Over the past few months, I’ve enjoyed a Welsh food odyssey on a gastronomic grand tour of Wales. The reason I plumped for such a fabulous foodie jaunt is that a record-breaking nine restaurants won Michelin stars for Wales in 2022.

Four Welsh restaurants retained their previous accolades - Sosban and the Old Butchers, Beach House, The Whitebrook and The Walnut Tree. A further two Welsh restaurants – at Palé Hall, Llandderfel, and Chapters in Hay on Wye – secured Michelin ‘green’ stars, for their commitment to sustainability. And two brand new restaurants - SY23 in Aberystwyth and Home, Penarth – were awarded a Michelin star each, both having ‘launched’ during the Covid pandemic.

A red sign on an exterior wall with 'MICHELIN 2022' on.

The Whitebrook, Monmouth, South Wales

There was also Ynyshir’s elevation to the status of a ‘two star’ destination – the first time that’s ever happened in Wales. And the cherry on top of the Welsh cake was another Michelin win for SY23. Chef Nathan Davies and team were awarded one of the biggest titles of all; best new restaurant opening in the UK and Ireland for 2022.

My advice to you is to follow my lead, and book a whirlwind trip around Wales. Each restaurant has its own charm, and unique appeal.

Home, Penarth

If you’re close to Cardiff or the Vale of Glamorgan, give Home, Penarth a whirl. Nobody knows quite what to expect before ringing the restaurant’s doorbell. But once you’ve been welcomed through those luxury grey curtains, be prepared for an evening of high drama! For one thing, there is no ‘menu’, rather an eight course (£120) ‘surprise’ tasting menu full of Chef James and daughter Georgia’s Sommerin-style ‘Home’ comforts.

A hand opening a black curtain to reveal a restaurant interior.
A light brown leather covered menu with a circular wriggly design on the front.

Home by James Sommerin, Penarth, South Wales

Of course you may state your food preferences beforehand, but I rather enjoyed the rare thrill of anticipation. Die-hard Sommerin fans will be relieved to see the classic pea ravioli. And what these two can do with a savoury bread and butter pudding has to be seen to be believed.

Two egg shells filled with a sauce, in a straw filled bowl.
A chocolate dessert of two discs on a white plate, on a restaurant table.
A man and a woman stood in a professional kitchen.

Image 1: Cauliflower Aspuma, Chicken Skin, Burnt Onion canape. Image 2: Hot Chocolate Fondant & Strawberry and Lime Explosion. Image 3: James and Georgia Sommerin. Home by James Sommerin, Penarth, South Wales

The Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid

For more of a country bistro or classy ‘gastro-pub’ experience, book a table at The Walnut Tree in Llanddewi Skirrid near Abergavenny. At £45 for a three-course lunch, this is the best-priced Michelin experience in Wales.

Inside a restaurant with a large log burner as the focal point.
Exterior of a cream painted restaurant.

The Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid, South Wales

From the home-made bread, beef from Bwlch near Brecon, to the apple and Calvados pudding I savoured a feast of local treats and comforting autumnal flavours. Indeed, what left the most lasting impression was the simplest of seasonal starters; ceps and girolles on sourdough toast with a sprinkling of Welsh black truffle. Chef Shaun Hill’s classic menu is a Welsh national treasure. Don’t be surprised if it becomes a firm family favourite; a return visit is always a pleasure.

A plate of beef, roasted root vegetable, an egg and gravy.
An apple tart with ice cream.

Image 1: Fillet of beef with salt beef hash and fried quail egg. Image 2: Warm apple and Calvados tart. The Walnut Tree, Llanddewi Skirrid, South Wales

The Whitebrook, Wye Valley

If you’d prefer an ‘Into the Woods’-style fairy-tale experience, head for The Whitebrook, at the heart of the Wye Valley. Chef Chris Harrod is truly a wizard in the kitchen, casting spells with ‘forest findings’ and ‘forgotten flavours’. I adored the six-course tasting menu (£68) – which included meadowsweet-cured mackerel and the finest Wye Valley pork. But for the first time ever I found myself coveting the vegetarian menu. The radish-based dish, as well as the mugwort beets, looked absolutely stunning. Sign of the times, I wonder? Perhaps it’s not so surprising. Recently, The Whitebrook has focused its vision on elevating plant-based pleasures.

