A great local food festival which is set only to grow in popularity!
Ever since our last article (read that here) we’ve been really looking forward to this. We checked out the festival on the second day, Sunday, and had a fab time. The sun shone and everything was in place for a great foodie day out in the Welsh sunshine. For the moment, at least, the festival is completely contained with the Caldicot Castle walls which mean that there is a “big reveal” for everyone who crosses the drawbridge. Emerge from the shadows of the barbican through the second gatehouse into the Castle proper and the whole nine yards of food and drink goodness is there for all to see.
So, relax and take a look at the image special from the day and if it’s whetted your appetite then don’t forget that the autumn date is already set for this fab dog friendly event on 14th and 15th October – Don’t miss it.
Adrian Walker Accredited Master Butcher and the only one in Wales! Was on great form to entertain the crowd with a demonstration on preparing a Cote du boeuf. Because chef Tim McDougall had broken his ankle and couldn’t attend (get well soon Tim) Adrian crashed on and cooked it – a bit hit with the crowd in the Chef’s Theatre!
The only thing to worry about is that fantastic event will become too popular for the castle courtyard alone…….
Food Festivals are, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.
The Chef’s Theatre features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds.
The county of Monmouthshire is the food capital of Wales. It is home to the finest producers and award winning hotels and restaurants boasting two Michelin starred restaurants and many holders of AA rosettes. The Whitebrook holds a Michelin star and four AA Rosettes and many other awards. Chris Harrod, who is Chef/Patron, will be cooking in the Chef’s Theatre on Saturday 20th May at 1:30 pm. For food enthusiasts this is a demonstration which is not to be missed.
Cooking in the Chef’s Theatre on Sunday 21st May at 1:30 pm is Tim McDougall, Head Chef at the Llansantffraed CourtCountry House Hotel, holder of 2AA Rosettes followed at 2:30 pm by Mark Turton, Chef/Patron of the 2 AA Rosettes #7 Church Street in Monmouth
The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers. Join in with a masterclass led by Duncan Fox from Haven Distillery – a cottage distillery which produces premier London Gin with some interesting botanicals. Duncan will tell you everything you will ever need to know about gin!
Also in the Look and Learn Theatre will be a butchery and BBQ demonstration from Adrian Walker, Accredited Master Butcher of Golden Valley Meat and Game in the village of Grosmont in Monmouthshire. He is one of just fourteen Master Butchers in the UK and the only one in Wales and the Three Counties of Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. At the centre of the festival is the Producers Market. This features artisan producers, many of whom hail from the Marches, the border area of England and Wales. Award winning cider makers Ty Gwyn, fine artisan chocolate maker Black Mountain Gold and hand crafted ales from Castles Brewery located just one mile from Caldicot Castle’s drawbridge.
Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for your young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Try a workshop on quick, simple and healthy after school snacks.
This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand and is offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work. For a little bit of fun volunteers from Guide Dogs will host “Jam and Juice”. Sighted kids can put on a blindfold to make jam sandwiches and juice drinks to experience what it must be like to have eyesight issues. And of course, there may be the odd cuddly guide dog to pet!!
Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.
The festival will be celebrating World Day of Bees on 20th May with presentations from our local Gwent Beekeepers together with a display hive of bees (all quite safe) and information of the work being done by Monmouth based Bees for Development who work across many countries in Africa to alleviate poverty and retain biodiversity. We will also be welcoming the team from local dairy, Mead Farm, who will be bringing along a mechanical cow to show where milk comes from.
So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.
How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?
It’ll be all aboard and tickets only for Tintern Station fabulous cream teas during the month of June to coincide with National Cream Tea Day on Friday 30th. For a whole summer month the very special full cream teas will be served every afternoon upstairs in the old Great Western Railway signal box to a select number of travellers who have booked their first class tickets.
This doesn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that one should consider depriving oneself of a top quality cream tea – since they are already available in the fabulously restored Victorian station waiting room or outside on the lawns.
Typically, many would say, Easter saved the very best of its weather until most people were back at work on the Tuesday. But, at the risk of stirring up jealousy, we can tell you that we spent a fabulous morning at Tintern Station with many other visitors at the beautiful Tintern Station trying the cream tea – Wow! Definitely one of the best we have sampled so far this year and the setting was just superb.
