A Visit to Felin Fach Griffin, the Top Dining Pub, Wales, 2012.
OK so my friends thought I was bonkers when I told them I was going to Wales to eat. And perhaps I was. But, I have fond memories of time spent in Wales with friends and extended family. And, I won an overnight stay at Felin Fach Griffin, a dining pub with rooms on the edge of the Brecon Beacons.
So off I went.
It’s a long way down the M4 to Wales…and I was very thankful to reach the Severn Bridge. Once across the border I realised I didn’t have a clue where I was going or how long it was going to take, although I’d printed out the pub directions and the route from googlemaps. I drifted along, trying to find sheep with lambs somewhere I could stop and take pictures (lots of sheep with lambs, but none anywhere close to a lay-by). And ended up at the Felin Fach Griffin about 4 hours after I left London.
First impressions were not outstanding. The pub is very close to a busy road and looks a bit bleak. Inside though is very thoughtfully decorated though to give a traditional feel but with modern comforts. I was shown up to my room, small but nicely decorated with an immaculate bathroom and a gourmet style tea-tray (fresh coffee, homemade shortbread and leaf tea). There were a few issues – the rocking chair was uncomfy and too big for the space it had, the fixed bathroom soap dispensers at ‘standing up on tip-toe level’ for me meant that I couldn’t help myself to shampoo without standing up in the bath. I couldn’t use the bath gel at all and, at 5’2”, the bathroom mirror was just low enough for the top of my head to be visible at the bottom of the mirror. I know these comments may sound petty, but, a second dispenser at ‘bath height’ and a more generous mirror would make the room functional for a petite woman as well as for a tall man! But, as a pub with rooms it was clean, comfy and prettily decorated. I was probably most unnerved by the lack of any kind of internet connectivity or mobile phone coverage. And with no TV in the room it did feel a bit like going on a retreat!
My sister in law joined me for dinner – the main event for me! We were handed shortish menus and told that we could chose anything from the menu (there was a set meal and a very small selection of a la carte dishes). And, it did look fabulous!
My locally smoked salmon came with polenta chips and sprout leaf caesar. I wasn’t a great fan of the sprout leaves – but the rest of the dish was lovely with small crispy polenta chips and ‘proper’ smoked salmon.
Sister-in-Law chose the poached duck egg with creamed smoked sea bass, grain mustard and toast. It looked splendid and at that moment I really wished I’d like eggs more! The poached egg was cooked to perfection and she obviously enjoyed it thoroughly.
My main course was Cornish cod fillet with garlic pomme puree, spring greens and lentil jus. Again, perfectly cooked, beautifully balanced and very tasty.
Angie’s loin of rare breed pork with coco bean puree, pancetta, buttered kale and truffle sauce arrived very rare. She tasted and pronounced it really well flavoured but not that hot. And it did look rather bloody, so perhaps might have benefited from some resting. Personally I think if restaurants want to serve meat rare because they believe that produces the best results, it’s great. I know I generally prefer my meat cooked that way. But, it might be good practise to warn your customers – as you would do with beef or venison.
For dessert I chose chocolate brownies with ice-cream, probably the most disappointing dish of the meal – with slices of rather dry brownie topped with ice-cream. Angie’s pistachio cake more than made up for it – I just picked the wrong thing!
All in, the meal was good to excellent. While food was expensive (even by London standards), the wine and beer list was very good value and more than compensated. Most main dishes are between £18 and £20 and the set menu is £27 for three courses.
I slept very well in the comfy bed with really good pillows and a proper down duvet. I was looking forward to breakfast the next morning and did enjoy it for the most part. As the owners note, they serve very good tea and coffee, rather splendid home-made bread and a good traditional cooked breakfast.
There was only one hiccup, when the cleaner started to clean out the fire that my table backed onto (from the other side) and covered me with ash. If that wasn’t bad enough, she then lit the fire and swore as clouds of smoke billowed into the dining room. I did move, but I’d sat at the table which had been laid up for one person…and I felt a bit as if I was being smoked out! Some thought needs to go into how to manage that situation – it’s obviously not acceptable – the cleaner told me later that the fire often did that – and she appeared to be blissfully unaware that her cleaning the firepan resulted in a lot of ash on the other side of the fireplace.
I visited Felin Fach Griffin through a competition win and only paid for wine and coffee. The seasonal break offers do provide excellent value for money and a real taste of local produce well cooked. I’d definitely stay again if I was in the area for a festival or even or travelling through on my way elsewhere in Wales. I hope they get the fire sorted out though! Much as I like smoked food, I prefer to stay unsmoked myself:)
Brecon, UK LD3 0UB