Ledbury's delicious food
PUBLISHED: 13:32 21 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:35 20 February 2013
Martin Griffiths goes in search of good food in Ledbury and discovers an eclectic mixture of the traditional and the exotic.
With its iconic timber market place and narrow picturesque lanes leading to the church, Ledbury already offers its visitors good reasons to come and stroll through the town. Its high profile poetry festival brings in yet more visitors and there is a growing appreciation of the exceptional food and drink to be found in the town and the surrounding countryside.
One of the major buildings in the town centre is occupied by The Feathers Hotel. This 16th century coaching Inn has been run as an hotel since the early 1970s by the Ellison family and besides the hotel, spa, and charming old world bars it also offers two dining rooms where the food on offer blends the traditional with the contemporary. They serve excellent local Herefordshire beef alongside dishes of succulent guinea fowl, medallions of venison and slow cooked tender belly of pork. This is more than comfort food served in comfortable surroundings, its also high quality cooking and presentation.
This respect for ingredients can also be found on the opposite side of the street and a short walk down Church Lane where Jamila Belkoniene and head chef Ken Wilson own The Malthouse Restaurant. Look out especially for their Glazed Madgetts farm duck breast with red cabbage, turnips, crushed sweet potatoes, carrots and four spice blueberry sauce. This is a delightfully relaxed place to enjoy fine dining with a menu changed regularly to reflect the seasons and the best of local produce. If you want something spicier then its well worth trying Sitara the Indian restaurant opposite The Feathers back on the main street. The flavour-packed food here is fragrant and stylish and represents a modern approach to pan-Indian cuisine.
The centre of Ledbury offers some excellent pubs. The Prince of Wales has an outstanding collection of real ales and an affordable menu while The Retreat, Severn Stars and Horseshoe pubs are all very hospitable. The Talbot Inn, with its excellent range of ales, has been providing hospitality for more than 400 years and its pretty oak-panelled dining room is renowned for good food including prime Herefordshire steaks.
Out in the countryside you soon find yourself in apple and pear country and there has been a long tradition of cider and perry production. Westons is the biggest producer and the family firm runs tours of the production site as well as having a fine restaurant and tearoom.
The village of Much Marcle is especially worth visiting when it is holding its big apple events. You get the chance to see a range of producers create cider and perry as well as walk in some of the orchards. This is particularly pretty in the spring when the orchards are in blossom. Look out for Dragon Orchard at Putley run by Norman and Ann Stanier and the brilliant new sparkling perry created by Simon Day at Once Upon A Tree. Norman and Ann run an interesting crop sharing scheme which brings in regular visitors from around the country and offers them a chance to not only share in the farms produce and enjoy one of Anns excellent lunches but also to gain a deeper understanding of the whole fruit producing process.
Theres also some exceptional wine produced in the area, as out at Coddington, Dennis Savage runs a fouracre vineyard bottling his wines on site. There are some lovely village eateries with The Crown at Woolhope offering especially high quality meals, as does the Verzon House Hotel, just out on the road to Hereford. The newly refurbished Trumpet Inn at Trumpet offers homecooked foods and tradtional cask ales.
If youre back in Ledbury and looking for lunch then theres plenty of choice and several cafes, some of which have an especially continental flavour. Near the cross roads is the Italian-themed Ceci Paolo while back down the street is the French-inspired Sez and another Italian style menu on offer at The Olive Tree. Nearby is Ice Bytes an especially family friendly ice cream parlour, which also offers hot snacks and internet access. Delicious ice cream is also made just out of Ledbury by Rachel Hicks who recently won Small Producer of the Year at the Flavours of Herefordshire awards. For more sweet treats pop into The Velvet Bean and sample the delicious chocolates or try one of Mrs Muffins most wonderful cakes on offer at the tearooms in Church Lane.
With its fine local markets, interesting independent producers, excellent organic vegetable shops and superb family butchers youll find Ledbury celebrates the local, embraces the exotic and has an extraordinarily diverse choice on offer.