The Temple Bar Inn, Ewyas Harold, Herefordshire: hotel review

March 3, 2014

The bedrooms need a little tweaking but this Herefordshire B&B and country pub is unfussily comfortable and good value for money

This area of Herefordshire, hard against the Welsh border, is known as the Golden Valley but, on the evening I visit, its skies are the colour of lead. Flood waters have been lapping at remote Ewyas Harold, the rain is beating down in rattling gusts, and the wind has banjaxed the pub’s TV aerial. What to do but grab a pint of Ludlow Gold (£3) and hole up by the open fire?

An inn since the 1850s, the Temple Bar has been taken over by the Jinman family, stripped bare and modernised to create a new public bar, a restaurant and three bedrooms. Its look is gussied-up country pub – blackboards, leather bucket chairs, huge logs in disused fireplaces – but not too prettified. Huge beams, robust handmade furniture, a stylish bar made from worn planks and stainless steel, ensure the Temple feels real, rugged even. It is still a working pub with local regulars and a pool/darts room.

The bedrooms (brown and beige with hints of country cottage, powerful shower, strong Wi-Fi signal) are unfussy and comfortable. Despite the (deduct 10 points) hollow-fibre pillows, I sleep well on a firm mattress in dead quiet and inky, rural blackness.

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The room lacks a little love and practical scrutiny, though. There is homemade caramel shortbread for sale downstairs, but not so much as a biscuit on the tea tray (UHT milk too, sadly). No wardrobe – just hooks – is fine, but even I need more than one hanger. Towels are serviceable, but small.

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With meats from the village butcher, Mailes, and tea from Trumpers in Hereford, the kitchen, led by 30-year-old Phillippa Jinman, is hot on local produce. Jinman is an enthusiast rather than a trained chef, but what she lacks in professional sharpness (uneven seasoning; a starter of unconvincingly spiced mackerel with an ungainly, flat-tasting “salsa”), she makes up for in idiosyncratic brio.

How can you not love someone who, in 2014, serves fried bread with your (very good) full breakfast? A novel main course of venison, chargrilled, unusually, and served with a remarkably light rösti and a warm salad of red cabbage and black pudding, offers clever layers of complementary flavours. A tart of custard and poached rhubarb, with audibly crackling, popping-candy ice-cream, was also enjoyable.

Portions are substantial, which will be welcome after a day exploring local nature trails or the Black Mountains. Less strenuously, Hay-on-Wye and Abergavenny are also close by.

The rooms need tweaking but the Temple already constitutes a sound, value-for-money option in this relatively unsung corner of Britain.

• Accommodation was provided by the Temple Bar Inn. Travel between Manchester and Hereford was provided by Arriva Trains Wales (arrivatrainswales.co.uk)

Tony Naylor

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