There’s something special cooking in the village of Laleston outside of Bridgend.
A few months before Christmas, Tommy Heaney took over the stoves at Leicester’s restaurant at The Great House Hotel.
This is exciting news.
Tommy is the former Head Chef of Bar 44, and under his guidance he steered them to the Good Food Guide readers’ restaurant of the year for Wales 2015.
Bar 44 also happens to be one of my favourite restaurants. So, when I heard that Tommy was moving onto a new project, it was added straight to my “to eat list”.
Pre-dinner drinks were taken in the bar; for Mrs G, a gutsy yet refreshing raspberry caipirinha (£6.95) and for the chauffeur a pint of diet coke.
Whilst we agonised over the menu a trio of stonkingly good canapés arrived: golden arancini studded with smoked pork and cauliflower, whopping olives filled with salty boquerones, and little brandy snaps filled with tangy goats cheese – the salt and savoury balancing cleverly.
Having navigated our way through the 15th century person-friendly / 21st century-person unfriendly doorways, we settled in the dining room.
Warm breads – walnut and sun-dried tomato – were rapidly inhaled.
Mrs G rated her starter as one of the finest she had ever eaten. Fine cubes of cured salmon (£6.25), diced cucumber and dinky shimeji mushrooms were smothered in a creamy dill mayonnaise and topped with a richness moderating yoghurt granita, giving the dish the appearance of a pile of snow.
For me, a trio of plump scallops (£8.95) joined by a hunk of meaty baked aubergine, a dollop of sweet miso mayonnaise, and lightly pickled and buttered sea vegetables. An almost brilliant dish, it was let down by the slight over-caramelisation of the scallops, resulting in a bitter note.
Both main courses smashed it out of the park.
A yielding slab of pork belly (£14.50) with golden crackling, a little pot of sticky slow-cooked pork shoulder twanged with star anise and a fiendishly good pork shoulder croquette were accompanied by smooth sweet potato puree, meaty jus, stock-rich puy lentils and charred spring onions.
On the other side of the table, a perfectly-pink, crisp-skinned duck breast (£17.25) was accompanied by ultra-creamy parsnip puree, roast parsnips, slices of earthy black pudding and beetroot, and a glistening meat sauce.
It would have been rude not to order a side of triple-cooked chips (£3.50). Hyper-crisp, ultra-fluffy these are as good as chips can be.
For dessert, a crisp-based lemon and stem ginger cheesecake (£5.95) topped with strawberry jelly was creamy and sharp in equal measure. Accompaniments of honeycomb and velvety coconut sorbet completed a superb dessert.
Meanwhile, a gooey salted caramel and chocolate tart (£5.95) was balanced beautifully by a caramel-fragranced beurre noisette ice cream. Whilst the lack of crispness in the tart base could have been the dish’s undoing, some nifty sugar work and a scattering of crunchy walnut praline provided the necessary texture contrast.
Leicester’s at The Great House is a great restaurant. It’s well worth the 45-minute drive from Cardiff to sample Tommy Heaney’s innovate, visually impressive and flavour-packed food.
Mrs G and I ordered from the a la carte but there are better value options – a fixed price dinner menu offers a selection of dishes from the a la carte at £21.95 for 3 courses, whilst dinner, bed & breakfast offers start from £50 a head.
Address - The Great House Hotel and Restaurant, 8 High Street, Laleston, Bridgend CF32 0HP
Telephone - 01656 657644