The Foodism guide to... Ledbury, Herefordshire
We take a trip into the heart of Herefordshire and discover an abundance of food and booze with an incredibly local lilt
Sometimes the only way to get your mitts on the best local produce is to leap right into the lion's den, and Herefordshire – home to some of the most esteemed cider breweries and cattle farms in England – is a pretty good place to start. Not so manicured as its dainty neighbour the Cotswolds, eastern Herefordshire is a place of rugged valleys, winding lanes and farms – loads of them.
Sitting stately slap-bang in the middle of the memorably named village of Trumpet, Verzon House is the Chase family's food and drinks philosophy – if you'll excuse the pun – purely distilled. Hit the bar and you'll find a list of seasonal serves carefully concocted from Chase's distillery up the road in Preston Wynne, and wines from the family's vineyard near Aix-en-Provence in southern France.
The restaurant serves up an inventive menu of seasonally changing dishes, cooked with ingredients almost exclusively from farms and suppliers in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and northern Gloucestershire. Think Hereford beef, Teme Valley lamb and Wye Valley veg. The only exception to the rule is the fish – which comes from a county, unlike Herefordshire, that's not landlocked – but with the taste of the cold-smoked turbot, we're not complaining.
The rooms, meanwhile, are as well turned-out as the breakfasts, and both are perfect for soaking up a long night on the spirits.
Rooms from £80 per night. Hereford Road, Trumpet, HR8 2PZ; verzonhouse.com
If the restaurant at Verzon House represents what a top chef can do with the produce of Herefordshire, The Nest – an extensive farm shop, café and orchard that's a two-minute walk down Hereford Road from the hotel – will let you find out what you can do with it. It's full to the gunwhales with the valleys' finest food and drink for you to pick up and take home, and you'll be able to grab everything from veg, cheese and locally smoked meats, to beers, ciders, wines and cassis all grown and produced nearby. The centrepiece, though, is The Scotch Egg Company's chiller, which contains 30 different types of deliciously oozy scotch egg, from modern classics like chilli and black pudding to I'm-not-sure-this-really-qualifies-as-a-scotch-egg-but-I-still-love-it balls of deep-fried smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives.
Hereford Road, Trumpet, HR8 2PZ; thenestledbury.co.uk
If a weekend learning how to turn runny mashed potatoes into high-grade spirits sounds up your alley – or even if it doesn't – Chase Distillery is well worth a trip out into the rustic country between Hereford, Ledbury and Leominster.
Once home to crisp brand Tyrrells, the Chase family turned the farm's focus to the production of vodka and gin in 2008, eschewing grain-based distilling to use the farm's potatoes (or apples for its Elegant 48 gin and Naked vodka), and water from a borehole just metres from the distillery.
The £25 tour walks you through the entire single-estate process, from cropping to bottling, and lets you sample everything from a pinky-finger's nip of super-proof pure spirit to the full range (and we mean the full, return-to-the-hotel-with-rosy-cheeks range) of the brand's blends and infusions.
There are beautiful botanical gins; fruit-infused vodkas of marmalade, lemon and rhubarb; liqueurs of blackcurrant, raspberry and elderflower; and a rich, smoky, boundary-blurring Islay whisky-cask-aged vodka. And luckily, once you've tried shots of that little lot, you can get a lift back to Verzon House in one of the distillery's Land Rovers – probably a good idea.
Chase Farm, Rosemaund Drive, Preston Wynne, Herefordshire, HR1 3PG; chasedistillery.co.uk
You'll find this extensive bottle cave tucked away on Ledbury's quaint high street. Expect floor-to-ceiling stock from pretty much every wine region you could ever want – and a few places you might not have thought you did (we're looking at you, Romania) – with a strong focus on local, organic and biodynamic wines. There's also a huge raft of spirits and liqueurs, many of which are seasonal small-runs worth holding onto if you can't finish them in a single weekend away. And if you do, you can get anything you like delivered to London for free if you order more than £100. Top bins.
High Street, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 1DS; haywines.co.uk
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