The Old Station Tintern is situated one mile north of Tintern Abbey on the A466 Chepstow to Monmouth road. And so, bathed in the morning sunshine with the Wye Valley’s railway history all around us, we tucked in to a fabulous high tea. In the middle tier, the chocolate scones were lovely and very different, with a great texture with that reassuring weight you get with a well baked scone. The accompanying ripe fat strawberries looked just right and little pots of jam and clotted cream are on hand – but which one first? The sandwiches were petite and beautifully cut with tomatoes and cucumber filling on white and brown bread sitting sweetly on the bottom layer. For sweet treats, small portions of iced fruit cake, sponge and French style macarons topped the three tier server. The best china will be in evidence during the Signal Box specials as well. And, with a selection of teas including the jasmine flower which flowers with the application of hot water – straight out of the alien movies – there is a taste for all.
The station is a lovely haven away from the rigours of the day. To build up an appetite we took the short walk along the old line past the wooden statues of some of Wales’ ultimate legends in the dappled shade of the glade to the river access. This is a short easy circular walk (but with some steps) which returns the now hungry reviewer back to the track bed and platform. Tintern Station is also a great place to start longer Wye Valley walks, all with the promise of excellent refreshment for the walker able to time their perambulations to perfection.
Not everything went right for Alec and Laura but in the waiting room – railway food has never tasted this good!
Some rather useful facts about the tea rooms.
Tintern Station café was awarded a Gold Medal in the True Taste of Wales Awards for Best tearoom in Wales 2012/13 and the Best tearoom in Wales in the National Tourism awards 2013/14. In 2017 the tea room was awarded a Welsh Tourism Café Accolade for quality.
The tearoom offers a wide selection of cakes all baked on the premises and includes at least one gluten & vegan free option. A carefully selected fair-trade coffee and a variety of leaf teas and fruit fusions are available.
Breakfast is served between 9.30 -10.30 and sandwiches and light lunches until 3pm.
They are happy to cater for special occasions and group bookings but be sure to contact them in advance on 01291 689566. Opening hours: Daily (weekdays) 10 – 5pm from 1st April until 30th September, Weekends and Welsh school holidays 9.30 -5.30pm. Gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options available.
June – Vintage Afternoon Teas in an original GWR Signal Box
Choose from a Traditional full afternoon tea, or a Chocolate afternoon tea. There is limited availability for this special event and booking is essential. Signal Box teas will be served daily from June 6th through to and including 2nd July between 3pm and 4pm. The cost is £14 per person, a deposit of £5 per person is required to confirm your booking.
Our tea includes a selection of freshly made sandwiches, a selection of cakes and a choice of loose leaf tea (10 different teas available) or coffee.
Father’s Day afternoon teas are available on 18th June and full menu and details are available on request. These teas include a gift for Dad as well as a complimentary ‘Have a go’ at archery session (approximately 15 minutes).
To book Signal Box, Father’s Day or special events please in the first instance email: email@example.com heading your email Vintage teas.
Amidst the background buzz of the conversation of friends and fellow beer and cider enthusiasts alike, the names of quality craft ale and ciders from great small producers punctuated the hubbub like little siren calls in the glorious afternoon sunshine. These sirens shouts popped out of the hum filling the square and rooms of the festival like echoes as those lucky people drinking great craft ale and cider mulled over the taste and colour of the cup presently under consumption.
There cannot be a grander, more historic place to hold a festival to celebrate the great taste of craft beers and cider. Where once the harmonic utterings of Dominican friars echoed around the ancient quadrangle – now lovers of beer and cider, studied the form of the festival card. Some with a plan of just which beers they hoped to sample in half or third measures and some with a more randomised approach.
Good beer and good conversation are made for each other. Beers were sipped and sampled, occasionally exchanged for taste, held skyward for comparison of their amber hues now illuminated in the bright blue of the glorious city centre Friday. The combination of the buzz and the wonderful acoustics of the priory square filtered out just about all noise from the city that is wrapped around this ancient monument.
