A Letter of Declaration
I was always taught that ‘patience is a virtue’. As it turns out, a countdown of 110 days is no mean feat. 110 days of anticipation; 110 days of being continually plagued with social media posts that tease and reinforce your desire (for a dish). And now, I finally find myself standing here…
The idyllic view alone is enough to warrant the 230 mile round trip (sheep-avoidance tactics aside); the reward – the epitome of a destination restaurant nestled in the Welsh countryside. Yet the magnificent facade that greets, does not entirely prepare for what lies underneath. In this instance, I judge by the cover. I should have learnt by now.
There are not many venues I walk into, and instantaneously feel at home – least of all a restaurant. Ynyshir is a place that I could have known all of my life; a place that I could whisper my deepest, darkest secrets into its teal walls, and it wouldn’t judge. Background vocals, courtesy of a Cypress Hill LP, remind me of a long forgotten youth. While any perception of Michelin-star pretension, can be left at the door…preferably the one that discloses this restaurant’s true intentions;
“Ingredient Led. Flavour Driven. Fat Fuelled. Meat Obsessed”.
An expertly prepared pre-feast gin cocktail loosens my tongue and leaves it unravelled across the table, as I glance at the 14 course tasting menu (challenge) that has been set. Single ingredients seduce; while much is left to the imagination. Uniquely, the team are introduced before even having the pleasure of meeting them.
NFOS. No Fear of Starving? As it turns out ‘Not French Onion Soup’ spectacularly opens the four hour culinary ‘showcase’, with a punch of miso onion purée, cubes of tofu and shiso-pickled vegetables in a dashi stock. Pick your ‘weapon of choice’ from the tool roll; a spoon being the ideal candidate, placing your head in the Holy Grail of bowls, being the second. Indiana Jones, and his quest to find the Last Crusade has nothing on this locally produced crockery.
At this point I must apologise, after all I seem to be getting ahead of myself – this is after all the first course. Did I happen to mention that it was divine? Should I imply that it is very much a taste of things to come? Single ingredients that assault the senses. Mouthfuls that leave you craving more.
Not French Onion Soup (NFOS)
If we’re going to play games – preparation appears to be very much the name of this one. An Aylesbury duck leg brined in sugar salt and fire spice has been cooked sous-vide for 12 hours and fried. Crispy with sesame oil, spring onion and a black glaze, one is not enough. I’m usually ‘relatively’ low maintenance, but not on this occasion. I want more.
The seven day proved sourdough begs to be slathered in the accompanying miso butter and whipped aged Welsh Wagyu beef fat. While three slices of marinated char sui pork belly remind me that ‘practice does make perfect’; albeit that even after two years of working on the recipe, it ‘apparently’ could still be better…
I could pout over the presence of only one fish course on today’s menu, but I won’t. Quite frankly, if you were looking to win me over, this is the dish to do it. The gin must have taken effect, I’m not sure who is blushing more – myself, or the soft, silk-like flesh of the Himalayan salt cured mackerel courteously chaperoned by a rhubarb ketchup, and topped with raw rhubarb and grated lardo. It’s a rich, heady combination of fatty, salty tartness, that leaves me under no illusion…I’m falling fast.
At this point, I develop the inability to dine without a grin plastered permanently across my face. There is nowhere to hide with these dishes. And with the anticipation of each plate, I certainly have no inclination to take any form of refuge from the bold flavours. But it is almost too much to bear, when course after course comes with such an affectionate and animated explanation from the eager team.
Presenting as a mousse, duck liver has been aged for three weeks and comes accompanied with fresh apple, wood sorrel and toasted spelt. A carefully considered comparison of the dish, and the consensus of the table sees it being renamed as the “love child of a Frazzle”.
