february 2014 - bell now under new management
a big welcome to the bell's new managers john van niekerk and nori tegyei.
after 13 years at the bell, janet and william have decided to hand over the ropes to john and nori. “we are very sad to be leaving the bell", says janet. "it has been an incredible place to run since it was restored and re-opened back in 1999 – the last century! however, our lives are going in a different direction and we need more flexibility now that william’s job involves much travelling to switzerland. we wish john and nori continued success with the bell and hope that they will be as happy as william and i were.”
during janet and william’s tenure, the bell has won numerous awards including: best place to stay in wales, best place to eat in wales, best wine list in uk and ireland, michelin pub of the year, best champagne list in the uk and most recently, the best pub to eat from the wales national tourism awards. they haven't gone too far though and william will still be nurturing the wine list. (check the latest wine list for some fun new cartoons from the artist tim bulmer)
john and nori are looking forward to the challenge and know that their previous experience of working in the hospitality sector, most recently in the cotswolds, will put them in good stead. john says, “nori and i want to maintain the ethos and reputation that the bell has established for its good, seasonal food, much from the fantastic kitchen garden and to provide a lovely relaxed and welcoming atmosphere for our guests. we have already introduced some small changes such as more bar snacks, full afternoon teas and a new guest sitting room. we hope that our new lunch and dinner menus will be well received by all our guests and the local community alike. most importantly, nori and i are both looking forward to welcoming all the bell's guests and hopefully lots of new ones too."
one of our locals the historian john chapman very kindly brought us in an image of the bell in 1911! hasn't changed much has it?
even more great news... the bell has just won best place to eat -pub in the wales national tourism awards in partnership with the wales tourism alliance and quadrant media as voted by the general public and therefore much more worthwhile to win.
thank you to all those people who voted for us, the whole team is thrilled and corks have been popping in celebration. our congratulations also go to the abergavenny food festival - best event, llansantffraed court - best place to eat - small restaurant and best place to eat - café the old station, tintern who were the other worthy winners from monmouthshire.
janet and william pick up the award at venue vymru in llandudno
great news... the bell has just won the taittinger condé nast johansens best champagne list award.
head judge sarah jane evans, master of wine, highlighted the excellent value for money evident in a great many of the lists, an important factor in the current challenging times. also noted was the increase in promotional and creative activities around the exploration, education and enjoyment of wine to draw in the guest as well as the offer of a more extensive and interesting range of wines by the glass and carafe’s to encourage experimentation. easy to read and well-designed lists to invite the reader to delve in and explore further were amongst the high scorers.
commenting on the bell's wine list, the judges said: “this list is descriptive, educative, chatty and very approachable and encourages the reader to learn more about champagne in a chatty and friendly style. top marks!”
william hutchings of the bell at skenfrith said, “we were so pleased to win this very prestigious award from condé nast johansens. my approach is to offer a fabulous range of affordable wines that complement the kitchen’s food. a lot of time and thought goes into making up the wine list, and to be able to compete on the national stage and win, means all the hard work has paid off.”
william receives the award in london
bell charity sale 2013
ho worked hard to make this year's charity sale such a great success. to our stallholders, sponsors burgoynes and fingal-rock, hedonist bakery, douglas willis butcherscwmbran, moby nick fishmongers and, last but not least, the bell team who all worked their socks off on sunday evening and monday. all together we have raised just over £4,000 for the ovacome charity support network. we shall be posting some images on facebook soon but lastly wanted to thank all the many people who braved the intermittent rain and came along to support the sale. congratulations to the 26 people who won a raffle prize and the happy lady who won dinner, bed and breakfast at the bell.
visit our facebook page for images of the sale.
like us on facebook and you will automatically be entered into our competition to win dinner, bed and breakfast for two here at the bell
the ancre hill mob successfully completed the beaujolais run. here's some photos of them leaving the bell with a send-off from one of their proud sponsors (william and janet)and on the finishing line. small note from richard below all about it.
well david and I are back in one piece. so far we have raised £1,550 net of tax so we are two thirds of our way to our target of raising £2,250 net of tax. david and I would like to thank all of you who have so generously donated to the henry surtees foundation and to remind those of you who have not yet got round to sponsoring us that the fund remains open until 31 january 2012 - all donations gladly accepted, nothing too small!
