A TRIO of Welsh gastro pubs within just 30 minutes of each other have made a prestigious list of the best boozers in Britain.
The Felin Fach Griffin, The Hardwick and The Black Bear Inn are so close punters have taken to eating their starter in one pub, their mains in the second and puddings in the third.
9The Black Bear Inn is one of three pubs within 30 minutes of each other that has made the coveted ranks of the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub Awards.Credit: Nigel Iskander9Chef Stephen Terry of the Hardwick in AbergavennyCredit: Nigel Iskander9The Felin Fach Griffin in Brecon also made the list is voted for by hundreds of expertsCredit: Nigel Iskander9Local diner David, 50, has been having his starter in one pub, main in another and pudding in a thirdCredit: Nigel IskanderThe new craze gives people time to digest between courses, although The Hardwick at Abergavenny and The Black Bear Inn of Bettws Newydd, near Usk, are only five miles apart.
David and Ruth Ward have made the three-stop night out a regular Friday fixture since the pubs joined the ranks of the Estrella Damm Top 50 Gastropub Awards.
Mr Ward told The Sun: “We work hard and have three young kids, so now we have got into the habit of taking Friday afternoon off and treating ourselves to a really nice meal and relaxing afternoon before we go and collect the kids from school.
“We’ve visited the Black Bear five or six times recently, but after seeing the article on the local news about the three award-winning gastropubs on our doorstep, we decided to try all of them in one go, so we have a starter in one, a main course in another and finish up with dessert in the third.”
Josh Byrne, who took over the Black Bear in 2018 and has worked tirelessly with his Canadian wife, Hannah, ever since to build a reputation for his “modern British” menu.
He said: ”I started off working in London when I was 18 because I was passionate about cooking even then.
“I then moved to Paris for the next ten years where I also met Hannah. From there we moved to Bristol and then we decided to look for somewhere we could afford to start our own restaurant business and moved to this beautiful area of Wales.
“The area is already really food aware because of the nearby annual Abergavenny Food Festival and has the advantage that most of the products we need for the kitchen can be purchased within a ten mile radius.”
The Felin Fach Griffin’s entry on the top 50 list says: “Visitors can expect to find a seven-bedroom gourmet bolthole whose food menu reflects the land that surrounds it with a typical supper menu boasting fish from Cornwall as well as Welsh beef and lamb, game from local estates, and cheeses from world renowned dairies.”
Inside the sprawling pub, Edmund Inkin, one of two brothers who run the business, said he is “delighted” that all three pubs have been recognised for their efforts.
He said: “I think the area has long had a reputation for good dining in an informal, warm, rural setting.
9Head Chef Nick Evans who has been at the Griffin for two yearsCredit: Nigel Iskander9The gastropub’s famous sticky lamb breastCredit: Nigel Iskander9Chef Joshua Byrne, 34, prepares meals in the kitchenCredit: Nigel Iskander“I always think that areas or towns get the restaurants and pubs they deserve and the people of Wales deserve good places to eat because they are ambitious in their eating, they love good wine and beer and they appreciate good cooking.”
Asked what makes an award-winning gastropub, he said: “Start with brilliant care at the front door and in the restaurant. No robots, no automatons, just people with character who care deeply about whether you enjoy your hour or two with us.
“Clearly good food matters and you need motivated people in the kitchen with great skillsets and, crucially, who are wiling to bring along less experienced people, often youngsters from the area.
“One person can’t do it all. And you need the right environment – not starchy and stuffy, preferably a fire or two, and decent taste.
“No rows of seats and tables like you might see in a lot of modern restaurants desperate to squeeze people in so they can provide a dividend to their private equity owners. And an Aga helps.”
The Hardwick in Abergavenny is run by chef Stephen Terry, who has had rave reviews from MasterChef’s Greg Wallace and a host of esteemed restaurant critics.
Retired couple Adrian and Jane Faber like the Hardwick so much they travelled two hours each way from their home in Shropshire to eat there.
Mrs Faber said: “When we got married, we spent our honeymoon in one of the boutique rooms here.
”We’re both retired now, but we’ve come here regularly since we’ve been married.
“It’s great because it combines great food with great memories and although it’s a long way away, it’s well worth the visit.
“It’s really quite remarkable to find three award-winning gastopubs in such a small area. You might expect that in one of the big cities like London or Birmingham, but out here in the sticks – wow.
“We are going to have to try the other two places now as well.”
9Chef Stephen Terry has told of his joy after scooping a spot on the top listCredit: Nigel Iskander9Line caught Pollock at The Black BearCredit: Nigel Iskander
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk