I’ve already given you the low down on The Gaff, one of the brightest new candles on the food table of Abergavenny. Since our first visit, we’ve been back for dinner a few more times, for their magnificent Sunday lunch roast, and most recently, for a wholly vegetarian dinner with friends.
While The Gaff is not a vegetarian restaurant, their small plate approach lends itself well to vegetarian dining, as there are several dishes in the veg section, all of which are superbly tempting and perfect for sharing. As our latest visit was with vegetarian friends, it was the perfect opportunity to put The Gaff to the veggie test. And as we very much expected, it delivered.
I’m glad we ordered two plates of the bread and marmite butter, because despite the generous portion of butter, we demolished it within seconds. The texture of the whipped butter was light as air, with just the right kick of Marmite salt and umami, and I spread it outrageously thickly on both my slices!
Pete and I had the mushroom arancini, parmesan, garlic mayonnaise on our first visit, but they were even better this time – the densely mushroom-studded rice more creamy and wet than before but just as intensely flavoured.
Broad bean hummus was left pleasingly chunky, topped with sliced runner beans for even more texture and lifted hugely by the generous addition of mint; a refreshing taste of summer.
I cannot get enough of The Gaff’s barbequed summer cabbage with almond butter, it’s so simple and yet so much more than the sum of its parts. This time I begged for the secret – it’s first grilled on their green egg barbeque until the surface blackens, before being transferred to a frying pan to steam and soften just the right amount. The creaminess of the almond butter is delightful. This is a dish I really could and would eat every single day.
The carrots are usually roasted in beef fat but the kitchen were able to make a vegetarian version for us. Deeply savoury, with the gentle kick of rosemary, these were solidly satisfying.
I adore longstem broccoli, served here very simply with a garlic dressing and plenty of grated parmesan (a veggie version substited for us on request). Fresh and delicious.
The Isle of White tomato salad was incredibly simple, just a generous drizzle of oil and balsamic, a handful of crunchy chewy croutons and a scattering of chervil. When the ingredients are this good, they don’t need much frippery.
The potato croquettes topped with grated black truffle and (veggie) parmesan were soft, savoury and with the magical heady aroma that only truffle can give.
Cornish potatoes on a bed of romesco sauce might have looked dull compared to the rest, but appearances were deceiving – this was one of my favourite dishes. The potatoes had a comfortingly creamy texture, underscored by cooking that ensured that were the same consistency (neither too hard not too soft) all the way through, and the flavour was the very essence of potato. The kind of potato all other potatoes dream of being, if potatoes dream at all…
Sri Lankan spiced potato with vada, sambol and pickles was flavour-packed dish, though harder to divide and share. The carrot and cauliflower pickle was my favourite element on the plate, but it had some tough competition.
After all that savoury wonder, we had scant room left for much sweet, but the four of us clearly share a greedy gene, and bravely ordered a couple of desserts. First, The Gaff’s Snickers dessert, an intense dish of chocolate mousse, peanuts, darkly caramelised brandy snap shards, caramel popcorn and some sticky, chewy peanut toffee under a scoop of creamy ice cream. It was, as you have probably already gathered, excellent.
We also couldn’t resist re-ordering the wonderful sticky banana pudding, banana and honeycomb chantilly, custard, toffee sauce that we so enjoyed last time… with the selfless excuse that we wanted our friends to taste it – do you think they bought it? It was as fabulous as we remembered, and there were some groaningly full bellies by the time we finished.
It’s unusual for me to bother reviewing a restaurant twice in such close succession, surely a sign of how much we love The Gaff. I also wanted to share with vegetarian readers that it’s a great choice for them too. If you still haven’t been yet, what are you waiting for?