A breaded ball surrounded by duck meat and vegetables.
A long, narrow piece of fish with apple sauce, and decorated with flowers.
A piece of fish placed on a bed of roasted vegetables, drizzled with a green sauce.

Image 1: Duck Liver: Gooseberry, Duck Beignet, Chicory, Hazelnut. Image 2: Meadowsweet Cured Mackerel: Mackerel, Apple, Meadowsweet Pickle, Crisp Leaves. Image 3: Cornish Cod Cooked in Mugwort Butter: Heritage Courgettes, Onions, Rainbow Chard, Mugwort Sauce. The Whitebrook, Monmouth, South Wales

Chapters, Hay-on-Wye

Along the same lines, and further up the Wye, you’ll find Chapters has a similar ethos. Chef Mark Mchugo sings the praises of the finest local produce as well as hyper-seasonal flavours. The excellent evening menu (£52) offers a gastronomic tour of the literary hub of Hay-on-Wye.

An illustration of a river surrounded by various types of plants.
A small pile of salad on a drizzle of sauce.

Local forage map and BBQ Garden Beans with Courgette Chutney and Tomato Crisp. Chapters, Hay-on-Wye, Mid Wales

Much like Chez Panisse in Berkeley, it’s a hip, relaxed affair, drawing curious and mindful eaters from near and far. Begin with a glass of the hogweed and meadowsweet-infused house gin, and write a different winter’s tale for your supper. You’ll find words you may never have uttered before to describe the depth of Welsh winter flavours.

A wedge of cheese with thin crackers and a dollop of sauce.
A small cracker with balls of cheese on top.

Image 1: Caws Cenarth Caerffili, Burnt Apple, Seeded Crackers. Image 2: Carrot cracker, Finn Cheese, Rowan Jam. Chapters, Hay-on-Wye, Mid Wales

Beach House Oxwich

Talking of Welsh winter, consider the rising numbers of cold water swimmers; what they seek is is a bracing awakening of the senses and heady life-affirming experience. The culinary version of a refreshing outdoor dip is a trip to Beach House Oxwich. As a Michelin star destination, it really ticks all boxes. There’s that awe-inspiring journey to get there as well as that first lungful of fresh sea air; epic beach views and an incredible menu celebrating the best that the growers of Gower have to offer.

A wood-clad restaurant on a beach front with an outside terrace.

Beach House, Oxwich Beach, Swansea, West Wales

On top of it all, Chef Hywel Griffiths writes his own bilingual menu (£80-£110) for an authentic Welsh cultural experience. Between the laverbread bread and bara brith soufflé, you’re in for an epic immersion.

A sliced bread roll in a box, with a small pot of soup and a pot of butter on the side.
A large plate with a wrapped fish on a swirl of green and yellow sauces.
A restaurant table by a window looking out onto a beach.

Image 1: Laverbread Bread, Shir Gâr Butter with Gower Pumpkin Soup, Miso Roasted Mushroom, Pickled Beetroot, Mascarpone, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Pumpkin Oil.  Image 2: Lemon Sole, Nori, Smoked Paprika and Mussel Sauce, Coriander Oil, with Potato Chip and Caviar Image 3: Gower Salt Marsh Lamb: BBQ Loin, Swede, Spinach, Breast Ragu, Whipped Potato. Beach House, Oxwich Beach, Swansea, West Wales

Ynyshir, Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth

And speaking of epic immersions, how does one best prepare for a 30 course 2 Michelin star menu, I wonder? If we’re talking about ‘Ynyshir’, then the best advice I can give you is, quite simply, just go with it. Open your mind, expect the unexpected and enjoy a transcendental trip to remember.

A rusted 'Ynyshir' sign on a gate pillar, with a horned skull on top.
A firepit under an outdoor shelter, with seating around.

