Take A Foodie Tour of Wales

Llansantffraed Court chef, fine dining, restaurant

A hub of artisan producers, exciting restaurants and stunning boutique hotels, Wales is the perfect location for a foodie getaway.

There are few destinations that take the ‘eat local’ mantra more seriously than Wales. With stunning scenery, delicious food and a thriving restaurant scene, it’s fast becoming the location of choice for food lovers in the know.

The region has long since peeled off the ‘gastronomic desert’ label slapped onto it unfairly by critics who rarely ventured west of the Hammersmith flyover. In the sixties, it could even be argued that the esteemed Franco Taruschio – he of the famed Walnut Tree Inn at Abergavenny – was one of the first to popularise the concept of informal fine dining allied to the championing of fresh local produce.

So where’s the good food in Wales nowadays? And what are the trends that have seen Abergavenny become host to the best food and drink festival in the UK, and in the process acting as a barometer of the movement in Wales generally? One tried-and-tested introduction into Wales’s food scene is Welsh Rarebits, an exclusive collection of 36 hotels, membership of which is by invitation only.

When we say ‘hotels’ we don’t mean big, impersonal establishments and international brands. The vast majority of Rarebits are privately owned and run, and range from seaside hotels to country houses, historic inns to cool boutique boltholes, townhouses to restaurants with rooms. Since one of the criteria for membership is to be found in the kitchen, you can confidently expect to your chosen Rarebit to serve more than cheese on toast.

Restaurant James Sommerin, Penarth, Cardiff, Michelin Star

Here’s a whistle-stop tour of just a handful of Rarebits – a good cross-section to give you a flavour of what to expect.

At the gateway to Wales near Abergavenny stands Llansantffraed Court. Its owner, Mike Morgan, is well known in Wales for his passion for food – and it shows in his menus. Provenance and food miles are high on the agenda. “Luckily for us,” says Mike, “Monmouthshire is blessed with amazingly dedicated small producers.” Specialities include Welsh Black beef, organic pedigree Welsh mountain lamb and succulent Brecon venison.

It’s the same story at Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon, named Dining Pub of the Year – a country pub redefined and reinvented. Laid back and properly comfy, with nicely worn sofas, log fires and a cosy winter warmth the Scandinavians call hygge, it’s serious only when it comes to its food, which is on a different planet from typical pub grub. Great ingredients are sourced right on the doorstep (including their own kitchen garden), so expect daily and seasonal menus to feature Welsh beef and lamb, plus game from local estates.

Restaurant James Sommerin at Penarth is the creation of one of Wales’s Michelin-starred chefs. Ask anyone who knows anything about food in Wales and the name James Sommerin soon crops up. His track record as an inspired and uniquely talented chef speaks for itself.

SAMSUNG CSC

Seafood is another Welsh top-notch speciality – so much so that much of it ends up on plates in France and Spain as well as locally. Shellfish include crab, lobster, mussels, scallops and even oysters (not forgetting Penclawdd cockles sold fresh in Swansea Market, with – of course – dash of vinegar and pepper). There’s plenty of fish too – sea bass, hake, mackerel, turbot and sole to name but a few.

St Brides mussels

And since Pembrokeshire is defined by the sea it’s no surprise that Rarebits hotels here make the most of the local catch of the day – taste the freshness while soaking up the clifftop views from St Brides Spa Hotel at Saunderfoot on the south coast, or Newport’s Llys Meddyg in the north.

Glyn Roberts has been cooking up a storm at Castle Cottage, Harlech, for longer than he cares to remember. Not that he’s lacking any of his original passion for the profession. He’s a typical top-end chef – get him talking about his favourite subject (yes, you’ve guessed it) and you might be there until dawn peeks over the battlements of Glyn’s historic neighbour, Harlech Castle. His dishes are inventive but full of honest-to-goodness flavour, a testament to the integrity of the local produce.

On the Isle of Anglesey, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is the colourful town of Beaumaris. The Bull has a destination restaurant renowned for its modern cuisine and boasts 3 AA Rosettes.  It’s a 400 year old Inn complete with original beams as well as having a trendy boutique hotel next door, The Townhouse.

The Bull, Anglesey, North Wales, fine dining, food

And any foodie tour around Wales has to take in Tyddyn Llan near Bala, where Michelin-starred Bryan Webb attracts accolade after accolade with the regularity of a metronome for the skill and quality of his cooking – not to mention the overall dining experience presided over by his wife Susan.

