Restau­rants

Machyn­l­leth

Decanter - - CONTENTS - By Fiona Beck­ett

Fiona Beck­ett in the wilds of Wales; Nina Ca­plan finds the best store­room in Mel­bourne

It was rain­ing when I drove the 3.5 hours up through Wales. What else do you ex­pect in mid-Au­gust? Was it worth the de­tour? Em­phat­i­cally yes, from the moment I spotted the open log fire out­side the front door. Chef pro­pri­etor Gareth Ward, who’d al­ready gained a Miche­lin star for Ynyshir (pro­nounced ‘Unna’s here’) has taken it to an­other level since he be­came a part­ner in Jan­uary.

Though the build­ing is old (it used to be Queen Vic­to­ria’s coun­try re­treat), the din­ing room is mod­ern with well-spaced ta­bles but avoid­ing the deathly hush of a coun­try house ho­tel.

Din­ner is a four-hour, 16-course tast­ing menu for £110: a choice of two op­tions depend­ing on whether you have lamb or Wagyu beef which comes from Mont­gomeryshire. I opted for the 150-day-old Wagyu which ap­peared as a burger, a per­fectly cooked tranche of sir­loin and (weirdly) a cube of fudge, the for­mer two be­ing a per­fect com­bi­na­tion with a Château Pon­tetCanet, Pauil­lac 2007, which was avail­able by the glass. The two-hour, eight-course lunch menu is £55.

Other high­lights were a daz­zling Asian-style dish of mack­erel (maybe the best mack­erel I’ve eaten), a per­fect sin­gle prawn with lan­gous­tine sauce and an ad­dic­tive Cae­sar salad with an­chovy and ba­con crumbs. There was the odd miss: raw crab and corn had lost the di­men­sion of sweet­ness that makes crab so se­duc­tive. But in gen­eral here taste isn’t sac­ri­ficed for ef­fect. At 36, Ward has al­ready spent 20 years cook­ing at, among oth­ers, Sat Bains and Ham­ble­ton Hall. It shows.

The wine list, put to­gether by his part­ner Amelia, is all the more im­pres­sive for the fact that she has no som­me­lier train­ing. Ad­mit­tedly she in­her­ited an in­ter­est­ing cellar from the pre­vi­ous own­ers, but for the most part it re­flects her own eclec­tic tastes. She’s not a big fan of wine flights, pre­fer­ring to try and re­flect her guests’ pref­er­ences. Cred­itably, she also doesn’t push the most ex­pen­sive wines on the list. Her sug­ges­tion of a saké (Kat­suyama’s Lei Hit­o­me­bore Jun­mai 55%; £15 for a 75ml glass) for the first four courses and Viña de Martin’s lush Es­colma Bianco 2011 from Ribeiro (£13.50 for a 125ml glass; £75/bot­tle), were spot on.

It’s worth stay­ing over in one of the 10 com­fort­able rooms – not least for the break­fast, which shows the same in­ven­tive­ness as the night be­fore (don’t pass on the de­li­ciously charred home­made sour­dough crum­pets!).

While not cheap, Ynyshir of­fers an ex­cep­tional ex­pe­ri­ence that has been re­warded with a num­ber 12 rank­ing in the Good Food Guide this year and the AA’s Best Wine List in Wales. Go. Eglwys­fach, Machyn­l­leth, Powys, Wales SY20 8TA. Tel: +44 (0)1654 781 209; www. ynyshir.co.uk Open Tuesday 8am-Sun­day 11am. Din­ner, bed & break­fast packages from £ 185 a per­son, based on two shar­ing.

Fiona Beck­ett is a De­canter con­tributng edi­tor and chief restau­rant re­viewer

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