Ynyshir, Machynlleth, Mid Wales

The price, at £350 per person, is a full-on investment in a fabulous food pilgrimage The wildest raw ingredients sourced from all over Ceredigion embrace full-throttle Far Eastern flavours. The name is now so famous that it’s reached peak-Welshness, in terms of mis-pronounciation. Quite simply, ‘ynys hir’ means ‘long island’ in Welsh, far removed from the usual food endeavours. Chef Gareth Ward and team have flipped the narrative of how Wales is presented to the world. In culinary terms, it’s no longer ‘the middle of nowhere’; it’s at the centre of the food universe.

A hollowed out stone with prawn and wild garlic inside.
A wooden board with two small pieces of duck and sliced spring onions.
A small ceramic bowl with lobster and a sauce inside.

Image 1: Prawn – Wild Garlic. Image 2: Peking Duck Hoisin – Cucumber – Spring Onion. Image 3: Raw Lobster Tail – Nahm Jim. Ynyshir, Machynlleth, Mid Wales

Palé Hall, Llandderfel

From one Welsh ‘country manor’ to another, and a different experience altogether. On the surface, the Henry Robertson restaurant at Palé Hall near Bala positively screams ‘tradition’. Yet Chef Gareth Stevenson’s creations defiantly sing in a modern Welsh accent, providing your evening with a rather shocking dimension! Honestly, some of those flavours were enough to make me drop my napkin. Joking aside, only here did I utter words such as ‘sumptuous’ and ‘exquisite’; the food is quite simply outstanding.

A cream stone built country mansion in manicured grounds.
An ornate, pale green painted dining room with a huge curved bay window.

Palé Hall, Palé Estate, Llandderfel, Bala, North Wales

This is partly explained by the restaurant’s location; Palé Hall is surrounded by many of Wales’ finest food producers. From Cae Pant farm, Llandderfel and TJ Roberts butchers in Bala, to the Palé estate’s own orchard apples. This gastronomic celebration (£80-110) demands a standing ovation closely followed by the Welsh national anthem!

A scallop shell containing small scallops, apple and raisins.
A dessert of sorbet, berries and apples.
A pale gin cocktail on a side table, in front of a fire full of large candles.

Image 1: Scallop Tartare, Cauliflower, Granny Smith, Raisins. Image 2: Bramble Leaf Espuma, Burnt Palé Orchard Sorbet, Apple Gastrique, Blackberries. Image 3: Cocktail: Palé White Lady (Blue Slate Gin, Cointreau, Lemon Juice, Syrup). Palé Hall, Llandderfel, Bala, North Wales

Sosban and the Old Butchers, Menai Bridge

Onwards! To the isle of Anglesey, and Chef Stephen Stevens’ ideas factory, Sosban and the Old Butchers. When I visited last the artist was hidden behind the ‘pass’; he now conducts his ingredients from the dining room. To view a chef grating, pureeing, blow-torching, perfecting is truly a sight to see! It’s true, it’s not ‘food’ as we usually consume, but we are talking Michelin-grade cuisine. It actually makes you consider what an award-winning chef has to offer. A vision, an ambition, the act of creation – this is food as art, and it really is exciting to see. All dishes on the tasting menu (£175) were extraordinary. My favourite? Local lamb’s tail with mussel custard, paired with coffee and broccoli. Outrageous! And yet, OMG...

A chef preparing food in a kitchen area inside a restaurant.
A ball of sorbet on top of vegetables and sprinkled with greenery.
A plate with a breaded fish on.

Image 1: Preparing food. Image 2: Celeriac Sorbet, Whipped Buttermilk, Apple. Image 3: Cod Crackling, Curried Banana, Rock Samphire, Soured Peanut. Sosban and the Old Butchers, Menai Bridge, Anglesey, North Wales

This is a continuous conversation with producers with generations of expertise. It’s a creative collaboration with, and a deep love of, land and sea. It’s an acceptance and understanding of where you choose to live and breathe. It’s a confident recognition that local food that grows in season is ‘y gorau yn y byd!’ – the very best there really is. It’s finally a gift to diners that you hope they will embrace. For many, it’ll last forever as a wonderful memory of Wales.

Related stories