You don’t even have to travel to Wales to sample its bountiful larder; we haven’t mentioned its artisan farmhouse cheeses yet, which even the French have been known to praise. Rarebits’ ethos of quality has been applied to Gourmet Wales, a mail-order scheme that brings the best of Welsh food and drink to your doorstep. A variety of hampers for all occasions are available. Treats include top-quality meats, fine pies, terrines, coracle-caught smoked sea trout, marmalades, jams, pickles and chutneys, Anglesey sea salt, honey, waffles, shortbread, oatcakes, chocolates and an eclectic choice of wines – not forgetting those artisan cheeses.

And the award goes to…

Welsh Rarebits and Great Little Places members came away from the AA Hospitality Awards 2017 with a clutch of accolades last night.

The prestigious event was held in London and was attended by world-renowned chefs, prominent hoteliers and restaurateurs, hospitality gurus and key media. The Awards are a highlight in the industry calendar and recognises the excellent service provided by the very best establishments.

Wales’ first contemporary art hotel, Twr y Felin Hotel, was awarded AA Hotel of the Year, Wales.

The stunning Mansion House received AA Guest Accommodation of the Year, Wales.

Bryn Tyrch Inn is one of our newest members and triumphed in the Pub of the Year (Wales) category.

Michelin Star Restaurant James Sommerin scooped a whopping 4 Rosettes at the Awards.

These achievements reflect our Collection’s high calibre of accommodation and fantastic hospitality provided by our members. Our congratulations go out to all the winners.

Where to picnic in Wales this summer

Wales offers an abundance of great places to picnic. From charming coastal spots, to magical woodlands, intimate walled gardens and rolling countryside, there’s no shortage of places to unpack your hamper…

Fairyhill by Oldwalls, Gower

‘Picnics on the Lawn’ at Fairyhill will be continuing throughout the summer months.  The picnic offering is inspired by their signature tea menu and costs £25 per person. They will pack your afternoon tea hamper up into a lovely picnic basket complete with traditional tartan blanket, so all you need to do is decide where to pitch up. Although with 24-acres of stunning grounds, enchanting woodland and glistening lakes to choose from, you’ll be spoiled for choice.

Elan Valley Trail, Powys

The Elan Valley is often referred to as the ‘Welsh lake district’ and boasts a spectacular trail – climb past three reservoirs in the heart of beautiful, mountainous Mid Wales and choose a picnic spot.

Barafundle Beach, Pembrokeshire

Golden sands backed by dunes and ringed by trees make this one of Pembrokeshire’s most beautiful beaches. Owned by the National Trust, the beach forms part of the South Pembrokeshire Heritage Coast and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

Llansantffraed Court Hotel, near Abergavenny

Unroll your picnic blanket and choose your perfect spot in the hotel’s 20 acres of manicured grounds, complete with trout lake. Why not enjoy a game of croquet afterwards?

Overlooking Laugharne Estuary

Sit and admire the view that inspired Welsh poet Dylan Thomas to write his legendary works. Pop into The Browns while you’re in the area for a refreshing drink or why not book a stay in advance?

The Great Orme, Llandudno

There is so much to see and do on the Great Orme, a true wonderland of nature and history. Visit the Orme’s amazing Bronze Age Copper Mines or explore the Iron Age Fort. Bring out your picnic hamper once at the Summit and take in those breathtaking views. We have a fantastic collection of accommodation nearby too – St George’s Hotel, Bodysgallen Hall & Spa, Sychnant Pass Country House, Escape, Plas Rhos and Ty Carthen.

Parc yr Hebog Cottages

A true hideaway and a perfect spot for a family holiday – make the most of the great outdoors and head down to the coast for some dolphin spotting. Or stay put and indulge in an al-fresco lunch and admire the glorious surroundings.

Plas Newydd House and Gardens

Enchanting mansion and gardens, with spectacular views of Snowdonia. A whole day of things to see and do. The gardens and landscape at Plas Newydd consist of 169 acres of woodland and parkland, including 40 acres of gardens. The Black Lion Inn is the perfect base after a busy day of exploring.

Can you recommend any more to add to the list?

