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Matt Waldron, Head Chef at Park House Cardiff Talks to Chef’s Table

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Matt Waldron, Head Chef at Park House Restaurant Cardiff

Matt started his career in a small country house hotel named The Glen yr Afon in Usk, completing his apprenticeship in cooking.  His interest in food science lead him to complete a degree in culinary arts and food science in The University of West London.  Staying in London Matt worked his way through some very established restaurants with Helene Darroze at The Connaught Hotel being his most influential.  After two and half years there it was time to come back to Wales.  Working as Sous chef at Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth from the opening of the restaurant until it gained a Michelin Star taught him a lot about running a restaurant and all that goes with the territory. After completing his time there he then moved on to work for Gareth Ward at Ynyshir, which holds a Michelin Star and 5 AA Rosettes.

Matt took over the kitchen at Park House in the summer of 2018 and has immediately had an impact. Matts style of cooking is based on exquisite flavour using Welsh produce from the coast and off the mountains. He has cultivated strong relationships with farmers and works closely with small local suppliers which gives him the ability to handpick the produce to ensure it’s the best he can get his hands on.

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CT: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continuous to influence you now?

MW: Working for Helene Darroze in The Connaught for 3 years influenced me massively.  Her philosophy of using the very best products and treating them with respect and care.  Seasonality was a massive part of her menu.

Helene-Darroze

Closer to home a big influence is Gareth Ward at Ynyshir.  The way he creates his dishes, works closely with nature, the acidity of dishes, and just the simplicity of his dishes to the eye makes one of the most amazing restaurants in the UK.

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CT: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

MW: My mums Sunday dinner.  Roast beef, roasties, and all the vegetables from dads garden.  Cant beat it.

 

CT: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

 

MW: Piazza Duomo in Northern Italy. The food at Piazza Duomo is inspirational due to the use of local food products from his kitchen garden and around Alba.  They have such amazing produce in that region and Enrico Crippa just showcases it at its best.  It is his take on Italian food with influences of Japan visible in his dishes.

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CT: What do you think about negative reviews?

MW: I think negative reviews can be a good thing.  No one is perfect and sometimes things don’t go to plan, but that’s life.  You have to see in what context the review was written in.  If used properly negativity can be flipped into positivity, ideas to improve something, maybe something that hadn’t been spotted before.  All reviews whether positive or negative are a good thing, but the people that write reviews just to get something for nothing should stop, it can be quite damaging to a business.

 

CT: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace asking you to create a Dinner Menu using the best of Welsh produce what would you feature?

MW: The main event would definitely have to be Preseli lamb, for me, it’s the best lamb around.  The abundance of seafood we have around us I would definitely have to use the crab from Solva and our vegetable guy who has an organic veg farm. His vegetables are incredible.

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CT: What is your favourite dish on the current menu in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

MW: My favourite dish on the menu at the moment has to be the pork belly, shiitake mushroom, pickled sea weed and smoked eel.  The pork belly comes from Pembrokeshire, the seaweeds are all picked from Barafundle bay 10 minutes from my house in West Wales.  We pick the seaweed every Monday then process it for the week ahead.

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CT: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

MW: Charlie Trotter.  His food is very classic, looks immaculate and focuses on seasons.  He introduced America to food styles not seen before, very bold for the time.  He was ambitious and wanted everything perfect, from the minute you walked in the door.

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

Restaurant (1):  Gareth Ward at Ynyshir.  The food is exceptional.  There is a continuous development there and the place keeps getting better and better.

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Restaurant (2): Restaurant Frantzen, Sweden.  It’s a combination of relaxed atmosphere and incredible food.  There is no stone unturned there, the attention to detail is out of this world.  If I could afford it I would eat there once a month.

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Favourite Tables Top Ten Restaurants

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The Favourite Tables Top Ten Restaurants from the last twelve months has been compiled from the number of visits to the restaurant’s page on the Favourite Tables website. This was then weighed against the social marketplace of active “Facebook” likes. More weight was given to restaurants with the most recent new likes on Facebook.

Unlike some other “lists” which are compiled from single “Food Experts” comments or the hit and miss “drive-by” reviews some “Travel” websites favour, the Favourite Tables list has been formed from analysing the locations that were most popular with ordinary people using the website to find great places to eat. With the restaurant’s social media activity across Facebook, where real people “like” a restaurant because they genuinely had a good experience and Twitter for follows and re-tweets were added as a rating.

