Britain's respected Good Food Guide suggests that Wales is generating increasing appeal among promising young chefs looking to be nearer the source of excellent meat, fish and produce while avoiding the high operational costs of running a London restaurant. There are two Welsh restaurants in the guide's top 60 in England, Scotland and Wales and three in the Michelin Guide to Great Britain & Ireland 2012.
Bryan Webb holds forth as owner and chef at Tyddyn Llan in Llandrillo, Denbighshire, which earned a Michelin star in 2010. Previously, Webb was voted Welsh Restaurant of the Year by The Good Food Guide. Now in his ninth season, he grows his own produce and buys more in from local North Wales farmers. Many of us Londoners were pleased that Webb temporarily called the capital home during the 1990s when we flocked to his popular Hilaire. Webb's Welsh roots go back to his very first job peeling potatoes at The Crown. Webb speaks about his simple approach and three signature dishes which are "always on the menu," namely, bass with laverbread, scallops with vegetable relish and steak "au poivre," served with chips and a crisp green salad. Dinner at £55 is a three-course meal.
The Crown at Whitebrook in Monmouthshire is a six years running Michelin starred restaurant in the Wye Valley where James Sommerin is head chef. Three AA rosettes, Wales Restaurant of the Year for 2011, plus Best in Wales from The Good Food Guide 2012, are among the prizes recently collected. Sommerin hails from a Welsh family of cooks and updates the menu regularly to ensure that the finest local produce is featured seasonally. Perfect for wine lovers, he places an emphasis on pairings. A tasting menu of six or nine courses is featured at The Crown, at £102.50 or at £130.00 per person with accompanying wines chosen by the chef and sommelier.
Christopher OwenOwen, 25, was named best chef in Wales at the Welsh International Culinary Championships in February 2012. Owen is head chef at the Quays Hotel & Spa in Deganwy, on the North Wales coast. He adds this latest to a shelf-full of trophies, including the 2010 runner-up prize. The Grill Room's Black Beef is often noted as outstanding, supplied by an Anglesey farmer 34 miles away. Aside from award winning butchers, Owen is supplied by Llandudno Smokery and Mermaid Fish Merchants on the waterfront five miles away as sources for fresh salmon, mackerel, lobster and bass. Intriguingly-named Welsh cheeses called Perl las, Perl Wen and Snowdon Black Bomber are produced locally as well.
The Checkers, Montgomery, Monmouthshire is the newest in Wales to win the top accolade of a Michelin star, at less than one year old. The chef, Stèphane Borie, hails from Bordeaux. An impeccable resumé to hand, he trained with Michel Roux for seven years at the Michelin three-star Waterside Inn Bray, before moving on to Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons and then as private chef at Daylesford House. The sister co-owners, Sarah and Kathryn Francis, are quite literally, farmer's daughters. So, The Frenchman and the Farmers Daughters are your top team at this 18th century coaching inn in the main square of town. Michelin names Borie's signature dishes as cheddar cheese soufflé with roasted red peppers, pork belly with roasted pear and lemon crème brûlée.