Looking for gastropubs in Wales? Read our review of The Black Bear Inn, and check out more suggestions for gastropubs across the UK here.
The Black Bear Inn in a nutshell
Having taken over Bettws Newydd’s village pub in November 2018, Josh and Hannah Byrne make the most of their new rural setting to create a hyper-local menu that changes by the week.
Crossing the Severn to open his first restaurant, head chef Josh cooked at some of Bristol’s top-rated venues (Poco, Bar Buvette) before swapping city kitchens for this rustic Monmouthshire inn. His early experience at Heston Blumenthal’s The Hind’s Head in Bray – as well as at a number of Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe – has equipped him with an eye for impeccably fresh produce and a taste for bold and ambitious flavours.
What’s the vibe?
Josh and Hannah refurbished The Black Bear before it re-launched in late 2018, knocking down a wall to open up the dining space and updating the décor. While they’ve added their own touches, the couple have kept the vibe loyal to its roots: this is still a proper pub where you can bring your dog and have a pint at the bar, or sit down to a feast with your family around one of the huge wooden tables.
What’s the food like at The Black Bear Inn?
A huge blackboard etched with the daily menu is the main focal point at the pub. Josh works closely with a small network of neighbouring producers to create just three options at each course, one meat, one fish and one veggie – each determined by what’s growing close by. Meat is sourced on a whole- or half-animal basis and Josh butchers it himself, using every last inch to make dishes like mutton broth with peas, broad beans and barley.
His creations are a homage to the couple’s new life in the Welsh countryside; hogget, sourced from a nearby farm, is slowly braised until blissfully soft and ultra-umami, served with mash loaded with cream and butter and a heap of forest-coloured greens from Hannah’s veg plot.
Don’t turn down the opportunity to try more of Josh’s food by squeezing in a few of the bar snacks before the main event. Locally foraged ceps bathed in butter and garlic are meaty giants of the fungus fraternity – keep back some of the warm homemade bread so you can mop up every drop.
And the drinks?
Low-intervention and organic wines take the lead on a comprehensive drinks line-up; if you don’t want to flick through the list, there’s a shortened selection by the glass or carafe chalked up on the board by the bar. There’s also an interesting selection of artisan cider and perry, including a rather special champagne-method bottle from Herefordshire producer Gregg’s Pit.
Bring a couple of friends so you can make your way through the full list of bar snacks – house favourites include deep-fried Porthilly rock oysters, traditional Welsh rarebit, and ham and mustard croquettes.
The Black Bear Inn, Route 42, Bettws Newydd, Usk NP15 1JN
Words by Kathryn Lewis
Photos Ben Pryor