At refurbished Llangoed Hall on the edge of the Brecons, exec chef is harnessing the rich soils of the Wye Valley for his refined take on seasonality
Michelin stars and self-sufficiency aren't always the most obvious of bed-fellows. Like The Good Life's Tom wearing a suit; the image should, but doesn't, sit quite right.
Yet accolades and sustainability formed the backbone of executive chef Nick Brodie's brief when he took over at Llangoed Hall, near Brecon in south Wales, in early 2013. His goals were to drive towards one Michelin star and three AA rosettes, using as much as possible from an as-yet-unrealised kitchen garden, he was told.
"At busy times like the Hay Festival [of Literature and the Arts], we might have to order in some potatoes, but apart from that I'd say 90% of what we use is grown here," says Brodie.
Hence Brodie's highly accomplished, modern British cooking is not only a faithful representation of the seasons, but of the rich soils of this patch of Britain.
The Á la carte, tasting menu (£85) and chef's recommendation menu (£125) change frequently - "The idea of doing the same dishes over and again is not my idea of fun," says Brodie - but all share a recurring theme; a playful take on seasonality, locality and the kitchen garden.
A starter of poached chicken egg comes wrapped in slivers of hay-baked celeriac alongside home-smoked pig's jowl (courtesy of the new smokehouse) shrivelled up to a small, potent slice, and shavings of truffle - posh ham and eggs, if you will.
For main, there is an indulgently hearty dish of local beef â¨fillet with turnip tops, crispy discs of dehydrated onion, an onion and horseradish bhaji, chanterelles and pomme purée - topped with nasturtium leaves and presented in a sort of artistic mess. hearty components
"I don't like to be too fiddly on the plate," says Brodie. "I like it to look a little bit chaotic, a bit more rustic than some fine dining."
Elsewhere, a main of Welsh lamb with goat's cheese, pine nuts and cous cous is a full-flavoured, roof-of-the-mouth-sticking dish that just about delivers all its hearty components, while giving them each room to shine.
A pre-dessert of marinated pineapple and mango coulis topped with coconut chantilly cream is another playful touch, served in a de-crowned duck â¨egg on a bed of hay with a thin â¨pannetone soldier.
Meanwhile, Brodie says the chocolate dessert is designed to be "a banging chocolate dish if you're a chocolate fan, which I am".
A spoon of thick, rich Valrhona dark chocolate mousse sits among salted caramel sauce, flourless chocolate cake, candied peanuts,â¨a white chocolate powder and wafer-thin chocolate biscuits.
The end result is a menu deeply rooted in its surroundings - â¨the opulence of Llangoed Hall â¨coupled with exquisite Welsh meat, the produce of the kitchen garden and the growing collection of livestock (and Brodie admits he has still to discover the full extent of what is available from the area).
The answer, as nearby chefs Stephen Terry at The Hardwick and Shaun Hill at the Walnut Tree Inn have found, is that almostâ¨everything is in this abundantly stocked corner of Britain.
And at this rate it won't be too long before Llangoed's reputation sits up there with those highly regarded establishments.
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Sample dishes from the menu
- Roast wood pigeon with its own pastrami, kohlrabi remoulade, pear, Brazil nuts, marinated Agen prunes £16.50
- Foie gras torchon, beetroot, chicken liver macaroon, â¨apple, walnut granola £17.50
- Juniper-cured Welsh venison, blueberries, Douglas fir, charcoal oil, onion, â¨wild mushrooms £21
- Honey-glazed Creedy Carver duck breast, cashew, â¨bok choi, fondant potato, carrot, five spice £36.50
- Pan-fried potato gnocchi, butternut squash, Ragstone goats' cheese, toasted â¨seeds, rainbow chard £25
- Assiette of rhubarb, jelly, ginger, mint, sherbert, lime syrup £16
- Pineapple ravioli, mascarpone cheesecake, coconut sorbet, passion fruit, lychee £16