Welsh ‘foraging’ restaurant named on list of top 100 UK eating places
A Welsh restaurant that uses foraged ingredients gathered by staff members in the wild has been named in a list of the top 100 restaurants in the UK.
The Really Wild Restaurant in St Davids, together with its accompanying shop the Really Wild Emporium, have within a few years of opening become a culinary curiosity in Pembrokeshire’s small cathedral city.
It’s now been included in the prestigious annual list compiled by the restaurant booking website OpenTable, put together from more than 1.2 million diner reviews, using metrics including diner ratings, the percentage of reservations made in advance and five-star reviews.
The Really Wild Restaurant was opened by John Mansfield and Julia Horton-Powdrill six years ago. John is a retired headteacher from England who used to bring pupils on school trips to Wales where they would forage for food as part of a survival challenge. Julia is a Welsh archaeological conservationist who developed an interest in foraging for food and has devised and run courses on the subject.
John said: “People who come to the restaurant become very enthusiastic about the food combinations we are able to create by foraging wild plants, berries and seaweed that are available nearby. We’re very fortunate in St Davids to have a great variety of ingredients that allow us to make dishes that have original flavours.
“I took early retirement about 20 years ago and developing the emporium and the restaurant has been a wonderfully creative challenge. Getting awards like this is a tribute to the work done by our whole team.”
Head chef is Jonathan Morrell, 27, who was brought up in Cardiff where he attended Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr. When he was 15 he started thinking about the possibility of becoming a chef. He said: “I enjoyed eating good food that is nutritious from an early age, but went to Exeter University to study mechanical engineering.
It was while I was at uni that I realisedI really did want to be a chef. As well as liking food for its own sake, I also became interested in the environment and did a lot of outdoors stuff. That led me to have an interest in foraging, which adds greatly to what you can do from a cooking point of view and is obviously very useful if you’re working at a restaurant like this.”
Jonathan went to Pembrokeshire College to study catering and had trainee roles with prestigious chefs like James Sommerin, who currently runs Michelin-starred Home in Penarth. He subsequently worked at other high-end restaurants including L’Enclume, with three Michelin stars, at Cartmel on the fringe of England’s Lake District.
Jonathan said: “Training at Pembrokeshire College and with chefs at the top of their profession was a great experience and it’s encouraged me to be more and more creative. I’ve worked with chefs who are magicians with food.
“For the last three years I’ve been working at the Really Wild Emporium and the team sees foraging as a vital part of what we do. There are a lot of wild ingredients to be foraged in the immediate area, including seaweed, sorrel, wild garlic and bilberries, which often make an appearance on our menus, which change every week. The foraged ingredients tend to complement the main menu items, adding extra flavours, rather than being the main menu items themselves.
“Foraging makes dishes much more interesting. I enjoy going on foraging expeditions myself, as do other members of the team.”
Jonathan said that winning a place on OpenTable’s top 100 list was particularly pleasing: “Most food awards are decided by inspectors who may visit the restaurants concerned just once, while the OpenTable list is the result of large numbers of visits from customers who like the quality of the food they are served,” he said. “The whole team is delighted with what we’ve achieved.”
The other three Welsh restaurants included in the OpenTable top 100 2023 are Mannucci’s Italian Restaurant in Cardigan, the Jackdaw in Conwy and the Potted Lobster in Abersoch.
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