The cumulative total creates a list of the most popular and best-loved restaurants: 


Topping the list is the very popular – Adams Restaurant in Birmingham

Head Chef: Tom Shepherd’s recent Interview with Chef’s Table HERE

Tom Shepherd Profile Adams_001

 

 

The Top Ten UK Places People Have Wanted To Eat At:

 

1) Adams Restaurant – Birmingham   Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 14.43.03

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/adams/)

Position Last Year – 03

2) Ynyshir – North Wales

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/ynyshir/) – Head Chef Interview HERE

Position Last Year – Highest New Entry

3) Romulo Cafe – London

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/romulo-london/) – Head Chef Interview HERE

Position Last Year – New Entry

4) The Dining Room at Chewton Glen – Hampshire

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/dining-room-chewton-glen/)

Position Last Year – New Entry

5) 64 Degrees – Brighton

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/64-degrees/) – Head Chef Interview HERE

Position Last Year – 01

6) Lympstone Manor – Exmouth Devon

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/lympstone-manor/) – Head Chef Interview HERE

Position Last Year – 04

7) The Old Downton Lodge – Ludlow

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/old-downton-lodge/) – Head Chef Interview HERE

Position Last Year – New Entry

8) The Coal Shed – London Tower Bridge

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/the-coal-shed-london/)

Position Last Year – New Entry

9) Pale Hall – North Wales

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/pale-hall/) – Head Chef Interview HERE

Position Last Year – New Entry

10) Prevost – Peterborough

(http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/prevost) – Head Chef Interview HERE

Position Last Year – 05
A few restaurants have proved very popular recently and are just outside the Top Ten simply because they have only been listed for a short period so when looked at over the past twelve months the count of visits was lower.

Notably:
Alchemilla – Nottingham (http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/alchemilla/)

The Hand – North Wales (http://www.favouritetables.com/restaurant/the-hand-at-llanarmon/)

Tyddyn Llan

Tyddyn Llan our favourite Michelin restaurant

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Tyddyn Llan our favourite Michelin restaurant

“Tyddyn Llan was our first Michelin star restaurant and we go back at every opportunity. Delicious food, beautiful rooms and FOH, particularly Susan, always most welcoming. Love it!”

Mandi Szuplewski

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Tyddyn Llan Restaurant

 

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Chef’s Table Interview with Gareth Stevenson from Palé Hall

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Gareth currently heads up the team as Head Chef at Palé Hall, the luxury country house hotel and restaurant in North Wales. Since taking the helm at Palé Hall he has truly established his credentials as a rising star. Originally mentored by the Hotel Restaurant adviser Chef Michael Caines, who Gareth had previously worked with as Head Chef as part of the ABode Hotels and Restaurant Group. Gareth and Michael had worked closely to develop a fine dining menu at Palé Hall to tantalise the taste buds of all those lucky enough to experience it.

We asked how did it begin…

So I never really planned on becoming a chef, I had always been interested in food, and always cooked and baked with my Mum, but I fell into cooking as a backup. I worked for free for a few weeks at a hotel called Northop Hall near the border with Chester, my uncle is a gardener there so he had a word with the head chef to see if I could try it out to see how I got on. So I started there full time when I started college at Deeside (now Coleg Cambria) when I was 20.

 

I did 2 years there before I went to the Abode. So basically I applied there when I was coming to the end of my second year at college before it was opened, I felt stepping straight into the kitchen at the Grosvenor was maybe a step too far so working at somewhere maybe a small step below under somebody like Michael Caines would be a better fit. I was part of the opening team there as a commis and worked myself up from there. I worked under Stuart Collins to start with ( owner of Docket No.33) and it would be fair to say his impact on my career, through style, attitude, discipline and training was a big one.

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Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

 

Gareth: This might not go down too well with some people, but I love faggots, baked potatoes with butter and mushy peas. One of those meals that always brings back nice memories of my childhood.

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Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

 

Gareth: Frantzen in Stockholm – it has recently been awarded 3 Michelin stars. Every time I see them make or create a new dish, I can’t help but be blown away by the attention to detail, not just in the procurement of the product and the cooking, but the way they have thought out the whole experience, for every single dish.

