The inn thing
Eat, drink and sleep is the Felin Fach Griffin’s simple motto, but does this Welsh country inn excel on all three counts? Debra Waters finds out.
Modern rustic has become a term embraced by many establishments who try – but don’t always get it right – to balance customers’ expectations of authenticity (beams and big open fireplaces) with their ‘needs’ (mod cons and cuisine that’s fashionably retro).
But brothers Charles and Edmund Inkin and host Julie Bell cornered that much bandied about term, lassoed it and made it their own. The Griffin is a warren of cosy rooms: a welcoming front bar with a vast fireplace, wooden beams, plump sofas and farmhouse tables. Books and papers are scattered about and the walls are dotted with stylish black and white prints and humorous farming photos. The atmosphere is informal and laidback.
You get the feeling that no-one would be turned away on a dark and stormy night, which makes it a haven in Wales – a country blessed with more rain than most. The bar is a drinker’s delight – the country produces a number of notable beers, ales and ciders, of which many are on offer, and an astute decision has been made to set the beer at local prices.
A homely dining room with deep red walls and paintings by local artists is another example of the inn’s enthusiasm to include local people and produce. It takes its commitment from plot to plate seriously – out back there is a thriving organic kitchen garden which is taken full advantage of. The daily-changing menu is uncomplicated but confidently assembled and dishes are as hearty but not as heavy as traditional pub food.
Straight to the table comes home-made soda bread and butter, followed by a complimentary bowl of steaming, thick carrot and cumin soup. It’s a pleasant dish – if only we’d known before we ordered our starters: a silky, well-seasoned mushroom and tarragon soup and a Mediterranean-style fish soup loaded with chunks of fish and veg.
The rib-eye of local Welsh beef with onion confit and purée, chips and Béarnaise is excellent; there’s a great taste and texture to the meat, which is so soft you could eat it with a spoon. The creamy purée is a subtle but effective accompaniment while the triple cooked chips are unashamedly fat and crunchy and very good. Beside me, the local loin of pork is being devoured like a inmate’s last meal. It’s a generous dish of flavoursome pork, herby faggot, creamy home-grown cauliflower and a balanced cider sauce.
We share the Griffin organics blackcurrant pannacotta with cassis sorbet; it has the not-too-sweet taste of set yogurt, which offsets the intense, cheek-sucking flavour bursting from the fruit. It’s a pretty pud and, like all the food, it’s fresh and tasty.
The passionately written and altogether excellent wine list boasts a number of organic and biodynamic options and – hallelujah – two sizes of glasses and carafes so you don’t feel coerced into buying then (inevitably) drinking a bottle.
Bedrooms are neat, cosy and unfussy: an old four poster bed imbues the room with a sense of romance, there are contemporary prints on eggshell blue walls and the bathroom has a seaside feel to it. We look for the TV; a kneejerk reaction. There isn’t one – a brave and savvy move – sitting on the window seat listening to the radio is much more in keeping with the Griffin’s philosophy.
Breakfast is eaten communally around a huge table. Don’t let that put you off; it’s roomy enough for you not to have to compete for elbow space when slicing the top off your perfectly boiled egg laid by the inn’s happy hens. The home-made strawberry jam is so moreish we buy a jar.
The Felin Fach Griffin is an old building with a young feel. It’s a welcoming, unassuming place with genuinely friendly staff and a genial vibe. Children are welcome and this hospitality is highlighted by considerate little touches such as organic fruit pots and warm milk for babies and free tea and coffee on arrival for adults. Packed lunches and picnics are available, Hay on Wye and the Brecon Beacons are nearby, and the proprietors magnanimously recommend the Raglan Arms for a good lunch and rave about their favourite suppliers from producers to painters. You do indeed eat, drink and sleep here – very well.
Set lunch costs £15.90 for two courses; £18.90 for three. Set dinner costs £21 for two courses; £26.50 for three. A la carte also available.
B&B starts from £110 a night; dinner, B&B from £165 per couple.
Winter escapes: 1 Nov-March (except weekends):
from £135 while clocks are at GMT.
See the website for special events.
Felin Fach, Brecon, LD3 0UB
T: 01874 620 111