Chicken Katsu – Ynyshir, Powys
Ingredient led, flavour driven, fat fuelled, meat obsessed is the mantra at Ynyshir, the mid-Wales restaurant with rooms where chef Gareth Ward’s bold-flavoured, Asian-influenced cooking has been recognised with a Michelin star and a ranking of 4th best in the UK in the Good Food Guide.
Their tasting menu features over 20 dishes, many of which are cooked over charcoal. Arguably the standout is a chicken katsu skewer. Chicken leg and compressed chicken skin are coated in a sticky roast chicken glaze and crisp panko crumbs and drizzled with curry-twanged katsu ketchup.
Torgelly farm lamb - Hare and Hounds, Aberthin, Vale of Glamorgan
If there’s an advert for quality seasonal Welsh produce then the Torgelly farm lamb served at this Vale of Glamorgan country pub, the Hare and Hounds is it.
Grass-fed lamb, sourced from just a couple of miles down the road, is served as a blushing pink chop and slow-cooked shoulder. Accompaniments change with the season and include butternut squash and chargrilled spring onion or asparagus and wild garlic puree. One ever-present feature is the richness-balancing homemade mint sauce.
Lobster Roll - Pembrokeshire Beach Food Company, Pembrokeshire
Cafe Môr’s ('Môr' means 'sea' in Welsh) wood-panelled and life-buoy-festooned street food shack can be found at Pembrokeshire’s Freshwater West beach from Easter to September. Unsurprisingly, their menu focuses on locally sourced fish, shellfish and foraged seaweed. The lobster rolls are famous for good reason - half a sweet and tender Pembrokeshire lobster is enrobed in savoury laverbread butter and stuffed into a lightly toasted roll.
St Louis spare ribs - Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, Vale of Glamorgan
Low and slow American-style barbecue is served at this charming restaurant, Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, a 19th Century pump house in the seaside town of Barry.
Memphis style ribs are my pick of the menu but there are no duff dishes to be found here. Tender, meaty, smoke-licked ribs are coated in a deep-flavoured dry rub and accompanied by home-made sauces (try the South Carolina mustard sauce), pickles and fries.
Pork belly cubano - Wright’s Food Emporium, Carmarthenshire
Wright’s Food Emporium, in Llanarthne near the National Botanic Garden of Wales, is a shrine to the best Welsh produce. During the day it’s a cafe and delicatessen serving killer sandwiches, salads and freshly baked cakes while on weekend evenings it transforms into an internationally-influenced restaurant.
Wright’s pork belly cubano is a sandwich whose reputation precedes it. Soft and crusty home-baked ciabatta is stuffed with golden pork belly, thick cut ham, cheese, warming sriracha mayo and richness busting jalapenos and gherkins. It’s an absolute beauty.
Chicken bits kebab - Dark by Dusty Knuckle, Cardiff
Dusty Knuckle is a dark and brooding tiny restaurant in Cardiff’s Castle Arcade that puts offal and other lesser used cuts of meat centre stage. It all sounds a bit intimidating but you’re in safe hands with Phill Lewis who creates flavour-packed dishes using his graffiti emblazoned pizza oven.
A chicken bits kebab is a particular highlight. A wood-fired flatbread is laden with tons of crisp, tender and juicy dark chicken meat, compellingly savoury teriyaki sauce, silky and nutty sesame aioli, huge flavoured spicy kimchi, shredded salad and a vibrant green herb sauce.
Crab linguine - The Hardwick, Abergavenny
Located in Wales’ gastronomic heartland of Abergavenny, the Hardwick’s generous, technically accomplished yet down-to-earth food is cooked by chef-owner Stephen Terry, who trained under the legends Marco Pierre White & Michel Roux Jr.
Time and time again I order the crab linguine, an intensely comforting combination of pasta topped with crab, shrimp, courgette, radicchio, anchovy, warming chilli and the crunch of toasted breadcrumbs.
Afternoon tea - The Angel Hotel, Abergavenny
The afternoon tea at this classy Abergavenny hotel, The Angel Hotel, which was once named the best in the UK in the tea industry’s equivalent of the Oscars. Overflowing tiered stands of freshly baked quiches, sausage rolls, cakes, choux buns, custard slices, sandwiches, meringues and more are washed down with the perfect cup of loose leaf tea.
Chip butty - Pete’s Eats, Llanberis
Wales’ most famous walkers’ cafe, Pete's Eats, can be found in the village of Llanberis at the foot of Mount Snowdon. Crowds of intrepid explorers line their stomachs with hearty home-cooked food before or after climbing Wales’ highest mountain. Pete’s chip butties see golden hand-cut chips piled between buttered thick white sliced bread. I recommend washing one down with a pint of tea and following it up with a date slice.
North Pole - Joe’s Ice Cream, Swansea
Munching on an ice cream while strolling by the seaside; if there’s a more idyllic match then I’m yet to find it. Joe’s Ice Cream, in the swanky Mumbles area of Swansea, has been serving their uber-creamy Welsh-Italian ice cream since 1922. While Joe’s serve a range of flavours, you really must order the vanilla ice cream which is churned on site fresh daily. A signature North Pole comprises of vanilla ice cream sandwiched between wafers and topped with sauce (I’m a fan of the strawberry marshmallow), sprinkles and chopped nuts.