Pembrokeshire

Coast, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire

May 2021

On our recent long weekend to Pembrokeshire, we enjoyed dinner at the fantastic ‘Coast’ restaurant; there are not many restaurants in this corner of Wales that offer the high standard of cooking that they deliver. Coast, as its name would suggest, is located on Coppet Hall beach and has magnificent coastal views. On the evening we visited, we were particularly fortunate that the terrible, wet May weather gave us some respite, and the sun was (almost) out, allowing us to enjoy the wonderful panorama. When we managed to tear our eyes from the wonderful view we were greeted by beautifully presented dishes, which would not out be out of place at any top London restaurant.

In addition to our chosen dishes, there were complimentary appetisers which really added to the fine dining experience that Coast strives (and achieves) to deliver; ‘Today’s & Yesterday’s Bread’ was an inspired way to serve bread – a fresh slice of today’s bread with an incredibly tasty slice of yesterday’s, soaked in a beef broth! Our starters were as impressive, the ‘Salmon, Oyster & Cucumber’ was beautifully fresh; salmon was subtly salted with an oyster, whilst cucumber, lightly pickled, rounded off the dish. Meanwhile ‘Chicken, Morels & Broad Bean’ was a deliciously light ballotine of chicken, complemented by meaty morels and tender broad beans. For our main courses, we both opted for the ‘Brill, Sea Vegetables & Shrimp’, once again wonderfully fresh, the Brill was cooked to perfection and generously flavoured by tiny shrimps and delicate pillows of gnocchi. Finally dessert, ‘Chocolate, Rose & Thyme’, seriously, this was one of the best chocolate desserts I have had for a long time, yes, even better than the chocolate dessert I had enjoyed the night before at The Fernery! The chocolate mousse was light whilst the flavours of thyme and rose beautifully cut the richness of the dark chocolate – it was a totally moreish dessert! In comparison Nick’s dessert, ‘Strawberry, Clotted Cream  & Elderflower’, seemed rather simple, however, it was delectable, with intense flavours from a combination of both fresh and roasted strawberries.

Coast is owned by The Grove Hotel (see the review here), and it gives their in-house restaurant, The Fernery, which is also exceptionally good, a run for its money. It goes without saying that Coast definitely merits a visit!…

The Grove, Narberth

Last week we enjoyed our first UK escapade since the recent, seemingly never-ending lockdown!…The unseasonal May weather showed no sign of abating as we drove down the M4 in the relentless rain. Fortunately, we were on our way to The Grove Hotel in Pembrokeshire, which describes itself as a ‘boutique country escape with a warm Welsh heart’ – perfect! On arrival, it ticked all the boxes, the interior of the hotel, which received a makeover last year during the first lockdown, is beautifully designed with period features blended with local crafts and neutral tones. We were staying in the Blue Room, which was a relaxed yet elegant room, (and beautifully warm, once they got the radiators working – this was a slight blip but they resolved it quickly!). Naturally, as Nick and I are always looking forward to our next meal, we had chosen The Grove not only for its reputation for its accommodation but also for the food it serves. They have two restaurants, the Fernery and The Artisan Rooms; we were staying four nights so this allowed us to try these and to venture out on two nights to eat locally. In addition, we were soon to discover, that breakfasts at The Grove were definitely worth getting out of bed for. I must admit to overindulging (their porridge with banana and maple pecan nuts with a splash of cream was a particular favourite), but I assure you, that we needed a big breakfast to fuel our day walking along the magnificent Pembrokeshire Coast! We enjoyed a couple of walks, despite the wind and rain and in fact, on Saturday the sun surprised us, so we were able to fully appreciate the spectacular views of the Stackpole coastal path. I must admit I was blown away, almost literally(!), by the scenery – the coast was spectacular, but I also enjoyed seeing the beautiful hedgerows along the narrow lanes which were full of spring flowers – bluebells, cowslip, the striking pink of red campion and the occasional yellow of primroses. The grounds of The Grove are also wonderful, they are beautifully kept, and include a walled kitchen garden and a lovely terrace under blossom trees. On our one bright day, we enjoyed a post-walk glass of champagne on their terrace, which allowed us a glimpse of the hotel in the sunshine and made us promise to return next year – surely the English weather would treat us better next time….