It’s a true oasis in Gloucester city life insulated from the noise and traffic smell of the workday commuting. Friday welcomes many local CAMRA members and beer lovers from further afield. Many locals had used their GL residents cards to proudly claim the discounts on offer but all were glad to be back in the Cathedral to Beer now in its fifth year and fast becoming part of the history of the city itself.
Wye Valley Brewery were one of the the main event sponsors bringing the fabulous Lady Marmalade, Daisy Duke and their HPA, Chepstow’s Baa Brewery where there with a best bitter and , in this anniversary period of the crossings, Two Bridges. The great forest brewer, Hillside were here of course with a couple of light beers, HCL and a new brew Don’t Stop.
The chosen charity for the event this year was the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge and their events manager David was on hand to tell everyone about the charity but with strict instructions not to sign up any new members under the influence. That would have been a good night wouldn’t it, to wake in the fug from the night before only to realise that somehow, you had become a member! It’s a great charity, with a great restaurant incidentally, and very close to our hearts so well done Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival.
Beer festivals aren’t a headlong dash into oblivion and debauchery. They are an appreciation and days of revelry mixed with self-education and shared passions, particularly Fridays, which seems to attract many more CAMRA members. Here there is a like-minded convivial group with whom to shared passions for the craft of beer and cider and the industry and skill of small producers across the country.
Whatever their style all sampled and tasted a fabulous range from Porter through session to light craft beers by breweries such as…….For lovers of the apple, great names and great ciders abounded. Many single varieties were in evidence like Gwatkins’ Yarlington Mill and Weston’s with County Perry.
Visitors ranged from far and wide. Many travelling in by train or with designated driver from the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley and
even a large group from the states visiting Gloucestershire for the first time had heard about the festival and called to check it out and sample the beers on offer.
Those in need of sustenance had burgers and hotdogs available in the quadrangle and a really well stocked cheese bar in the refectory. Well stocked and well-chosen with some great local cheeses on offer including our own favourite Charles Martell Gloucester. Accompaniments included chutney and celery and fabulous pickled eggs made near Stroud.
Finally some post-match stats for you hot off the press from the organisers. Over 1700 people attended over the two days, with 90 and 92% sales on beer and Cider/Perry respectively – a great success for a great event!
Voting for best beers went as follows: IN reverse order ladies and gentleman, boys and girls in third place Imperial Porter. In second place Millionaire Stout and the winner of Best Beer of the Festival went to Stouty McStoutface from Mad Dog Brewing in Monmouthshire.
All three winners being dark stouts and porters (we started the day with half of Old Moor Porter from Acorn Brewing) is a really interesting indication of where the craft beer market is going.
Food Festivals are great fun and, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.
The Chef’s Theatre always features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds. The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers.
Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for our young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.
This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work – and of course help out with a small donation. So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.
How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?
Foraging sounds like excellent fun doesn’t it – alone in the countryside finding all your own food for free. What could be better? Having just come back from celebrating mushroom season Italian style for a continuing food documentary photo project we can say – we are fans! But it’s also a bit scary isn’t it. Alone in the woods for a start! What if you get attacked by a boar or an amorous stag like the Daily Mail are always banging on about.
What if I just end up eating overgrown lawn instead of an exotic wild herb? Even worse, what if that supposed French woodland delicacy of a dew-covered mushroom you’ve just picked turns out to be from the genus instantpainfuldeatharia? Just where do beginners to foraging actually start?
Amidst this glorious landscape of ours full of free, nutritious and healthy food as we are, it makes sense to get a little help before you start. Well you are in luck! The Parish Grasslands Project will be running a foraging day entitled a Taste of the Hudnalls. Described as a day of hunting for, and appreciating, the wild food available from the Hudnalls area.
