Restaurant Review: The Felin Fach Griffin, Brecon in Wales
Long esteemed for its awe-inspiring scenery and opportunities for great outdoors activities, the Brecon Beacons are increasingly revered for the eating opportunities it offers – whether you’ve ‘earned’ them through a full day of hiking, riding and climbing, or just through the very excellent reason of having good taste and a hearty appetite.
The flip side of this wealth of gluttonous choice is, well, the wealth of gluttonous choice. If you’re only in the area for a few evenings, how are you to whittle down those options into one or two gorgeous and memorable evenings, without fearing that you’re missing out on something more gorgeous, more memorable?
I’m quite the believer in the idea of a restaurant only being as good as it is on the night that you visit – so when several London-based friends, regular visitors to the Brecons, rave about the Felin Fach Griffin, I accept their “Oh you must go there, it’s amazings” with a smile and an inward “hmm.”
Nevertheless, their rave reviews are in my head the night I’m due to visit and, despite being exhausted and generally apathetic, I down a strong coffee and sort myself out to make my 8pm reservation – and I’m so glad I did.
Even though part of me loves the idea that people are wondering what my story is (they’re almost certainly not, but the human ego is a funny old thing, isn’t it?!) it’s always slightly nerve-wracking, walking into a restaurant as a solo female diner – but I’m immediately ushered to a table and presented with the evening’s menu, including (and maybe this is just a lucky guess, since I mentioned allergens on the phone, but it’s a welcome detail nonetheless) the gluten free menu.
I’m in a room made cosy by dark wood, deep red and candlelight. Broad, rough hewn beams break up the broad expanse of the slightly irregular white ceiling; on the walls, the work of local artists is displayed, with most available for purchase. There’s a small vase of daffodils – of course! – on my table, spruced up with a sprig of rosemary, while around me, tables of diverse diners – young, old, couples, friends – suggest to me that this place has a broad appeal. There are a range of accents at play in the room, too – a reassuring indication, hopefully, of the fact that both locals and outsiders are drawn here.
Wine and water arrives; with it, a plate of gluten free bread and a chilled tomato soup – it’s a nice and unasked for touch, but I’m quite keen to save my appetite for my starter. However, because this is a while coming, the bread gets wolfed mindlessly while I’m trying to establish a Wifi connection. Unfortunately, the signal seems to be particularly weak at my tucked-away corner table, which seems a little unfair, given that I am the only solo diner – what if I wanted to WhatsApp with a friend? What if I wanted to play on Tinder?! In roaming the establishment for a better signal, I have the opportunity to check out the rest of the rooms – next door, the Aga room contains, unsurprisingly, a large cream Aga and a set of shelves housing rustic mugs and bowls alongside one or two larger tables. The bar, separated from the room my table is in by a large fire enclosed in the wall, has temptingly squishy sofas, with the lower halves of the walls painted blue, and the uppers hung with large seascapes. Beyond this, a beautiful glossy black lab lies at the feet of a table of diners; I’m told that this is the dog-friendly Tack Room. My dining room, I discover, is rather optimistically called the Library Room; a reference, presumably, to the jumble of books on an old dresser.
The starter arrives looking quite elegant, its swirls of horseradish and folds of pinkly fleshy cedar-cured trout nicely contrasted against the rectangular black serving board and lifted by a scatter of pomegranate, pine nuts and wispy morsels of a green leaf that I should be able to identify, but can’t. It’s delicious, anyway, and just modest enough, size-wise, to leave me impatient for my main: lamb breast served with white bean mash, salsa verde and sweetbreads. The first thing that strikes me, when it arrives, is the shallow white serving dish it’s presented in, which immediately takes me back to the 1990s .. but then the most heavenly, garlicky smell hits me and I could be in the 1990s or the 1790s: I really couldn’t care less, I just want to wrap my mouth around that lamb! And it doesn’t disappoint: with all thoughts of the the spring lambs I’ve seen teetering around on unsteady legs earlier in the day violently dismissed by my very real and carnivorous greed, I sink my teeth into a first bite and it’s sublime. Tender, rich and perfectly paired with the creamy, unctuous texture of the mash, through which the sharp salsa verde cuts expertly. A joy.
The soporific state into which I plunge after this meal (yes, I cleared the plate) seems to permeate the whole restaurant, with a very noticeable lull in attention and service. Most of the other diners have left, my empty plate has long since been cleared, my full wine bottle has not been poured in ages and no one has approached with suggestions of dessert or coffee. Realistically, it’s not such a bad thing, as it gives me time to convince myself that I will be able to manage dessert, if it’s ever offered but I’m definitely feeling a little neglected, especially with no consistent WiFi connection on which to pass the time (a disturbingly needy admission, I know, but such is modern life …)
At last someone comes to me with the menu. Three scoops of homemade ice cream or sorbet sound good, coconut rice pudding with glazed banana sounds amazing – and dark chocolate mousse with coffee and mascarpone sounds like exactly what I don’t need but am going to order anyway. It comes in a terracotta pot looking like sin itself, accompanied by a rounded glass of espresso – and I’m undone. Actually, a button or two may have to be undone at this rate too. It’s SO GOOD. I ease into it slowly, wanting to savour every mouthful and not wanting to peak too soon on its dark, bittersweet richness – but it’s no use. A couple of mouthfuls and my head and heart are screaming “YESSSS!” while my stomach is saying “Seriously? After that lamb? Are you CRAZY??!! One more mouthful and I won’t be responsible for how I take my revenge on you.”
So I give in, reluctantly. It truly was so outrageously delicious. And, as I mentioned earlier, with the wealth of outdoor activity that the Brecon Beacons have to offer, The Felin Fach Griffin really is an ideal place to replenish energy levels indulgently – indeed, there was a whole table of walkers and hikers engaging in jovial, congratulatory refuelling a little earlier in the evening. Alas, I’ve been sedentary, in a car driving from London, for most of the day. Next time I come here – and I most definitely will come here again – I’ll be sure to make the booking for later in my stay, once I’ve burned off a bit of energy in this part of the world’s roam-worthy landscape.
Address: Felinfach, Brecon LD3 0UB / 01874 620111