Four Welsh restaurants make UK top 100
Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms has been voted Wales’ best restaurant in the annual Harden’s Top 100 Best UK Restaurants diners’ poll – with three other Welsh eateries also making the list.
A much-loved Lake District dining destination, Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria nabbed the UK top spot, with the coveted list featuring a greater number of regional successes compared to previous years which have been London-dominated.
Outside of the number one spot, Wales has four restaurants in this year’s elite ranking, seeing the return to the list of SY23, Aberystwyth (83); The Whitebrook Restaurant with Rooms, Monmouthshire (88); and Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms, Eglwys Fach (17) and, new for this year, The Fernery, Narberth (92).
The 33rd edition of the Harden’s guide, published this week is one of only two surviving established UK restaurant guides available in print, and the only one based on feedback from everyday diners rather than a group of professional inspectors.
A total of 30,000 reports are submitted from a survey of 2,500 diners. Restaurants at all price levels are included: from street food vendors to the country’s most ambitious dining rooms, with 2,800 restaurants listed in total.
Ynyshir, Gareth Ward’s world famous Michelin-starred restaurant, has climbed back into the Top 20, having slipped down the rankings last year following vocal push back on high pricing from diners. This year’s reporters seem to mostly have made peace with the price point with one commentator saying: “Was it expensive, yes. Was it challenging, yes. Was it worth it, YES!” Fans of its maximalist style say that “you can’t fault the cooking or the passion” that drives “an incredible all-round experience” hailed by some as “the best in the UK”.
The Fernery, Grove of Narbeth, Dyfed (92) is a new addition to the Top 100. Chef Douglas Balish is in charge of the destination dining room whose offering is praised by diners as “inventive cooking with locally sourced ingredients” matched with a “very interesting wine list” where “the environment is warm and cosy” and “staff are obliging – nothing is too much trouble”.
SY23, Aberystwyth from Ynyshir alumnus Nathan Davies reappears for a second year with particular attention being given to the “excellent tasting menu” that’s strong on foraging, fermenting and charcoal grills, and an “outside area serving barbecued lighter snacks”.
And, tucked away in the Wye Valley, Chris & Kirsty Harrod’s The Whitebrook Restaurant with Rooms, often described as the Welsh version of Noma, completes the Welsh contingent.
Harden’s guide says: “Lots of foraging and sustainability is in evidence and Chris will spend time talking you through ingredients and cooking methods”. Most diners “really love the ethos of using local seasonal produce to produce such delicious food” and “the absence of silly combinations to deliver a seriously well put-together menu, with reasonable wine pairings”.
Its ratings slipped a fraction this year, as it struck the wrong note on the odd occasion. The tenor of most reports though? – “unique and certainly worth seeking out”.”
Peter Harden, co-founder of Harden’s, says: “We’re beginning to notice some lovely consistency from the Welsh restaurants included in the Top 100 and it’s great to see The Fernery joining them this year. Ynyshir continues to divide opinion but the resistance has certainly not been as strong amongst our diners as last year suggesting there may now be more acceptance that those figures are ‘just what it costs’ although there are clearly some who are still finding it hard to stomach.”
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