The Great British Adventure

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The Checkers: Montgomery, Wales
29 June | Places
A fusion of Celtic ingredients and Gallic culinary skills - we discover a Michelin-starred French restaurant, in Wales.

Checkers, MontgomeryA mile across the Wales-England border in the heart of the Welsh Marshes lies the small town of Montgomery. Quirky and idyllic in equal measure, it's home to a picture-postcard Town Hall, a beautiful parish church dating back to the early 1200s, and - yes, really - a museum dedicated to toy and model cars.

But perhaps the most noteworthy destination in town is The Checkers. On a recent tour of Powys, we stumbled upon it more or less by accident. One very memorable meal later, we're already planning our next trip. If The Checkers isn't the finest restaurant in all of Cymru, we're very interested to know what is.

A family-run restaurant in a historic former coaching inn - with a Michelin star since 2011, no less - the food is traditionally French, albeit with a smattering of very Welsh touches. Chef-proprietor Stéphane Borie trained under Michel Roux Sr and – together with his partner Sarah, and Sarah's sister Kathryn – has built a reputation for excellence. There are two principal menus: a five-course tasting menu, and an eight-course tasting menu, and we plumped for the latter.

The crossovers between the French and Celtic influences in the kitchen are many, and delicious. Among the full eight delicious plates, we tucked excitedly into roasted Scottish scallop with truffle pomme mousseline, devoured grilled fillet of Celtic pride beef, with oxtail-stuffed pomme fondant, pied bleu and red wine jus, and Riz au Lait - a very French and incredibly moreish take on that most British of desserts, rice pudding.

The wine list is also something to write home about, though on this occasion, our relatively impromptu arrival meant we were strictly on soft drinks for the evening. Next time, we'll come a little better prepared to work our way through a few of the bottles in The Checkers' enviable cellar.

As we rounded off the evening with coffees and chocolates from - you guessed it, France, and that most distinguished of chocolatiers, Valrhona - we couldn't help but marvel how, in spite of the physical distance from mid-Wales, the food at The Checkers is so authentically and wonderfully French. The next time you fancy a little taste of life in the Tricolore nation, you could do much worse than heading to Wales, and to Checkers. Bon appetit.

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