Martin Griffiths reviews The Lough Pool Inn, Herefordshire

PUBLISHED: 17:00 20 December 2010 | UPDATED: 17:59 20 February 2013

Perfect pigeon on a herby blini is one example of how the Lough Pool head chef and his team cook simple ingredients beautifully

Perfect pigeon on a herby blini is one example of how the Lough Pool head chef and his team cook simple ingredients beautifully

Just a few miles outside Ross in the Wye Valley, the Lough Pool Inn at Sellack <br/><br/>seeks to combine the hospitality of a traditional country pub with a restaurant that features local produce

Pool of talent

Just a few miles outside Ross in the Wye Valley, the Lough Pool Inn at Sellack seeks to combine the hospitality of a traditional country pub with a restaurant that features local produce. Martin Griffiths and wife called in and found their high expectations well met

Nestling snugly in the Herefordshire countryside the Lough Pool offers a pretty, enticing garden where you can enjoy a relaxed summertime drink or meal and in the winter the hop-garlanded interior and big fires will keep you warm and cosy. The interior of the Lough Pool is a charming mixture of the traditional and the modern and offers space for fine dining, candle-lit dinner parties and a traditional bar for a beer and a chat. This combination of elements is clearly working and Jan and David Birch have sensibly set out to maintain the pubs traditional atmosphere while building up a reputation for using the very best local ingredients in their restaurant.

The autumn night we popped in I was delighted to meet up with one of their very local suppliers. Daniel Webb owns Larks Pasture Free Range Poultry just a mile up the road. He runs around 2,000 birds on his farm and some of his guinea fowl were on that nights menu. Now that really is low food miles.

Our evening meal started with a delicious line of garlic-infused Credenhill snails sitting on beds of truffle-infused mash and a perfectly cooked pigeon breast served on a spinach and thyme blini. Pigeon can be difficult to cook, slightly overdone it can become dry and tough and left rare is too gamey a flavour for most tastes. This however was excellent and was beautifully tender. Clearly, head chef Gareth Blackmore knows how to handle meats and this was confirmed with the main courses.

I opted for the venison, which is supplied by Adrian Walker of Grosmont who sources it from the nearby Whitfield Estate. My venison came served on a wonderful balloon of puff pastry that created a sort of tarte tatin filled with red cabbage. It looked wonderful, was cooked to perfection and was a delight to eat. It was not only a fun dish but the hidden red cabbage centre was a delicious discovery and the quality of the meat excellent. Mrs G opted for guinea fowl and this also met with approval. When I suggested that it could have been better with a mashed potato to set off the birds delicate flavours, Mrs G assured me that the rosti were excellent and that the different texture added variety to the dish. This all represents good quality cooking with great ingredients in a fairly small country pub. British food, as presented here, really has come a
long way. Hello local, seasonal, well-cooked produce and goodbye pub grub.

There is a sensibly priced choice of wines, my Argentinean Pinot Noir was as smooth as silk and had plenty of body to accompany the venison and the jovial group of regulars at the bar were highly complimentary about the beer. Otherwise wed go somewhere else.

Of a range of enticing puddings we opted for the stem ginger parfait with blackcurrant crackling, which was excellent and the assiette of Lough Pool puddings, (although light and tasty these did look a little lost on such a big plate). However, as winter comes there will be changes to the menu that reflect the climate and seasonal produce. There is already a fine cheese selection on offer and some traditional winter puddings such as damson or apple crumble will be a great addition to a menu that already does credit to Jan, David, their ethos and the team.

The building is an historic little gem and takes its name from the nearby pools, (lough being old English for an inlet). It dates back to the late 16th century and was awarded inn status back in 1880 when it shared this role with that of a butchers. It has also been used by a wheelwright and a blacksmith while in the 1930s Peggy Whistler wrote several successful books from a room here. And the inn shared in some notable sporting success when in 2009 it helped celebrate the home-coming of local horse Mon Mome, a 100/1 winner of the Grand National.

Jan and David took over the Lough Pool just over five years ago after a successful spell running a pub in Cerne Abbas in Dorset. Their approach to using the best local produce even goes as far as looking to employ young chefs from the excellent Herefordshire College food courses and giving them an opportunity to gain experience in the industry.

Getting there:
The Lough Pool Inn
Sellack, Ross-on-Wye, HR9 6LX.
01989 730236
www.loughpool.co.uk

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