Visit: 29 August 2023, dinner for two
Award: 2 Michelin Stars, five AA rosettes
Ynyshir is a two Michelin starred restaurant with rooms located in the Welsh countryside near Machynlleth, run by chef patron Gareth Ward. Apart from the Michelin stars and AA rosettes, Ynyshir has been awarded a number of prestigious awards, including National Restaurant of the Year in The Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards, 2023, and #2 Most Exciting Restaurant in the Good Food Guide Awards, 2022.
The restaurant and hotel Ynyshir Hall had been around for some years, having had a Michelin star as far back as 2002 until 2011. After Gareth joined, Ynyshir regained the star in 2014. Then, in 2017 the restaurant was awarded five AA rosettes, the first restaurant in Wales to achieve this. A second Michelin star was awarded in 2022, again the first restaurant in Wales to achieve this. In June 2022 Ynyshir was placed as number 1 in the UK at the National Restaurant Awards.
Gareth and his team preserve seasonal ingredients and create Japanese inspired sauces and dressings that act as the perfect accompaniment to meat. The menu is all about protein, fat and flavour. Some of the meat is dry-aged at Ynyshir for up to 300 days in the underground salt cellar. This restaurant is not for vegetarians! The unique surprise menu consists of about 30 small courses that manage to blend high quality ingredients from Wales with those from around the world. They do not cater for any dietary requirements and do not offer substitutions for any of the dishes.
Dinner costs £375 per person and you can book dinner with a room from £520 per person. You pay the full amount when you book and this is non-refundable, although you can transfer the reservation to someone else. There is a wine list with a good selection from around the world, but there is no wine pairing, which is understandable with so many courses! There is also a selection of beers, ciders and spirits, and they are happy to make some classic cocktails if you prefer. There is a vending machine with alcohol and snacks available if you want them.
You are requested to arrive for dinner at 5pm. If you book a room, check-in is between 3-4pm. You should allow about 5 hours for the dining experience, and you should wear comfortable clothing.
The restaurant is only about five miles out of Machynlleth. Leaving the main road, you access the property via a single-track road. We arrived to check into our room and were escorted into the lounge for a drink while our bags were taken up to our room for us. The main building and interior are painted matt black. We had chosen a house room, which had a good-sized double bed, seating with lamb skins, exposed beams, coffee making facilities and a bathroom with walk-in shower. There are seven house bedrooms all located in the main building, and there are other rooms and tepees with hot tubs in the garden.
For dinner, we started with a drink in the lounge and were escorted to the desk in reception to view some of the luxury ingredients that would be used for our meal. These included Atlantic black cod (sablefish), Orkney scallop, local Dyfi crab and lobster, Spanish Carabinero red prawn, Silverhill Farm duck from Ireland, Welsh lamb, Hokkaido A5 wagyu, N25 caviar, Japanese wasabi, Australian black truffle, Tahitian vanilla, and superb Japanese blue fin tuna.
There were a lot of courses so here is a short explanation of each so that you have an idea of what you might expect if you book.
The first four courses were served in the lounge. We were shown the ingredients for our first course, “Not French Onion”, which was a chawanmushi (savoury custard) that included duck liver that had been cured in miso, with sourdough croutons, nori seaweed, spring onion, chives, spring onion oil, and an onion miso broth.
This was followed by two dishes using the Local Dyfi lobster. The first was tandoori and satay, which involved barbecued lobster claw, satay sauce, and caramelised peanuts. The second was with a nahm jim. The lobster tail, which had been frozen to -80 degC so it could be removed from its shell, was served tartare, with a nahm jim (Thai dipping sauce that is a combination of salty, sweet, spicy and sour), long mint (Thai coriander), and lobster oil.
Next were local Dyfi shrimp in a green curry. The raw shrimps from Aberdyfi, were served with Thai green sauce, braised aubergine sweated-off in the Thai green sauce, sugar snap peas and shallots.
We were then escorted into the dining room. It can seat 24 guests and most of the chairs are facing the action in the open kitchen. Service was top-drawer throughout the evening, and the waiters and chefs, who served some of the courses, were very helpful and friendly.
A Singapore chilli crab course used lightly barbecued Aberdyfi crab claw, chilli crab ketchup, and was served with a bun that had been steamed and then deep fried to give it a crisp outer shell.
A large Spanish Carabineros red prawn, from the Canary Islands, was served raw with preserved wild garlic, prawn head and soy sauce.
A superb, large Orkney scallop was lightly barbecued on one side and then cured in Wagyu A5 fat, and served with a sauce made from scallop and A5 fat. This was the only course of the evening that we did not enjoy. For my palate, the texture of the scallop with the fat gave it a slightly slimy consistency.
