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Great British Menu chef Chris Harrod: what’s on his plate?

Chris Harrod, chef-proprietor at The Whitebrook, near Monmouth, is not short of accolades. Within 11 months of opening his restaurant with rooms, The Whitebrook was awarded a Michelin star. One of only 45 restaurants in the UK to hold 4 AA Rosettes, The Whitebrook won an AA Wine Award for Wales and Inspectors’ Choice (Restaurant with Rooms) at the AA Hospitality Awards 2016 and is consistently listed in the Waitrose Good Food Guide Top 50 UK Restaurants.

In 2018 Chris’ public profile was raised further when he represented Wales in the hit BBC2 series Great British Menu. While his 'Everything but the Squeal' suckling pig dish was given 10/10 by the judges - the highest scoring dish of the series, it was his ‘Tea & Cake’ dessert which won and was subsequently served to special NHS guests at the winners’ banquet in London.

Between planning his new menus and picking produce from his kitchen garden, Chris gave us an insight into what inspires him.

Eat at The Whitebrook

Stay at The Whitebrook

The Whitebrook Violet Dessert Violet parfait, blueberry, rose, lemon thyme’

As a boy, he dreamed about becoming a chef and owning his own restaurant after seeing Raymond Blanc on television. Years later, having completed catering college and gained an excellent grounding at The Lanesborough, Chris got the opportunity to work at Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Here, he developed a love of fresh, seasonal ingredients, which is very much a feature of his food today.

‘When I moved to Monmouthshire and opened The Whitebrook, I cooked mainly modern French food using the best ingredients from all over the world, as I had done at previous restaurants. That was until a local forager called Henry Ashby popped into The Whitebrook with a few foraged leaves and a wealth of local knowledge. We hit it off and I was soon discovering the amazing flavours growing in the hedges, woodlands and estuary of the Wye Valley. At that point, I didn’t realise what impact this beautiful location and its produce would have on my cooking. Many of these foraged foods were new to me, and they led me to experiment with recipes that would give my food a sense of place.’

The Whitebrook Asparagus Wye Valley asparagus’

From initially thinking foraging was a bit of a fad, Chris became excited by the vast range of seasonal food on his doorstep. ‘My cooking became more honest, reflecting what was growing outside at that time of year’, he said. Now, each dish on The Whitebrook’s menu has a connection with the local area, many combining foraged foods with the very best produce from local farmers. ‘Every ingredient used in our Wye Valley asparagus dish is produced within eight miles of the restaurant. We roast the asparagus on a bed of maritime pine needles, and serve it with hogweed, pennywort and hedge bedstraw and a sauce made with mead from Tintern.’

The dishes on The Whitebrook’s menus prove a great talking point with guests. ‘Our front of house staff know about the provenance of our food and they enjoy interacting with guests who are keen to find out more about our unusual ingredients, such as mugwort and woodruff. For guests who are staying with us, there’s the opportunity to learn about responsible foraging and go on a foraging trip with Henry Ashby.’

Foraging at The Whitebrook Chris with forager Henry Ashby’
Chris Harrod outside The Whitebrook

Chris’ achievements spring from the simplest of things. While he is highly skilled, his food is never showy, rather like the modest man himself. He prefers to let the fresh flavours on the plate do the talking. Over the coming months, expect to find more seasonal, plant-based dishes on his menu as he strives to present what he calls ‘Monmouthshire on a plate’. In September, Chris returns to the chef demonstration stage at Abergavenny Food Festival to delight the audience with his skills and tips. In the meantime, he’ll continue to ‘enjoy foraging, picking what’s ready in our kitchen garden and relaxing with my family in Tintern’. Just 5 miles away from his restaurant, Tintern Abbey is one of Chris’ favourite spots for riverside walks and inspirational moments.

As Chris has discovered, when it comes to excellent produce, Monmouthshire is spoilt for choice.
Welsh Dragon