Expert guide, Raoul van den Broucke, will be on hand to lead a small group through the lanes and fields of the Hudnalls on the afternoon of Saturday 29th October picking out tasty treats along the way. Raoul, once dubbed by The Guardian, “the Carluccio of the Wye Valley”, has a long standing expertise in wild food and will be imparting his knowledge to the hardy group during the day. Later the same evening at the St Briavels Assembly Rooms Raoul will be joining the fabulous Yvette Farrell of Harts Barn Cookery School http://www.hartsbarncookeryschool.co.uk/ in a “cook what you brung” style masterclass of using wild food in the kitchen. There is also a competition for the best wild food recipe –don’t miss that! Visit the Grasslands website for details http://www.parishgrasslandsproject.org.uk/news.html#hudnalls2016. We’ll be there to cover the whole story but don’t let that put you off coming along and do say hello. It’ll be a fabulous day – tell them we sent you…
Raoul is a familiar face at the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel where is has been wild food expert in residence for several years as well as the tutor on Tudor Farmhouse Hotel’s extremely popular residential and group foraging courses. Under the expert tutelage of Raoul, Tudor’s courses having been running for about 5 years now and are always such popular events for the hotel that extra dates have been added for this Autumn and there are some new spring dates for 2017 soon to be announced. With either the day group courses or luxurious forage, eat and stay packages on offer to choose from, they are not to be missed. See their website for details http://www.tudorfarmhousehotel.co.uk/foraging-trips/
Walk amongst the living remnants of history to enjoy the Great British craft beer and cider of today.
Beer o’clock comes around awful soon doesn’t it? Yes it’s time to again to say “all hail to the ale” at the Gloucester city centre hidden historical secret – it’s the Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival at Blackfriars Priory on 22nd to 23rd April organised by Gloucester CAMRA.
This cathedral to the art of craft ale and cider making will once again open its hallowed doors of the cavernous hall and welcome beer fans from across the county and indeed the country. We visited last year and had a great time. The live music was good, the atmosphere was wonderful and it was nice to chat to the festival goers and absorb all that beer appreciation and chilled out vibe this festival always promotes.
The sad news is that Hillside Breweries “Anzac” the craft special brewed in support of the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal for last year’s event is no more. Personally, I think that’s a shame since I loved it so much and always came home with a few whenever I was passing the Hillside Brewery shop at the Longhope hilltop redoubt. You never know what the future holds though – so there is always hope.
Lots of good news though in that the same great organisation (Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal) is the charity beneficiary again this year, and that Hillside have done it again and made another very tasty beer for the event. A little less ABV (3.6%) for this one to sit it firmly into the session beer category – we give you, Hillsides “Finest Hour”, ta da.
Hillsides impressive and decidedly upmarket new labels now also list the hops used in each brew. Hops, which is some case are completely new and could even be called experimental, all sourced from their usual long standing hop grower. Jester, Olicana and First Gold in Finest hour to give it a very pleaseant and subtle note with those hints of the tropical again for the more discerning nose. The symbol of the Poppy Appeal is also proudly displayed on the label so that too is a refreshing change to some of the PC and very weak excuses we hear for the bland nowadays. We? Well we just loved the taste and we think it’s going to be a real hit at the festival and beyond!
Honestly if you’ve never been to the festival before you are missing a real treat. If you like to weave in and out of very local people looking upward with their mouths open proclaiming that they “never knew this was here” you’ll realise just what a hidden treasure Blackfriars is (see our article on last years event). If you appreciate sampling the wealth of craft beers and cider available as an explosive reaction to the mass produced mega-brewery fayre this is the place to be. Or if you just fancy a nice afternoon in the city, chilling out with friends and a couple of beers, then fill your boots – you are going to love it and make space in your calendar for future events.
It’s all about Food or Omne suum circa cibum as the Romans might have said when they lived and worked in the Forest of Dean.
We love Harts Barn Cookery School and we love what they do at the light and airy training kitchen on Monmouth Road at Longhope. The phrase something for everybody is often overused but maestro in charge at Harts Barn Cookery School, Yvette Farrell, really does try to offer events and activities for everyone! From artisan skills courses in bread making, cake making and decorating or even making your very own personalised chocolates – it’s all here. At half term there are specific classes for kids where they cook and create in their own holiday atmosphere.
But it is the next Supper Club (hosted in the quirky Apple Barn dining area) we are most looking forward to at the moment. We’ll be at the “Taste of Thailand” on Friday 26 February and just can’t wait! All those fabulous aromas of lemon grass, basil and spices. It’s going to be wonderful!
Supper Clubs are held in the Apple Barn each month throughout the year and there is a full list of upcoming events on the cookery school website. Next up is Greek Night (March), followed by Rustic French in April, Middle Eastern in May and a riot of tricolore with a Taste of Italy in June.