Japanese Hamachi (amberjack or yellowtail, similar to mackerel, and commonly used in sushi) was served in two ways. The first was with white soy, sesame, nori seaweed, and Japanese wasabi. Next, the Hamachi belly cut was served lightly barbecued on one side, as a teriyaki, with a coriander sauce.
Japanese blue fin tuna was served in two ways. First as an “un-rolled hand roll” which was a take on a sushi roll with sushi sticky rice on the bottom, blue fin tuna loin (the lean cut), nori seaweed powder, and Australian black truffle. Next, the Japanese blue fin tuna belly (the fatty rich cut) was served with olive juice, jalapeno, and a yoghurt sauce that cut through the fattiness of the fish.
The next courses were takes on finger food. Japanese Madai (Japanese red seabream) was shaped into a cylinder containing pickled Bramley apple and fresh Japanese wasabi, and dressed with Japanese tare sauce (a dipping sauce containing a range of ingredients including soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar).
A veal sweetbread was served as a posh chicken nugget. The sweetbread was buttermilk brined then deep fried in panko breadcrumbs, served with ranch dressing and N25 Kaluga caviar.
Next was a palate cleanser of duck liver ice cream served with Bramley apple, river bacon (smoked eel), and sorrel puffed spelt.
Silver Hill Farm duck comes from County Monaghan, Ireland. It was served in two ways. First, Chinese Peking style, slow cooked then fried to achieve the crispy skin, with hoisin sauce glaze, compressed cucumber, and spring onion. Next the duck leg and liver were served in a laab, which is a type of Lao meat salad that is the national dish of Laos, with fresh herbs, puffed rice and a sticky sushi rice.
Welsh lamb was served in two ways. First, as a spare rib cooked in a water bath, barbecued and served with a mint soy glaze, shiso onions and fresh mint. Then, barbecued Ryeland sheep neck (the sheep came from Monmouthshire), cooked on the barbecue from start to finish, as opposed to just being finished on the barbecue, was served with smoked cherry barbecue sauce, lamb fat soy sauce, and shichimi togarashi (a Japanese dry spice blend of chilli pepper, orange peel, black sesame and white sesame seed, Japanese pepper, ginger, and seaweed).
The dessert courses started with a white chocolate mousse with a black bean syrup and a black bean biscuit. Next was a take on apples and custard which consisted of Bramley apple, Bramley apple syrup, Tahitian vanilla egg custard, with miso cured duck liver on top. Then we had Medjool date cake, with Tahitian vanilla ice cream, and a red hatcho miso sauce (hatcho is pure fermented soybean miso, using just soybeans, water, and salt, and is extremely dark, thick, and strong). Finally, there was a Panama Geisha coffee tiramisu with coffee cake puree, mascarpone mousse, lady fingers and a Diplomatico rum gel.
There was an eclectic mix of vinyl records played on the twin decks throughout the meal, but we didn’t find the music obtrusive at all. Towards the end of the service the restaurant was filled with smoke, the strobe lights were switched on, and the resident DJ cranked up the music.
There was a tea and coffee menu, cigar menu, and a list of digestifs. We chose an excellent Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee from Wallenford estate, and enjoyed cigars outside, wrapped-up in large fur coats, sitting around a roaring Big Green Egg used as a fire pit. We also had chance to have a chat with Gareth who really is a very nice guy.
This was one of my most memorable dining experiences – luxury ingredients, imagination and innovation, superb cookery skills, and top-drawer service. A 30-course menu might sound daunting, but these were all small courses and we didn’t feel uncomfortably full after the meal.
Although we didn’t expect any breakfast, at 9am the following morning there was a knock on our bedroom door and we were handed a bag containing two Ynyshir egg and sausage MacMuffins, which were as good as you would expect!
I’m already planning my next visit!
The Disco Effect after the meal:
Desserts, coffees and cigars:
Gareth Ward is chef patron at Ynyshir. He hails from County Durham. Initially, he trialled at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, but soon moved to Hambleton Hall in Rutland, working for Aaron Patterson. After five years, Gareth moved to Michelin starred Seaham Hall working for Steve Smith.
After 12 months, Seaham Hall was bought out by Von Essen, which then went into administration. Gareth moved to Hart’s in Nottingham, the sister restaurant to Hambleton Hall, as head chef. After 18 months, Gareth moved to Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham, as sous chef. He was there for the next three years.
Gareth then moved to Ynyshir Hall, which was then a Relais Chateaux country house hotel, as Head Chef. He converted Ynyshir into a restaurant with rooms, developed a unique cooking style and won two Michelin stars. The rest is history!
The Restaurant and décor:
Ynyshir sausage and egg McMuffin breakfast: