Ynyshir Hall is one of the grandest dining experiences in Wales, so losing that Michelin star would have have hurt.
We went to see how they’re trying to win it back, and whether their lunchtime offer of 3 courses (with a glass of wine) for £25 is as good value as it appears.
First impressions were very impressive.
Ynyshir Hall was once owned by Queen Victoria, and one can feel an echo of fin de siecle glamour.
We were led into a delightful bar, where we were joined by David Bowie (my husband is too shy to appear in these) to read the menus, I had a glass of wine and we were brought a beetroot meringue & smoked salmon amuse bouche to wake up our taste buds.
All of this opulence costs money, and Ynyshir Hall is not cheap – Dinner, Bed & Breakfast starts at a fairly eye-watering £450, 5 courses in the evening come to £75 and the wine list is not for the faint-hearted.
However, their lunchtime special offer appears to be particularly good value. 3 courses for £20, or £25 with a glass of wine allows those without banking bonuses, or a major birthday, to sample the ambience.
The only mystery is why the place isn’t packed out. My husband had booked, but needn’t have bothered. It was a rainy bank holiday Monday, but there was only one other couple. I know we West Wales folk are famously frugal, but what does it take to get people out?
As you can see, the starters are high-end inventive, and the flavours match up too.
Wild garlic soup is served in a Kilner jar and smoke billows out once the lid is popped.
The smoke adds depth to the cool soup. The 62C egg might be a little under-cooked for some tastes, but I loved it.
Hubby’s carpaccio of tuna frightened him initially (“Raw Fish!!!”) but the flavour won us over immediately. It didn’t taste of fish at all, more like some unknown new duck-like meat.
I doubt I need to explain how fine the white & brown bread rolls tasted.
Main courses arrived promptly after the starters were removed – service is efficient, friendly and unstuffy.
My confit duck leg was crispy skinned & soft-fleshed, the minted petit pois providing a heady aroma.
His piece of hake was similarly crispy-skinned and served in an aromatic samphire-fuelled broth.
The portions aren’t huge, but they are rich and tasty, and by now we were starting to feel pleasingly full.
Not too full for desserts, of course.
I had spent the previous day teaching the grandchildren to make chocolate truffles, so was delighted to find a slice of posh Italian pistachio choc with ice cream.
Hubby’s “soup” was a raspberry mousse with raspberry and lemon sauce, stuffed raspberry and a large sprig of dessicated mint.
Since I had chosen a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc on arrival I had another as part of the offer – excellent value for a zingy wine that costs £9 the glass.
Hubby’s Carmenere was sophisticated and robust, although he didn’t actually offer me any.
Normally it’s hard to judge a kitchen from its value-lunch, but not at Ynyshir. I’d give them their Michelin star back right now, just on that lunch.
We saw more invention than many other more lauded places – Y Polyn and the Walnut Tree spring to mind – without any fuss about their own cleverness.
Ynyshir is closer to Machynlleth than Aber, and it’s more formal than anywhere this far west, and it’s not cheap.
But it is a wonderful restaurant, with prices for all pockets.
I hope I have dropped enough hints to my husband about where I wish to go for my birthday.