donations can be made via the following link: www.virginmoneygiving.com/RICHARDMORRIS5
the bell wins the aa wine award for wales and overall for the uk
we were awarded the aa wine award for wales and overall for the uk which, as you can imagine, we were ecstatic about. we all went up to london to receive the award from the extremely glamorous sophie raworth. simon numphud, aa hotel services manager said, "the bell was a standout winner for wales and overall aa wine award of the year. it has a truly remarkable wine list which is difficult to put down and an astonishing list that is full of passion and personality. there are great wine choices on every page, illustrated with both witty and engaging pictures, and the bell offers superb value for money at every level." the aa commented that the wine list has been compiled to select a range of wines from around the world. each wine is believed to offer quality and pleasure whether customers are in the bar, restaurant or on the terrace.
upon receiving the award william said, "we are absolutely over the moon to have won such a prestigious award, especially as there are so many great wine lists throughout the uk. we have always sourced each wine from a large pool of specialist wine suppliers. we then make comments on each wine and what sort of dish or occasion we think they would be suitable for. the information is upfront and the guest can choose with confidence."
monmouthshire really did well last night and we'd like to congratulate our friends at the crown at whitebrook for winning wales' restaurant of the year and three rosettes and also the white hart in llangybi for winning wales' pub of the year.
tom barry talking to guests william, antoinette milne and tom barry emma crowther from negociants wines all ready for drinking!
for our much-loved and 9th australian wine dinner this year, we were lucky enough to have as our guest tom barry, the third generation winemaker from jim barry wines. the evening was a huge success with some really special wines matching the delicious menu created by our head chef, rupert taylor. thanks also to emma crowther from fine wine shippers negociants, who ensured the smooth arrival of the wines!
undoubtedly the star of the night was the armagh shiraz with an inspired dish of black bomber cheese crème brulée. to start, the cover drive, cabernet sauvignon matched perfectly the local wood pigeon salad showing lots of fruit that you would expect from a southern hemisphere wine. next up was the cod - i was slightly worried about my match with the lodge hill riesling but luckily it worked beautifully with just the right balance of fruit, minerality and acidity. moving up a notch, the macrae wood shiraz had the body to compliment the fabulous venison dish and then we reached the pinnacle of the evening with the armagh, which was sensational!
don't forget to book early for next year's dinner (our 10th) as historically we are always sold out way before the event. we are hoping to entice back the inimitable jane ferrari from yalumba wines and matthew jukes has promised to turn up for the evening, as long as we manage to persuade jane!
should be a blast!
2010 abergavenny food festival fringe event the bell's australian wine evening
yalumba! yalumba!! yalumbaaaaaa!!!!!!!!
well what an opening for the abergavenny food festival fringe. a packed house witnessed the inimitable jane ferrari breeze into town at the bell’s 8th annual australian wine dinner in association with wine australia. a passionate roving ambassador for the yalumba winery in barossa established 1849, jane hobbled round all the tables dispensing pearls of wisdom (she had managed to twist her knee while “opening a bottle of wine”!). emma crowther from negociants, one of the most respected new world wine merchants, was also on hand to let everyone know where the wines could be sourced.
starting with jansz fizz from tasmania, the evening got off to a great start. the beetroot soup complemented the wild ferment yalumba chadonnay, with everyone surprised at how delicious an australian chardonnay can be! like a spotty school boy, generally shunned by the public, the riesling was in fact a complete revelation. from a high altitude amphitheatre, the balance of fruit, acidity and finish was a sensation.
a delicious grenache accompanied the madgett’s duck breast and for good measure the very superior 100 of joanna gave a contrast of styles and bottle age. although I say it myself, the viognier with the twice baked goat’s cheese soufflé was inspired, with the fruit balancing the acidity of the cheese perfectly. to add a final twist to the evening, another sweet dessert viognier was chosen for the deconstructed apple tart tatin. jane declared the evening a huge success, with her (babies) wine finding perfect partners both with the food and enjoyed by all the guests.
jane will be back to full form for the 2011 dinner, so please book early, as we anticipate a huge demand for the limited spaces
head chef rupert had a full house at his saturday kitchen demo in the abergavenny market hall and the tasting was a huge success with most people initially declaring that they weren't too sure about beetroot. the really welsh sunday lunch or cinio cymraeg dydd sul in conjunction with the abergavenny food festival was a resounding success. gillian clarke, wales's national poet, had everyone transfixed with her mesmerising poetry - real food for thought - the ancre hill vineyard's welsh rosé was considered delicious by everyone as was our favourite butcher brian george of talgarth's delicious meat. the really welsh company's vegetables were fresh and exquisitely tasty and went well with our own kitchen garden organic produce.
