Looking for restaurants in Herefordshire? Read our review of new destination restaurant Pensons, and check out our foodie road trip guide to Herefordshire here.
Pensons in a nutshell
Pensons is a new destination restaurant for Herefordshire, that’s redefining the modern, rural fine-dining experience.
Last seen as the ground-breaking head chef of Bethnal Green’s Typing Room, Lee Westcott is back behind the pass of Pensons and making a big impression with locals.
What’s the vibe?
Lots of restaurants talk a good talk about provenance but so integral is it to Pensons’ ethos that the (hyper) local sourcing begins right at the front door. Housed in a previously derelict 15th-century barn, the space has been dramatically restored and renovated using materials from its surrounds, the Netherwood Estate. The farm’s manger is now a lighting rig. Fabric made on a weaving mill on the estate, from Netherwood wool, forms the unique napkins. Striking bell-bottomed lampshades are made with estate-harvested willow. There are even excavated treasures, found in the surrounding fields, framed. You can find out more about the makers who helped shape the space, here.
Lunchtime is worth a venture, just for the light, which pours through the stylish Crittal windows, or if you’ve a night-time booking it’s hard to resist the glow of the open kitchen. Either way you’re in for a good meal.
What’s the food like at Pensons?
Fans of Lee’s food in London will be more than satisfied with the food at Pensons – which feels familiar yet future-looking. Ingredients lead the direction of the menus (there’s an à la carte lunch and dinner menu, alongside a five- or seven-course tasting menu) – whether they’re plucked from the kitchen garden, yards away from the pass, foraged or farmed from the estate. (There’s a pescatarian and vegetarian menu available, too, but not vegan.)
On our visit there were new takes on recognisable signatures from Lee – including fish skin, crisp like pork crackling, topped with delicate dots of smoky salt cod brandade, oyster and dill emulsion and tiny, brackish sea vegetables; perfect miniature rounds of sourdough with Marmite butter and roasted yeast; and a final dessert course of flawless, palate-cleansing sheep’s yogurt sorbet, with textures of apple and dill, and a tangy meringue crisp.
Flavours and textures build with every course – from mackerel with beetroot, horseradish and smoked yogurt, to brill with pine, mussels and purple sprouting broccoli. Herefordshire Herdwick lamb particularly impresses with its simple, traditional flavours – potato, turnip and greens – but elegant execution (think silky smooth purées, glossy emulsions, and potato cakes of a thousand, or so, layers).
And the drinks?
Seasonal guest cocktails are the thing to look out for here (we spotted a cherry blossom cosmopolitan in the spring). Otherwise, work your way through the classics, Wye Valley beers, or the crowd-pleasing wine list.
Pensons is happily in what feels like the middle of nowhere so, for the full experience, it’s worth booking a stay at one of the estate’s properties – The Hyde (a Grade-II* medieval hall house that can be booked for individual bed and breakfast) or The Freeth (which is only available for exclusive use for groups of up to 18).
Pensons Restaurant, Pensons Yard, Stoke Bliss, Tenbury Wells, WR15 8RT
Words by Laura Rowe
Interior photographs by John Carey, food photographs by Patricia Niven