Simon Wright on Wales' culinary delights
Food writer and broadcaster Simon Wright thinks Wales is one of Europe’s great culinary nations. So make sure you pack a pair of trousers with an elasticated waist and get ready to try some tasty Welsh food.
A flurry of festivals
If you had any doubt that there has been a food revolution going on in Wales, a visit to one of the many food festivals celebrating the nation’s larder will dispel your cynicism.
From the Mold Food Festival in the north east corner of the country to the Narberth Food Festival in the south west, the food map of Wales is lit up with events that are beacons for the nation's burgeoning food culture.
Abergavenny Food Festival, Vale of Usk
Artisan producers proudly bring their wares from far and near, chefs conjure up dishes determined to do justice to the majesty of the local produce, and the champions of good food debate the politics of what we eat and how we should produce it. Commander in Chief of these flag bearers for the forward march of Welsh food is the Abergavenny Food Festival held over a September weekend each year, turning the town into a Mecca for food lovers from all over the UK and beyond.
Easy going eating out
Let’s get one thing out of the way – the idea that Michelin Stars are somehow a barometer of the nation’s culinary health is a rather large and overcooked red herring. Over the past few years the number awarded in Wales has waxed and waned but as someone who has an overdeveloped interest in these things I can say with some conviction that your chances of eating out well in Wales have never been better.
It’s not just about posh restaurants. To be honest, it’s rarely about posh restaurants in Wales. Much of the best cooking in the country is to be found in relatively informal environments that concentrate on the honest cooking of top-notch local ingredients, with service that is welcoming but unstuffy.
Tyddyn Llan Country House, Llandrillo, North Wales
But that’s not to say we don’t have talented chefs here. Take the supremely talented Stephen Terry at his pub restaurant The Hardwick just outside Abergavenny, the legendary Shaun Hill at the equally renowned Walnut Tree also near Abergavenny, or Bryan Webb at Tyddyn Llan in Llandrillo. These are all chefs that are talked of as amongst the best in the UK.
There are many more outstanding restaurants of a similar ilk that could appear on the itinerary of any food-loving visitor to Wales. But that would still be only part of the picture. Also on the list could be a wealth of less lionised places, where the food may be simpler but is none the less delicious. Might I tempt you with proper Welsh Rarebit at Cafe Florence in Denbighshire, amazing tapas with a Welsh accent at Ultracomida in Narberth (and Aberystwyth), or dressed freshly landed local crab at the Quayside Tearoom in Lawrenny? These are just a few examples of the irresistible, unpretentious food that typifies the best of eating out in Wales.
Ultracomida, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion
And there I rest my case, confident that you’ll come to Wales and return with memories of delicious things eaten and a bag full of irresistible goodies to restock the larder. Just like anywhere in the world you’ll need to do your research if you want to hit the culinary high notes - but that’s part of the fun. If you love good food, then you’ll love Wales. That’s a promise.