Posted 10th January 2013
This review isn’t strictly Bristol – but it’s less than an hour away and was the setting to a perfect anniversary weekend. More importantly, somewhere this good, this close by, deserves to be shared with you all!
Tucked away in a tiny hamlet called Nantyderry just between Abergavenny and Usk (45-50 minute drive from Bristol, map here). The Foxhunter is a beautiful gastro-pub with self catering accommodation. Their website doesn’t do it justice but hopefully my review will!
We arrived on Friday evening and were greeted by owners Matt and Lisa Tebbutt who showed us to our home for the weekend – a beautiful holiday cottage a few doors down from the pub. I’m not going to wax lyrical about the accommodation, after all this is a blog about food not travel, but it was wonderful. (Trip advisor review here).
I will however wax lyrical about breakfast. We arrived to fridge and cupboards packed full of breakfast ingredients. Farm house bread, a jug of fresh orange, a bowl of fresh eggs, black pudding, bacon, some of the biggest and juiciest tomatoes I’ve seen, cereals and preserves. Our home cooked breakfasts tasted all the better for such excellent ingredients and I loved mixing the freedom of self catering with the convenience of B&B.
Now for the really exciting stuff – dinner! On arrival we were sat by the fire with a drink to peruse the menu before being shown to our table. Dishes were seasonal using lots of local ingredients and offering a chance of revival to ingredients which seem to have fallen out of fashion.
I had scallops and ham hock with mustard fruits to start. The fruits gave a real zing and the flavours were wonderful. Sam chose carpaccio which he said was fantastic. For main Sam opted for sea bass with mussel dill and caper sauce, whilst I had rack of lamb with parsnip puree, savoy cabbage, bacon and chestnuts. This is one of THE BEST meals I’ve eaten in a long time – probably years. The meat was simply beautiful, tender and so full of flavour, Vegetables tasted fantastic. Everything blew me away – I could eat it forever.
With full tummies we decided to share dessert; sticky toffee sponge with caramel sauce, rum raisins and creme fraiche. This looked and tasted superb. The deep rich sweetness from the sponge and caramel was wonderfully indulgent and the kick of the rum raisins brought the whole dish to life.
As we sat in the restaurant in a semi food-coma enjoying the last of our wine, owner Lisa came to talk to us, recommending walks nearby to help build our appetites for Saturday night’s meal. We took her advice and spent Saturday walking and driving through the welsh countryside soaking in the views and fresh air.
We certainly needed an appetite for Saturday evening. I loved the subtle variations between Friday and Saturday nights’ menus. Key ingredients featured in both but dishes were tweaked and modified night to night to give diners an exciting and imaginative menu of seasonal flavours and textures.
To start I ate rabbit pappardelle, a rich and comforting dish, every mouthful was delicious. For our mains, Sam enjoyed a t-bone steak, I delved in to hake with creamed mash, brown shrimp and dill butter. The mash was rich and creamy, the fish well cooked. Tasty food to feed stomach and soul.
For dessert we had homemade vanilla rice pudding with fig jam. I haven’t eaten rice pudding years – possibly not since school! It was so creamy with an almost velvety texture. A real treat.
Our wonderful weekend was sadly drawing to a close and on Sunday we ate our last meal at the Foxhunter, roast dinner. We skipped starters (determined to have a dessert each). I enjoyed pork – served with crunchy crackling, veg and potatoes. Sam opted for the roast partridge which has reignited our love of game – well cooked and well presented, with some great flavours.
For pudding we had the sticky toffee sponge again (yes it really was that good) and homemade crumble. Our wonderful meal was topped off with homemade truffles and coffee a quick chat with Matt Tebbutt himself (we managed to steal him from the kitchen for a minute or too) and a signed copy of Matt’s latest cookbook Cooks Country
Prices aren’t cheap but good value for the quality of food, service and surroundings. I think we paid about £150 per night for the cottage. Main courses were £20-£28, wine was from £18. Our nightly food bill came to between £100 and £120 for two/three courses each, a bottle of wine and aperitifs.
A truly perfect weekend. I’d recommend The Foxhunter to any couple of groups of friends looking for a bit of escapism without wanting to travel too far, similarly its close enough to drive out for Sunday roast or a lunchtime meal.
Despite its celebrity chef status – The Foxhunter was wonderfully relaxed – no pretense whatsoever, just excellent food. Lisa and Matt made us feel welcome and at ease, its one of the most relaxing breaks away I think we’ve ever had!