The first thing to say is that this is the pub in Beguildy not the better known Radnorshire Arms Hotel in Presteigne. If you Google “Radnorshire Arms Beguildy” Google will misdirect you to The Radnorshire Arms Presteigne. Here is a link to a Bing map of the right location.
Beguildy hovers on the ancient border between England and Wales, and before the pointless reorganisation of local counties it was in the Welsh county of Radnorshire. The pub is, well, a pub – a nice old country pub with no airs and graces. The food was a cut above normal pub fare as the owners are, it turns out, foodies. GL will not pretend that this is a coincidental: he won’t review any old pub even in the Ludlow/Borders area where gourmet pubs are so frequent one runs the risk of finding a Michelin star in ones’ tyre if parking badly in the pub car park.
The She Demon Of The Marriage Bed had the soup of the day and GL had a ham hock terrine but was so engrossed in the terrine that he forgot to try her soup. Top reviewing points GL! However, the Terrine was firmly compressed & delicious, without the masses of jelly that seems to be obligatory when it’s served elsewhere: GL likes his jelly with ice cream rather than meat.
The She Demon Of The Marriage Bed had Duck with braised Red Cabbage and Mash. Duck is a very under appreciated meat thinks GL, perhaps its sin is to be associated too closely to Beatrix Potter? No, that’s stupid. GL had a forkful and it was well cooked and tender. Red cabbage is a brave choice in GL’s opinion: it’s one of those things we think we ought to like because it is healthy and can brag about eating to make one’s friends feel morally inferior. Braising didn’t make much difference – it was eaten to please mummy & was perfectly good, as was the cake of mashed potato.
GL had grilled Sea Bass with King Prawns and veg. It was lovely. Flakes of fish with that delicate fragrance crumbliness that always says: “Sweaty Spanish peasant fisherman invading British Coastal water” but which tastes fine nonetheless. GL rather likes king prawns and very good they were but it’s not clear what exactly they added to the dish other than being another bit of fishy something. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes more is more. Lovely anyway. Vegetables crunchy and not boiled into to minerallessness. Chips ara GL obsession. He gets rubbish chips in so many top restaurants that he thinks it may be a secret chef in-joke. Chips here fall into the ‘competent but don’t get cocky‘ class: just not chunky – which is the hallmark of perfection, shut up yes it is.
The GLs finished off with Eton mess. Short of putting a turd on top it’s hard to see how anyone can make Eton Mess taste bad. The turd was missing and my only criticism is that it was in small glasses. GL wanted MOAR!
The service was prompt pleasant and polite, albeit the pretty young girl serving us seemed to have a memory worse than mine, a fate GL wouldn’t even wish on Nigel Farage. We wandered out into the snowy Radnorshire night much fatter.
First, you’ll be relieved to hear, this time GL was able to remember what he ate. The foodless restaurant review was a novelty well worth a try but perhaps a tad too avant-garde. Second the French Pantry is owned by a friend, Simon, so there will be no pretence that this is a neutral review: but had it been shit this review would not have been written. As it is TFP is GL’s favourite restaurant in Ludlow and he did pay his own tab.
Mr & Mrs GL were accompanied to TFP by two glamorous sophisticated London types: Betty & Rufus, respectively a historical person and a journalist. We hoped to impress them with our knowledge of fine eating and experience of indoor lavatories. We even made sure there was no dung on our wellies, well sophisticated us.
That said GL’s first faux pas was to order the Burgundy snails. Not that there is anything wrong with snails and TFP’s rendition of them was perfect, but if one asked Egon Ronay to fry a car tyre it would still taste like a car tyre. GL adores snails. He really does but he can’t figure out why: they taste like pencil rubber. And that’s why they come slathered in garlic butter. If you presented GL with a bucket of his own entrails slathered in garlic sauce he’d eat them and he suspects most people would. But the puzzle & paradox of snails remains: characterless yet desired. To rub it in the waitress said that it was almost exclusively men who ordered them. The crushing implicit suggestion was that it was just a testosterone thing. GL?! Macho?
Rufus was jolly sporting and rather than a well deserved snigger at GL he ordered the snails as well and was just as delighted. If you like snails TFPs are as good as they get. They don’t make much of starter however, being rather insubstantial, and GL would rather have had them as an extra, a starter starter.
