Food gem in Wales using locally foraged ingredients, constructed with passion
This was another cracking meal. My second visit and extended lunch only reaffirmed why I rate this place as I do. As I tweeted thereafter, there aren’t that many places where you pull in to a restaurant to see the Executive, let alone head chef foraging him/herself personally along the hedgerows gaining additional Springtime elements to plate your lunch for you. Chris Harrod is one of the unsung heroes of the UK in my view and so I was glad to see his presence on the Great British Menu where I was quietly confident he would do as well as he did based on my first meal (his dessert was a champion dish although, I thought it would be his main as well!). This was a superb lunch displaying real skill and is all outlined in detail at the full review button below and all for £60 made the more extraordinary. If you have no time, have a quick look at the pictures and take my advice of putting this place on your to-do list if you can.
Canapés included an onion sample with nettle purée which was soft and good. A wild garlic cracker, with goats cheese with spring herbs and this was very nicely done. The amuse bouche was a cauliflower purée with local black pudding, cauliflower shavings and grass was the texture of a cold creme brûlée with the crunch of the crisps which was great, but the black pudding was slightly difficult to detect with all of the egg richness surrounding it.
Wye Valley asparagus with hedgerow pickings, maritime pine and Tintern mead, Pennywood, asparagus and asparagus purée was beautiful. The asparagus was perfectly cooked, lovely crunchy, deep fried hogwheat with Tintern mead foam (a local wine with notes of apple & honey) was another creative dish that worked well.
Loch Duart Salmon with Apple rosebay willowherb, elderflower, apple jelly, compressed apples and wild borage was nothing short of great. The charred leak was absolutely outstanding – charred leek with cheese sauce (Isle of mull), nasturtium purée, nasturtiums, smoked pork fat and herb flowers. This had the perfect smoked balance of pork fat and light in quantity – beautiful.
Dayboat plaice with smoked cod Roe, garden chard, fennel and wild chervil oil and chervil had a smokey, salty, succulent taste and the herb strengthened the gorgeous food. Huntsham farm suckling pig with heirloom radishes, Jersey Royals, charred onions, ramsons (plant relative of garlic) was a brilliant dish. From right to left in the picture, loin, belly, shoulder were the parts. Pigs head croquette, ramson oil & onion powder on Jerseys. Belly was absolutely magnificent (smokey, juicy, perfect skin). The shoulder was almost lamblike with a dryer texture and the loin more like gammon. Pigs head croquette had the perfect flavour (soft), delicate and thin breadcrumb coating and delicious. Onions gave a wonderful element of sweetness. A skilful and great dish.
Camomile ice cream wrapped in blackberry jelly, black currant ‘shade’ and sorrel was original, not my favourite flavour combination as very sharp. However, the poached Yorkshire Rhubarb with caramelised walnut, Jersey milk sorbet and jersey milk crisp and medlar syrup was wonderful. On first mouthful of the desert, the meal was a confirmed success once again at The Whitebrook. Wonderfully gentle flavoured milk sorbet (dairy element toned down) to help soften the rhubarb and the break down of the walnut with medlar syrup worked extremely well. This was a wonderful dessert.
Poached pear with buttermilk, yoghurt crumble and maritime pine ice cream (very bitter) and flakes of lactose which, on its own was basically a thin candy texture flavoured like sweet milk came with pear gel. Altogether this was was clever: a tangy, sweet, mix of crunch and soft with overriding flavour was the pine with sweet shard – although the pear was struggling to be the main player, it was a pleasing taste all round. Petit fours of violet and blackcurrant (very good all-round) and Vienoissiuer with chocolate ganache and hazelnut was well done.
This wasn’t the shortest of lunches taking 3 hours, but quite understandable when there is only one person driving everything in the kitchen. The £60 total all in for this array of fine dishes was beyond value for money. However, the care and attention to detail and respect for the ingredients is obvious to see here and remains one of the better restaurants not just for Wales but also for the country in my view.
Food Grade: 87%
Well it was a fairly long drive to get to but the headline is that this was well worth it! Just tucked in amongst the re-entrants and streams of South Wales sits The Whitebrook. I would recommend making sure your map or GPS is finalised before heading there as there was no signal on my phone anywhere near the place (using apparently the best network in the country). Once arrived, I was immediately looked after and offered an original and seemingly world first of non-alcoholic spirit drink made from distilled citrus. An utter success of the food all round and made the drive completely worth it.
The tasting menu here really was excellent. Although I thought the portion sizes were quite small initially, the number of them thankfully weighed up to being just sated at the end. However, the key point is that each dish was crafted with utter care and I loved the balance of sweets and salts throughout with original flavours and not once did the creator seem to take his eye off the ball with wonderful textures.
Personal favourites for me on this meal were the smoked beetroot (because normally I don’t like beetroot but this I really did) with the black pudding crumbs, the utterly divine pork skin and succulent pork replacement for the scallops (thank god for an intolerance to those on this occasion frankly!) and the violet parfait pre-dessert. The latter really was a wonderful surprise of flavours, held together with freshness and crispiness from the other elements as well. Normally I don’t like savoury and sweet in desserts, but the tarragon and herb sorbet was judged beautifully in its softness.
It was a delight to hear Chris Harrod reflect on the fact that it was only after being able to part with a large company and go solo and doing things exactly how he wanted to pursue with all of the local ingredients at his disposal that then he gained his Michelin star. The principle I think, being something we could probably all learn from.
A very controlled and skilful style of cooking seen here, well worth the journey for those who appreciate notable food. My only slight gripe being that I wanted more of some of the dishes. But I really thought this was super cooking from someone who wished to gain the maximum from the components used and as a result, the £103 for the meal seemed fair enough to me as a price tag for this level of cooking. As it is slightly hard to get to, it is very good that they have rooms to stay as well, just in case a full blow out of food and wine is wished. I will secure lodgings or a driver next time!
Food Grade: 86%
Location (Click google logo for directions)