An unplugged weekend in cosy rural Wales
Chef: Chris Harrod
Michelin Stars: 1
The Whitebrook is a 17th Century building on the outskirts of Monmouth converted into a restaurant with eight rooms ( four of which have been recently upgraded with swanky new bathrooms and plush furnishings) which under its current guise has carried a Michelin star for the last 3 years with its menu focused on locally sourced ingredients and flavours of the Welsh Valleys.
We checked into our room early in the afternoon to be greeted by warm welshcakes and had some time to relax in the room. As is always the case, small details in the room made all the difference – four types of loose leaf Tregothnan tea, a bath big enough for two and a large waterfall shower. We had the forethought to bring a small speaker and a bottle of champagne so we had plenty of time to relax before dinner. With no phone reception, traffic or distractions, life slowed for the weekend.
The restaurant shares the same sense of style and laid back atmosphere, we moved to the lounge area before dinner and tucked in to some local beverages and canapes whilst lounging on the sumptuous leather sofa’s. Migrating to the dining room we ordered the wine flight to go with the 7 course tasting menu (to which we added an additional cheese course) which at £129 a head seemed like a very good deal.
Things got off to a good start with a seasonal sampler of pureed pumpkin, roasted seeds and crisp,salty chorizo which made way for the first full course of roasted Jerusalem artichokes- something that pops up on menus but for some reason never makes it into the house, it was paired with a tangy goats curd which kept it light and I’d certainly consider adding to them to basket next time we head down to Birmingham Market.
In what would later reveal itself to be one of the standout dishes of the evening, the Orkney scallops with two types of cauliflower, served roasted, pureed and lightly steamed was the type of dish that causes conversation to fall silent, the addition of what I can only liken to small catkins added additional texture but the seared scallop was an utter showstopper.
Of equal merit, the duck course combined impeccably smooth liver parfait with a warm croquette of butter soft meat packed full of flavour. Notably, the inclusion of hazelnuts is one of the smaller touches that always rounds a dish off and I found myself once again remarking that we should add nuts to more of our meals at home.
We followed with Brill which was good (especially the charred baby leek) but probably the least memorable of dishes. However, the preceding Venison with smoked beets in a rainbow of colours and celeriac puree was the highlight of the entire meal. Beautifully presented and blushing pink this was autumn on a plate in a most refined manner.
We took a cheese board as an optional course and were not disapointed, eight cheeses with accompanying crackers and chutney were all top quality and I regret not asking for the details of what they were as the blue cheeses in particular were exceptionally good.
Desert courses came in quick succession as a roll of blackberry and camomile provided a welcome hit of sweetness. We finished with poached pear, yogurt crumble and wafer thin shards of meringue. I’m typically not a fan of pears at all but they were delicate in flavour and didnt have the grainy texture that I normally associate with them.
I’ve glossed over the wine, which is not to say that it was not good or perfectly matched but its been some time since I’ve had a wine flight and it served as a reminder that it doesn’t really work for me, I just can’t drink that much wine within that timescale and end up leaving half a glass almost every time.
Dinner was a long and languid affair , each course seemed to be delivered to the pace of the table rather than to a set schedule. We had sufficient time to digest and chat between dishes and as the evening wound to a close we lounged on soft leather sofas as we finished off our drinks before heading off to bed.
The Morning After…
Before heading off back to Birmingham (via a lunch time detour) we took advantage of the excellent breakfast on offer. Intending to go with the lighter options we still got a little carried away with bowls of greek yogurt, fresh fruit and homemade granola, fresh baked croissants, toast with local jams and for me, poached eggs with smoked haddock whilst Jordan had the ‘full Welsh breakfast’. Typically, neither of us really eat breakfast during the week so this was a bit extravagant and certainly set us up for the day.
Our stay was everything we had hoped it would be, the room was sumptuous and relaxed, the location quiet and secluded and both the food and service were impeccable. Special mention should go to our primary server who was memorable not only because of his attentive service and good nature, but because he had a moustache that would make Salvador Dali jealous which I found utterly delightful.
- Dinner, Bed and Breakfast- £363
- Wine Flight for two- £110
- Additional drinks (Local Beers and Gin) – £38
- Cheese Board for 2- £14
- Service Charge- £31
- Total: £556
Whitebrook, Near Monmouth, Monmouthshire, NP25 4TX