Personally, I have always sought the sea as a source of comfort. From the distinctive smell of the salty air, and the soothing sound of the waves breaking on the beach…to its ability to reflect any mood in its appearance; I could quite happily while away the hours staring out into its great expanse.
Therefore, if someone were to ask me to write a list of my favourite places in Wales, then I can safely say the Gower Peninsula would feature well within the Top 5. Renowned for its breath-taking coastline, it is home to a number of beaches, including the beautiful Oxwich Bay.
Yet this is a bay with a difference; as located on the edge of its golden sands stands ‘The Beach House’. The epitome of a ‘destination restaurant’, it has recently been named the AA Restaurant of the Year in Wales 2017-18.
Opened in 2015, alongside its recent recognition, the restaurant also holds 2 AA Rosettes and currently features in both The Good Food and Michelin Guides 2018. At its helm is Head Chef Hywel Griffiths, whose Welsh heritage and passion for celebrating the best in fresh, local produce combined with nods to Asian cuisine, is clearly reflected in the varied menus.
With the sea air building up an appetite, and it being lunch-time, the initial plan was to opt for the 5 course tasting menu (£55 per person). However, with additions such as crab, lamb and soufflé on the 8 course menu (£75 per person), irrelevant of any financial justification I tried to come up with, there was only ever going to be one winner. Although, with essentially just a single ingredient describing the dish (bar the first and final course, which were somewhat self explanatory), to all intents and purpose it is a blind menu – leaving you to imagine the culinary journey Chef Hywel’s creativity would take you on.
While a wine flight is offered with both the tasting menus at £40 and £50 per person respectively; The Beach House also has a comprehensive wine list and an extensive cocktail menu (one to explore next time!). At the recommendation of the knowledgeable front of house team we opt for the Chilean Carmen, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, 2015 . A crisp and refreshing wine, the citrus flavours pairs well with the dishes in the menu.
I will say The Beach House is a beautiful restaurant, with a spacious and well-lit interior. The coastal palette of subtle hues of grey and blue create a relaxing dining environment, while the stunning sea views and well positioned mirrors in the window recesses, create the impression of being immersed in the natural landscape. Needless to say if you prefer dining alfresco, there are also tables outside allowing you to get ‘up close and personal’ with nature, and soak up the Welsh sunshine (maybe take a coat in November).
Prior to heading onto the first of eight courses, an amuse bouche of parmesan sablé biscuits provides a bite-size sandwich ‘of sorts’, filled with fresh crab meat and chive. Topped with three dots of yuzu, while the citrus flavour of the sour Japanese fruit is a touch overpowering on my palate, the biscuits are a tasty introduction to the dishes that follow.
You know you are in for a treat, and most definitely on to a winner, when the bread offering gets delivered, and fits neatly, into a wooden box. A warm and crusty hand-made loaf with a Welsh laverbread core is accompanied with a quenelle of salted butter. It seeks to prove my hypothesis that the quality of the bread offering, is a reflection of the quality of the dishes about to be received.
With a menu description of leek and potato soup, the sophisticated espresso cup that arrives as the first course, is a world away from the carton version I’m used to. Served warm, the creamy leek velouté with potato espuma is full of flavour, while the light fish stock adds an extra dimension to the laverbread.
When the menu simply states ‘salmon’ as the primary ingredient, you really can let your imagination run wild as to the dish you are about to receive. However, I can assure you I would not have guessed that this plate would arrive in front of me. A sautéed loin of salmon accompanied with a peppery horseradish cream, a thin disc of pickled bitter kohlrabi, and garnished with sweet apple produces a delicious combination of flavours,
A beautifully cooked fillet of cod, topped with cockles and sultanas, sits on a delicately spiced curry sauce accompanied by a floret of cauliflower. A visually attractive dish, it reminds me of the combinations you would find in a coronation sauce, but with the level of refinement you would find in a Michelin Star establishment. Providing an assault on the senses. the balance of Indian spices, saltiness from the fish and cockles, and sweetness of the sultanas is nothing short of divine.
A meat course presents as a perfectly cooked piece of Ty Siriol pork belly, complemented with black pudding, a pineapple chunk, pineapple sauce and pork gravy. A true ‘marriage’ of ingredients, the combination of sweet and savoury produce, makes for an innovative and inspired dish. However, I will say I would have given the crisp element a slightly wider berth; aside from texture, unfortunately it doesn’t really bring anything to the dish, except a potential visit to the dentist due to its stickiness.
Essentially lamb, mint sauce and mash, this is by far the tastiest take on these ingredients I have had the pleasure to experience. A sixth course of tender, pink and perfectly cooked salted lamb shoulder arrives with the creamiest of buttery mash, nutty girolle mushrooms, a fennel purée, charred fennel, a lamb and mint gravy, and not forgetting the carrot (if all else fails in food blogging, I feel like a job as the voice-over for MasterChef is certainly on the cards). The fennel purée and sticky gravy from the meat juices are addictive, and pull the whole dish together in one delicious, and visually stunning, plate of food.
The tasting menu concludes with two sweet courses – a pre-dessert of Douglas fir ice cream with cranberry jelly and garnished with orange zest, encapsulates the aromas of Yuletide in a pudding. Surprisingly light and refreshing, I imagine that it would inspire even the most bah humbug of individuals, to crank up the volume on Wizzard and dance around the Christmas tree like a deranged elf!
The final course produces an innovative take on a classic dessert, with a Bara brith soufflé accompanied with a single spoonful of Lapsang souchong tea ice cream. Perfectly risen and light, if you were looking for a pudding that could capture the essence of the season, this is it. With the aromatic cinnamon combining with the spiced smokiness provided by the ice cream, I simply couldn’t imagine a better way to conclude such a memorable dining experience.
AA Restaurant of the Year, Wales 2017-2018
- As I mentioned, The Beach House is the epitome of a destination restaurant- with magnificent coastal views and situated on the golden sands of Oxwich Bay- it is a simply stunning location.
- Great customer service from a warm, professional and knowledgeable front of house team, who are passionate about the experience that their guests receive.
- Championing local produce, the dishes are inspiring, with a number of the ingredients such as kohlrabi, ginger, fennel and choy sum having significant health benefits.
Would I go again?
Try and stop me! I have already recommended it to relatives, so a repeat visit is certainly on the cards in the future.
Would I recommend The Beach House at Oxwich Bay?
While I will say The Beach House could be considered to be on the slightly more expensive side of things, in terms of the overall dining experience, evident standard of cookery and quality of the produce used, I believe that it is worth the price tag. Aside from the two tasters, there is also a lunch and à la carte menu to select from, however I would personally recommend the tasting menu for a true culinary journey of exploration into Chef Hywel Griffith’s imagination.
I can honestly say that a trip to the seaside has never tasted so good!
Address | Oxwich Beach, Gower, Swansea SA3 1LS
Web | beachhouseoxwich.co.uk