Visit: 10 December 2022, lunch and dinner for two
Stephen Terry opened The Hardwick in 2005. He is passionate about good produce and a champion of Wales’ food scene, so it’s no surprise his restaurant focuses on local and seasonal produce. As well as the restaurant and pub, there are eight double ensuite bedrooms in an adjacent modern extension around a central courtyard.
The lunch and dinner à la carte menus offer a wide variety of dishes, many offered in starter and main course sizes. There was also a Christmas menu available, and you can swap and choose from either menu. The menu changes every day depending on the availability of the fresh ingredients.
The wine list and bar are comprehensive with listings from across the world, as well as a selection of the very good Welsh wines from White Castle Vineyard in Abergavenny (https://whitecastlevineyard.com/).
We stayed at The Hardwick overnight, and had chance to visit the White Castle Vineyard, a tour I can thoroughly recommend, as well as enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at The Hardwick!
We chose a starter of spaghetti with fresh white crab meat, anchovy, courgette, radicchio, mint, basil, parsley, chilli and lemon. The crab was very sweet and the chilli brought this dish alive.
Another starter we tried was the panzanella made from heritage tomatoes marinated with chilli, garlic, red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, anchovy, and deep-fried sourdough croutons, with a Bristol made haloumi cheese that had been fried and provided a crispy contrast. The tomatoes were fabulous.
I also tried the grilled ox tongue and stilton starter, served with pickled walnut dressing, toasted oats, castel franco and radicchio salad. The ox tongue was perfectly cooked, slightly crisp on the outside and soft inside, with great flavour.
We tried the starter of prawns in a cocktail sauce with shredded Winter leaves with char-grilled cucumber, pickled radish, chives and crème fraiche. This was available on the Christmas menu, but they were happy for us to swap and choose between menus, and they also offered to provide main courses in starter sizes and vice-versa, which illustrates how unusually flexible the kitchen is.
The main course of griddled cod on braised lentils with pancetta, deep fried polenta and an Italian winter leaf salad was perfectly cooked. The cod was very juicy, and the lentils had great flavour.
The breadcrumbed free-range chicken breast with lemon, parsley and garlic butter, was served with a cavolo nero and kale salad, and with polenta chips served on the side. This was an inside-out chicken Kiev, served with very crispy polenta chips to soak up the garlic butter. I really like Kievs, but this was in a league of its own. Stunning!
Another main course we tried was the vegetarian pasta rotolo of golden and candy beetroots, cavolo nero and goats cheese, with a Winter salad of Italian leaves, roast ruby beetroot, warm goats cheese sauce, balsamic vinegar, toasted pine nuts and pumpkin seeds. This was a very good combination of flavours and textures, with the beetroot complimenting the earthy, rich, creamy flavours of the goats cheese.
We tried the Vin Santo and cantuccini dessert, and the affogato dessert, both of which were very good.
The breakfast menu included an excellent Welsh breakfast, consisting of back bacon, sausage, poached egg, Portobello mushroom, tomato, Heinz baked beans, local black pudding, and sourdough fried in beef fat. All of these were superb. I also tried the Black Mountain smokery smoked salmon with scrambled egg, and Alex Gooch sourdough toast. The smoked salmon was extremely high quality, and the eggs cooked perfectly.
The service in the restaurant was excellent. We had the chance to meet Stephen and discuss his book: “Inspired…by”, which I have read and really enjoyed. There were revelations about his earlier career with Marco and Gordon, lots of interesting insights from other cooks, and some great recipes.
The Hardwick serves very good food, it’s got a great wine list, and the service is excellent. If you stay overnight, the rooms are very comfortable. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and will return
Stephen Terry is Chef Patron at the Hardwick. In the 1990s, he met Gordon Ramsay and they became best friends, buying a flat together in Stockwell and starting work together at various restaurants around London.
Stephen was mentored by Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s. After 2 years at Harvey’s, Marco sent him to work at the three Michelin Star La Gavroche (now a two star), working under Michel Roux Jr (Gordon had already started there six months earlier). After 12 months, his next stop was Scotland working as Sous Chef at The Breaval Old Mill, Aberfoyle, which was the first restaurant of chef Nick Nairn.
Afterwards, Stephen returned to work for Marco and celebrity Michael Caine, opening The Canteen in Chelsea Harbour, as Head Chef, where he received his first Michelin star at the age of 25.
After two years at The Canteen, Stephen moved to the South of France for six months working near St Tropez at a one-star Relais Chateau, called Le Roches. Then he moved to Paris for six months and worked at L’Arpège, then a two-star Michelin restaurant (now a three-star), led by Chef Alain Passard,
He then came back to London in 1995 to open Oliver Peyton’s Coast, as Head Chef, in Mayfair. This was a ground-breaking restaurant with a team that included Jason Atherton, Ben Tish, and Mark Sargent. When he opened Coast, he said to Oliver Peyton that he didn’t want the stress of being in the Michelin Guide. Oliver was fine with this, so Stephen called Michelin and said he didn’t want to be part of the guide.
In 2001, Stephen went into business with Francesco Mattioli and bought The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny (previously run by Italian celebrity chef Franco Taruschio) and gained a Michelin star the following year. However, after two years they decided to go their separate ways and Stephen left the business in Francesco’s hands. Stephen went back to London to take a position as Head Chef at Cecconis a famous Italian restaurant in Mayfair. Following Cecconis, Stephen moved onto The Pear Tree Inn, Whitley, Wiltshire, which was then awarded Best Pub in England by the AA Guide in 2005.
While traveling in South Wales, Stephen discovered The Horse & Jockey Pub in Abergavenny, that he bought and transformed into The Hardwick, and opened in 2005.
Stephen appeared on BBC 2’s Great British Menu in 2008 representing Wales. He won in the first round against Angela Hartnett and cooked the fish course at the final banquet for the World’s top chefs. He appeared again in 2009 (when he was beaten by James Sommerin in the first round) and again in 2012 (when he beat James Sommerin in the Wales heat), and he was a mentor in 2010. Stephen has appeared regularly on Saturday Kitchen since 2011.
Stephen also had the honour of cooking for President Obama and the heads of state at the NATO Summit in Cardiff Castle in 2014, which gave him the opportunity to showcase the finest local produce.
In 2012, Stephen was awarded the Independent Restaurateur of the Year Catey.
Stephen published his debut book “Inspired…by” in 2015.
Outside the restaurant (from the car park):
Outside the restaurant (from the main road):
Views from the restaurant: