olive pitstop: foodie guide to Pembrokeshire
From artisan cheeses to bug burgers to independent hotels, discover our pick of the 10 best places to eat and drink in and around Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales
CWTCH, St Davids
If the name wasn’t enough to remind you you’re in Wales (it means ‘cuddle’ in Welsh), the extensive list of local suppliers on Jackie and John Hatton-Bell’s menu is another giveaway. This welcoming 50-seat restaurant offers seasonal dishes that shine a light on the county’s top producers, without a hint of pretentiousness.
Head chef Darren Thomas’ Sunday lunch offering is hard to beat; think rosemary and garlic-studded shoulder of lamb, roast Welsh sirloin of beef or thyme and lemon organic Pembrokeshire poussin with all the trimmings. Book a table (essential), settle down for the afternoon with friends and work your way through the carefully chosen wine menu.
THE BRASSERIE, Wolfscastle
One of two dining options in the recently renovated Wolfscastle Country Hotel, the 2-AA rosette Brasserie may be the more informal of the two but its menu – a tome of Pembrokeshire bounty – fends off any doubt about chef Ian Wilson’s passion for updating the classics.
A modern and bright space, with attentive staff on hand, highlights here include starters of seared scallops, black pudding croquette, confit belly pork and compressed watermelon, and a Burford hen’s egg atop a perfectly cooked foraged wild mushroom risotto with Parmesan tuille and fried kale.
VIC NORTH, Newport
Vic North is the latest addition to the culinary collective on Newport’s Market Street with her gorgeous deli-cum-café-cum-cookery school. Find a corner table and watch locals and tourists come and go for great coffee, homemade cakes and a succinct but imaginative menu (Vic pimps up avo on toast with homemade harissa pesto and fresh lebneh – game changer!).
The shelves are lined with gourmet continental and local produce to take home and there’s a thriving diary of workshops and supper clubs – can we move in?
GRUB KITCHEN, St Davids
Set in a renovated, 18th-century calf shed, this restaurant is based around the beliefs of head chef Andy Holcroft and his partner, entomologist Dr Sarah Beynon, that the Western world could do with a little education on the nutritious and sustainable virtues of entomophagy (that’ll be eating insects). Dishes change frequently depending on season and supply (Sarah’s family farms much of the meat in neighbouring fields) but look out for toasted cumin mealworm hummus, black ant crusted goat’s cheese, cricket flour crepes and Andy’s signature bug burgers.
Set on their farm, the restaurant is only one part of the couple’s award-winning tourist attraction; The Bug Farm also plays host to an invertebrate zoo, gallery, academic research centre and guided bug safaris.
With another branch in Abersytwyth and an outlet in Cardiff opening later this month, Ultracomida has proven its recipe as half deli/half restaurant really works. The company is known for its commitment to sourcing fine Spanish produce, and for its well-executed tapas. Don’t leave this, the original outlet, without ordering the silky morcilla (black pudding), a plato mixto (cheese and cured meats with torta romero, fig and almond wheel) and a serving of authentic patatas bravas.
Can’t stop to eat? Fill a hamper with fresh bread, olives and a selection of artisan cheeses large enough to rival the likes of that in Harrods’ food hall.
THE BOAT HOUSE, Saundersfoot
Unveiled to the public in July, this is the latest restaurant from husband-and-wife-duo Gemma and Lee Evans (who already own The Harbourmaster in Milford Haven’s Nelson Quay).
This one is in a prized spot, in the popular coastal town of Saundersfoot, within Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, and the seaside-y décor suits the location. The cooking is homely with ingredients carefully sourced; look to the specials for the freshest catch of the day.
THE GROVE, Narberth
For what is arguably the finest food (and comfiest beds) this side of the Severn Bridge, this small, independently owned hotel (sister to Coast in Saundersfoot and Beach House Oxwich) is the ultimate treat for discerning diners.
Executive Chef Allister Barsby, who joined in 2016 having previously worked under Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park, is spoilt with his pick of the property’s landscaped kitchen gardens and the region’s best suppliers.
It’s the attention to detail and delicate finesse of pairing flavours that makes Allister’s dishes so memorable; a sirloin of Welsh beef, plaice with wild mushrooms and a pistachio souffle with bitter chocolate proved particular highlights.
WDIG COTTAGE, Whitesands
Staying for a while? Set up home in Wdig Cottage on St David’s Peninsula (sleeps 5). This beautifully restored, Grade II-listed Georgian farmhouse (think simple whitewashed walls, original inglenook fireplace, exposed oak timbers and prettily painted stairs) wows with panoramic views of the Preseli Hills.
Work up an appetite with a stroll along the sands (it is only a 10-minute walk from the wide stretch of beach at Whitesands Bay). Then retreat to its spacious kitchen/diner (with striking red Aga) to whip up a locally-sourced feast; fill up the larder at nearby deli St David’s Food and Wine and at the county’s thriving farmer’s markets (see below).
FARMERS’ MARKETS, across Pembrokeshire
Whether you’re in Newport (Monday), St Dogmael’s (Tuesday), Haverfordwest (Friday) or Fishguard (Saturday), Pembrokeshire’s farmers’ markets are a thing to behold.
Pick up longhorn beef from Carn Edward in the Gwaun Valley, Cothi Valley eggs, Caws Cennarth and Pant Mawr cheeses and organic veggies from Troed Y Rhiw Farm. Look for Pembrokeshire Sea Salt, Shirgar butter, Coedcanlas preserves and honey and craft beer from Bluestone Brewery Co in Cilgwyn.
THE STACKPOLE INN, Stackpole
Few pubs can draw in passersby as swiftly as The Stackpole Inn with its postcard-perfect exterior. Thankfully the charm isn’t just skin-deep, as owners Gary and Becky Evans have crafted a kitchen and bedrooms that match first impressions.
This is everything a gastropub should be: homely and familiar with unbelievably good grub. The nearby Pembrokeshire Coast Path brings ramblers in their droves for boards of farm ham, cheese (Caerfai cheddar, Boksburg Blue, Caws Cenarth and Heb Enw), pickles, apple, salad, chutney and home baked bread, while an aged rib of local beef is fit for a sharing with chunky chips, rarebit topped mushrooms and beer-battered onion rings.
More information: visitpembrokeshire.com
Written by Sophie Rae, November 2016