We exit the main road hard to the left, and at once Felin Fach Griffin appears in view. A large rust painted pub with signage on its side like a 50’s Americana truck stop, its frontage large, grand and imposing. It sits surrounded by the rolling peaks of the Brecon Beacons, with those peaks omnipresent with every look, every picture, from a lunch in a garden that shimmers like a Monet watercolour under the changing light. If this is God’s own country then the Brecon Beacons is where he came to do cardio on his day off. It’s breathtaking in every sense.
I decide from the off that I am going to like it. The staff have that ease I adore and whilst I can’t take pictures of the service like I can with the food, I should point out that the sense of hospitality will linger in my mind even longer than the dessert I’ll later get on to. We talk wine, they know wine, and when Claire gets her Gamay rosé I get a taster of a Greek wine cheaper than the French Pinot I initially considered. I take the Greek one. The money saved makes me order an additional dish. They’ve played a blinder.
The food is that concise, hyper-seasonal, hyper-regional pub food that is underplayed by the description and delivers in spades. The chef is ex Tom Kerridge, ex Nigel Haworth, and both are here in spirit. It’s robust manly cooking but it’s also elegant and feminine, the suit of armour revealed to be Sir Brianne of Tarth. Asparagus, fried egg, and wild mushrooms is the Beckham of dishes; basic in genetics but with pinpoint accuracy in delivery, its flourish of wild garlic mayo pinning the plate together. Same with the salt cod you look at and think you could do at home. It’s a half-truth. You’d try but you’d look at the salt needed and decide the recipe must be off before reducing it. You’d lose patience at drying out the tomatoes for hours at fifty degrees and your gribiche would lack the punch of acidity. This was pretty much perfect. A dish of Jersey Royals was all about the onions in truth and could have had any salad potato there. The onions were the only overtly cheffy thing of the day; charred, powdered, broth, leeky bits, spring oniony bits. Tasty but overworked. Saved by a clever use of cheese curds that anchors the dish into place.
A dish listed as homemade pork pie is really a large ploughman’s lunch; Caerphilly cheese, piccalilli, apple, salad, bread, and pig. The slice of pork pie is textbook; taupe pastry, seasoned meat from the unwanted bits, and a thick layer of jelly from Peppa Pig’s skeleton. Good enough to warrant the price by itself, a steal when the rest is taken into account. We get cheese on toast with a kind of HP sauce and more rashers of Peppa Pig, and pork rib eye, barbecued until the fat melts to warm lard. With this is a purée of blackened apple and a wedge of lettuce, barbecued also on one side, dressed in layers smarter than a Chelsea pensioner. There’s a garlicky mayo, pickled onions, radish, cornichons, perl las blue cheese, croutons, and spring onions, thatched in a salad of herbs including (from memory) chives, dill, and chervil. It’s my favourite garnish of the year. It’s nailed on one star cooking. It’s only fifteen pounds and fifty-bloody-pence. Put the petrol in the car. Go eat this now.
Dessert is maybe the best dish of all. A rhubarb trifle is so reminiscent of the Hand of Flowers it’s almost like I’m in Marlow again being told that Mr Kerridge doesn’t come outside the kitchen to meet customers. It’s your standard jelly, custard, cream combo, but the rhubarb jelly has been spiked with a little strawberry for brightness, and the custard is more vanilla than the sex life of two heterosexual fifty-year olds. The sorbet is undeniably rhubarb with lemon hiding in the background. Together it’s an orgy of spring, so comforting my therapist would charge £60 an hour to watch me eating it. It’s £7.50.
Lunch with two glasses of rosè and a carafe of red comes in at £92 before tip. It’s the David Dickinson of bargains, and we ordered too much. I loved it. The surroundings and the Welsh produce, and the food which is both wholesome and refined. After we drive over to Hills Brecon, whose burgers are rightly warranting a reputation as some of the best in Britain. After the usual niceties I get on to the lunch we’ve had; they smile kindly. It’s here I learn that I understand everything about Felin Fach Griffin except how to pronounce it.
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