I was initially going to start this blog post in a completely different way, however in light of last weeks news, I have decided to opt for a slightly revised intro…
It evidently takes a lot to be recognised by Michelin. Hard work, long hours, consistency and complete dedication to the job…not to forget amazing food and service! However, with an estimate of near to 4000 restaurants in Wales – according to TripAdvisor…and my counting ability (argh!); it pains me to see that as a country, Michelin have only seen it fit to award Wales with 7, highly deserved, Michelin Stars. This, added to the fact that up until last week only The Felin Fach Griffin in Brecon held a Bib Gourmand (criteria to offer three courses for under £28), and just 45 restaurants appear in the Guide itself. I say ‘pains’, because I personally believe that there are a number of excellent establishments throughout Wales, who operate somewhat under the radar and don’t always get the recognition they deserve…anyway I’ll hop down off my soapbox now…
Consequently, when a restaurant finally receives the recognition it is due, it should be celebrated. And on this occasion I was thrilled that I had eaten here just a month before! The Hare and Hounds situated in Aberthin, (a small village just outside Cowbridge) has been on my ‘own’ radar for a while. I have read with eager anticipation other bloggers reviews, seen beautiful photos of dishes (and soufflés…I’ll come back to them) and driven past it numerous times, but for some unfathomable reason never eaten there…until now.
I have to say, I hadn’t realised that The Hare and Hounds had been in Aberthin for quite so long…over 300 years to be exact! Originally a local pub, this look and feel is maintained on the one side of the building – on the other, an open and for want of a better word, ‘rustic’, dining room is split into two areas. With whitewashed walls and stripped floors, the furniture is simple but comfortable and the open kitchen makes for a great focal and talking point.
Making a reservation at the last minute, I had been unable to pre-order the Hare and Hounds Tasting Menu (definitely one for another occasion).. However, with a daily changing, seasonal menu, there were certainly no shortage of dishes that I wanted to experience. With starters ranging from £5-£7 and main courses from £19-£22, portion sizes were good and I personally considered the prices to be in keeping with the quality of produce being used.
Presented on a rustic bread board, a hunk of home-made tomato and courgette focaccia and slices of sour dough bread kicked off our evening. Still warm to the touch, the cultured butter slightly melted into the bread. If you’re of the same ilk as me i.e. bakes a loaf, and is pretty much digging around for the knife before it’s even out of the tin…sorry I know it needs to cool, but it smells sooo goood! – then I personally consider butter melting to be the best thing since sliced bread…or on sliced bread…
An amuse bouche of six lightly beer battered courgette chips with a tangy roasted tomato sauce, were well seasoned. However, while the batter was tasty, the courgette did lose its way and didn’t really bring anything to the dish…other than a conversation on whether we considered courgettes in batter to be healthy or not! An interesting alternative; however a small bowlful of whitebait (or something equally as dip worthy) may have been preferred.
Lamb Sweetbreads, Smoked Bacon, Broad Beans & Mint | £7.20
Beautifully presented with edible flowers, the lamb sweetbreads were creamy in texture and moist, combined with the smokiness of the bacon and mint, this starter was a triumph in a bowl.
Crispy Pig Cheeks, Chicory, Mustard & Pickled Apple | £7
As some of my previous posts may have demonstrated, I’m not big on the sharing front when it comes to food (think Smithy in Gavin & Stacey!) If you can manage to procure a forkful off of me, you’re doing well. However, when it comes to crackling – forget any trade negotiations – I’ve disappointed a 6 year old by eating it before he could get his little mitts on it (ok…I’m a cruel mother – ha ha). Needless to say when I spotted crispy pig cheeks on the menu…I was in there like a shot.
Crispy crusts of pork crackling sat atop gloriously rich layers of fat and then beautifully cooked pieces of pig cheek. Balanced by the sweet pickled apple above and the mustardy chicory slaw beneath them, I have to say this was one impressive and indulgent starter.
Roast & Braised Torgelli Farm Lamb with Mint Sauce | £18
Breast & Leg of Duckling, Bacon, Pea, Broad Bean & Little Gem | £19.50
At this point, I will say if you are a vegetarian – the choice of dishes on the evening I visited were a little limited. Although I don’t doubt for one minute that the Summer Salad wouldn’t have been delicious, especially as so many of the fresh ingredients used at the Hare and Hounds are from their own allotments. Opting for two out of the four main courses, although there was also a special of grouse on the menu, I will say both the duckling and lamb dishes were perfectly cooked. The jus from both the meats was full of flavour, and while I wasn’t a massive fan of the inclusion of a piece of little gem lettuce (it ended up a touch on the soggy side!), the crispy potato gratin served with the duckling was outstandingly moreish.
Chocolate Mousse Tart | £7
A slice of chocolate mousse tart was deliciously rich, silken and indulgent, but I have to say couldn’t quite match up in terms of what was to come…
Plum Soufflé | £7.90
Where to start…I like soufflé. Ok scrap that…I love soufflé. It’s yet another dessert that if I spot on a menu, no matter how full I am, it will get ordered. And boy am I glad I ordered this one! Well risen, light and beautifully textured and not forgetting the inclusion of the sweet plum, it was evenly cooked throughout and complemented by a plum ice cream. To be honest, it was so good…I almost ordered another…almost (my waistline probably wouldn’t have thanked me, but it would have been totally worth the extra sit-ups!).
- This is casual and unpretentious fine dining at its best. I also love the story behind the restaurant – Chef Tom Watts-Jones used to play in the garden of the Hare and Hounds as a child and returned to the village to open his own restaurant.
- Imaginative cooking, using fresh, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients.
- While not included within this review, the Hare and Hounds have an excellent wine list with a broad range of prices.
- The Chef makes a ‘mean’ soufflé, and when I say ‘mean’, I mean awesomely delicious.
Would I go again?
Living close by, I really don’t have an excuse as to why I shouldn’t go back. But very clearly based on the standard of the dishes and warm welcome that we received…why would I need to make one?
Would I recommend The Hare and Hounds?
Overall, an enjoyable dining experience from a knowledgeable and attentive team in a cozy and relaxed setting, and one that I would highly recommend for any occasion.
So a big congratulations, well done and hip hip hooray Hare and Hounds, your recognition by Michelin and new Bib Gourmand for 2018 is richly deserved.
Wednesday to Saturday 12-2.30pm and 6pm-9pm
Address | Aberthin, Cowbridge CF71 7LG