Ever since SY23 bagged its first Michelin star and the guide’s much-coveted ‘Opening of the Year award’ in 2022, all eyes have been on the Georgian seaside town of Aberystwyth. Out on a limb on Wales’s storm-smashed west coast, the town nurtures one of the UK’s hottest food scenes, with chefs elevating produce-led Welsh cooking to the extraordinary, using locally farmed, fished, foraged and fermented ingredients.
You’ll need to book months ahead to snag a table at SY23, where chef Nathan Davies, of Great British Menu fame, cooks for a lucky few. Drinks by the fire pit on the terrace sharpen the appetite for lunch or dinner in the indigo-blue restaurant. The 10-course menu sings boldly of the seasons in dishes as deceptively simple as scallop with seaweed and burnt butter, and lamb with shallot and black garlic.
Dig deeper into Aberystwyth’s food scene and you’ll find other treasures, such as sunny Spanish deli Ultracomida, with its outstanding tapas, wine and vermouth. Wandering the town’s backstreets, you might also happen upon Jonah’s, a fishmonger serving daily specials from king prawn curry to lobster and chips.
A scenic half-hour drive north of town, two-Michelin-starred Ynyshir is where Gareth Ward walks the culinary high ground. If you’re lucky enough to score a table here, you’re in for a meat feast, with so many courses you’ll lose track. There’s no pandering to dietary requirements: it’s one menu only (under wraps until you arrive). It goes without saying that all dishes, like the aged otoro tuna with teriyaki and Welsh Wagyu fudge, are sensational.
SY23 chef Nathan Davies on flavour and local produce
What makes Aberystwyth such an exciting place for food?
In Aberystwyth, we’re lucky enough to have an abundance of incredibly well-produced and lovingly farmed ingredients at our disposal, which means we can make very creative dishes that really taste of the surrounding region.
How does regional produce inform your cooking?
We use grown and milled grains from Llanrhystud, just a few miles away from SY23, plus beautiful local lamb, and amazing shellfish and fish from the boats that land their catch at Aberystwyth. One of my favourite ingredients is birch syrup. We tap birch trees in a nearby 70-acre forest, harvesting it in a similar way the Canadians do with maple. The syrup has a deep, redcurrant-like flavour, which goes brilliantly with our chicken liver mousse dish.
What are your favourite dishes on the menu at the moment?
I love bringing all the guests up to the restaurant at the same time and cooking them one special dish, as you would with family or friends. This might be whole grilled turbot cooked Basque-style over the fire with Welsh cockles and broccoli, lamb on the bone or a hot cheese course where the cheese is cooked in the fire.
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