The dish that follows of Cornish crab in seaweed stock with puffed rice, coriander and infused in a katsu curry ketchup, continues the elevated comfort food theme. For as I sit here, the only words that manage to escape are “it’s chip shop curry”. Congratulations, you’ve rendered me speechless; an achievement that a few others in life would have been pleased to accomplish. It is, however a bowl that simply keeps on giving; warming, homely – essentially a ‘pimped up’ Saturday night takeaway without limits.
An enviably emerald green slice of compressed pickled cucumber blankets a third dish of duck that has been lovingly aged in the meat chamber, rolled over the BBQ and smothered in hoisin sauce. What culinary wizardry is this that produces a plate of such deep, dark, meaty stickiness? There’s no place like home? There’s no place like here.
Which brings me to the final savoury courses – are you the wagyu I’ve been waiting for? The clock on the pass would appear to agree. Bold flavours arrive in two formats; a glorious mouthful of three month aged wagyu burger, with fermented lettuce and burnt red mayonnaise. And a Welsh wagyu beef rib, which has been brined for four days and cooked for three, roasted in soy and accompanied with wild rice and sea lettuce harvested a mere mile away. I’ll readily admit that the legality of serving dishes this good, should be raised as a matter of urgency.
Welsh Wagyu Burger
Welsh Wagyu Beef Rib
At this point the proposition of an optional cheese course appears to be the best I have had this year. After all, it is only the 19th day of 2019. On this occasion I decline, in favour of leaving space for sweeter ingredients, yet instantly face regret based on the silence that descends with the arrival, and rapid consumption of the Nottingham blue cheese with pear and cider.
A change in tempo signifies the arrival of the first of four dessert courses. The Wu-Tang Clan and The Streets, being side-lined in favour of Richard Ashcroft. It’s enough to see me reaching for my phone; not to initially capture the bitter yuzu sorbet palate cleanser, but to claim a green heart and relive this album later on that night. Memories are surely made of this…
The three desserts that follow are a dream to varying degrees. White chocolate with a black bean syrup and black bean biscuit satisfyingly coats your teeth and tongue, in what can only be described as a pudding that displays similar attributes to salted caramel. including taste. While a bowl of stewed apple and soya custard, sets out to evoke memories of childhood school dinners by replicating Bird’s egg-free imitation custard powder. Ironically it’s the one dish of the day that doesn’t quite have the wow factor. But it’s good…a guilty pleasure, in the midst of dare I hint consistent ‘two star’ standard courses.
Whether it’s the fact it is plated at the table, or quite simply that it’s mascarpone granita formed with the assistance of LN2; the tiramisu is something special. Essentially an aphrodisiac enriched with egg yolks, and finished off with 100% chocolate. It’s summed up by a glimpse to my left, where one of my dining companions has finally abondoned all etiquette – and has his head firmly in the bowl.
Welsh wagyu Fudge
And finally beef fudge. What were you thinking Chef? I’ll tell you what, let’s keep it as our little secret. Nobody needs to know. I’ll DM you my address – a care package to Cardiff would go down a treat. I know two others that wouldn’t say no to another bite. Temptation waits…
You had me from the first course. The first mouthful.
I always yearn for something different; unique. Something that makes me sit up and listen. Something that pulls me from my sleep at 4am on a Saturday morning to scribble a line in my little black book. I scribbled a paragraph, it was worth the insomnia your food brings.
Ynyshir doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. It offers a menu to evoke childhood food memories, and create new adult ones. It takes you to new heights, and brings you safely back down – and then leaves you craving more.
It’s been a whirlwind romance; an unforgettable four hours of unadulterated ‘fat-fuelled’ pleasure. The time we spent together wasn’t enough. How did it go so soon?
Please take this letter as my declaration of love and adoration for Ynyshir. For your ethos, concept, inspirational team and sublime dishes. Fun dining…not fine dining? You’re damn right.
Till next time.
The Octopus Diaries
Lunch: Wednesday – Saturday 1pm – 2pm
Dinner: Wednesday – Saturday 6.30pm – 9pm
Address | Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth, SY20 8TA
Tel | 01654 781209
Web | ynyshir.co.uk