Manicured grounds, luxury rooms, courteous service and the peaceful surrounds of an RSPB nature reserve have long been a lure for VIPs and those after some Welsh R&R – although the star attraction at this glorious restaurant-with-rooms is the “awesome” cooking of chef/patron Gareth Ward.
Leisurely meals unfurl over four hours of 20 doll-sized courses; lunch takes less time, but with nothing but the glorious Welsh countryside for miles around, where else would you be rushing off to? – except, perhaps, one of the 10 individually designed bedrooms, three of which are out in the garden.
From the first taste of the home-baked bread with cultured butter through to the final sampling of strawberries with elder and yuzu, meals are shot through with intense flavours – not surprising, given that wunderkind Ward trained at high-flying Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham.
‘Ingredient-led, flavour-driven, fat-fuelled and meat-obsessed’, says a note on the menu and the results speak for themselves: mackerel might be paired with rhubarb and back fat, pollack is exotically embellished with black beans, and salmon could be given the BBQ treatment.
There are also starring roles for Welsh lamb and Welsh Wagyu beef, prominent roles for pickling, curing and fermenting, while ‘desserts’ offer a profusion of sweet (and sometimes savoury) delights, from ‘birch porridge’ to miso treacle tart.
This is, to be sure, challenging cooking that will not be to everyone’s taste – not least vegetarians, who are unlikely to get the most from the meat-focused kitchen. But with only five tables in the main dining room, Ynyshir offers a highly personal dining experience at the cutting edge of modern British cooking.
Wines fit the top-end scenario, the dining room is a modern vision of simplicity to counteract the pyrotechnics on the plate, while the chef’s table and counter are a shoo-in for that special Michelin-starred occasion. All in all, “incredible everything and truly special in every way” – and well worth setting the satnav for.