A stay to remember at Twr y Felin

Twr y Felin Hotel, a former historic windmill, now has a very modern interior. It is Wales’ first contemporary art hotel and is filled with stunning specially commissioned art – there are bold and striking paintings to admire everywhere. Located in Britain’s smallest city, St David’s, the hotel is now home to 21 no-expense-spared rooms – most with views over the Pembrokeshire coast and landscape. All are furnished to the highest of standards, including ours which was Ramsey Room. Located in the eaves of the hotel on the 2nd floor with three windows, two of which have scenic views of the coastline.  Room facilities were fantastic too: super comfy super king-sized bed, bathrobes, slippers, aromatherapy toiletries, Sky TV, iPod docking station and tea and coffee making facilities. That evening we dined at the two Rosette Blas Restaurant, which has a locally sourced menu influenced by the seasons. We devoured all our courses – all beautifully presented and cooked to perfection. Breakfast the next morning was an absolute pleasure! There was a fantastic range to choose from. Every member of staff were friendly, helpful and offered fantastic customer service – we were well looked after.

Watch a film showcasing Twr y Felin Hotel here:

The next day we were taken on a tour of the exclusive group of hotels. The first stop was Penrhiw Hotel, a former priory transformed by high-end interior design – it’s luxurious bedrooms have a masculine, minimalist look with abstract art on the walls. Located in a peaceful spot above a wooded valley on the fringes of St David’s and just a 5 minute walk to the cathedral – it’s a perfect escape from rush and stress.

Watch a film showcasing Penrhiw Hotel here:

Finally we witnessed Roch Castle, a restored 800 year old Norman castle, now with stylish and contemporary features. The views were obscured with mist on our visit, but it added to the dramatic atmosphere. Perched high above the landscape with panoramic views across to St Brides Bay and inland across Pembrokeshire countryside. Boasting a cool and chic interior, yet remaining warm and welcoming – and should be on your list of places to stay!

Watch a film showcasing Roch Castle here:

 

Join our Rarebits EPIC Easter Egg Hunt across Wales!

Rarebits EPIC Easter. Hunt for a hidden Wickedly Welsh Chocolate Easter Egg at one of these EGGceptional properties to be in with a chance of winning an EGGciting prize! The Hunt itself starts on Saturday 8th of April - join in the fun!

The Easter bunny has been busy, dropping eggs along the way, follow the clues but you need to be wise, as they will lead you to your prize... Tucked away amongst the lawns and gardens of The Falcondale. EGGsplore the Italiante village of Portmeirion for that prize. Hop over to admire Llansantffraed Court's walled kitchen garden. Where in St George's Hotel will you find the brightly coloured egg? Bodnant Welsh Food Centre - is it in their shop, tea room or restaurant? Discover Cardigan Castle's past while hunting for the egg & prize. Crack on but take care whilst entering Fishguard Bay Resort. Why not dine and egg hunt at Felin Fach Griffin? Found the egg at The Stackpole Inn? Reward yourself with a drink. Where do you start searching at The Metropole Hotel & Spa and its 109 bedrooms? Forage for the egg in The Mulberry Inn's landscaped gardens. Be EGGstravagant at St Brides' state of the art Spa. Bunny hop over to Holm House in Penarth for your prize.   Did some-bunny hide an egg inside Penmaenuchaf Hall or in outside in their beautiful gardens? EGGspect breathtaking views at Lake Vyrnwy Hotel whilst hunting. Gold safeguards the egg at The Waun Wyllt Inn. Is it inside Gwesty Cymru? Or outside on the terrace with EGGceptional sea views.

A 2 night Bed & Breakfast break at a grand seaside hotel Spring afternoon teas An Easter Hamper Sunday lunches for a family of four 1 night dinner Bed & Breakfast for two to include a 7 course tasting menu with matched wine flight 'King & Gin' 2 night midweek break - worth £249 Afternoon tea for two and a 90 minute session in a thermal suite & hydrotherapy pool for 2 people Overnight stay to include a glass of sparkly with Welsh cream tea on arrival and many more!

The FalcondalePortmeirionSt George’s HotelBodnant Welsh FoodCardigan CastleFishguard Bay Resort, Felin Fach GriffinLlansantffraed CourtThe Stackpole InnThe Mulberry InnSt Brides Spa HotelHolm HousePenmaenuchaf HallLake Vyrnwy Hotel & SpaThe Waun WylltGwesty CymruThe Metropole Hotel & Spa