kitchen garden news 2010........
the kitchen garden was featured in itv wales's 'a little piece of paradise' programme 3 with presenters ruth wignal and bill lee. janet talks about how the organic garden started, michele shows off all our varieties of crops and see how head chef rupert manages to persuade ruth that actually, beetroot can be delicious. to view the programme go to www.itv.com/wales/
in the pink day and night at the bell 2010
the bell at skenfrith’s ‘in the pink’ day and night event took place on tuesday 8 june in aid of the breast cancer haven charity and raised just under £6,000. the highlight of both the day and evening was the sizzling fashion show, organised by louise david of sigi and gilly sparks of mono fashions, which featured wincey willis the former tvam weather girl and jamie parry, a finalist in this year’s mr. wales contest.
eight glamorous girls and boys from herefordshire and monmouthshire strutted their stuff on the pink carpet, kindly given to us by burgoynes marquee company, wearing sigi lingerie, clothing from mono’s summer collection, swimwear from samantha sage of london, summer shorts and shirts from shirtbox, designer sunglasses from hereford's sunglass emporium number forty and all topped with wales’s finest milliner alison tod’s amazing hats. fingal rock’s tom innes added to the glamour of the occasion by kindly donating the flowing sparkling rosé wine. our thanks must also go to impact print and design, hereford for all the posters and invites they kindly gave foc. after the show, guests were able to browse and sample beauty and health care stalls from monmouthshire and herefordshire companies including herbfarmacy beauty care grown in herefordshire which can also be bought from crows feet's shop in ross-on-wye, sylvie lenoir also from ross-on-wye who gave free reflexology sessions, anne jacques who demonstrated how to use a powerplate, skin care and beauty tips from emma cruickshank, cake angels’ delicious dairy and gluten free cakes to taste and much more.
just a couple of hours later, the evening guests arrived for a champagne reception with canapés before yet another fabulous show which was a resounding success with the 90-strong crowd. a delicious sit-down dinner, cooked by the bell’s head chef rupert taylor was followed by charity auction with 23 lots kindly donated by local companies. auctioneer peter hensher raised over £3,000 with the highest bids for a two-day arne maynard gardening course, a riding lesson with triple olympic gold medal winner matt ryan and his wife marie, a girls’ pyjama party for 4 in the bell’s penthouse suites, a topless model for the weekend from hereford saab and sunday lunch for 6 cooked for at your home by rupert taylor, the bell’s head chef, with all the ingredients.
janet said “we had a such brilliantly successful day and evening. thanks to our generous sponsors, the kind donations and everyone who came along, we are well on our way to raising nearly £6,000 for the breast cancer haven charity. louise, gilly, paula and i so enjoyed organising the event and hope to plan another, perhaps even bigger event, some time in the future." watch this space.
nb: the haven has havens in london, leeds and hereford for more details visit www.haven.org.uk
guess who recently landed in skenfrith? the new doctor who dropped in to film in the village for the new forthcoming bbc series. residents woke up to a new, authentic village shop, masses of roses and hollyhocks all in apparent february bloom and a completely new old people's home. matt smith the new doctor was as good looking and charming as expected and skenfrith has never had such excitement. look out for us in episode 7
wine australia evening at the bell 2009
a slightly different format for our annual australian wine dinner went down a storm. we opened with 7 wines to be tasted before dinner. lisa mcgovern from wine australia and ruth yates from corks out were on hand to help take the guests all across australia. the star of the tasting was majella cabernet sauvignon from the coonawarra district, a big wine, but beautifully balanced, reflecting the attention to making wines that aren’t purely big block busters.
for the dinner, head chef rupert taylor and his team surpassed themselves. pouring jansz fizz with the canapés, an old favourite, the evening was off to a good start. sweetcorn from our organic kitchen garden was whizzed into a chilled soup. the vasse felix semillon sauvignon blanc worked perfectly, with the semillon lending a grassy, citrusy balance. the ferngrove chardonnay chosen for the brixham crab, smoked salmon with a caviar butter was superb. a lovely combination with the tropical fruit giving enough body for the smoked salmon and a rich citrus flavour to cut through the buttery sauce.
