This weekend just gone, Mr W and I decided to make the most of the long weekend and have a couple of nights away. With our ‘two centre life’, which necessitates one or other of us making a 6 hour round trip each weekend, generally the last thing we feel like doing on arrival is setting off on yet another journey, so the ‘mini-break’ is quite a rare thing for us. With a couple of extra days, though, it seemed like a nice idea, so after a day in Cardiff watching the Royal Wedding, we headed to Ross-on-Wye for a couple of nights – and of course a few restaurant visits.
Ordinarily, I’ll be blogging in chronological order, but unfortunately our first dining experience of the weekend left a bit to be desired, and I don’t want to start my blog with a moan, so the venue for our second night’s dinner seems a more fitting first subject for Love to Dine.
We’d started the day with a cooked breakfast, and after a trip to possibly the strangest museum I’ve ever visited (Littledean Jail, near Cinderford), we were a bit peckish, but couldn’t find anywhere that took our fancy for lunch, so after stopping off for a drink and a read of the papers, we settled on going for afternoon tea instead. The venue was The Chase Hotel in Ross, which Mr W recalled having been to for a pleasant meal many, many years previously. His memory served him well, as we had a lovely (if excessively large!) afternoon tea in the lounge bar, comprising sandwiches, fruit cake, scones, jam and cream. During our visit, the menu for the hotel’s two AA rosette restaurant, Harry’s, caught our eye, and after having a look through, we decided to book a table for the evening and make a return visit.
So, around 9 p.m., after a slightly precarious walk in heels on my part (taxis are apparently as scarce as the proverbial hens’ teeth in Ross), we found ourselves back at The Chase. On entering the restaurant, I had an opportunity to air one of my favourite jokes (Mr W says he humours me but I know he secretly finds me hilarious): “Good job we booked.” Needless to say, the place wasn’t exactly buzzing – but perhaps Bank Holiday Sunday evening is not a popular eating out occasion.
Undeterred, we took up our table, and chose from the extensive Table d’Hote menu. A number of dishes were available at a supplementary rate on top of the set price (£22 for two courses and £27.50 for three). There was also an impressive wine list, plus a selection of bin ends at excellent prices. We opted for what turned out to be a very nice Chilean Merlot.
The restaurant is nicely furnished and decorated in a fairly contemporary style, with hare-themed (as opposed to hair-themed) artwork adorning the walls. This did disturb me very slightly, as I’d had the misfortune to catch the very odd “Don’t Scare the Hare” on the television the previous evening, and wondered if I was falling victim to some sort of hare-themed (as opposed to hair-themed) stalker, but I soon realised I was being a bit silly, and perhaps this was instead some sort of “Harry the Hare” character. I decided to go with this – it was less disturbing.
When we arrived, there were only two other tables occupied, both of which left shortly after (something we said?) so we effectively had the restaurant to ourselves. That said, the staff could not have been better – striking the right balance between attentiveness and leaving us to enjoy our food without constant interruptions. There was also no feeling that we were stopping them from being somewhere else – which of course we were, because had we not been there, they probably could have packed up and gone home.
The food was absolutely excellent, with a lot of choice and a range of local ingredients name-checked on the menu. I opted for a Hereford cheese soufflé with real ale chutney and Mr W had a game terrine. Both came with a slightly excessive pile of salad on the plate, but this could easily be eaten around! I then had chicken stuffed with mango and wrapped in Parma ham, which was an unusual combination but really worked and was beautifully cooked, with the chicken very moist and the mango still with some bite. Mr W chose noisettes of lamb, which came served with pan fried lamb’s liver and was a meat-lover’s dream as it had two noisettes plus two sizeable pieces of liver! For me, the meat to potato ratio (approximately one potato’s worth – and yes, that is a rare occasion where “potato’s” is indeed correct!) was not quite right, but Mr W thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t try the liver as I am not a big fan, but the lamb noisette was delicious and succulent.
With our afternoon tea still a fairly recent memory, a dessert might have resulted in an unfortunate explosion-type incident, so we declined, but instead retired to the lounge bar for a liqueur coffee. Here, we got talking to our waiter, Jack, who was a first year medical student from London, ex-public schoolboy, exceptional rugby player and a thoroughly nice chap (hence our chatting to him for long enough to find out so much about him!) earning a bit of extra money in his Easter holidays. The food was, as already mentioned, excellent – but it’s often the service that makes a meal, and in this case that was certainly true, and Jack’s attentions certainly made up for the slight lack of atmosphere due to the emptiness of the restaurant!
Food: **** Service: ***** Ambience: ***
Harry’s Restaurant, The Chase Hotel, Gloucester Road, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire, HR9 5LH