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Question: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be?

Gareth: That it is expensive. Food is not, and should not be cheap, ignoring the fact that a producer has put in time and money to create what we use.  It might take 5 days to make a sauce from stock to the finished article, there might be 15 people involved in cooking, serving and cleaning up after your meal, we have been misled by chain “restaurants” selling poor food at low prices.

Question: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that for them to be removed because of the pressure – your thoughts?

Gareth: I think in terms of the business, it is massively important, there are statistics to back it up with regard to increases in numbers. For the chef, I’ve not been awarded one yet so I can’t honestly say, that it is an added pressure and stress? Of course, but it is also a massive personal achievement. However, as the cliché goes, cook for your guests, not the guides.

 

Question: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace asking you to create a Dinner Menu with dishes or ingredients from either Wales or from the area you grow up in, what would you feature?

Gareth: I’m from Leicestershire originally, so I think with hand raised pork pies, Stilton and Stichelton Red Leicester we could contribute to a buffet. However, we have some phenomenal local producers here in Wales. I would be tempted to do a beef wellington using our local Welsh black beef, something very regal about a Wellington. I think some Anglesey Lobster would go down well to start, a nice raviolo, and then I’d do a Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream, using apples from our orchard here at Palé.

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Question: What is your favourite dish that you have created in the past 6 months which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

Gareth: We don’t forage much, wild garlic, pine, wood sorrel and elderflower is about it, but we have had a dish on the tasting menu this spring. Roast Welsh black beef fillet –  we braise some cheek with it too, then we make a puree of wild garlic, some wild garlic oil, and some really lightly sautéed wild garlic, we serve it with morels, pommes maxim and beef madeira sauce.

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Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Gareth: Maybe Charlie Trotter, he was a bit of a superstar. After his death, I read a piece by a gentleman who had eaten a tasting menu at his restaurant, over 50 times, and never had the same dish twice. I think that is pretty remarkable when you cook at his level.

 

Late Charlie Trotter

 

 

My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Sticky Walnut, they just do good food well, I used to work across the city from there so if I did eat out in Chester, it would be at Sticky. @StickyWalnut

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Restaurant (2): Docket No. 33. Whitchurch. @Docket_no33. Chef Stuart Collins was my first executive chef, so has had a big impact on my career, and he owns this restaurant with his wife Fran. Such a good little restaurant, big flavours, well cooked, it’s the sort of thing I aspire to one day.

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Chef’s Tables meet Grant Mulholland Head Chef at The Hand

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Head Chef Grant Mulholland started his culinary career journey at the age of 15 in a small country house hotel in South West Scotland in a small town called Castle Douglas. He originally went for a waiters job but come out with a chef’s assistant position and has never looked back.

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It was after three years at Catering College he moved into a commis chef position in North Wales then onto a position within Thistle Hotels moving up to head chef at a fast pace, finally he moved back to North Wales and was appointed head chef at The Hand at Llanarmon and he has never looked back and has gone from strength to strength achieving 2AA rosette and entry into the Michelin guide.

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Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question” 

A: Last dish to eat is my mum’s haggis, tatties(potatoes)and neeps(turnips) washed down with a can of Tennents Lager.

Haggis

 

Question: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

A: School wasn’t a particularly good time in my younger life. As soon as I started to work in a small country house hotel I have never dreamt of looking into anything else, this is my dream job and always will be.

Question:  What do you think about negative reviews? 

A: Negative reviews can be good, constructive or they can be a bad thing. I work on the ethic that I put 100% passion into my work and so far has given me some very inspiring reviews of my food, any negativity I look at in a positive way and deem it constructive criticism.

Question: If there were a “Fantasy League” of Chefs who would make up your perfect brigade?  

A: My fantasy brigade I would head up is with all of my old head chefs, showing them what I have achieved in all my years in cooking. With my dad looking on at the hotplate giving me the encouragement he does every day.

Question: What foods or styles of cooking do you enjoy cooking the most and which do you most like to eat?

A: Fish cookery is a real passion as I have a great respect for Rick Stein and his ideas, it’s a precise form of cooking which in my mind takes a lot of skill to get correct.

