It was cool to see Mr Hill in the kitchen and occasionally popping into the bar.
There was an amouse whcih was essentially like a very good lebanese pastry, grease free pastry, feta-like cheese. Good in a lebanese restaurant but nothing massively special.
I started properly with a boudin made from lobster, which had an excellent mousseline texture. This basically reminded me, with the gumminess , of a thai fish cake, but the depth of flavour was superb. It was served with a pile of prawns and a mushroom sauce and was good, but not stand out.
My companion had deep fried courgette which was in an amazing batter, one of the lightest I've had and really grease free. The courgette was great, it had lost all bitterness. The major downside was that the filling of the flowers was not far away from the appetiser.
For my main course I had veal, the steak looked thin, grey and overcooked. Appearances can be deceptive as in fact it was melt in the mouth. It was an amasing piece of meat, looking overcooked, not slow cooked yet full of flavour. It was served with kidneys, which I used to dislike (but recently have enjoyed, not only here but at Testi in Stoke Newington- to be blogged soon!). There was no awful pissiness to them, they had a hint of pink in the middle and a very subtle flavour. The only downside to this dish was the black pudding on the side which was absurdly heavy on the nutmeg and tasted more like having christmas pudding on the side. Still, this dish was almost there.
My friend had sole with salsify. The sole was perfectly cooked, singingly fresh, with the scent of the sea and not a hint of chewiness. The beurre blanc was classic but technically very correct, and the bitterness of the salsify cut through it a treat. This was a very classic combination, but here it was clearly shown why it had become a classic.
We had no room for dessert, but coffee came with petit fours. It was odd that I didn't want dessert, as prior to following the recipe in "How to cook better", I just couldn't make puff pastry, so the chef here basically taught me how to make pastry, but on the menu nothing was calling out. The petit fours had something I forget and a fairly ordinary, indeed, too rich brownie. But it also had a cube of a fudge that was ethereally light. Superb.
I do not (unlike some) believe that value is irrelevant, so I note that this place has a daily changing set lunch at £20 for three courses. I stress that we had a la carte, but with two courses, ( as well as the amuse and petit fours) and half a bottle each we paid £35 each with service. That is staggeringly good vale.
At this point I will finish off by mentioning decor, which was very simple, no tablecloths etc., but at least the essentials were maintained, eg. Riedel glasses. On the service front, it was I'm afraid to say a little amateurish. Not terrible, certainly very friendly, but needing a good deal of polish.
Still this was very good food, in a beautifull setting for reasonable money. Abergavenny is not exactly convenient for anywhere, but if you are in the area do pop in. The cooking is not quite worth a big trip, but if you're in Herefordshire or South Wales- then it really is worth making an effort to get to.
Edited by Iestyn, 31 May 2008 - 05:58 PM.