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.

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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.

Rarebits rooms with a view

Welsh Rarebits hotels take the idea of a good view to a new level. Admire panoramic sea views, National Park sights and glorious gardens scenes – they will keep you pinned to the window of your room for minutes on end.

Harbourmaster, Aberaeron

You’ll be spoilt for choice at the Harbormaster – most rooms come with spectacular views of the beautiful Aberaeron harbour or look out over Cardigan Bay – the sunsets here are unmissable!

Penmaenuchaf Hall, Dolgellau

Located within the Snowdonia National Park and overlooking the beautiful Mawddach Estuary, it’s hard to find a room without a fantastic view.

The Falcondale, Lampeter

Wake up to lush valley views – scenic rooms are situated at the front of the building and overlook the beautiful garden and well-kept lawns.

Llansantffraed Court, Abergavenny

Indulge with breakfast in bed while taking in this scene – admire the hotel’s 20 acres of manicured grounds (complete with trout lake) and beyond to unspoilt rural Monmouthshire.

Porth Tocyn Country House Hotel, Abersoch

The hotel sits on a bluff high above the southern coast of the Llŷn Peninsula, commanding a stunning panorama that seems to take in most of North Wales – on a clear day you can see along the peninsula all the way to the top of Snowdon.

Gwesty Cymru, Aberystwyth

Located on Aberystwyth’s Victorian promenade, overlooking the blue waters of Cardigan Bay – most of the hotel’s rooms boast spectacular sea views.

Gliffaes Country House Hotel, Crickhowell

Set in a beautiful location, in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Views of the gorgeous surroundings are sure to leave you feeling calm and well rested.

Twr y Felin, St David’s

Tyddewi is the best room in house, located in the Windmill Tower. This two story suite has a spiral staircase leading you to the original observatory located on the highest floor of the hotel, which boasts spectacular 360 degree views of the St Davids Peninsula.

Warpool Court Hotel, St David’s

The hotel is situated in a magical spot overlooking one of Britain’s loveliest stretches of coastline – many of its bedrooms come with glorious sea views, soak up the views in the Skomer Room (above).

St Brides Spa Hotel, Saundersfoot

Most of the individually styled bedrooms have lovely sea views and balconies. Their decor is bright and contemporary, echoing the maritime scene outside.

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:

 

Plan your Welsh summer holiday now with our favourite staycation destinations

With summer just around the corner there’s no better time to start planning your Welsh summer holiday. From long walks in the Brecon Beacons to relaxing road trips along the Welsh coast, we have listed some of our favourite staycation destinations to give you the inspiration to plan your perfect Welsh holiday.

 

Brecon Beacons

If you want to get away from the rush of everyday life then the Brecon Beacons is ideal. Great for nature lovers, adventure seekers and those just after a detox, the Brecon Beacon national park provides the perfect backdrop for a fresh, revitalising summer holiday.

Situated in the heart of the Beacons with amazing views of the peaks, the Peterstone Court is only a stones-throw away from some great activities such as golf, fishing, mountain biking and more, not to mention the vast array of hiking trails available. If you’d rather take a more relaxing approach then the hotel houses a top quality spa offering only organic products. There’s also a Jacuzzi, sauna and a wide range of treatments and therapies.

 

Pembrokeshire Coast

Forget the Caribbean, Wales is home to some of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe, with Pembrokeshire home to some of the top spots. For thrill-seekers there are plenty of water-sports available, while the sandy beaches are great for a romantic stroll or a family outing.

There are many great places to stay on the Welsh coast, however in order to get the most out of a coastal holiday in Pembrokeshire we recommend staying at the Warpool Court Hotel. Overlooking one of Britain’s most attractive stretches of coastline, this hotel not only gives you access to the coast in a matter of minutes but also puts you at the centre of Wales’ Celtic heritage such as the St David’s Cathedral, the holy well and many other ancient sites. Not surprisingly, the Warpool Court Hotel has some amazing cuisine with fish being a speciality. We also recommend going on a few coastal walks when visiting the Pembrokeshire coast; a guide on the best trails can be found here.

 

Penarth

With the buzz of Cardiff’s city centre on its doorstep, Penarth offers the perks of a city break with the benefits of relaxing sea views, allowing you to sit back and put your feet up. There’s plenty to do around Penarth including multiple boat tours around Cardiff Bay, a visit to the Cosmeston Medieval Village and for those wanting to make a splash there’s the Cardiff International White Water centre. On top of all this, Cardiff’s St David’s shopping centre offers some of the best retail outlets around.

The Holm House based in Penarth has a beautiful sea view and is only a short drive or bus ride away from Cardiff. With its state-of-the-art spa and eclectic personality, this hotel residing on Penarth’s ‘Millionaires’ Row’ is definitely one to check out.