We first visted Ynyshir in August last year, but I didn’t post about it. It wasn’t because I didn’t love it; our lunch was so good that we immediately booked in for dinner that night. It was more that I loved it so much that I wanted to write an amazing post to match, but couldn’t seem to do it justice. But screw the vanity. Ynyshir is incredible and I want to shout about it.
Like the first, our second trip to Ynyshir falls just shy of 24 hours yet we leave with a sense of content that usually only follows a holiday. The food here is stunning, but as much so is how a trip to this little corner of Mid-Wales makes you feel. Nestled amongst the Cambrian mountains, close to Snowdonia, it’s the kind of place that is good for your soul; the kind of place that makes you feel that there is a book inside you.
Today mist blankets the surrounding hills, so heavy you’d swear there were no hills at all. It’s beautiful, giving everything a mysterious feel and making you glad to be inside. As our tyres crunch up the drive, we are greeted by a familiar building, sturdy and white. Inside, jewel-toned walls and period features combine with furs, moss and natural wood; it’s both cosy and grand at once, the intrusion of nature a sign of the seasonality reflected on the menu. The snug dining room has Welsh mountains at one end and an open kitchen at the other, and a record player spinning a well-curated collection of vinyl. It feels like home. Except for the cooking, of course.
We tear ourselves away from the incredible Garden Suite (the nicest place I’ve stayed, EVER) for a drink in the bar before dinner. The decision to move 200 kilometres away from Birmingham means I don’t get to drink Rory’s cocktails nearly as often as I used to, but he is working wonders heading up the bar here, serving up creations with complexity and depth. The wine list has expanded, too, with a greater range of both price and style; it feels as though the bar has really come into it’s own since our last visit.
Dinner, then. Four hours, twenty or so courses, an exciting romp through seasonality and flavour. Gareth Ward has a unique ability to present everyday, familiar flavours in a totally new way. Take, for example, lamb neck fillet topped with kombucha which on the tongue becomes lamb and mint sauce; duck liver with tofu, spelt and smoked eel which you would swear on your mother’s life was smoked bacon; or wagyu, sourdough mayonnaise and fermented lettuce which brings a burger into the realm of fine dining. It’s incredibly clever, without falling into the trap of being clever-for-the-sake-of-being-clever.
Elsewhere there is langoustine of fantastic quality, grilled with wild garlic and a bisque-esque dressing of which I refuse to leave a drop. Onions cooked in beef fat and beer produce a deep, rich cooking liquor, which poured over sourdough makes the best bread course I’ve ever eaten. A dainty lamb rib falls from the bone with the lightest of touches, a triumph of fat, meat and flavour; a theme repeated throughout the meal. Rhubarb and custard is a nod to childhood, whilst tiramisu comes as blobs of coffee and vanilla, topped with a shard of sugar, grated chocolate and mascarpone granita. The food echoes the feel of the building; spectacular pieces of technical chef-ery that still retain warmth and appeal. There are many more courses that I won’t go into, but each delights – full of surprises in content and presentation – without abandoning the central element of flavour.
What Ynyshir are doing is exceptional, exciting and – on top of all this – pulled off by the friendliest, most down-to-earth team I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.Trust me when I say this place is truly special; I can’t wait for my next visit.
Read about our first visit here.
Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms can be found in the extremely pronounceable Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth, Powys SY20 8TA.