1 Michelin starred restaurant with rooms on the very central-west tip of Wales, serving quality dishes via a cohesive and happy team - a gem find
Cowabunga! I have been meaning to get back here since discovering Ynyshir Restaurant & Rooms on my travels around the country last year and this time, the no holds bar dinner version was undertaken, and with eminent company this time to also serve as a witness. Both were agreed at the end that the conveyer belt of prized items through this full evening of service was wonderful and the summary is that I simply have no doubts that Ynyshir Restaurant & Rooms is clearly operating above its current accolade and I would actually come here far more quickly than several UK establishments already in the two Michelin starred category for all the reasons that I highlight in the full review at the expansion button below. Bravo Exec Chef Gareth Ward for a superb experience all round.
First things first, you must accept various things regarding a visit to Ynyshir Restaurant & Rooms: 1) The rooms are available for one night only to serve as a resting place for diners rather than a hotel for random hikers; 2) Do not get off at Dovey Junction if you are going by train even though is closer to Ynyshir as this involves a 20 min walk to get to the main road – Machynlleth is your baby(!) and 3) Prepare yourself during the day that this will not be a short dinner (or lunch). For that reason I have to say the value for money is still exceedingly good here. The 20+ courses for dinner with wines we had and the stay came to £225 per head with an additional £125 for the matching wines and additions totalling just over £350 for the marathon meal, stay and breakfast. This is tremendous value comparative to the rest of the country’s high end notable eateries as a huge bonus (and comparative to other establishments across the world cooking at this level).
And so, on to the good stuff. The meal began with something I had had before entitled ‘Not Onion Soup’ which is a small soup made with miso onion, tofu, sea vegetables, onion oil, dashi and croutons. I actually forgot how insanely good this was and made no bones about this in the summary of my first trip last year and is one of the stronger openings to any meal I have on record it is that good and worth the attention here. Leg of Aylesbury duck with black bean glaze with spring onion & toasted sesame came next which, in spite of being a fraction dry had a wonderful crunch and glaze of the orient.
It’s always lovely to have wonderful dips and for the bread course here, you are in for a treat. Although this particular sour dough is not my absolute favourite in being a tad bitter, it is carefully made and proved over 7 days and the wagyu fat and miso butter are things of beauty to dunk this in to. The miso butter in particular, which is in fact pure gold in the butter world. Another previously enjoyed dish of mackerel, dried in kombu and brushed with miso butter with Yorkshire rhubarb ketchup, soy and back fat was very good, with all accompanying oils and fats working well with each other and the mackerel which was prepared very well.
Crab claw with soy sauce with curry ketchup, coriander and puffed rice was sheer knock out, plain and simple. The crab worked excellently with the fresh curry and I honestly haven’t had a creative curry dish like that since the pork and banana curry at 3 Michelin starred Alinea and this frankly at a similar quality line. The pork belly char su was marinated for 4 days and barbecued, proving to be very succulent and with pleasing flavour. The breast of duck with hoi sin, pickled cucumber had perfect breast meat with wonderfully subtle hoi sin but also had just the right ‘hit’ of how sin at the same time, perfectly balanced with the pickled cucumber; a great dish.
Duck liver was next with spelt crisp, grated smoked eel and birch syrup grade creating a smokey, silky liver mousse collection. This really was destroyed in a matter or seconds it was that good having such a smooth texture and decent flavour. Yellow & red tomatos came next in dehydrated form and also pickled with back fat, sour dough and smoked cream cheese. All these components went well together and really nothing to not like on this.
Garlic prawn from Isle of Skye (wild garlic in the UK becomes abundant between Apr-May) was served with oil made with garlic and also frozen with stems pickled and vacuum packed. The sweetness of the langoustine was lovely and the garlic oil with pickled wild garlic stems on top was a cracking combination. St George mushroom with mushroom cream was a luscious mini-celebration of mushroom, the flavour being enjoyable. Asparagus was the next dish with garlic, miso butter and mussels with fermented grains. This was quite vinegary as the main element and it seemed the asparagus’ main job was providing the necessary texture.
