Just around the river bend, veiled against a fecund landscape, clandestine amongst the Welsh hills, sits nestled in the river banks, The Bell at Skenfrith. A cottage like build, in that classic welsh black and white, long and welcoming as the outstretched arms of a much needed hug. The Bell at Skenfrith is a hospitable locality, combining all of the comfort of a country cottage with the fine dining and class expected of a property twice its size. But of course, there lies the appeal! This is a home from home, concealed amid the black mountains it is the ultimate retreat. A cosy withdrawal, a little snug deep in the heart of the Welsh Mountains. It offers accommodation, unrivalled service, but the food… Oh the food… the food is sublime!
Served on a plate as white as an artist’s canvas, food arrives in the petite portions that one expects of a dish with grand heaping’s of flavour. This is the cuisine of a true gourmet. Without so much as having made contact with a fork, to the eye, the plates are magnificent. Fronds of salad, drizzles of sauce, splurges of colourful pesto’s and jus’.
This 17th century coaching inn, was voted best place to eat by Wales National Tourism. And Lifestyle is inclined to agree. A starter of curried cauliflower soup had that silky texture that trod the fine line between too thick and too thin with expert precision. The golden colour of saffron, served with a single slice of rustic homemade bread. An unusual and daring choice but one that brought just the right amount of the exotic to the rather humble cauliflower.
A main of roasted red pepper stuffed with a tomato ragu served with basil couscous was a particular highlight. The pepper was roasted to that slightly charcoaled extent that causes it to become sweet and juicy, exuding that unmistakable honeyed savour. A mild balsamic tang characterised the basil couscous. Meanwhile a fellow diner raved of the Pan Fried Hake with Scallops and Nettle Pesto.
For pudding, vanilla and yogurt Panna Cotta with pistachios and champagne infused red berries. The little wobbly dome glistening with the dusting of green nuts sat in a puddle of red and champagne. A texture of velvety cream in a soft solid. Contrasting with the tart fruit and crunchy texture of the pistachios. Visually the combination of cream, red and green makes for a beautiful amalgamation.
These menus change often with locally sourced seasonal food, meaning that an outlay into The Bell at Skenfrith is an outlay into sustainability, as well as, of course, dining at its best. With a glorious outside area, including garden terrace and orchard meadow, the setting could not be more breath taking. So settle into the warm embrace of the Monmouthshire Mountains. Take up a glass of wine (they offer over 16 to choose from and in 2012 won the AA prize for the overall best wine award)! Nestle into their cushions, open the menu wide, and settle into a sumptuous selection.