The Hardwick in Abergavenny is one of Monmouthshire’s most lauded restaurants; indeed one of the best in Wales. Run by owner and head chef Stephen Terry, the gastropub-restaurant offers modern British dishes (with a distinct Mediterranean influence) using high quality local produce.
We recently celebrated my birthday here during a lovely weekend of house-hunting in the local area.
Inside a traditional pub setting guests enjoy Terry’s refined menu without the over-the-top white linen table cloths and silver service that can get in the way of a down-to-earth experience.
‘Panzanella salad with Amanda Stradling’s award winning organic heritage tomatoes and Homewood Halloumi’ (£13) is a beautifully dressed salad of tomatoes, leaves and bread, topped with a generous and beautifully fried slice of halloumi.
‘Fried pork meatloaf on toast with pickled jalapenos, creme fraiche, Swiss cheese, mustard and a cheeky fried egg’ (£10) are moist and full of flavour.
‘Breadcrumbed pork belly and black pudding, pickled white cabbage and apple and mustard sauce’ (£11) is not as moist inside as I’d hoped, but with a lovely gentle savouriness of flavour, and lovely with the apple mustard sauce.
‘Chargrilled free-range chicken breast wtih sage and parsley pesto, savoury granola, roast Crown Prince squash, Butternut squash puree, rainbow chard and Bristol made Feta cheese’ (£24) is superb. Moist, full-flavoured chicken with a delicious pesto, and the two squashes full of flavour and cooked to perfection, the whole dish lifted by the fresh Feta and crunchy granola.
‘Croquette of braised shin of beef, ox-tail and ox-tongue with heritage kale, roast and pureed celeriac, heritage carrots and red wine sauce’ (£24) are outrageously tender, intensely beefy blocks, perfect with the simple vegetables and rich sauce.
‘Pan fried Cornish mackerel fillets with whole salt baked beetroot, cavolo nero, deep fried crushed new potatoes, smoked eel and whipped horseradish cream’ (£26) is a fish-lover’s feast, with three generous mackerel fillets, perfectly cooked for crisp skin and meltingly soft flesh, and so good with the cubes of smoked eel and the fantastic horseradish cream. All the sides are good, with the deep-fried potatoes winning first prize.
‘Chocolate mousse, honeycomb and Pembrokeshire sea salt caramel sauce’ (£9) is even more decadent than it looks, a sweet-toothed feast of silky chocolate mousse, crunchy honeycomb and thick, sticky caramel sauce.
‘Poached conference pear in red wine with rice pudding and toasted almonds’ (£8) is so beautifully balanced it almost makes me cry! The pears are just right, that Goldilocks point between too hard and too soft, and the rice pudding is blissfully rich, but with just a hint of sugar, to contrast with the much sweeter pears. The crunch of toasted almonds is the perfect garnish.
My friend orders a modest dessert of a single ‘Scoop of Gower Gottage brownie and malted milk ice cream’ (£3) and is so enamoured with the flavour and texture that she orders a second scoop straight after!
Certainly, The Hardwick is an expensive restaurant, especially with wine on top. But the quality of ingredients, and the skilled cooking, make it a very worthwhile treat, and a great place to celebrate a special occasion.