On to the meats! The short rib wagyu was 72-hour slow cooked at 60 degrees producing all fat to be rendered down nicely. It was then barbecued and served with pickled lettuce, puffed rice with shiitake ketchup and soy which was joy in the mouth altogether. The same can be said of the Wagyu ‘burger’ with fermented lettuce sour dough mayo, charred gherkin pickled shallot sesame seeds – a superb biteful collection. Then finally was the prize of upgraded Wagyu which was aged 250 days encased in wagyu fat (to stop the air drying it out too much) then given a dose of ultra violet light at 2 degrees Celsius for final entrapment of flavour. The fermented lettuce with Hampshire-grown wasabi came with beef dressing. Initially I thought there was a danger of too much fat, but it’s job was to kill the harshness of the wasabi which it did brilliantly and the overall effect was a deep and flavoursome umami sensation and a lovely addition.
Sour dough pieces with wagyu fat and onion came as almost a miniature soup and texturally was a nice change and the onions gave the fat the slight relief it needed. Next came the sour dough crumpet with Tunworth (and camambert from Hampshire), ‘minus 8’ vinegar (grapes picked at 8 degrees and turned in to iced wine and then in to vinegar) with maple syrup blended with Italian biancito truffles which was just heavenly. Yes, this was as good as it sounds and another great dish from a genuine composer.
The Yuzu shlush was a lovely mouthwash to have in the crossover to sweet dishes (I happen to adore the freshness of yuzu as a citrus fruit), followed by white chocolate and tofu mousse black bean syrup black bean biscuit. The latter I have had before and was very pleased to show to my associate at the table who concurred that it was as quality as I had recalled it to be. Next came a lovely little compote of Yorkshire rhubarb with raw slices on top. The custard here was made the old fashioned way: cornflower, eggs, milk and sugar and was utterly first rate custard, there is no question here. I was especially pleased how well the raw rhubarb had been toned down as was not the acidic slaughter house it often can be and was balanced really well.
Sticky toffee pudding had dates with no stones, vanilla ice creamed with Tahitian vanilla and a lovely, sticky toffee sauce. No issues with this at all and another pleasing dish to add to the proceedings. Nettle granita with nettle oil and nettle biscuit, goats curd pannacota granola and fresh lemon had a visual and lovely scent across the whole table and I was pleasantly surprised at this dish as well – I have had some poor experiences of nettle being attempted but this was actually quite refreshing. Finally, the old favourite of tiramasui coffee and cake purée, vanilla mayonnaise, sweet masala wine gel, frozen madcapane and masala wine sprayed on top with 100% Madagascan chocolate grated on top. There is not much that can be faulted on this except if you have a problem with deconstructed dishes – which I don’t in anyway if it produces the flavour goods and this most certainly does. It was a wonderful finish to the meal, with all parts of this dish coming together well and in a fun and innovative way.
To sum up, there were very few moments of this meal that didn’t strike a memorable chord and the bottom line here is that right now, I simply can’t see any other appropriate tier for this restaurant to sit in other than 2 Michelin star level based on the handling of the ingredients, creative combinations and balance. Price is also an interesting factor which, is interesting to see – this was an absolute steal for this level of quality when comparing to the $1,200 price tag I had for just one dinner (for 2) with very modest wine at The French Laundry…and the £350 here will give an abundance of good wines on top of the tasting menu and a lovely room at Ynyshir as well! Powys is a little easier to get to than you might think – if you’re coming from London, a quick change in Birmingham, a bottle of fizz and a laptop or tablet with a film loaded on and you are there, so this was actually better than driving as I did last time.
I was fairly sure this was a great venue within the UK when I visited last year; I’m now convinced and know it is above that from this second visit and rarely does a menu with so many courses have so many genuinely decent moments – very difficult to pull this off which proved to be possible here. A lovely food & weekend escape in all ways – thank you, Ynyshir for another belter!
Food Grade: 93%
This was one of the highlights of the year so far without a shadow of doubt. I say this because not only did it include some wonderful and carefully created dishes, but rarely do I see it being provided by a team that all seem to click, get on with each other and have a sense of enjoying themselves in the process so much (the bonus of keeping the covers to staff at such a good ratio). Each dish was brought out by a member of the kitchen providing superb detail about the dishes in a calm manner (a far cry from places that wish to explain the dish in the quickest and most unintelligible manner). The set lunch menu worked out as 12 courses / elements in total for £46 which is almost unheard of, especially for a restaurant with 1 Michelin star and most certainly one of the best adverts to come back I have experienced in any establishment in the UK. This was a meal where I knew pretty early on I would be coming back as there is serious potential within this place, tucked away in mid-west Wales.
As a welcome to the table, a Birch tree had been ‘tapped’, enabling sap to pour out and be collected. This was allowed to ferment slightly, kicked off by adding a dash of sugar and then with rasins added resulting in a refreshing and sweet, fractionally carbonated welcome drink – a very nice touch an opener.
