Set snug beneath green hills, this immaculate gastropub is country cosiness personified – a feast of wood beams & flagstones, with a blazing fire thrown in for good measure. Food-wise, the organic kitchen garden provides a plentiful harvest, & the surrounding countryside yields up the rest – the landlord shoots game as well as being master of the magnificent wine list. The kitchen has shifted up a gear of late, turning out a snappy, sophisticated mix of classic & traditional dishes. Stylish starters include Bath chap & ham hock terrine with parsley purée & truffle dressing, while mains strike a fulsome note – maybe pheasant with pommes Anna, cabbage & glazed carrots or local venison with celeriac purée & a pink peppercorn jus. Side orders of ‘posh mash’ keep things pubby, as do comforting desserts such as toffee apple crumble – but this is about as classy as a pub can be.
What makes The Bell at Skenfrith’s Champagne selection so good is its decent pricing, varieties of serve, and its range: 20 ‘exceptional and vintage’ Champagnes, from Krug and Cristal to unknown small growers; plus 16 expressions of Gosset, nine of Taittinger and probably the finest array of Bollinger outside France. As well as interesting tasting notes, there is info about the houses, production techniques and the region itself. A lengthy love letter to the world’s most famous bubbles.