then onto the brecon fillet which melted in the mouth – thank you brian george who supplies our meat. we matched a pair of wines for this dish, the superb nine popes from graeme “charles” melton with fabulous raspberry and blueberry flavours. the second red was paxton quandong farm shiraz, with more earthy, truffle elements. probably the favourite wine of the dinner was served with the perl wen cheese course. we matched jim barry cover drive cabernet sauvignon from coonawarra which has the trademark black cherry, blackberry palate of the region and complemented the walnut bread and the bell’s organic kitchen garden chutney. the pudding of blackberries done in various ways was matched to stella bella pink muscat, echoing the lovely aromas from the fruit. all in all a very good evening was had by all, with most people going away wanting to explore australian wine – what a great outcome!
sunday lunch with sir roddy llewellyn 2009
this year's sunday lunch guest was sir roddy llewellyn, ex-monmouthshire resident and a keen and knowledgeable gardener. sir roddy amused everyone with his childhood memories of growing up in wales and spoke about how, inspired by his old nanny, he went on to take up gardening as a career. he spent some time walking around the organic kitchen garden and swapping stories with head gardener michele civil before sitting down to a delicious roast lunch with lamb and beef kindly provided by everyone's favourite butcher brian george of talgarth. it was a fun day and as usual we had a great crowd and bright warm sunshine.
the bell's annual charity sale in aid of the ms society - october 2009
this year's sale raised just over £3,000 for the multiple sclerosis society charity. 28 stalls from all over the uk were open for shopping on the sunday evening and during the day on monday. we were happy to raise money for such a worthwhile charity and would like to thank everyone for coming along. we hope to attract even more people next year, especially on the sunday night which is a good time to bring husbands and for those people who can’t get away during the week! we want to especially thank iestyn evans from the ms society cardiff for all his help with our event and to all the wonderful volunteers who helped to collect entry fees and sell charity cards while sitting outside on what was quite a cold day. next year’s sale will be on sunday 10th and monday 11th october 2010 – please don't forget to put it in your new diaries now!
annual charity sale in aid of breast cancer haven - october 2008
another fantastically successful year! despite the current economic climate, we managed to raise a staggering £3,371.58 for breast cancer haven at our annual pre-christmas sale on sunday 12 and monday 13 october! this was an increase on last year and we wanted to say thank you to everyone who has helped us make this amount - both shoppers and stallholders alike. we had some great stalls selling everything from gloves to gadgets, shoes to sundials, bags to bunting, scarves to stocking fillers, all followed by the busy sale lunch. we are all looking forward to next year's sale now. . .
10th abergavenny food festival - australian wine dinner, september 2008
once again, we were lucky enough to be sponsored by wine australia. between us we sourced some fabulous boutique wines that epitomise australian wine production at present. the kitchen (with dave, our head chef, at the helm), excelled themselves, devising a 6 course tasting menu that matched the fabulous wines on offer. everyone savoured the food/wine combinations throughout the evening, and enjoyed discussing them with kirsten & elizabeth (from wine australia), and aidan from averys, who circulated dispensing wine wisdom!
for 2009, we are hoping to have tony jordan (of cape mentelle/green point/spear gully fame and god father of the australian wine scene) to help us through the evening. please, please, please book early next year, so we don't disappoint you!
sunday roast with allegra mcevedy, september 2008
we hosted a fabulous lunch, where michele (head gardener), showed guests round the kitchen garden, before they tasted the wares! allegra is now a food festival regular. she is chef and founder of
mont tauch wine dinner with tim bulmer, november 2008
tim bulmer translated his wicked sense of humour from pen to talk!! his slightly off-colour pictures have adorned the bell's walls since we opened and now take pride of place alongside the selection of wines in the winelist. we were delighted that tim came along to talk about a particular wine region, that he has fallen in love with, in the south west of france. tim spoke about the mont tauch wines, one of the oldest producers in the caves cooperatives established in 1913 in the languedoc region. through his pictures, he brought to life the local french characters he encountered during his time there.
to find out more about tim bulmer and his work, please visit his website at www.timbulmer.co.uk
readers - please note that the jersey national trust offer in this article is no longer valid (2007)
michelin pub of the year 2007
it was announced in september 2007 that we had won the michelin pub of the year 2007 in the michelin’s eating out in pubs guide launching on 6 september - the first welsh pub to win the award.
the judges commended the ‘immaculately kept interior’ our food, wines and relaxing atmosphere. they liked the ‘appetising and balanced selection of dishes prepared with care and a refreshingly unfussy approach’. away from the bar and restaurant, they found the bedrooms ‘something to behold’ mentioning the ‘little luxuries are everywhere’ and ‘that guests may have to pause for a moment to remind themselves that they are ‘only’ staying in a pub’!
