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Eight of the best restaurants in Wales

From country inn to beachfront coal shed, the Welsh dining scene is having a moment.

The Felin Fach Griffin in Powys.

Photograph by Paul Massey
By Kerry Walker
Published 25 Jun 2022, 06:03 BST

Glittering brighter every year with new Michelin stars, the Welsh food scene has never been more exciting, as chefs embrace a freedom to experiment, cultivate kitchen gardens and raid hedgerows and coastlines for foraged ingredients. From Aberystwyth to Gower, here’s our pick of the Welsh restaurants that are currently at the top of their game.

1. Ynyshir, Powys

Fat is a beautiful, many-textured thing — or so says Gareth Ward, maverick king of the Welsh food scene and head chef at Ynyshir, the country’s first-ever two-Michelin-starred restaurant. Not bad for a self-confessed dropout from County Durham.

On Wales’ wild west coast, Gareth plays with smoke, fire and foraged finds. You don’t rise to these cosmic heights without being bold and Gareth doesn’t mince his words: he doesn’t pander to dietary requirements, there’s one menu only (kept under wraps until you arrive), lunch is at 12.30pm, dinner at 5pm, and you sure as hell had better like meat.

Dinner is £350 a head, but my what a feast: so many courses you’ll lose track. In the charcoal-black dining room, a DJ curates the music and the menu never misses a beat, with dishes such as scallop with sweet elder vinegar sliding into aged beef fat, aged otoro with teriyaki and Welsh Waygu fudge. Join the waiting list now if you want to go this side of Christmas.

2. SY23, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

Nathan Davies (of Great British Menu fame) was Gareth Ward’s sous chef before he flew the nest for pastures new: namely, Aberystwyth. And he smashed it: within a year of opening, SY23 bagged a Michelin star and the guide’s ‘Opening of the Year’ award in 2022, giving food lovers even more reason to flock to this good-looking, surf-bashed town in Cardigan Bay.

Nathan keeps things deliciously intimate in his indigo-blue restaurant, with funky music and drinks by the firepit on the terrace before dinner, which is served at 7.30pm sharp. Season-led farmed, fished and foraged ingredients are elevated to the extraordinary in a 10-course menu that sings gustily of Wales in dishes as deceptively simple as crab with preserved elder, turbot with cockles and lamb with black garlic.

Scallops served up at SY23 in Aberystwyth.

Photograph by Michelle Martin

3. Annwn, Pembrokeshire 

Wellies and waterproofs by day are swapped for chef’s apron at night at Annwn, the brainchild of chef-forager and fisherman Matt Powell, who knows Pembrokeshire’s rocky shores and hedgerows like the back of his talented hand.

In the old potting shed at the Little Retreat on the Lawrenny Estate, Matt cooks for a lucky few, with an intuitive feeling for flavour and zero pretension.

The multi-course menu is like reading runes, full of never-heard-of-before ingredients, unexpected compositions and revived traditional recipes. The first thought is: too clever? But Matt delivers fireworks with lots of oohs and aahs with offerings such as limpet mousse with littoral zone seaweeds; slow-cooked duck-egg yolk with hedgerow plants and last year’s cep sauce; kelp broth with siphon weed and scurvy grass; and gorse custard with birch-vinegar meringue.

4. Fernery at The Grove Narberth, Pembrokeshire

Seem in the honeyed light of a summer day, this fantasy country manor is like another world: plonked in wildflower meadows humming with bees and encircled by ancient oaks. It’s less 21st century, more period drama film set. Service is flawless and the interior old-school plush: Arts and Crafts flourishes and blousy flowers. Fernery restaurant is a class act, too. Here white-linen draped tables, artfully arranged ferns and candlelight are the backdrop for dishes that big up garden-grown fruit, veg and herbs, Pembrokeshire meat and fish, such as squab with celeriac, plum and nasturtium, and macadamia with rhubarb, mascarpone and marjoram. It’s all perfectly pitched, with vegans, pescatarians and vegetarians get their own tasting menus.

Main course at The Felin Fach Griffin.

Photograph by Paul Massey

5. The Felin Fach Griffin, Powys

If you want proof that good food is not just about espumas and emulsions, head to the Felin Fach Griffin. Here simplicity wins. After a boggy ramble in the Black Mountains, push open the inn door and you’ll get a bear hug of a welcome, a stylish room and real ales by a roaring fire room (kids and dogs welcome). Rooted in seasonality and the produce of a kitchen garden, the succinct menu is a love letter to the Welsh borders with dishes like heritage beetroot with apple, walnut and white balsamic, and meltingly tender beef cheek with pearl barley and alliums sliding into red-wine sauce. Wines are sharply sourced and reasonably priced, starting at £21.50 a bottle. This is food prepared with loveand served with generosity.

Plating up at The Whitebrook in Monmouthshire.

Photograph by The Whitebrook

6. The Whitebrook, Monmouthshire

Swing down hedgerowed lanes into the romantically wooded Wye Valley and thank your lucky stars you booked a table (or, better, a room) at Michelin-starred The Whitebrook. The restaurant spins out the modern rustic dream: soft wisps of natural colour, beams, wood floors and discreetly spaced tables – nothing jars. The same can be said of Chris Harrod’s food. Foraged plants and herbs bring a serious hit of flavour to Welsh meats and a rainbow of heritage vegetables from the kitchen garden in beautifully nuanced dishes like rare-breed suckling pig with young garden chard, radishes, garlic puree and ramsons, and smoky Wye Valley asparagus cooked over pine embers with hedgerow pickings, hogweed and Tintern mead sauce. This is sophisticated country dining with a pinch of fairy magic.

7. Beach House, Gower

Overlooking the great golden sweep of Oxwich Bay on Gower, the Beach House has a knockout location. You could get away with all sorts with a view like this, but head chef Hywel Griffith walks the culinary high-wire at this breezy, bluesy, Michelin-starred restaurant in a former coal store, doing away unnecessary frippery and instead focusing wholeheartedly on Welsh flavours. A 2021 Great British Menu chef for Wales, Hywel has struck up great relationships with local farmers and fishermen and ensures their stunning produce shines in dishes like hand-dived scallop with celeriac, lardo, leek, Welsh truffle and tarragon; Llandeilo fallow deer with butternut squash, black cabbage, Perl Las and pickled pear; and bara brith souffle with tea ice cream.

8. Home by James Sommerin, Cardiff

When the pandemic dealt a hammer blow to James Sommerin’s flagship restaurant in Penarth, which closed in 2020, you could hear the howls of anguish on the other side of Cardiff. Now he’s back at Home, a dark, sexy, mysterious beast of a restaurant, staffed almost entirely by his own family (hence the name). And the Michelin star is back too. Finessed with a playful eye for perfectionism, the surprise menu goes with the whim of the chef and the bounty of the season. There’s no telling what you might eat — dishes such as trout with potato, seaweed and sour cream or lamb with cumin, red pepper and courgette are never as simple as they sound. But James is a man you can trust.

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