A village pub my friend used to cook in, taken over by a Nepalese family and serving food largely unknown in the capital. Little or no social media presence, and full on a Thursday evening: getting back to basics and word of mouth have much to recommend them.
Welcome to Llantwit Fardre. The former Crown Hill pub may look the same, but forget Sunday roasts: the menu is full of spice and intrigue. Nepalese food has very little profile in the capital, but thankfully Yogen Gauchan and his partner Laxmi have set up here and quickly built a loyal following.
Although Gurkha Hill still feels very much like its former incarnation – there’s a pool table as you enter, and regulars enjoying a pint at the bar as diners enjoy themselves – this is a kitchen which takes what it does seriously.
Everything is made here, Yogen tells me: “Always fresh. Nothing frozen.” You see it in the momo, those doughy little dumplings often filled with yak meat but here stuffed with chicken, ginger and spring onion. Clearly made by hand, densely packed, and served with a smoky tomato relish, they are a standout, and a reminder that there’s something universally compelling and comforting to be found in a dumpling.
A hulking Sekuwa lamb, crusted with spices and picking up a healthy char from the clay oven, is the lamb tikka starter you know, reimagined as a single tender chunk. A superb keema naan and a fluffy mushroom rice impress, as does lamb rara: a heady mix of lamb pieces and a mince-thickened sauce, flavoured with methi (fenugreek) seed and dry chilli.
This is vibrant stuff. Gurkha Hill’s dining room is full on a Thursday: this community knows what it has here, and is embracing it. It’s not hard to see why.
Gurkha Hill, Main Road, Llantwit Fardre, Pontypridd.
Info: 01443 205822 / gurkhahill.co.uk
words JONATHAN SWAIN
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