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Well-to-do Monmouthshire has a vibrant eating-out scene. The geography of the area (verdant hills, wooded river valleys, small market towns) means the focus is on country pubs and restaurants. Many of the county’s traditional boozers have received the full-on gastro treatment, so if you’re seeking smart food, rustic chic and real fires you’re in the right place.
Others function fully as restaurants, but usually with a laid-back vibe and imaginative but unpretentious food. One thing they all share is excellent local ingredients; everything from wine to pork is produced in the area, and several of the restaurants have their own kitchen gardens.
A no-expense-spared restoration of this homely coaching inn has made the most of its traditional charms (slate floors, real fires, exposed floorboards), while adding a touch of upmarket country style. The cooking draws on the best ingredients the area can offer, many grown in the pub’s kitchen garden.
A proper roadside pub that also does great food, the Clytha Arms has a homely interior comprising an earthy, rustic bar and a country-style restaurant serving gutsy, informal dishes such as grilled oysters with Caerphilly cheese and laverbread or wild boar and duck cassoulet. There’s a great tapas selection too.
TV chef Matt Tebbutt and his wife Lisa have been entrenched here for years and their restaurant has a deservedly strong local following. Expect imaginative modern cooking in an informal setting of flagstone floors and wood-burning stoves. Foraged foods are a speciality.
A familiar face from TV and a veteran of several of Marco Pierre White’s kitchens, Stephen Terry has made a roaring success of this stylishly rustic gastropub where stunning ingredients lead the way – maybe local chicken and asparagus with Japanese kale and lime pickle sauce.
In the heart of Abergavenny, this sixteenth-century coaching inn has bags of traditional charm and the kitchen sets out to please allcomers with menus that run from light lunchtime bites to the likes of loin, rib and faggot of Monmouthshire beef with greens, creamed potato and cawl jus.
Now an outpost of the Celtic Manor Resort (a gargantuan upmarket hotel near Newport), the Newbridge on Usk has a rambling, rustic-chic interior, sofas for lounging and a kitchen that turns out assured modern British dishes such as a terrine of confit chicken and Celtic Pride chorizo.
In the tiny village of Llandenny, The Raglan Arms doubles as a faithful local and a dining destination. Slate floors and comfy sofas abound, and the menus cover everything from gutsy pub classics (homemade burgers with fries and salad) to the likes of wild mushroom risotto with parsley root and truffle oil.
A labour of love for chef Simon King and his wife, Restaurant 1861 is a welcoming roadside eatery with ambitious cooking and a relaxed, welcoming vibe. Typical dishes range from seared scallops with Jerusalem artichoke purée and chicken juices to braised stuffed pig’s trotter with Madeira and truffle sauce.
After making his name at the Merchant House in Ludlow, Shaun Hill decamped to Monmouthsire and resurrected the flagging Walnut Tree, bringing his uncluttered, confident cooking to a rapturous new audience. Unwind in the smart but rustic interior and enjoy the likes of burrata with panzanella or skate with shrimps and dill.
A lovingly restored village inn in the beautiful Usk Vale, The White Hart’s cosy interior, real ales and warm welcome may scream ‘pub’ but the cooking is a cut above – try roast scallops with roast lettuce, peas, hazelnut and mint or slow-cooked pork belly with carrot, sour cabbage, truffled potato and runner beans.