Wales- The Hardwick

Sunday Lunch- Country style

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We took a diversion to The Hardwick on our way home from The Whitebrook , we had been looking for a a proper sunday lunch and we found a healthy number of good reviews for a spot on our route home. Further investigation revealed that Stephen Terry was behind the helm, having previously worked at La Gavroche in a career littered with experience in some of the most well-known venues.

Arriving at the quiet roadside pub, I quickly fell in love with the mismatched furniture, muted tones and mix of soft fabrics – let alone the cool soundtrack in the background. Spotting an interesting bottle behind the bar, I ordered a spit roasted pinapple gin which I’d seen online recently but hadn’t had seen on sale, at the suggestion of our barman, I had it served with a touch of pink grapefruit juice and tonic. Whilst not tasting ‘like a gin’ the drink itself was excellent, served in a large balloon glass with a slice of fresh grapefruit. If I don’t find a bottle at the Good Food Show next month, I will 100% be stocking up on one for over Christmas.

Looks were deceiving as the restaurant went from quiet to bustling very quickly.  I began with Panzanella & Puntarelle(like chicory) salad with grilled halloumi. To be honest, I ordered this solely on the basis that it was came with a comment in the menu stating ‘ Quite simply my favourite autumn salad. But be warned, this is a serious flavour!’ If ever there was a way to sell a dish, this is it. The salad was piled high with perfectly ripe tomatoes and leaves swimming in herby vinegar and oil. Without a doubt it packed in a huge amount of flavour, with crisp croutons of marinated bread – I would have prefered more cheese as this was a little scant but then I am known to have no concept of appropriate portion sizes. Jordan took braised rabbit with deep-fried polenta and crispy potato skins, I was very tempted by this dish as we don’t eat much rabbit and polenta is one of those very satisfying items that I am terrible at cooking despite its simplicity. The meltingly tender rabbit was served with a light broth topped with shavings of salty parmesan. We were impressed with the range of dishes available, and as always tried both plates as we went along, we would happily order both dishes again.

 

A slightly longer wait than we would have liked as things got busier and staff bustled about but our mains arrived and were worth the wait. Jordan’s plate was dominated by a thick slice of butter-soft pork shoulder, shards of crackling and the very tempting offer of a caramelised salted apple sauce. A good helping of veg to the side was a nice addition but it would be easy to just eat forkfuls of soft meat dipped in apple sauce and still feel content. Sometimes I order a dish from a menu purely on the merit of one component – in this instance, a breadcrumbed sweetcorn and spring onion risotto cake could not be missed and I had almost overlooked the rest of the components so when my plate arrived with a stack of maple syrup dressed bacon I was pleasantly surprised. The chicken was moist with a crisp skin and intense ‘chicken’ flavour and the braised gem lettuce provided enough greenery and a touch of bitterness to balance out the sweet, calorific bacon.

 

A bit more of a wait and we ordered desserts from memory after waiting for a menu to arrive. Jordan went with a Black Cherry and Almond Bakewell tart with raspberry ripple ice cream. The tart was soft but held its shape but I would have loved more cherry (purely personal as this is my fruit of choice) With a range of homemade ice creams on offer I picked scoops of Peanut Butter & Jelly, Honeycomb with chocolate chip (Honey flavour but no honeycomb pieces which I had expected) and tangy, bitter Seville Orange Marmalade. The PB&J was a touch claggy but mixing the honey and chocolate with the marmalade was a very satisfying combination.

 

With over 130 covers booked for the day there was a constant hum of people and whilst service did slow at points, the staff were upbeat and engaging- still making time to stop and chat, checking back on dishes and keeping glasses filled.

Our Bill:

3 Course Sunday Lunch for two- £58

Drinks (Gin, Beers and Tonics) – £19.70

http://www.thehardwick.co.uk/

Old Raglan Road, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, Wales, NP7 9AA

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