The Heathcock is the sister pub of the Hare & Hounds in Aberthin, which I reviewed a couple of years ago and is still also fantastic (click here to read more). Dave Killick, the head chef, was a big part of the Hare before he moved over to start up the Heathcock, continuing on the Hare’s key value of serving seasonal Welsh food but adding his own stamp. We’ve actually been going here when we can since it opened, and considering Dave came to our wedding (all those years ago) it’s a bit naughty it’s taken me this long to write a review!
It is still very much a local pub, with a space for mostly drinking and (excellent) bar snacks on the one side of the bar and then a dining room and garden space on the other. No fuss, just wooden tables with specials’ blackboards, cookery books and the jars of homemade flavoured gins for decoration.
The menu is always being tweaked, so you know they are using what’s in season and locally available. There are few favourites though that are usually on there. Dave’s rabbit leg parpadelle is a bit of a signature, local Torgelly Farm lamb is almost always available (it is Wales after all!) and their house cured bresaola is often featured somewhere. One of the best things about the Heathcock is their sharing dishes. There are usually a couple on the menu plus a special: think whole baked fish with cockles, giant cast iron pots of braised lamb neck with peas, or rich flaky pastry topped steak and ale pies. I am focusing on the meat stuff, because I can’t help it here, but the veg-based options are always wonderful and have a lot of love put into them as well.
This time we came in for lunch. They do an express menu on weekdays, two courses for 18, three courses for 22. This is ridiculously good value, you could barely eat at a high street chain restaurant for that price. I went with the express menu (although I added two oysters to start off for extra) and Tom ordered off the a la carte, as he wanted specific things. First came out a board of the Heathcock’s excellent home made focaccia and sourdough breads plus a couple of extra nibbles (extra nibbles are always a win). My oysters arrived served with apple and tarragon. They were sweet and salty and sharp, and felt like a real treat, especially as Tom doesn’t like them so I didn’t have to share!
Then starters; chicken liver parfait with apple chutney and brioche for me and grilled squid with fennel, blood orange and their home cured bresaola for Tom. My parfait was rich, smooth and the squid salad looked wonderful: Tom wouldn’t let me try any but has assured me it was delicious…!
Probably shouldn’t have eaten all the focaccia as I was starting to feel a bit full before the main courses arrived, but when the hake with celeriac, mussels and cockles arrived my appetite came rushing back. It was perfect and the buttery sauce was so good it took a lot of effort not to actually lick the plate to avoid wasting any. Tom had ordered the roast duck breast with duck leg croquettes, smoked bacon and lentils. This I did try and it was amazing. The duck croquettes added crunch and a different meaty texture and the lentils were savory and wonderfully satisfying.
We really didn’t have room for pudding at all, but the souffles are something of a speciality here and at the Hare, so we decided to share one…for posterity of course. It was a plum souffle and was as sweet, fluffy and bouncy as you could ask for. Worth unbuttoning the jeans for.