Karen Glaser discovered a village hotel that punched high above its weight, at the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel
Smoked Severn Salmon, Gloucester Old Spot Bacon and more artisan ciders than you can throw a tankard at: the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley are full to over-flowing with time-honoured flavorous victuals. But finding top-drawer local restaurants where you can gollop this delectable produce has always been something of a challenge.
Until now. For Tudor Farmhouse Hotel, in the once iron-mining hamlet of Clearwell, has changed all that. Chef Martin Adams cooks like a dream – and, whenever possible, using local ingredients, some of them grown in the kitchen garden of this former working farm.
The wild mushrooms in my starter of devilled pheasant breast, potted leg and beetroot relish were well worth the local forage: they were fabulously fragrant, and went beautifully with the small but perfectly formed chunks of juicy, gamey meat.
At my request, my dining partner Steve chose roast garlic and leek arancini for his starter: I used to live in Sicily, home of the breadcrumb-coated and stuffed rice ball, so I recognise a pale imitation easily. Chef Adams’ are, I am glad to report, a vibrant reinvention, and although I prefer a more molten interior, the coating of his arancini was properly dry and crisp.
Steve followed with partridge, sesame-roasted parsnips, pickled red cabbage and his all-time favourite way of eating taters: a la dauphinoise. They came as little cakes – “that’s fine, chefs have to re-invent”, he conceded – and accompanied the moist, tender bird beautifully. And the parsnips were soft, sweet and mellow: what an autumnal treat.
Meanwhile, my main of cod, squid (not from the River Severn, surely?) confit potato, red pepper emulsion and caramelized lemon was packed with flavour and beautifully arranged. And, crucially, the dish required zero chewing.
We quaffed a Bacchus dry white from Parva Farm Vineyard which overlooks the River Wye and finished with a cheese board. It was a superlative selection, but if I had to pick a winner it would be the creamy, salty and slightly tart Cotswold White.
“Sourcing foods locally is not the easiest or cheapest way to run a business, but it supports the local economy and provides a sense of place,” says owner Colin Fell when I talk to him afterwards.
That sense of place extends to the 23 bedrooms of this pretty, village hotel which owners Hari and Colin Fell have run and been slowly renovating over the past decade. We were lucky enough to spend a night in the master suite, called The Loft.
Woodland print curtains and framed photographs echo the hotel’s location in the Forest of Dean, one of few remaining ancient woodlands in England and home to rare wildlife including roe deer, wild boar and peregrine falcons. A Farrow and Ball-esque colour palette reflects the tranquil beauty of the surrounding Gloucestershire landscape which — thanks to the room’s ceiling-to-floor windows — you can see from the comfort of the large, handmade bed.
Other furniture and fittings hum understated luxury, too: thick sisal carpets; clean-lined joinery fashioned from sustainable English oak by local artisans; heritage radiators; and a vaulted ceiling to reflect the oak beams and original features of the main farmhouse that dates back to the 13th century.
“We have tried to create the kind of country retreat that we ourselves would like to go – somewhere stylish and comfortable, unfussy and informal,” explains Colin.
They have certainly succeeded. This is a village hotel that punches high above its weight.
Rooms at The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel start from £100
Words Karen Glaser