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Question: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use ingredients or produce from your most local supplier? 

A: Simply Beef, our locally farmed welsh black is only 1 mile from the hotel, it is the best beef I have ever cooked in all my years of cooking

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Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

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A: Rick Stein, for many years his passion and excitement for cooking have inspired me in my cooking and he adds a less serious element to the profession which is a great thing.

My favourite tables

My only Michelin star visit ever was The Waterside Inn in Bray and the taste of the lobster and white port sauce will never leave my lips.

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I would also eat in my own restaurant (Hand at Llanarmon) as the other 2 chefs I work with and have taught for many years and have them serve me the best food around.

 

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Chef’s Table talk with Chef James Sommerin

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James started his culinary career at the age of 12 working on a Saturday morning in an Italian restaurant in Newport, Chez Chiovanni, after leaving school he started his first full time cooking position at the Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel near Usk.

 

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It was from there, at the age of 16, that he decided to move to Scotland and worked at Farleyer House Hotel under the guidance of Head Chef Richard Lyth, it was whilst being taught by Richard that he gained the understanding of seasonality, quality and the essence of flavour. Whilst in Scotland he cooked at the dinner to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Parliament and was also shortlisted as Young Scottish Chef of the Year. after a few years working in Scotland, he met future wife Louise and after marrying and having their first daughter James decided to move his family returning to his home country- Wales.

Back in Wales in August 2000 he started at the Crown at Whitebrook as Sous Chef and became Head Chef in late 2003, four years later obtained his first Michelin Star, an achievement he is rightly hugely proud of. He retained the coveted Michelin star until 2013 when the “Crown” closed its doors. Recently reopened under new ownership as The Whitebrook

 

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2014 saw James and Louise open Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth. James and wife Louise were determined to make the restaurant with rooms a success and are rightfully very proud of what they and their team have achieved. A Michelin star in 2016, AA Restaurant of the Year – Wales 2016-2017, 4 AA rosettes, Restaurant of the year 2016 for Wales at the Food Awards Wales and Number 34 in the Good Food Guide for 2017, also achieving 5 stars for rooms with the AA and Visit Wales.

 

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” We pride ourselves on being a family run business, with myself heading up the kitchen, Louise front of house and our 3 girls never far away “

 

Chef’s Table Asked:

 

Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

A:  My late grandmother has always been my inspiration, cooking with her on the weekend gave me my love and passion for cooking and I will always be eternally grateful.  So I would have to say my late grans beef brisket, gravy & veg

 

Q: Have you ever been presented with a dish/ingredient that you just could not eat and where was that?

 

A: Durian Fruit – tried it in Singapore in 2012. It tasted horrendous, I can’t even put it into words.

 

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Q: If there were a “Fantasy League” of Chefs, who would make up your perfect brigade?

 

A: Richard Lyth, Michele Roux Snr, Grant Achatz, Alex Stupak, Brett Graham & Eric Frechon

 

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Q: What’re the most overused words on restaurant menus’ today

 

A: where can I start – Textures of, deconstructed & foraged!

 

Q: Having worked and trained in Scotland what food preparation or styles of cooking did you learn then that you still utilise today. What was on the menu for the opening of Parliament dinner?

 

A – oh gosh, butchery.

The menu hmmm, I’m sorry I can’t remember back that far it must be a sign of my age now.

 

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Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use ingredients or produce from your most local supplier? 

A:  Old Cogan Farm Penarth where we get our Welsh Lamb which we serve with Broad Beans and Turnip.

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Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

C – That’s a tough one, I couldn’t narrow it down to 1 person.


My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant 1 – The Greenhouse in Mayfair – fantastic cooking, every time we go (and we’ve been a few) staff are all very friendly.

 

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Restaurant 2 – Geranium in Copenhagen, cooking on another level

 

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Ynyshir

Chef Patron of Ynyshir, Gareth Ward talks to Chef’s Table

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Credit: Gareth-Ward-FJONA-BLACK

Gareth Ward is Chef Patron at Ynyshir, a Michelin star, four AA rosette restaurant and rooms which offers dining experiences featuring, in Gareth’s own northern dialect, ‘Alternative British Snap (food)’ packed with flavour. Its location between the Welsh coast and Snowdonia National Park means Gareth can handpick the best ingredients from Wales, and beyond, seeing the whole British Isles as his larder.

