Well, this is the Aberfoodblog, so although we try to keep it in Aberystwyth, we thought we’d stretch the definition to Abermule near Newtown.
Monty’s brewery has been a great success, with a range of excellent beers, and now they have three pubs of their own.
The Abermule Inn is the newest, and they have teamed up with a local farmer who supplies Welsh Wagyu beef.
This Japanese breed is noted for the fine marbling of the meat, giving more flavour with less fat. They are traditionally fed beer too (hence the link with Monty’s).
So did Monty’s make our trip so far east worthwhile?
Two weeks after my husband read about Wagyu beef, we made the detour around the ever-gridlock’d Newtown (bypass to start in 2014, a mere 40 years after it was first mooted).
The public bar had a happy range of locals watching the football. They also have a CCTV screen showing their pool table, which allowed Bethan to quip that TV sport had gone downhill since Grandstand.
They only had two Monty’s beers on, and similar ones at that, but they were excellent and well-kept.
The restaurant is a cheery, simply furnished room, although not that busy for a Saturday lunchtime.
It was just us and that other couple (who scarcely looked at each other).
The waitress – who was also the barmaid and daughter of the farmer who provides the beef – was charm personified.
I’ve put the menus down at the bottom, and it’s pretty standard pub fare. Burgers, pies, fish and chips. No foams or purées or food served on a slate here.
Which is fine, of course. They know their market, but there’s nowhere to hide: they stand and fall by their cooking and ingredients.
I went for the Wagyu ribeye. £22 is a lot for a lunchtime steak in Abermule so I expected it to be pretty damn good.
I was optimistic since the waitress had said they would do it the rarer end of medium rare, but on arrival it was less than a centimetre thick. With a steak that thin, once you’ve browned the outsides, there’s no pink left inside.
The meat was very tender, however. Soft and juicy. Perfect texture.
A bit lacking in flavour perhaps, what with all the Wagyu fuss (and price), but a very good steak.
And well accompanied. The chips are excellent. The chips are the best thing the kitchen does. If you go here and don’t have the chips, you’ve missed out.
Mushrooms good, onion rings a bit botched, tomato to make me feel better about the lack of veg.
I wasn’t knocked out, nor was I particularly full, but it was a good steak & chips.
Hubby was satisfied with his burger, but that was about as enthusiastic as he would manage.
Once again, “these chips are excellent” and a welcome pot of (not home-made) coleslaw, but he didn’t find the burger any better than a thousand others pub-burgers his poor colon has had to process.
I gave him some of my steak to buy him off.
He still thinks the “Three Tuns” of Bishops Castle still does the finest beer & burger for miles and was a little embarrassed that this trip had been his idea.
And finally, Bethan’s fish and chips.
Look at that picture, and tell me what’s wrong. Yes, I know you’re not a chef, but surely you can see that the fish is wrong.
Battered fish should not be magnolia-coloured. Why did the chef let that out? How can you get battering a fish so wrong?
Soggy, sorry, under-cooked batter encasing flavourless, over-cooked fish. The menu doesn’t reveal what sort of poor species it was originally, and with no flavour it was hard to tell.
She too enjoyed her chips, but the fish was “much, much worse than Wetherspoons”.
So. A kitchen relying on its ingredients and cooking didn’t do a very good job on either.
Beer was good, but having just two Monty beers is poor. American brewpubs sometimes have a dozen ales on, Fuller’s pubs always have six.
A brewery pub that doesn’t make a feature of the beer, and does the minimum with the food, is going to suffer.
The nearby Nag’s Head may not have waiters that care, but the food is decent, and they have more Monty’s beers than the Monty’s pub.
The Abermule Inn could become an excellent rural pub, but to thrive and pull in punters from beyond the end of the road it needs to sharpen up its game.