Miso onion and dashi with local sea vegetables from the beach two miles away were then brought in a bowl and I had an automatic love with the buttery feel of the dish (pretty impressive when no butter was used) and refreshing fragrances of the sea but without being too pungent. I seriously wanted more and more of this dish. The sour dough was made over 7 days of proving to increase the sour flavour, with fermented grains was deliberately charred on the crust but carefully made not to taste burnt. This had a lovely texture but in retrospect I personally would have opted for a crust that stretches more as opposed to being brittle, but the effort was plain to see. The cultured miso butter (made by adding yoghurt and putting in water bath for 4 days) then churning (beating to separate fats to gain consistency) was more the pleasure as was the wagyu dripping butter; the miso butter was itself on way to being cheese and had a complimentary sourness to the bread – overall a clever and a good combination.
The mackerel turned out to be wrapped in seaweed for 24 hours with rhubarb ketchup and pork fat shavings. This had sweetness from the ketchup with richness of fat and the crunch of the slices and was a very good dish. It was fresh, fatty and tangy all at the same time – utterly well done, with all components serving their function absolutely. Then came the duck liver with apple syrup and woodsorrell with spelt biscuit and smoked eel shavings on top – this was beautifully smooth, had the earthy overtone of woodsorrell, glorious crunch from the spelt and v good combo of the eel and liver.
Then came the Lamb rib: treated and rested for four days in total with shizo onion in vinegar with soy glaze and mint. This was undeniably a lovely play of sweet and acid with the most tender of lamb had in a LONG time. I could have have practically eaten the fat on its own and this was perhaps the nicest piece of lamb I think I have ever had, it was that good. Next time I come here I am going to simply destroy this rib in about 6 seconds.
Then another absolute belter of a lamb dish came(!) – mint kombucha (Asian tea left for a month which turns in to a vinegar) with roasted lamb and soy sauce. The lamb itself, prior to cooking, had been brushed with lamb fat for 2 days in order to lock in the moisture and the combination of the soy and the mint was frankly an outstanding combination. This was also a perfect example of using good fat and moisture with Asian influences without the need for dairy / butter.
The truffle and cultured butter tunworth cheese with maple and sour crumpet made me instantly happy. I usually find cheese on its own on a board with grapes or chutney a little boring frankly, so having a cheese course like this I thought put this in the same league as The Square when I visited there a few years ago – cheese to be made ultra interesting and wonderful to the taste as well. This was another corker – light vinegar was sprayed on for the final effect producing an absolutely instantaneous, lovely squidgy, rich, smokey combination. I literally couldn’t have been happier.
Beer was poured over lime gel with grated lime on top for the next course. The lime gel I found quite sour and with a hard crunch; it was nice to have balanced with yoghurt at the bottom but overall I found this a little too sour for my palate. Next up, white chocolate with black bean which was beautifully sweet, rich and with a savoury blend. Too much of any one of the components of this dish would have been a train wreck but together and in the portions they were, this was absolute harmony.
The nitro rhubarb with rhubarb gel was wonderfully sweet with a sharp twist and an enjoyable, light crunch in the mix as well. This was followed by a deconstructed tiramisu which was very nicely balanced, with good textures but the only aspect being a bit of a shock for the roof of ther mouth being so many nitro-frozen elements dominating the sesnations in the mouth. Flavour wise this was very nicely balanced for the coffee as well. Finally, a Fat Duck style nitro-poached white chocolate mousse with injected fennel emulsion was provided in the kitchen for a lovely finish.
This really was a superb meal and I instantly regretted having to do lunch as opposed to dinner (my other restaurant that day did not do lunch and meant having to do it this way round). As this ‘glimpse’ of a lunch was so impresssive in its own right, in my mind this is one of the discoveries of the past 12 months for me and of all the Michelin starred retaurants (1-3) in the UK, I haven’t been this keener to get back to one so much, since the likes of doing Midsummer House for the first time. This is an incredibly strong 1 Michelin starred restaurant which, based on the flavours alone, I would go back to before I would to at least eight of the 2 Michelin starred restaurants in the UK. I honestly cannot wait to get back here for the full, nine yards; it was a great meal and living proof why this is so enjyoyable to do. Thank you, the team at Ynyshir for making this what it was.
Food Grade: 89%
Location (Click google logo for directions)