Yvette says “These nights are really social. Food always brings people together and we always aim for a really relaxed and informal atmosphere with great food”. Just a word, though, we know that the Supper Clubs are very popular and therefore booking is absolutely essential.
Drinks are available from the bar to accompany your meal, many sourced from great local suppliers.
Pick-up your culinary passport from Harts Barn Cookery School on your first fabulous night. Just like in the good old days of travel, you actually get your passport stamped by Yvette at the Apple Barn border and if you get enough stamps you’ll qualify for a Supper Club meal for FREE! Yes, we did say free.
Supper Clubs are a great social night out enjoying food from around the world, meeting new people from the area or from further afield (holiday visitors are always made very welcome) – all without leaving the glorious Forest of Dean.
If you are interested in learning more about the Supper Clubs go to the booking page to see what’s coming up or call 01452 831719; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots of fun being invited to the very first Apple County Cider wassail ceremony at the cider orchards at Newcastle in Monmouthshire at the weekend. For this inaugural event, there was a modest but very enthusiastic crowd too on a cold, but stunningly beautiful, Monmouthshire day. Just a short walk from the roadside car parking and we were into the orchard proper. Stark and bare at this time of year the orchard was mid-winter prune but the mistletoe was on full power with bright white gelatinous berries glinting in the afternoon sun.
Wassailing is a one of those fabulous pagan ceremonies that date back thousands of years. The name Wassail is thought to originate either from the old Norse Scandinavian language “Ves heil” or the old English “Was hal” in either case a hearty toast to good health. Mix in a little bit of medieval German drinking tradition and, well anyway you get the picture…Fabulous English pagan tradition that Christianity (like so many of our other traditional ceremonies) put up with, adopted and adapted.
Wassailing is a ceremony to wake up the trees from their long winter snooze and to give them life and vigour just as spring is about to spring (very early as it happens this year). Actually, the history of it is far more complicated than that it would seem with any number of geographical variations. Wassail, is more accurately, the name for hot mulled cider drink which accompanies the festivities and Ben & Steph Culpin had a large pot of their cider on the burner with their secret mulling recipe on a gentle simmer. The smell of the mulled cider on the breeze was just fantastic.
No pagan tradition seems complete without a tipple or indeed music, singing and generally being pretty hopeful that, you, having a good time and paying respect to nature will pay off with a bumper harvest. You start to see the attraction of paganism….? On accordion the magnificently bearded Morris Wintle played some lovely traditional music and with him (as Life of Riley folk band partner), Penny Plowden, in her own very first act of, master of ceremony of the wassail, led the singing and read the traditional wassail texts. Dressed in her black school teachers gown and blazer with top hat decorated with ribbon and of course, the traditional black face (no-one seems sure why, but probably just a notional “disguise”).
And so, what could be nicer than a couple of hours outdoors in a fabulous orchard, drinking mulled cider, respecting tradition and having some exercise with a processional walk around the orchard behind the band. We wished everyone “good health” and drank a tipple to, hopefully, a great harvest and another great year for this young but fast becoming famous Welsh craft cider maker.
The band and the crowd moved on to The Bell at Skenfrith where to the musical score provided by the Life of Reilly in Ceilidh music and dancing mode the pagan well-wishers dined on confit belly pork, mash and cider jus or roasted sweet potato, apple, chestnut and blue cheese pie followed by apple crumble or apple tarte tatin.
We’ve been very busy conducting some investigative journalism in the Dean Wye lately. We’ve been looking at pubs! We’ve got some great articles with a very different slant lined up for you this year including our quest for our favourite and very best pub!
All in this very good cause, we called in for a chat with the new owners of the Crown at Whitchurch. You’ll have noticed if you have passed by recently that they have a jazzy new sign in the car park and a sparkling paint job to the exterior. This though is no, superficial facelift. There is serious change afoot in The Crown at Whitchurch and this is just the start of bringing a traditional coaching inn back to its former glory.
