With a new publican and head chef at the helm of The Abergavenny Arms in Frant, Grace Corcoran pays it a visit to sample some of the new menu…
The Abergavenny Arms is the quintessential country pub. It’s friendly and familiar, with plenty of conversations flowing between locals perched on bar stools and a good selection of pub classics on both its food and drink menus. Its recently refurbished cosy lounge area now makes this Frant pub an excellent spot for winter socialising thanks to the snuggly sheep skin throws strewn over its comfortable, cushioned seating. The dining area also has a roaring open fire crackling away to keep punters warm on a chilly winter’s day – or evening.
Now under new ownership, landlord James Murphy tells me he is steering the pub back to a locals’ joint, with ‘more affordable’ pub classics featuring on the menu.
“We wanted to take the menu back to a more affordable selection which means that sandwiches are also back by popular demand for those wanting something lighter,” James explains.
That familiar feel you get stepping over a pub’s threshold is also important to James, who was previously the Arms’ manager before buying the pub in October this year.
“I’m here every day. All the locals and regulars know me, and I think they appreciate that.”
Along with the change of ownership comes a change in head chef, with the pub’s former sous chef James Watson now taking the culinary reins.
When I visited the pub on a Friday evening, the bar was busy with groups of people merrily chatting away. My brother Josh and I were shown to our table right next to the charming aforementioned open fire – which was perfect for a cold winter’s evening.
The dining area of the 15th-century building has a real quirkiness to it thanks to its crooked walls, low ceilings, exposed beams, and little nooks which all add to its charming period character.
The menu is more modern yet unpretentious. Starters include a selection of tapas-style options including patatas bravas (£5), breaded whitebait (£7), crispy chilli beef (£8.95) and smoked salmon (£8.50).
Josh and I decide to try a couple of small plates to share opting for salt and pepper squid (£8) and crispy panko king prawns (£8) which hit the spot.
The main menu boasts all the classics you’d expect from a traditional pub including gammon egg and chips (£13.95), sausage and mash (£14.50) and fish and chips (£17.50). Still indecisive about what I wanted to eat next, James recommends the Thai curry with king prawns (£17.95). It is full of flavour and boasts a nice hum of heat. Josh meanwhile knew exactly what he was going to eat, choosing a 250g sirloin steak (£28) cooked medium-rare which came perfectly chargrilled and pink on the inside.
Given the portions at the Abergavenny Arms are ample, we decided to forgo desserts on this particular occasion, however, the Sticky Toffee Pudding (£7) and Baked Banana Split (£7) looked very appealing as they were being delivered to our fellow diners nearby.
It’s worth noting that the pub hosts a variety of weekly food specials and deals to entice people in. On Wednesday, there is a ‘Steak Special’ – which is two steaks and a bottle of house wine priced at just £45. And there’s also ‘Chicken Sunday’ which gives a pair of hungry diners a whole roast chicken with all the trimmings for just £32.
There is also an attractive private function room at the Abergavenny Arms that has recently been redecorated and is available for those wanting an exclusive, cosy dining experience.
With all the work that has gone into renovating this popular pub, James tells me he has already started to see the rewards and has a positive outlook for the new year.
“I’ve definitely seen a return of locals coming back since making a few changes. I’m excited for the future of the pub.”