Main course for GL was Grilled Hake Fillet, Seafood & Chorizo Paella. It’s always a pleasure to see a bowl of lemoned water arrive to accompany one’s dish; things will become tactile and messy. Shelling prawns is very schoolboyish fun – a bit like pulling the wings off flies but more socially acceptable and less likely to result in a trip to the school psychiatric counsellor. TFP’s Paella suffered from a slight excess of liquid. It should have been bone-dry unlike, say, Risotto which should be a bit sticky, but it was no big deal as the flavour was fragrant and it wasn’t overwhelmed with the pointless extras that usually ruin the simplicity of Paella. The Hake was exquisite: firm and sweet crumbling at the lightest press of a fork.
Rufus had Moules Marinieres a dish that comes with lemon water and, traditionally, an obligation to build a small castle out of the empty shells. The mussels were fine (they were in the Paella too) and no-one in their right mind drinks the liquor so who can say what that was like?
Betty and Mrs GL had the Toulouse Style Cassoulet. This is a dish more suited to a winter’s evening: so heavy & filling that after few bowls one could go out and plough the fields without needing a tractor. In truth Mrs GL has always politely declined to be hooked up to a plough to test this thesis. Having had the generosity to finish off Mrs GL’s Cassoulet GL can say that the duck was delicate and fell off the bone easily; the sausage was garlicy and well textured. Betty wasn’t keen on the oiliness of the dish but one suspects that was merely dieter guilt: she is known to be a bit mental.
TFP is a tiny place so it can get a bit ‘intimate’ and there is usually some bellend talking too loudly. That was us on Wednesday but the service is good and the bill reasonable enough that there was no point in doing the usual runner when it arrived (Plus, Simon has our home address).
They arrived at the Lion Hotel courtesy of that most modern manifestation of serendipity: the Travelzoo special offer. Would GL be delivered into a gourmand heaven, or exotic bacteria and a course of powerful antibiotics?
The Lion Hotel has been around since the 16th Century. Its interior seems not to have been radically updated since then: the look and smell evoked vivid nostalgic memories of GL’s old boarding school. Alas that did not bode well for the food: he ascribes his lead lined stomach to the sentient fare found in most public schools of the 60s. Nor was the ambience much better. Granted it was a weekday evening but it felt as though they were in death’s grey waiting room; one of the Four Horsemen was finishing his dessert before laying waste to a Dafur refugee camp. The waiting staff, by contrast, were very helpful and gave the lie to UKIP clowns: god forbid they should have been served by sullen bored Shrewsbury teenagers rather than enthusiastic Poles planning to use their handsome wages to buy a tractor factory in Gdansk. GL thinks that they knew he was a restaurant reviewer because they shoved them into a corner where passing farmers could gawp at them through the windows but where they couldn’t smell the toilets or see what the other diners were eating.
The meal? Ah well, there was a bit of difficulty there. GL is barely remember what he ate. This is generally a blessing in the antechamber to the afterlife; how would you feel being able to remember every day of the 50,000 years spent waiting to pass on to a better place? Not very bloody happy you can be assured. So as a defence the grey cells fade and as the sun sinks below the horizon the day’s memories recede into a warm fuzzy but vague glow. So, GL struggles. The meal was, oh Christ! the adjective bag is empty, erm, O.K. He remembers the Ham Hock starter. He remembers it because these are rarely done well, huge globs of jelly that looks like frozen snail slime drowning some third rate pork left over from yesterday’s £10 All-You-Can-Eat lunch buffet. It was actually good. The main course was fish he thought. At least he assumed so since it was the one that got away and he’s buggered if he remembers it. He thinks his wife was there but he can’t remember that either. It’s the ambience – it’s got a Shining thing going on.
So that’s the Lion Restaurant: once glorious, now fading and waiting to die. A bit like GL’s career, but lets not get all bitter. If you want somewhere to dump a mistress, somewhere private that will swallow up any amount of excess emotion this is it.
The next review GL will remember the food, he swears it, and don’t give a damn if it makes for an old fashioned review.
[edit: changed to the mandatory third person house style . Doh, Facepalm]
- The Radnorshire Arms, Beguildy
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- Beaten up by a cow.
- Rather shitty day.
- Restaurant review: The French Pantry, Ludlow
- Restaurant review: The Lion Hotel, Shrewsbury
- Restaurants: cooking up a review
- The blog returns!
- Proper blog back up
- Tripping over the pike
- Pole dancing for the judge
- Is this how government works?