Coaching Inns have been around ever since people starting moving around. A place to stage a long journey and relax, get something to eat and drink, recharge those batteries, chat to fellow travellers and smell the sweet malt and hops from the on-site brewery in the sheds out back. Coaching inns existed because of the road and when journeys were long and arduous, the road needed the coaching inn. So useful was the concept that small communities started to build up around them. No Roman way station on the least travelled backwater road would be without one!
When we started to move the roads because we needed bigger high capacity highways two things happened; the vital importance and the necessity of the coaching inn was retained and service stations where born, which we all know serve only the best quality food with great service and at a very reasonable price……Mmmmm; The second was that all those lovely old traditional wayside inns were left stranded, beached like ocean going vessels when the tide had gone out, along way, and for good. Those with a village live on, but those without – who knows how many we’ve lost.
Walk into The Crown at Whitchurch and you get an instant feeling of homeliness. In fact before you get in, that feeling starts. Its position, which would have dominated the old village cross roads, looks imposing and no less so today, even with the A40 traffic whizzing by. Outside under the veranda red and black chequer laid tiles hint at a Victorian innovation, the steel table and chairs cast interesting shadows in the low winter sun and the main door has that solid weight of history hanging off the hinges. Once inside the interior is surprisingly open plan, yet still very intimate, the bright and well stocked bar to the right isn’t the thing which catches your eye first, it’s the sexy Swedish log burner glowing attractively in the heath. Around it there is a shabby chic mismatch of furniture, comfortable and upholstered on a pleasing theme. A draughts board is set out ready for play on a small table below a small window and it’s invitingly snug cushion. The large window fills the bar with light and the bar itself glitters with Wye Valley Brewery beers and a chic stage-lit spirits collection – we can hear the cocktail shaker now!
To the left, the very simple and very pleasant restaurant again with an eclectic collection of tables, chairs and tableware, awaits seated diners, although this is set for refurbishment before Easter.
And so just how do you breathe life back into a coaching house? Step one; have a lot of passion about it. Step two; have a vision. Three: get a good team behind you who share your passion. Nicola and Tom do not lack passion for the place! And so has the team. They already know most of them well because most of them are family, no we actually mean family. Apart from Nicola and Tom, there is Samara (daughter) as front of house manager and so it goes on, Tom’s brother and niece, Nicola’s son and other daughter and a niece on patisserie! We not even sure that’s all of them!
Back to what’s happening for 2016. As we’ve said the bar sparkles with the glittering hand pumps of Wye Valley Brewery Butty Bach and Dorothy Goodbody as well as locally made ciders and all the components of a great cocktail bar on the back. The main craft ales are feature beers and so change regularly – always worth a re-visit then. At the moment food is great pub food but Nicola tells us that Owain Jones, their 25 year old Welsh but South African classically trained chef is chaffing at the bit to do more. It show’s in the specials, Owain is putting his classical training and previous experience (Llangoed Hall restaurant) for inventiveness to good use. He’s already established a great Sunday Roast – not to be missed – and in the week we visited the bar special was confit duck! For the upcoming Six Nations Rugby, (which The Crown will be showing) there is a bar menu in tune with the playing nations. Great homemade Fish and Chips and Aberdeen Angus burgers for the England Scotland match for example. They are also just starting their Phileas Fogg inspired world tour too. “Around the World in Eight Weeks” kicked off with Indian and Mexican so check out their web site for what’s next before it’s too late and you’ve missed the balloon.
With a full refurbishment of the already pretty restaurant planned to open at Easter, no doubt Owain will allowed to go for it – we definitely look forward to seeing what he comes up with and we’ll be bringing you a full report on the menu tests.
All in all we like what’s happening at The Crown at Whitchurch. So do the customers and the bar and restaurant is beginning to establish it’s own steady and loyal band of locals and visitors. Nicola and Tom have clearly thought out what they want to do and how they want the place to look which is reflected in the décor. The plan for their 21st century coaching inn (the bar is as big as the restaurant) is to develop it as a great pub but also a great place to eat.
When you walk in to The Crown at Whitchurch It has a very welcoming colour scheme and it’s also very light and airy. But somehow it doesn’t feel overly trendy, it’s not trying too hard, it feels…….well, nice….., comfortable, familiar……., like home, like a place you would want to sit, have a drink, something to eat and wait for the next stage coach instead.