Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon, Review

Just over a year ago I married the amazing Mrs G and we had a fantastic food-filled honeymoon troughing our way round West Wales. Continuing the theme, for our 1st anniversary we decided to visit another Welsh Mecca of gastronomy, The Felin Fach Griffin. Situated close to Brecon, the award winning Griffin is an ideal base for exploring the Beacons and the book shops of Hay on Wye.

Having bagged ourselves a room on the exceptionally good value Sunday Sleepover deal (3 course Sunday lunch, 3 course dinner, bed & breakfast from £87.50 per person) we packed our elasticated trousers and steeled ourselves for the impending calorific overload.

The Griffin perfectly balances its dual identity as a country pub and foodie destination. The serving staff are laidback and friendly whilst also displaying an impressive level of knowledge and efficiency. More importantly the Griffin’s food is big in flavour and portion size whilst refined in presentation. The Griffin’s Sunday lunch normally costs £23.50 for 3 courses. In my mind it's a bargain for one of the best roast dinners I have ever eaten.

 As we deliberated over what to order, we nibbled on a board of delicious homemade sourdough bread and annoyingly fridge hard butter.

To start I had an astonishingly good buffalo mozzarella with Welsh coppa ham, sage & apple pesto. Fresh, beautiful and well balanced, the inclusion of sage and apple provided a different riff on a familiar combination.

Mrs G’s excellent starter of smoked salmon, poached hen egg, onion brioche and beetroot relish was also a refreshing twist on the well-known. The beetroot relish was a logical flavour match for the salmon whilst the smoky, onion brioche added an extra layer of complexity.

Our mains were quite simply the Rolls-Royces of roast dinners. Mrs G’s roast rib of Welsh beef and my leg of Llandefalle pork were accompanied by some bobby-dazzling trimmings; super crispy and fluffy roast potatoes, perfectly cooked veg, crisp and doughy Yorkshire puds and stonking gravy. In addition, an epically brilliant piece of crackling sat proudly on top of my meal like an angel on a Christmas tree.

Having licked the plates clean we were ready for dessert. My dark chocolate brownie with caramelised hazelnuts and malted milk ice cream was as blow your socks off good as the description suggested. One spoonful of the slivers of insanely chocolatey brownie, brittle-esque nuts and malted ice cream and I was nearly reduced to tears.

Mrs G’s dessert of pistachio cake with poached pear and sour cream was equally stunning. Curiously though, the pistachio sponge had a marzipan like taste to it. This was a winner in my book but the usually marzipan loathing Mrs G was a little taken aback. It’s a testament to the deliciousness of the dessert that she still cleared her plate with gusto.

The most sensible thing to do in the time between lunch and dinner would have been to go for a lengthy hike on the Brecon Beacons to work up an appetite and walk off a few roast potatoes. However, Mrs G and I decided a better idea was to go for a ten minute walk on the Beacons so I could get a photo, a shop in Brecon so Mrs G could buy a mountaineering jacket to wear round Cardiff and for both of us to have a nap.

With our appetites restored we were ready for round 2.

Once again we munched on some rather tasty soda bread whilst we picked from the menu. A benefit of the Sunday Sleepover package was that we had free reign to choose anything from the a la carte and set menus.

A delicious amuse bouche of onion veloute, which tasted like an onion bhaji in a cup, kicked off proceedings.

The rather excellent wine list at the Griffin is worth a mention. They’ve nearly 20 wines by the glass, they limit their mark up so you can get some pretty decent grog for a decent price and most members of staff have a wine tasting qualification so are pretty knowledgeable. I had a light and fragrant Ciconia Branco 2011 with my starter and a very quaffable Merlot/ Sangiovese, Ortonese 2010 with my main.

My starter of dressed Portland crab, with shaved fennel, dill and preserved lemon (£8) was greater in parts than as a whole. The clean tasting, lemony fennel washed away the creamy richness of the dressed crab. Evasive action was needed and I ate the fennel and crab separately to produce an enjoyable but slightly disappointing starter.

Mrs G’s starter of confit chicken terrine with smoked bacon, onion jam and toast (£7) was a bit of a downer too. The smoked bacon lacked flavour and the terrine as a whole lacked seasoning so it tasted only of cold chicken breast. Even with the onion chutney working hard the dish was on the dry and bland side.

The kitchen was back on form with mains.

My braised shin of Welsh beef (£18.50) with saffron potato, broccoli with Asian spices and chilli jam was a delicious piece of fusion cookery. Unctuous shredded beef, sticky sweet chilli jam and five spice infused gravy made this dish reminiscent of a Chinese roast dinner.

Mrs G’s moist loin of pork (I’m usually guilty of dehydrating mine under the grill) was accompanied by some excellent dauphinoise potatoes, spring greens and a truffle cream with just the right hit of fungus (£18).

For dessert my vanilla crème brulee (£7) was silky smooth with a generous amount of vanilla flecked through it. The accompanying shortbread was well flavoured but a little cakey in texture.

Mrs G’s cheese board (£10) was greatly enjoyed but I think the inclusion of only 1 Welsh cheese was missing a trick, especially in light of the safe options Sparkenhoe Red Leicester & Cashel Blue. The accompanying onion chutney was good however I don’t like it when a cheese course is served with bread instead of biscuits. If I wanted a sandwich then I would have ordered one.

Retiring for the night to our rather charming four poster bedded room, I began to look forward to my next meal. The Griffin’s cooked breakfast was lush. Well spiced sausage, perfectly runny egg and crisp fried bread oozing fat were the highlights of the usual menagerie of fried goods.

After breakfast Mrs G and I set off for look around Hay on Wye, the book capital of the UK. Whilst Mrs G was like a pig in mud when faced with shop after shop of second hand books and country chic knick-knacks, I kept myself sane with the prospect of an ice-cream at the end of it. And a cracking ice-cream it was too. Recommended by a member of the team at the Felin Fach Griffin, Shepherd’s ice-cream parlour served me some rather lovely chocolate & mint choc chip in a charmingly retro ice-cream dish.

Making our way home, we pondered how lucky we are to have so much beautiful countryside and so many interesting places to visit within a short car ride from Cardiff. More importantly, we’ve got a heck of a lot of decent country eateries in close proximity. The Felin Fach Griffin keeps fine company amongst places like The Walnut Tree, The Hardwick, The Foxhunter and The Pony & Trap. It’s an ideal base for exploring the Brecon Beacons or Hay on Wye. But equally it’s worth the drive just for their Sunday lunch.

The Details:
Address: The Felin Fach Griffin, Felinfach, Brecon, Powys LD3 0UB
Telephone: 01874 620 111


  1. This restaurant looks superb. I have recommended it to a friend who is going to the Hay on Wye book festival in June.

  2. Good work Gilly. Let me know how they get on.