Cherry Williams embarks on a culinary adventure in Pembrokeshire.
Llys Meddyg Restaurant and Rooms in the pretty Pembrokeshire town of Newport is a special place. The Grade-II-listed Georgian coaching house, owned by Ed and Lou Sykes, makes the most of its stunning position surrounded by outstanding natural beauty. Nestled under the ‘Mountain of Angels’ and within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, it’s the perfect place for foraging and feasting.
This foodie destination not only offers courses ranging from foraging to butchery, but also has rather stylish rooms, a 2AA rosette restaurant and even its own smoking shed.
Ed is from a farming family and takes the sourcing of the ingredients used very seriously. Local provenance and sustainability are at the heart of the enterprise and Ed feels passionately about connecting with the environment.
It was on a gloriously sunny late winter’s day that I found myself strapping on the wellies and following Ed down the country lane that leads to the wildfowl conservation area on the Nevern Estuary and eventually to the vast wild expanse that is Newport Beach for a lesson in foraging.
Now, I have to confess that I wasn’t expecting there to be much in the way of produce to forage, considering the time of year, but before long, with Ed’s expert tuition and local knowledge, we were filling up our bucket with goodies. In the hedgerows you can expect to find wood sorrel, gorse and pennywort. On the beach mussels are abundant and you can delight as razor clams pop up from the sand at low tide, and, at the right time of the year, periwinkles and snails.
Ed suggests: ‘In order to learn to understand what’s around you, build a food map of your local area and get connected to your environment.’
Foraging certainly helps you to keep in tune with the seasons and for little ones (and not so little), it’s a great educational exercise and an awful lot of fun. So much more than a good healthy bracing walk in awesome scenery.
A tasty lunch using local mackerel and foraged sea beet (absolutely delicious) was wolfed down. I have to say, it felt incredibly satisfying to be eating food we’d selected ourselves from nature’s larder.
Ed says: ‘You have a much greater respect for the ingredients if you’ve picked them yourself.’ And he’s right
The second part of the course focused on the smokeshed, the onsite smoke house, and I was looking forward to getting to grips with some fish.
This was a hands-on experience and we learnt how to clean and fillet the (huge) salmon that was placed in front of us. Ed showed us the way and then, with a massive knife suitable to the task, I made headway through the flesh. My effort may not have been (in any way) as neat as the example, but with the encouragement of Ed it was certainly serviceable enough to smoke.
We then learnt about the preservation of the fish (salt does the job!) and how to add flavour – we used muscovado sugar to give the fish a warm deep taste. Once we had covered the fish thoroughly, it was left to marinate and for a film to set, ready to smoke later that evening. At Llys Medygg they favour a cold smoke, as they consider there is more control over the process.
Ed explains: ‘It’s important that the products used are sustainable, preferably direct from sea or from farm to plate. Local ingredients are sourced wherever possible and responsible farming is key.’
We also learnt how to make a smoke house so we could have a go at home – watch out family, here I come armed with knowledge and recipes! That’s just how the course makes you feel, capable and ready to try new things, definitely a culinary adventure using rich local ingredients – bravo.
I have to mention the menu at Llys Meddyg, as it’s as good as you’ll find anywhere. Real fresh local ingredients used in an inventive and honest way, I had to have some of the smoked salmon, smoked in the smokeshed and it didn’t disappoint. Teamed with cucumber ketchup, baby borage and wasabi, the integrity of the food shone through. Other ingenious options included hake fillet with leek and warm tartar sauce and and beef fillet with baby pickled onions. Snuggled up by the cosy wood-burner, in the cellar bar, this is relaxed and friendly dining, no stuffed-shirts here. A real place to kick back and simply enjoy – isn’t that what it’s all about? During the summer there is also a Kitchen Garden restaurant to make the most of this lovely location.
There are some great residential rates for those taking part on one of the courses and can rest assured that a good night’s sleep is guaranteed in one of the comfortable and rather luxurious rooms. Think stand-alone baths, comfy sofas, power showers and a cosy bed with crisp bed-linen.
The breakfast served in the Dining Room will set you up for the day, smoked fish (of course) is an option or you could do worse than the full Welsh breakfast.
So, if you fancy a foodie few days away, this will tick all the right boxes. Perfect for teaching yourself some new skills to impress them at home, great to find out about the food that you eat and perhaps, most importantly, a place to do that thing we sometimes find so hard…relax, drop your shoulders and breathe.
Visit the website for further information.
Courses at Llys Meddyg
Ed is a flexible, friendly chap and will tailor the course to the group, but tickle your tastebuds with these options:
Seashore Forage & Feast Day Course | £99
Countryside Forage & Feast Day Course | £99
Preserving Wild Food Day Course | £85
Game Butchery, Curing & Smoking Day Course | £150
Game Shoot, Butchery, Curing & Smoking Two Day Course | £500
Fish Butchery, Curing & Smoking Day Course | £150
Fishing Trip, Butchery, Curing & Smoking Two Day Course | £500
Pork Butchery, Curing & Smoking Day Course | £150
Llys Meddyg also offer some excellent DB&B rates for residential courses, starting from £75pppn based on two sharing, £110pppn for single occupancy.
Ed’s mouth-watering gravadlax recipe
Now, this is delicious – give it a go!
100g muscovado sugar
2 tbsp cracked black pepper
Large bunch of fresh dill
400g raw grated beetroot
Line a dish large enough to hold a side of salmon with a double layer of cling film. Place one side of salmon skin down on top of the cling film. Rub with half of the whisky. Mix together the sugar, dill, pepper, salt and beetroot, and spread over the salmon. Pour over the rest of the whisky, and place the other side of salmon with skin facing up. Pull the cling film up around the fish, seal and place weights such as cans or a heavy chopping board on top. Refrigerate for two days, turning occasionally.
Perfect for a light lunch or starter, serve with avocado and a foraged garnish of wild sorrel, borage and gorse flowers - ta dah!