Just before I opened The Sportsman in 1999 I went on a pilgrimage to The Walnut Tree, over 200 miles away on the remote outskirts of Abergavenny. Ann and Franco Taruschio had taken over the pub in 1963, and through their consistent hard work it had become an institution.
I’d been cooking from their book Leaves from the Walnut Tree since it was published in 1993 (it makes me laugh to think that it took 30 years before anybody thought to ask them to write a cookbook; there are new restaurants these days which publish one as soon as they open their doors), and was about to open a pub serving ambitious food in the middle of nowhere, so I wanted to learn the secrets of their success.
I tried to make a reservation but was told that they didn’t take bookings and to just turn up, so I took this to mean that there was no danger of not getting a table. To my surprise I arrived just after midday on...
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