What was for years, under the guidance of Franco Taruschio, the headquarters of real food in Wales, has for the last few years failed to live up to these high standards under various chefs (some skilful) and owners.
Unfortunately, skills are sometimes not enough, especially when a kitchen is under constant comparison with what has gone before. Sometimes, what's needed is a similar philosophy to accompany these skills and at last the chef to fulfil these demands has emerged.
Shaun Hill's cooking is probably unsurpassed in these isles if cooking of the 'Terroir' is needed. Having spent years building up the reputation of Gidleigh Park, then putting Ludlow in its present prestigious position of the culinary map (at Merchant House) we feel he is just the man to restore The Walnut Tree to its former glory.
The rustic feel and flagstone floors remain, as do the bare tables and general informality; and the dishes offer closely follow the seasons, so menus might change a little at each sitting.
An early summer dinner menu included 'Deep-fried Courgettes & Ricotta Flower Fritters'; 'Smoked Mackerel with Celeriac Rémoulade'; 'Calf's Brains with Brown Butter' and 'Salad of Tomatoes, Lettuce & Spring Vegetables with Jane Grigson's Salad Cream' among the starters.
'Potato & Herb Gnocchi with Peas, Broadbeans & Morels'; 'Grilled Loin of Veal, Kidneys & Black Pudding'; 'Lemon Sole with Salsify & Wild Sorrel Beurre Blanc' and 'Rib-Eye of Beef with Red Wine Sauce & Dauphine Potatoes' among the mains.
If you still have room, you might be tempted by 'Vanilla Pannacotta with Lemon Compote & Glazed Almonds'; 'Chocolate & Orange Torte'; 'Bread & Butter Pudding with Apricots' or their selection of farmhouse cheeses.
At lunchtime - two choices are offered at each stage, and for the quality on offer, the meal is a bargain and certainly worth a considerable detour.
- Food Style: Modern British
- Lunch: Tues-Sat 12.00-14.30; set L £25 (2 courses), £30 (3 courses); mains about £15 to £27
- Dinner: Tues-Sat 19.00-22.00, mains £15 to £27
- Seats: 50, plus 16 outside
- Wine: a well-thought-out list, kicking off at about the £18 mark, has modest mark ups for the quality offered
- Wheelchair access: Yes
- Directions: See the map on this page. 3 miles NE of Abergavenny on B4521
- Parking: Yes, 30 spaces
- Closed: Sun & Mon; most Bank Holidays
- Outside eating