«

»

Review: Ynyshir, The Pass Bench, Machynllyth

Nettles

Nettles

I raved about Ynyshir last March after our first visit. And I kept raving about it, in spite of all the lovely meals I’ve had since, so much so that Maureen became heartily sick of me and booked a table there for my birthday this year to shut me up.

This is no minor undertaking, for Ynyshir is truly in the back of beyond, the west coast of Wales, 4.5 hours drive from London. And while the west coast of Wales is undoubtably beautiful, it’s not a tourist draw like the Isle of Skye or the Cornish peninsula. So Ynyshir absolutely has to be a destination restaurant. People have to drag themselves across the Cambrian mountains for no other reason than to want to sample Gareth Ward’s cooking. Take it from me, that’s ample reason!

Char sui perfection

Char sui perfection

There’s no doubt chef Ward is after a 2nd Michelin star; there are so many 1 Star destinations in popular and convenient parts of the UK, it’s absolutely gonna take a 2nd star to persuade people to come this far! Especially mid-week. Of course you, the reader of this most select blog, are already in on the secret and must surely have started planning your trip?

I’ll tell you what I like about Ynyshir. The flavours are unabashed and powerful, but not harsh. The plates are always beautiful, but uncluttered and unfussy. Every mouthful of meat roars with careful provenance and very, very careful storage and treatment. There is a passionate belief in the value of what you can find in the fields, hedges, pastures and shores of the UK. And there is innovation and experiment evident in all of it. I have never, ever had a better prawn. Or a better piece of char sui. Or a better dessert made entirely of nettles. Or… you get the idea!

Our next dish being prepped

Our next dish being prepped

So I might as well spend the rest of the blog telling you about the Pass Bench experience, which is what every raving foodie should be trying and book. This is a hearty wooden bench for two, draped with woolly black sheepskins, right in the middle of the kitchen. Off to your left chef Ward is looking after the flame-kissing grill close enough that he could lean over and pass you a spoon if you were missing one. Certainly close enough for a chat. You get to see everything, and hear every single instruction and call. It’s mildly bizarre to have one of the chefs collect your empty plates and then, having done nothing more than turn around, call out “Pass bench cleared!” and take them to the hatch into the scullery.

Bloody amazing prawn

Bloody amazing prawn

Gareth’s team are a lovely bunch. The chefs do a lot of front of house. This is on-trend, of course; we’ve had dishes brought to us by chefs at Noma and elsewhere. But apparently it happened very naturally at Ynyshir, as they were struggling to find anyone who wanted to do silver-service front of house and live in a quiet corner of west Wales!

You’re in for five very entertaining hours of the very best cooking in the UK, for a princely £150 a head (£130 in the main restaurant). It is good value. No, it really is. Five hours. Nineteen courses. Right in the kitchen. The bedrooms are also very lovely. Snowdonia is on your doorstep. We walked up Cader Idris the next day. 18 months after my first visit, I’m still waiting for another dining experience that comes close. Given that Ynyshir was even better this time around, the bar just gets higher.

Up Cader Idris

Up Cader Idris

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>