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Review: Foraging for dinner in the Forest of Dean

PUBLISHED: 15:14 11 October 2017

Autumn in the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley (c)

Autumn in the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley (c)

On a sunny autumn afternoon we headed to the Forest of Dean to try our hand at finding edible, wildlife ingredients on one of the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel’s foraging courses. Here’s how we got on...

Just over the border from the cute-as-a-button villages and rolling countryside that visitors flock to the Cotswolds for, is a beautiful woodland that people often forget about.

The Royal Forest of Dean, a vast landscape that covers roughly 27,000 acres, boasts over 20 million trees, a stunning viewpoint from the top of Symonds Yat, a Harry Potter connection, the fairytale corners of Puzzlewood and an abundance of picture-perfect villages just waiting to be explored.

The Tudor Farmhouse Hotel sits on Clearwell's sleepy High Street (c) Ketch 22 PhotographyThe Tudor Farmhouse Hotel sits on Clearwell's sleepy High Street (c) Ketch 22 Photography

On a crisp autumn afternoon, we found ourselves in one such pretty village – Clearwell, and more precisely the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel, an luxurious yet unpretentious boutique hotel on the village’s sleepy high street.

Throughout autumn, the Tudor Farmhouse will offer visitors the chance to don their wellies, wrap up warm and join the resident foraging expert Raoul van Den Brouke, on an excursion to forage their own dinner.

Forest of Dean.

Picture by Clint Randall of Dean. Picture by Clint Randall

An animated character with years of knowledge and experience under his belt, Raoul truly brings foraging to life. Who knew someone could get a group so excited and experience such joy from unearthing a patch of wild mushrooms in the woods?

Our exploration covered a football field just outside Coleford where Raoul had been informed we would find a cluster of mushrooms to take home – which we did! Into the Forest, more mushrooms were collected including a handful of Boletus and chanterelles which were grouped around a large birch tree.

Resident foraging expert Raoul van Den BroukeResident foraging expert Raoul van Den Brouke

Also among the array of foraged goodies we found were roots of wild garlic (the flower is more likely to be found in spring), sloe and yew berries (the latter being found in the churchyard of the striking All Saints Church in Newland), and wood sorrel, a wild plant, reminiscent of clover, with a slight lemony flavour.

Clearly very passionate about foraging, Raoul was the perfect person to intrigue and engage novices – and the group left hoping that in the future we may be able to extend our knowledge, and perhaps even take away some of nature’s edible ingredients on future visits.

And relax...Tudor Farmhouse Hotel's cosy lounge (c) Mark Bolton PhotographyAnd relax...Tudor Farmhouse Hotel's cosy lounge (c) Mark Bolton Photography

Following our forest adventures rummaging through the woodland for dinner, we were seated in the hotel’s charming, brick-walled restaurant – an intimate, cosy setting which is the perfect retreat from the bracing autumnal ramble in the woods.

The Tudor Farmhouse’s award-winning chef Rob Cox cooked our foraged mushrooms, in a dash of oil so as not to hide the unique flavour of each variety. There’s truly something satisfying about tucking into Rob’s dishes created with your own hand-picked produce.

The restaurant boasts an intimate, cosy settingThe restaurant boasts an intimate, cosy setting

Later in the evening, we enjoyed five courses of the six course tasting menu (available to peruse here) alongside the accompanying flight of wines, which I unfortunately couldn’t partake in (but my fellow, non-“Sober October”, diners complimented each carefully selected glass).

Beautifully executed by Rob and his team, the menu boasts innovative dishes making the most out of local and seasonal produce, and it’s clearly evident that a lot of care, consideration and detail goes into crafting each dish. A particular nod has to go to the baked cheesecake with raspberry and lychee: although I’m not usually a sweet tooth, this dessert was a special end to a truly delicious meal.

Innovative dishes utilising fresh and seasonal produce by Rob Cox and his team (c) ARTUR TIXILISKIInnovative dishes utilising fresh and seasonal produce by Rob Cox and his team (c) ARTUR TIXILISKI

A fellow guest enjoyed the vegan menu – and thoroughly enjoyed the five inventive courses of plant-based fare. A pat on the back to the Tudor Farmhouse – plenty of mainstream and chain restaurants fail to get this right.

It’s clear that owners Colin and Hari Fell have created a delightful oasis in the heart of the little known village, and a restaurant with a menu that’s sure to satisfy even the most discerning diner. Some even say Rob Cox’s menu is worthy of a Michelin Star. Add an afternoon of foraging and you have yourself a glorious autumn break.

Tudor Farmhouse offers group and private foraging courses throughout autumn. Private courses cost £125 (for four) including ‘foraged lunch’. Add one nights’ accommodation and dinner from £365 per couple (based on two sharing).

Group courses cost just £50 per person with lunch. Add one nights’ accommodation and dinner from £150 per person. Group courses run on October 14, 21, 28 and November 4 2017.

For further details, or to book a place on a foraging course, visit the Tudor Farmhouse Hotel’s website or call 01594 833046.

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