Somewhere for the weekend : The Felin Fach Griffin
This is a tricky one, not least because the Felin Fach Griffin, is my favourite place to stay in the UK. Ever. Smitten, from my very first visit back in 2007, I consider it my special, secret place. The one I’ve just had to return to time and time again. I tell my friends about it. I tell my family about it. And, now, with the Hay Festival happening just down the road, it’s time to tell you about it too. Time to share.
Although it was not love at first sight. And the reason for that? Terracotta. Having spent the previous two years banishing all traces of the colour from my own home, I was faintly alarmed to see it adorning the outside of my weekend escape of choice in such a vivid way.
But never a judge a pub by its wall colours.
Because the moment I stepped over the threshold, I knew that I had discovered somewhere special. It was autumn, and Gabriel (my husband) and I had planned our first walking weekend away. We’d intended checking in quickly so that we could explore the area.
We didn’t get any further than the bar.
The fire was smouldering as people, reading newspapers, relaxed into attractively worn sofas around it. Tempted by two pints of local beer ourselves we soon joined them, instantly plunged into a state of calm, talking about the walking we would do the next day. I was starting to rather like this place.
That evening we had booked into dinner for 8 o’clock and heavenly food and newly acquired favourite wines (recommended by the waitress as we knew nothing about wine ourselves) ensured that ‘rather like’ rapidly turned into ‘really love’.
Since that first time I have looked on with pride as the Griffin has deservedly scooped up award after award for its food (not to mention for the quality of its accommodation). Eating there is a genuine treat and it’s been a delight to see it rewarded.
To give you an idea of what they do, here’s a menu taken taken from its website featuring typical starter and main course options:
A typical Supper
* Part of the set menu (£28.50 for 3 courses). Guests may mix and match between menus.
|Helford crab, pickled apple, coriander||8.50|
|Roast mackerel, orange, fennel||7.50|
|Neal’s Yard goat curd, apple, sprouting broccoli, salted almonds
|Lamb pastille, cauliflower, garden leeks||8.00|
|Warm pork, apple & black pudding terrine, piccalilli||*|
|Scampi monkfish, pickled carrots, apple||*|
|Shallot, Stichelton & sprouting broccoli tart, hazelnuts, watercress||15.50|
|Cefnllan duck breast, butternut squash, potato gratin, kale
|Cornish brill, baby leeks, cauliflower, chanterelles, roast chicken butter
|Roast Bwlch venison, honey glazed parsnip, red cabbage, pomme purée
|Cod Fillet, warm tartare sauce, rainbow chard, chips||*|
|Jerusalem artichoke risotto, hazelnuts, apple, Childwickbury||*|
|Cefnllan chicken breast, pomme purée, Jerusalem artichoke, cavolo nero||*|
Locally sourced where possible, the provenance of its food is paramount. Beautifully presented and prepared with ingredients so fresh they’ve in all likelihood been picked from their own kitchen garden that very morning, the Griffin’s menu also comes with a refreshing list of, in the main, local stockists. Our enthusiasm to discuss this information has saved us from our usual default setting of ‘mute’ at many a meal. Gabriel and I both love food and we’ve planned and made many a detour in order to take a taste of our wonderful stay home with us. The winelist is also really good and there’s always someone who can recommend just the right wine to have with your meal. Once discovered I’ve not wanted to let many of the wines go, thus explaining the many hours I’ve spent on the Internet trying to track them down.
Elegant and refreshingly simple (in the sense that it tastes of what it should), the food never ceases to impress. Yet there is a humility and modesty in what the Griffin says about its food that belies its creativity and innovation.
The Griffin does very good food very well and – I’ve been there many times over the years – it does so consistently.
As for the dining area itself, the Griffin has several intimate interconnecting rooms with wooden tables,
some of which I’ve liked more than others, and so, if it’s your first time, it might be worth taking a look and specifying where you’d like to sit. Yet the tables are always set with an elegant simplicity and the bare stone walls create a cosy, rustic feel.
As for the seven bedrooms they are all decorated in soft, creamy colours.
We’ve stayed in two of them, one of which was darker than the other due to window size (again, check this out if natural light is important to you). They both had deliciously comfortable beds, beautiful linen and, wonderfully useful after a good walk, baths.
The bathrooms are clad with tongue and groove and have very lovely toiletries (from the White Company) with bathrobes and fluffy towels provided for that added sense of indulgence.
There are also two very beautiful four poster rooms. Just a word of caution (in the main prompted by jealousy, not having stayed in one myself) – we went with a very tall friend a few years ago who booked one of them and then moaned about hitting his feet on the wooden footboard. Should have swapped with someone shorter…
Oh, and I nearly forgot, all rooms are equipped with a quirky Roberts radio.
That aside, the star of each of the rooms has to be the deliciously comfortable beds. I can’t quite believe what happens to my usual ‘Oh-God!-Is-it-morning-already?’ self after having slept in one. Relaxed and well-rested, I’m always ready to make the most of the delights of the Griffin breakfast.
When we first stayed, the Griffin encouraged a more communal breakfast-eating experience, a very large farmhouse kitchen table positioned next to the Aga upon which you toasted the homemade bread. Great idea. But as enforced jollity with fellow guests can sometimes be painful (no matter how comfortable the beds are), especially first thing in the morning, this has been changed. You can now enjoy your full Welsh sitting in contented, companiable silence, perusing a newspaper or the where-it-comes-from history of the food on your plate. Or the route of the very long walk you’re going to have to go on to justify chomping your way through so much delicious food.
The Felin Fach Griffin, nestling as it does between the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains and not far from the market towns of Abergavenny and Hay-on-Wye, provides the perfect base. There is much to do in this beautiful area: walking, cycling, canoeing, fishing, browsing in bookshops…these are just some of the activities available for you to try. And to pitch up at the Felin Fach after a busy day is always sheer bliss. It really is my favourite place to stay.
Two Stars and a Wish : The Felin Fach Griffin
2 things that it does well and 1 thing that it could do better
LINK & FACTFILE
The Felin Fach Griffin, Felin Fach
Brecon, LD3 0UB
To find out more about the Felin Fach Griffin go to www.felinfachgriffin.co.uk/
- Bed and Breakfast £125 – £165
- 3 course Dinner, Bed and Breakfast £177.50 – £217.50
The Felin Fach philosophy is one based on sustainability, community and the sourcing of food locally wherever possible. Started over 15 years ago by the Inkin brothers, The Felin Fach is the first of three places to stay (the others being the Gurnards Head and http://www.oldcoastguardhotel.co.uk/) in their eatdrinksleep group.
Don’t forget to read Connie’s reviews of the Gurnard’s Head and the Old Coastguard –