleasantly sunny and, the website confirmed, ideal for a crisp winters day.

The menu looked good, and decisions were not easy - especially as the Soup of The Day (served with a hunk of locally baked bread) turned out to be Tomato with Tarragon and Thyme.

Janet decided that Goats Cheese Medallion with Beetroot sounded good and, despite the obvious attractions of the soup I opted for the hot-smoked Salmon Fishcakes.

A large round of cheese surmounted a good balsamic dressed rocket and walnut salad and thin rounds of roasted beetroot lay to the sides. Janet pronounced it Yum and this from a woman who rates food on a scale from Alright to YUM! Clearly hit the spot and my tasting mouthful concurred.

The Fishcakes were more like small crumbed timbales, a good ratio of salmon to light potato in a crispy crumbed coating. The accompanying Lemon Mayonnaise introduced a citrus bite and the Mango Salsa (mainly tomato with small cubes of mango) gave a fruity offset. The Frisee and Radicchio saladhad thin slices of tomato and onion and gave overall balance to the dish. Very good.

Mains saw our usual split. Welsh Lamb Loin rolled in Fresh Garlic and Rosemary with honey roast carrots, minted new potatoes and roasted root vegetables served with a Redcurrant Lamb Jus for Janet. I did not try this dish as lamb has a distinctly difficult effect upon me but a YUM was the verdict from my dining partner.

It was the Chargrilled Ribeye that caught my attention, served with a flat mushroom, tomato and triple cooked chips. I asked for my steak rare.

I am always concerned when a steak knife is provided prior to the arrival of the dish.

Does the chef have such little faith in their ingredient or cooking ability that they have to provide a small saw to cut it?

As my ordinary knife had not been removed I determined to use it, and, If the steak knife was necessary to reject the offering.

I am pleased to report that the steak knife was utterly superfluous, neither needed nor used. When I mentioned the steak knife to a member of staff she was highly apologetic. “They’ve been told not to give them out unless the diner requests them, some do like well-done which does toughen the meat but anything less should never need one”. Clearly a chef who knows how his meat will emerge.

A good Char gave strong flavour to a steak cooked perfectly rare that cut like butter and melted in the mouth.

Triple Cooked chips with a resounding crunch and a fluffy light interior were the ideal accompaniment. The tomato had intensified in flavour during their brief cooking and the mushroom had real depth of taste. Perhaps a little more butter on the mushroom but I believe that a pound of butter could always use more butter! A red onion marmalade both sweet and full of allium taste rounded the dish in more ways than one. Magnificent.

Then desserts. I chose the Vanilla Ice Cream and the Butterscotch sauce. Could not fault it.

Janet chose the Cheese Platter to include Perl Las, Mature Welsh Cheddar and Brie. Hmm Brie? Why not a good Caerphilly? or a smooth and creamy Perl Wen? Still we debated which Welsh Cheddar would come with the dish, a good offering from Caws Cenarth? Maybe a little Hafod?

This was the only, but severe, let down of the evening.

The cheese platter had crackers, grapes, celery and cherry tomatoes and a small dish of the Onion Marmalade to accompany the cheese.

It was the cheese that was the let down. Stilton (English), Applewood Smoked Cheddar (English) Brie (French) and a Jalapeno infused Jack cheese (Mexican). Not one Welsh Cheese amongst them.

When a restaurant advertises itself as a "local produce restaurant" you expect it to do what it says on the tin. Serving non Welsh Cheeses when you expected them is like ordering Champagne and getting Lambrini. Not good!

Setting this aside we had a good evening. Friendly helpful staff, good choice and well cooked food.

We will definitely return, and certainly recommend the Inn at the Elm Tree to others, hopefully when we return the Cheeses will deliver what they promised

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