A new restaurant’s just opened in Abergavenny and it’s an absolute cracker! Housed in a newly refurbished space that’s light, bright and modern, The Gaff offers a sensational à la carte menu, set menu and Sunday lunch five days a week.
No surprise that it’s winning oohs and aahs from customers straight off; The Gaff is run by owners Dan Saunders and Danielle Phillips, formerly head chef and front of house manager at the much-lauded and michelin-starred Walnut Tree Inn. They definitely know what they’re doing and it shows.
After finding three derelict sheds in the heart of Abergavenny, the pair negotiated and agreed an architectural refurbishment with the landlord and were ready to welcome guests just a few months later. As for the name, it’s based on the Irish slang term for home and reflects the couple’s desire to make people feel at home during their visits.
Evening visitors can order the set menu (a tasting menu offering two snacks, a vegetable dish, a fish dish and a meat dish, a cheese course and a dessert for £50 per person) or à la carte. We decide to order à la carte, to try a greater variety of The Gaff’s offering.
We start with three choices from the Snacks section. If you think you might spend as long dithering over the menu as we did, order Toasted focaccia, roast tomato jam (£2.50) with your drinks. This is simple but good – fresh bread lightly toasted with a rich jammy tomato spread.
The intensity of mushroom flavour in the Mushroom arancini, parmesan, garlic mayonnaise (£3) stays the course against the punchy aioli; these three morcels disappear in very quick order.
There’s always a moment of tension as you cut into a freshly fried scotch egg, but we needn’t have worried – the yolk inside the Sage and onion scotch egg (£4) is beautifully soft; sousvide I’d guess, though I’m too engrossed in eating to care very much. The meat is beautifully seasoned too.
After this, we select from the small plates menu, which is presented in fish, meat and vegetable sections. First, Cod, romesco, braised onion (£10), another simple dish in which each element is perfectly cooked. The fish flakes seperate at the merest touch of the fork, soft and tender but still with the firmness of deftly cooked cod. The braised onion has the wondrous flavour of bitter char against sweet onion, and is as soft and succulent as you could wish for. A hearty romesco and crispy fried parsley leaves bring the dish together.
It’s rare I can look past duck when I see it on the menu, so no surprise that we order the Duck breast, sticky leg, smoked sausage, spring onion (£10). It’s another excellent dish, the duck full of flavour, beautifully tender and complimented so well by the soft and charred spring onions, sticky bits of leg meat and smoked sausage, and that thick, glossy sauce.
This one is Pete’s pick; the simple menu listing of Spiced lamb flatbread (£12) not really drawing my eye. But it’s one of the best dishes of the meal, even though it doesn’t appear to fit the fine dining presentation of the rest of the menu. The flatbread is pillowy soft, and generously filled with plenty of lamb (braised lamb shoulder and roasted barbeque rump, both cuts marinated and cooked in Middle Eastern spices) plus lots of crispy onions, roasted red peppers, rocket leaves and a wonderful mint and tahini dressing.
It’s so hard to narrow down the choice of vegetable dishes to just two, I want nearly all of them. We choose BBQ Hispi cabbage, roast cashew butter (£5) and Clotted cream and bacon mash potato (£5), both of which are excellent. The cabbage in particular is amazing, something I want to try and emulate at home on the barbeque, if it ever stops raining for long enough!
Already planning future visits after everything we’ve eaten so far, as soon as we taste dessert we know we’re done for – utterly helpless to resist the lure of coming back to eat it again and again. We order the Sticky banana pudding, banana and honeycomb chantilly, custard, toffee sauce (for 2 to share, £15) and it’s truly phenomenal.
The banana variation of sticky toffee pudding is rich, soft, indulgent and very grown up with a dark toffee sauce that perfectly balances super sweet with the bitterness of caramel, and there’s hot, silky custard too! The banana and honeycomb chantilly would satisfy me on its own, like a dream fantasy version of school dinner afters. It pairs amazingly well with the pudding.
Service is both friendly and professional – it stands to reason that front of house under Danielle’s care is as meticulous as the kitchen’s output under Dan’s charge. Staff are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the food and drinks menu, and happy to check if there’s a question they don’t know.
Ordering à la carte is great value – our feast came to £65.50 for food (with drinks and service on top).
The Gaff sits inside The Courtyard, a tucked-away space along Lion Street. The entrance is between Bean & Bread cafe and K & J Crafts. It’s well-located for nearby bus stops, plus parking at the Brewery Yard Car Park, free after 5 pm and on Sundays.
If you’ve read this far, you’ll surely already have decided to make your way as quickly as you can to The Gaff. Run, don’t walk… but do make sure to reserve your table in advance. The restaurant’s been busy from the moment Dan and Danielle opened the doors.
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