Delicious food and a warm atmosphere give this Herefordshire inn a golden glow in the county's famous Golden Valley
Pic: © p and r design (www.pandrdesign.com)
A beautifully renovated 18th-century hostelry situated in the heart of Hereford’s untouched Golden Valley, the Kilpeck Inn serves the local community as a popular watering hole, but is also an accomplished restaurant with rooms, offering well-cooked, high-quality local produce, and luxurious bed and breakfast accommodation.
We arrive on a Friday evening and the dog-friendly bar area is already abuzz with regulars toasting the end of the working week. It feels warm and welcoming and the charming staff are quick to serve us.
The bar and fridges are well stocked with various guest ales, local ciders and premium presses (from Wye Valley and Butcombe to Ty Gwyn, Gwatkins and Hermitage Farm), plus there’s an impressive selection of spirits and liqueurs (including Chase Distillery, Gun Dog Gin and British Cassis), and an extensive gin and cocktail menu. We opt for the house ale, Butty Bach, one of the most popular ales crafted by the nearby Wye Valley Brewery.
We take our drinks and sit at a table in the cosy seating area to the right of the bar. Once known as the Red Lion, the Kilpeck has a traditional yet elegant feel, with thick sheepskin throws over the chair backs and a gently glowing wood burner with stone surround. The warm, modern restaurant area - which consists of a number of rooms that can be cleverly sectioned off by sliding panel doors to create separate dining rooms - is busy and full of satisfied-looking diners, all clearly enjoying themselves. No surprise, given the mouth-watering plates of food we’ve seen emerging from the kitchen.
This part of Herefordshire is blessed with an abundance of fresh, seasonal produce, and a look at the menu shows it’s clearly made the most of. Local suppliers include artisan baker Alex Gooch; master butcher Neil Powell; Rowlestone Court Ice Cream; Neal’s Yard Creamery; and Lay & Robson Smokehouse. The fact that we can see the gamekeeper who supplies the inn with rabbit and venison enjoying a drink at the bar is another sign of the food’s local provenance! We’re also pleased to see a Herefordshire vineyard present on the wine list (Tudor Manor Gold from Wythall Estate).
The restaurant caters for all dietary requirements, too - with dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian options all on the menu. Our only problem is choosing what to go for, as it all sounds so wonderful!
I'm a big fan of seafood, so I decide on the salt-and-pepper squid to start and the stone bass for main, while my partner chooses the goat’s cheese starter and belly pork main. As we’re feeling so comfortable where we’re seated, we ask if we can dine here rather than move through to the restaurant, and the staff can’t be more helpful, laying out the table with no bother. And within 15 minutes we’re tucking in to some beautifully presented dishes.
My squid is perfectly cooked and battered lightly enough for the delicate flavour to come through. My partner’s goat’s cheese is served alongside raspberries, limoncello curd, roast beetroot, toasted walnuts and pea shoots - a delicious combination of flavours and textures.
Our main courses are just as good. My fillet of stone bass is seared just as I like it, with well-seasoned, crispy skin protecting the delicate sweet flesh underneath. The fish is resting on a bed of samphire and fondant potato, all superbly brought together with an exquisite shellfish broth and coriander garnish. It’s simply lovely.
The belly pork is served with a chive mash, sweet and sour red cabbage, and a pancetta and thyme jus. All of the components work well together but the star of the dish is clearly the generous slice of pork, which is exceptionally moist, flavoursome and with just enough crispness to achieve that perfect crackling. It’s all washed down with a well-balanced, light and crisp Maison Williams Chase Rosé – the ideal accompaniment.
Passing our compliments on to head chef Ross Williams, we eagerly look at the dessert menu, again struggling to decide what to order from the list of tempting dishes. I eventually plump for the warm chocolate and walnut brownie with vanilla ice cream - one for chocoholics and extremely indulgent – while my partner opts for the affogato (espresso over ice cream).
We just have room for two Baileys coffees, served with homemade biscotti. Fantastic.
Welsh Border Life had:
• Whipped goat’s cheese, limoncello curd, roast beetroot, toasted walnuts, £5
• Salt & Pepper squid, baby gem, garlic and aioli, £8
• Pork belly, chive mash potato, sweet and sour red cabbage, crackling, pancetta and thyme jus, £15
• Pan-seared fillet of stone bass, samphire, fondant potato, shellfish broth, sea herbs, £17
• Affogato (vanilla ice cream, espresso coffee, biscotti), £3.50
• Double chocolate and walnut brownie with vanilla ice cream, £6.50
Set-price lunchtime menu: two courses, £10; three courses, £15. The inn is also renowned for its Sunday roasts.
The Kilpeck Inn, Kilpeck, Hereford HR2 9DN. Tel: 01981 570464. www.kilpeckinn.com
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