Gareth started his cooking career straight out of school aged 16, working in kitchens in the north east before deciding to move to Rutland and take a job at Hambleton Hall. Working in the 1 Michelin star kitchen for five years, he rose from commis chef to junior sous. When he decided to leave Hambleton he moved back north to work at Seaham Hall, which had just gained its star. He stayed here for two years before taking his first Head Chef role at Hart’s Restaurant in Nottingham, a part of the Hambleton family. Whilst here, he was awarded the city’s ‘Restaurant of the Year’ and gained his first 2AA rosettes.

Gareth’s next step was to move to Restaurant Sat Bains, which when he joined had 1 Michelin star. During his time here as Sous Chef, the restaurant gained its coveted second star and came in the San Pellegrino Top 100 Restaurants, whilst being a regular in the top 10 of the Good Food Guide.

In 2013, Gareth was ready to take the reins again himself and arrived at Ynyshir, then named Ynyshir Hall, as their new head chef. In his first full year, he was awarded his first Michelin Star and then gained 4AA Rosettes shortly afterwards, the only place in Wales at the time to hold the accolade, and the first time for Ynyshir. Success continued as Gareth was also noted as the Good Food Guides ‘Chef to Watch’, receiving 7/10 and placing the restaurant in the UK’s Top 50. Ynyshir was in the final two restaurants in the UK in the Cateys ‘Menu Watch’ and included in the Times Top 100 Restaurants, one of only 4 in Wales.

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In September 2016, Gareth was made Chef Patron of Ynyshir, at which point he and his partner Amelia Eriksson, General Manager, made the decision to convert from a hotel to a Restaurant with Rooms, renaming the business as just ‘Ynyshir’. Gareth and the team are hugely passionate about using the best ingredients to create dining experiences that surprise guests with flavour on another level.

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2017 has seen Gareth and Amelia continue working on the property’s refurbishment, with each stage moving Ynyshir further away from a traditional country house hotel, towards an exceptional destination restaurant with rooms. Favourite tables welcomed Ynyshir to it’s Unique Destinations programme early in 2017 and recently chatted with Gareth and asked the following questions:

What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question” An epic Sunday roast, cooked by me!

Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet) Maaemo in Oslo which was awarded 3 michelin stars in the last guide

How important is a Michelin star? For us and our location, it is very important – there has to be a reason to get people to come out to see us and having a star is the start of putting us on the map. To push forward to progress to 2 stars is our goal so that we could really turn Ynyshir into a destination for food.

What do you think about reviews? They are very important to spread the word and hopefully increase business.

Your Menu says “with a Japanese twist” how is this evident in the food and where did this influence come from. Our menus are very much about being British ingredient led and flavour packed, we just use a few ingredients that are of Japanese origin. These, such as miso, mirin and soy, are used because they allow us to get as much flavour out of the other ingredients, and are so light that you can still eat 20-courses and not be too full.

What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier? Salt Welsh Wagyu Rib with Shiitake

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If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why? Alex Bond (who has just opened his first restaurant in Nottingham called Alchemilla) because he is a complete legend!

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Favourite Tables…. Please give us the name of and why you dine there of two restaurants that you have visited a couple of times. If you know twitter, Facebook & web address please include

 

Alchemilla (www.alchemillarestaurant.uk) because Alex is doing some amazing things with home grown ingredients in a very cool space

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Bar Iberico (www.baribericotapas.com) because I love eating small plates of things and the relaxed atmosphere it has.

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Britannia Inn

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The Britannia Inn is a warm and friendly pub in Llanmadoc, North Gower, with a great restaurant and pub menu.

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One of the greatest pleasures in life is to drop in for a simply delicious steak sandwich, chips and salad and large ice-cold Guinness, after a walk around Whitford Bay and Broughton beach.  On a good day, when the sun is shining and the sky is clear, the views over the estuary are wonderful.

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For a special meal, their restaurant menu and great service are hard to beat and you’re always made to feel so welcome.

Absolutely love holding our WI Christmas Dinner there  –  and it’s only 1.5 miles from home, so even possible to walk back after a convivial evening!