Picturesque pub outside of Abergavenny serving traditional food
My second visit to The Walnut Tree and turned out to be a very worthwhile trip – again. Head chef Shaun Hill has been here for 11 years in 2019 and held a Michelin star from 2010 onwards at time of writing this review. The restaurant has had a turbulent past but has been stabilised under the guidance and very steady hands of Shaun Hill. The food is uncomplicated, using good ingredients and earnest cooking skills. This three-course a la carte menu with snacks came to £56 prior to tip and for the quality that it was, this is appropriate and I left happy all round with making the journey.
The amuse bouche on this visit was a swordfish croquette with lemon mayonnaise. This was nicely done with a lovely, contrasting tang of the lemon mayo and not something you have every day as a nice change. Bread is made on-site at The Walnut Tree and this was brown granary.
My chosen starter was asparagus with quails eggs and hollandaise. This was very nicely balanced in terms of the vinegar with superb hollandaise which was light as well, with perfectly runny quail eggs. A simple yet classy take on a classic and as a hollandaise sauce lover, was lovely to see this used properly. Using whipped egg white is a good way of making the sauce lighter and allows you to use more.
The main of skate was a triumph plane and simple! Perfectly done fish, was complemented by a superb sauce that didn’t overpower at all, with textures that were also present. I think I actually wrote in my notes when I was having this dish something on the lines of: “This is ****ing great!” Dessert was a vanilla cheesecake and initially, I thought a little overdose of dairy with the milk sorbet and already creamy vanilla cheesecake, but this worked out in the end. It was a good dessert in any case and the portion size was controlled as well. Petit fours were a decent fudge and dark chocolate truffle which were both ok.
All in all, I am very pleased with this place and this second visit confirms even more how much of a safe bet this is to enjoy good cooking in all its simple glory of a three-course meal. If you need a break from tasting menus and fanciful plates, this is definitely the place for you.
Food Grade: 83%
The Walnut Tree Inn is a secluded, Michelin starred pub in South East Wales and as a result is exceptionally busy on Fridays and Saturdays where it becomes the hive for many surrounding folk. As I was on my own for this ‘drive-by’ I was afforded a seat in the bar area for dinner as this is their reserve area for stragglers like me, so I was lucky to get the seat on the Fri evening having booked on the morning(!). When I got there I was genuinely impressed with the drive of the team and was evident to me that they were not concerned with the fanfare of having a Michelin star, but motivated more by working together to create a fun atmosphere and pleased to be serving the products they do. Simple things done well here and would like another go whenever I can.
On to the products then, the greeting snack of perfectly done sausage roll was a lovely opening and just what the doctor ordered. I thought the duck liver parfait was one of the nicest I had ever had with a clever format for the brioche in its layered but the grilled presentation (making it a lot easier to eat than most) and the outstanding dressing to go with the borage and pansy flower salad on the side. This dressing turned out to be sweet mustard and olive oil with finely chopped parsley and is officially the nicest dressing I have ever had and will be used forthwith when cooking at home. The salt from this, combined with the sweet from the fig with the utterly smooth and flavoursome parfait, made this an absolutely superb starter – a real hit.
I was also tempted to go for the special starter of steak tartare however, this turned out to be less of a joy to the parfait as the flavour was quite subtle. No problems with the texture of the tartare, especially with the home-cooked chips but it simply wasn’t on a par with those that I have had at say, Bonhams, Chiltern Firehouse, Brasserie Chavot or Berner’s Tavern for example. The anchovy and garlic potato dauphine on the other hand were a solid gold pleasure – so light with beautifully soft mash, but perfectly strong enough in garlic and anchovy tones. Finally, the peanut parfait and chocolate dessert was great but I thought the chocolate was a bit heavy so I found I didn’t need such a thick slice of it, but the flavour combo of it all with the drums of banana and well-done peanut and toffee crisps (which did not stick to every corner of the mouth as many do) were very good.
All in all, I found this a lovely meal, served by those who seemed very focussed. It is clearly one of the best options to go for in the vicinity of SE Wales and I’m pleased I made the journey.
Food Grade: 76%
Location (Click google logo for directions)