The Fernery

We ate at the Fernery, the more formal of The Grove’s two restaurants, on our first night, and what a great start it was to our stay. The restaurant is in the more traditional wing of the hotel, with its white-clothed tables and classic interior it has that quietly comforting atmosphere that only the best country hotels can offer. Before dinner we enjoyed cocktails in the lounge – the classic Old Fashioned for me and a Negroni for Nick, both were perfectly made. Nick’s Negroni was particularly good and on asking about the vermouth they used we discovered that it was an artisan brand, Carpano Antica Formula – we will be ordering a bottle for home!!…In fact, over the next few days, we were to try a few more of their signature cocktails(!) and discovered that they strived to introduce the subtle flavours of other artisan brands – their Martini was made with the addition of Eccentric Limbeck Gin and lavender bitters – wonderful!

Following our cocktails, our dinner at The Fernery was as impressive, chef Douglas Balish, often uses the produce from The Grove’s kitchen garden and our 5-course tasting menu had wonderfully fresh flavours. Our first course was ‘Smoked Early Pembrokeshire Potatoes,’ this wasn’t by any means a simple potato dish, instead, this dish of pureed potatoes with egg yolk, dashi, pea and bottarga had complex flavours; smoky, salty and creamy. Our second course was a ‘Pembrokeshire Oyster’ slightly pickled with cucumber, jalapeno and sour cream, it was a wonderfully fresh dish to follow the creamy potato first course. The third course was ‘Chicken with Langoustine, Morels and Asparagus’, this was an unusual combination – I have never had chicken with shellfish in this way before and it worked beautifully – a contemporary take on a ‘surf ‘n’ turf’, I imagine that the chicken was cooked ‘sous vide’ as it was incredibly tender. Moving onto our fourth course, we enjoyed ‘Cardigan Hogget,’ a piece of lamb fillet flavoured with goats cheese, caper jam and garlic, again this was cooked to perfection. Finally, dessert, ‘Tulakalum Chocolate’, although the chocolate was, naturally, very rich, this dessert managed to be refreshing with the addition of ginger, lemon and coriander – it was the perfect end to our meal.

We were impressed with both the food and the service at The Fernery; whether you’re staying at the hotel or you happen to be local, it merits a visit, it comes at a price but is a wonderful treat and I predict that Balish will soon receive the coveted Michelin star…

The Artisan Rooms

This second restaurant at The Grove, The Artisan Rooms, is a high-end casual dining restaurant offering guests a more informal alternative to The Fernery. The dining room with its relaxed interior overlooks a garden terrace, which weather permitting, can offer al fresco dining.

The menu is inspired by Welsh ingredients, simply prepared. On the evening we dined at The Artisan Rooms, we were pleased to see that wild garlic featured on the menu; on our walks along the Pembrokeshire coast, we had spied (and smelt!) a lot of this wild plant, if I lived locally I would definitely be foraging, to cook it at home! So to start with I chose the ‘Wild Garlic Soup’, which was beautiful, both fantastically green and flavoursome, with a dash of soft goats cheese. I was so eager to taste this beautifully vibrant soup that I forgot to photograph it for you and, as I was enjoying it so much, I also failed to photograph Nick’s ‘Game Terrine En-Croute’, which was also very ‘tasty’! For our main courses, we had ‘Lamb Rump with Wild Garlic and Leeks’, it was the creamed potato flavoured with the garlic and leeks that carried this dish, the lamb, I must admit, lacked a little on the flavour front, however, the ‘Cod with Coconut and Seaweed’, was a definite winning dish, it was delicately flavoured and cooked beautifully. Finally desserts, Sticky Toffee Pudding, always a crowd-pleaser, this was undoubtedly good; I particularly liked the little nibs of toffee that were dotted through the sponge! We also shared the Rhubarb and Ginger Cheesecake, it was delicious, the rhubarb was wonderful although we couldn’t taste much ginger. It was a great meal and a lighter alternative to the richer meal we had enjoyed at The Fernery.

Whilst I would not necessarily say that The Artisan Rooms was a ‘destination restaurant’, it is a very good complement to their fine dining restaurant, The Fernery, and one which the hotel’s guests will totally appreciate.