suffice to say that william and i are enormously proud to have won michelin pub of the year and would like to thank all the staff who fully share with us this prestigious award.
our awards that we are all proud of:
2010 finalist in true taste of wales awards for our organic purple topped turnips!
condé nast johansens uk wine list award 2009
aa wine award for wales 2009/2010
best pub garden 2008 - herefordshire life and worcestershire life garden award
restaurant with rooms 2008 - 5 star award
aa wine award wales 2007
taste of wales gold 2007
michelin pub of the year 2007
5 star restaurant with rooms from aa and wales tourist board
aa 2 rosettes
johanssens ‘inn of the year’ 2006/7
johanssens "taittinger" wine list 2006/7
gosset celebris winner of winners in uk 2006
trophée gosset celébris 2005/6
aa wine award for wales 2005/6
wtb best place to stay finalist 2005/6
taste of wales gold 2005
trophée gosset celébris champagne challenge 2004/5
les routiers inn of the year 2004/5
les routiers welsh inn of the year 2004/5
les routiers national service & hospitality true taste of wales silver 2004
gosset champagne challenge 2003/4
good hotel guide césar ‘welsh inn of the year’ 2004
johanssens ‘inn of the year’ 2003/4
which? good food guide wine award 2003/4
wales tourist board’s best place to stay in wales 2002/3
aa wine award for wales 2002/3
aa best pub in wales 2002/3
"Taste of Wales" 2002/3
we are also featured in:
alex polizzi's little black book square meal guide (top 40 outside london)
harden’s good hotel guide (‘welsh inn of the year’ 2004)
michelin red guide (red tankard)
good food guide (top 10 pubs in the uk)
which? good food guide (wine award 2004)
harpers & queen restaurant guide 2004
what the papers say . . . . . . .
rob penn, condé nast traveller magazine
"this is no ordinary gastro-pub"
fay maschler, sainsbury’s magazine
"we stayed three nights with the idea of spending days taking long, healthy walks, and quite soon the bell became a home from home, so much so that one of the party quickly succumbed to the comfort of a large sofa in the bar beside the log fire and declined to join in the walks"
travel & leisure (usa)
"it’s a pity the horse and buggy is a thing of the past because pulling up to the bell at skenfrith in a gas-guzzler doesn’t have nearly the same effect"
guy marks, the financial times
"my scrambled egg breakfast at the bell at skenfrith was served with smoked salmon. Not the emaciated mush that is so often chopped and cooked into the scramble, but lavish slices, piled unadulterated alongside the egg"
belinda richardson, the daily telegraph
‘i think we have found heaven here at skenfrith’ "the menu at the bell is refreshingly short and uncomplicated. and a "suppliers" blackboard on the wall suggests that nearly all the food it serves comes from the local farmers. so hats off to the owners for making the best effort they can to support and feed the community"
caroline fitton, evening standard (london)
"the clue that attentive detail presides swiftly presented itself as fresh milk was delivered to our room for tea, accompanying home-made shortbread and wickedly good chocolate shortbread – invisibly replaced later in the day by an overnight flask ensuring fresh milk for the morning cuppa"
richard eilers, the observer
"there are no horse brasses at the bell at skenfrith – i checked. they have obviously been sent back to the restaurant props department on the shelves with french onion chains and wine bottles heavy with candle wax. instead fresh paintings and monochrome photographs take their place in the bar and restaurant – a wonderfully calm space with light oak beams and chalky shades on the walls."
and, most importantly, from some of our guests……
"excellent food, fabulous hospitality - 1st place. merci."
paddy burt "the atmosphere is great"
dominic curran, london
"fantastic. shame only that we couldn’t stay longer. great room, great food, great staff. thank you – we will be back."
hugh fearnley whittingstall
"beautiful location, lovely people, great food, we will return!" (and he has!)
beverley & jeff jones, north yorkshire
"absolute perfection - we will return very soon"
beverley & jeff jones, north yorkshire
"third visit – perfect"
gordon ramsay, london
"thank you for a great dinner"
mr and mrs schwartz, texas
"what a lovely Inn. both the hospitality and the service were exquisite, as are the surroundings. we look forward to spending more time with you. thanks kindly."
"...a wonderful stay and great hospitality"