If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to put a smile on my face apart from dogs and shoes, it’s food. It’s definitely a passion of mine and if you know me personally, you’ll know how much I love food. I don’t think I’ll ever escape the look of bewilderment on peoples’ faces when they see how much I can actually eat. Maybe it’s a skill for my CV, who knows.
Anyway, I was fortunate enough to dine at Henry Webbs recently. The restaurant is based at the St Mellon’s Hotel, between Cardiff and Newport. Set amongst acres of parkland, the country house hotel is an idyllic venue and ideal for any occasion from overnight stays to wedding receptions.
Luis and I headed there on a rainy Saturday afternoon and were warmly welcomed by Dai, who was a lovely contrast to the miserable weather outside. The restaurant offers diners a choice of menus but we tried the tasting menus. I chose the vegan option while Luis went for the regular one. I’m vegetarian but I go for vegan options as much as possible. Thus, my focus is going to be on the vegan tasting menu but I will talk about the regular tasting menu too.
So, I’ll get right into it! The amuse bouche was the chef’s homemade watermelon and blackberry cider, which I can’t comment on because I don’t drink but luckily, Luis was on hand to take on both tipples.
Before the first course, we were presented with homemade bread with smoked onion butter (soya butter for me, of course!), which came with additional rock salt to sprinkle on. The bread was warm and almost cake-like in texture – divine! And the onion butter was light in texture but full of flavour.
Next, I had the golden beetroot ravioli with pistachio and balsamic apples. It was a completely new creation, which I was excited to try! Who would have thought that pasta and apple go together?! But they did. The soft ravioli worked beautifully with the crisp apple! Additionally, the acidity of the balsamic balanced well with the fruity sweetness. I’ll tell you something, it was my favourite dish of the whole menu. And there was a lot of competition!
Meanwhile, Luis had monkfish tail with bacon and maple jam which I believe was the highlight of his dining experience too.
Then, it was time for the pepper, squash and walnut pie. I’ve had plenty of vegetarian pies before but this was my first vegan pie. I loved it! The pastry was crunchy, the filling was delicately spiced and the vegetables were the perfect accompaniment.
Luis’ following dish was the wild mushroom, smoked cheddar strudel and peppercorn sauce.
After that, he had “Khaleesi’s egg” a nod to Game of Thrones with toasted bagel and cayenne mayonnaise. A visionally stunning and creative dish, it was worthy of the Dothraki Queen herself.
My next dish was garlic wild mushrooms, earl grey and mushroom tea which admittedly sounded bizarre but it was brilliant. Sprinkled with popping candy, it was a savoury yet sweet taste sensation. All I can say is, you have to try it to believe it.
Following the mushrooms, I had coconut, pickled ginger, edamame and broad bean which was delicious. It had a real Thai feel to it!
Meanwhile, Luis ate the sirloin of beef, potato gratin, pancetta and Jus. As a big meat-eater, this dish went down really well with him.
The last savoury course for me was grilled cauliflower, chilli and wild garlic. Isn’t the presentation gorgeous?! Not to mention the wonderful combination of flavours.
Luis had the red pesto stuffed dover sole, which I was actually quite jealous of. It looked wonderful!
Afterwards, we both tried smoked lemon and chilli sorbet, which actually smoked upon arrival. How very theatrical! The sorbet was incredibly moreish. At first, I thought that one scoop would be ample but by the end, I wanted another three!
To finish, Luis had a Guinness brownie with pickled berries and elderflower whilst I had poached pear and blood orange. Talk about showstoppers! How amazing do they both look?
Last but not least, there were petit fours for us; mini macarons (which were the nicest I’ve ever had, they even beat ones from a certain luxury French bakery!), mint and lime sorbet and sweet potato chocolate brownies.
All in all, eating at Henry Webbs was a fantastic dining experience. Both Luis and myself agreed that it was an absolute pleasure from start to finish. The food was phenomenal, there’s no other word to describe it.
Head Chef Gareth Daw is a truly talented, creative and innovative individual. I urge everyone to sample his cuisine. He’s also a lovely guy to speak to and you can tell that he puts his heart and soul into what he does. And not forgetting Dai, the most attentive and personable man who genuinely made a wonderful dining experience even better!