At some point during yet another day sitting at his office computer in Swindon, Jonathan Williams’ mind would inevitably drift to his Pembrokeshire home and the sea and beaches he longed for. One night, reflecting on the things that really meant something to him in life – the sea, great food, being creative - he conceived a plan to start a mobile kitchen serving up the produce of the Pembrokeshire coast. The next day he told his boss he was going part-time and thus was born the beginnings of his company which now boasts a multi-award-winning streetfood offering: a range of beautifully branded seaweed-based deli products and a glorious seafood shack located on the wild shore of one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. It seems that the idea had been simmering since childhood though.
'My Grandad is Greek so we had that whole thing of going to Greece and the tavernas with the seafood over there. In Pembrokeshire when I was growing up I used to go and collect cockles and laver seaweed with my Nan and I’d wonder where are all the fantastic seafood restaurants I saw in Greece. Why were there not any in Wales?'
In Pembrokeshire when I was growing up I used to go and collect cockles and laver seaweed with my Nan and I’d wonder where are all the fantastic seafood restaurants I saw in Greece. Why were there not any in Wales?"
It’s well known that in recent decades much of the Welsh shellfish catch finds its way to other countries in Europe. The quantities are not insignificant – there’s enough shellfish brought in off the Welsh coast to supply the whole UK market three times over. Jonathan champions its quality... 'The best lobster, the best crab and it was all going to the continent and I was thinking, some of it should be staying here and I should be eating some of it.'
The first small step in helping to change that was a Saturday seafood stall Jonathan started in 2010. The following year he was booking his mobile outfit into festivals and then came the wonderful Café Môr, partly constructed from driftwood, fired by wind and solar power and situated in the car park alongside the almost endless golden sands of Freshwater West. 'That was my dream location. I just kind of begged the National Trust to give it to me – genuinely begged.'
That was my dream location. I just kind of begged the National Trust to give it to me – genuinely begged."
Between Café Môr and the festivals summers were flat out. 'When we first started, I just liked taking it easy in the winter because the summers were so mad and then I got itchy feet and that’s how we started the deli range. All that’s just come from the shack.' That range with the likes of Welsh Seaweed Butter, Welshman’s Caviar (seaweed flakes), Mermaid Confetti (seaweed and salt blend) and Sea Herbs can now be found in delis across Wales and well beyond.
'Wales is just phenomenal. When I first started everything was looking up to London for the streetfood stuff, which is still great but it’s kind of surface deep up there - they have the money, they can buy all the contraptions in the world. The people down here are living on the farms, breeding the pigs, feeding them in the morning, seeing the whole of the food chain – not just buying it in the market. It’s deeper richer and better.'
And so that was that – the Wiltshire dream became a Welsh reality.