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Dude food in North Cornwall’s BudeAugust 28, 2018

Mention North Cornwall to a foodie and most will picture Port Isaac (featured in my previous blog post), or Padstow, once nicknamed Padstein for its abundance of Rick Stein eateries but now perhaps more famous for Paul Ainsworth’s sublime No6. Towns further north, such as Bude, rarely get a mention.

But ignore Bude and you’ll deprive your tastebuds. It might lack the celebrity chefs and the picturesque cobbled streets of the Two P’s, but over the past few years workaday Bude has been quietly upping its game to become a mini foodie hub.

Leading the revolution is Temple at Bude, a relaxed bar-cafe-restaurant-shop that’s been open for under a year but is already drawing a youthful and eco-savvy clientele with its arty vibe, international food and hip cocktails. With its glass front, contemporary furniture and bright cushions, it’s a beautifully designed space in which to linger. If the Middle Eastern flavours remind you of Ottolenghi, it’s no coincidence as chef Craig Tregonning used to head up Ottolenghi Islington (and was one of the team Scully brought with him to cook a Feast with a Chef in Bristol a couple of years ago). It’s a far cry from the mediocre seaside fish and chips sourced from nowhere particular that you so often find in Britain’s coastal towns. Temple breaks the mould in other ways too; a boutique at the back it sells sustainable, quality clothing (hence the ‘Edibles and Threadables’ slogan daubed on its exterior walls), a spin-off of the fact that one of the two couples running Temple used to work for big fashion houses.

The all-day foodie fun starts at breakfast when you can try Craig’s zesty mushrooms with dukkah (pictured), or his signature toastie made from sourdough made at nearby Coombeshead Farm, home-fermented kimchi and mature Cheddar (pictured) – sounds strange but it works, the acidic kimchi the perfect partner to the rich fatty cheese. Breakfast, by the way, lasts pretty much all day, so stoke up your appetite with a spot of surfing first if you want. For elevenses and tea there are home-made cakes, which you can wash down with a beetroot or turmeric latte, or a proper cup of tea that’s brewed in a teapot and served with organic milk from nearby Roadford Valley farm. For lunch there are small dishes, all as good on the eye as on the stomach, and all using proper locally produced ingredients, most of them organic. On the day I visited they included hot-smoked Chalk Stream trout with organic leaves, horseradish and buckwheat; and Hake with roasted garlic aioli, chard and brassica flowers (both pictured).

In the evening, Temple morphs into a laid-back restaurant, which gives you a good excuse to try the cocktails (many using home-grown herbs, like coriander, and sweetened with stuff like dates instead of sugar which is a lovely touch). I kicked off with Lavosh (thin, Middle Eastern cracker bread) with a cucumber, basil and avocado dip (again, an unusual but spot-on combo), then for starter tried the Braised cuttlefish stew (£9), before tucking into a Roast organic pork belly main (£15) which was meltingly tender with crackling just the right side of denture-breaking. Producing food of this quality at these prices is no mean feat so Temple’s owners and chefs deserve high praise. Go! Now!

Happily, Bude’s foodie offering does not end at Temple. A few hundred yards on, overlooking the town’s spectacular Summerleaze beach, The Beach at Bude is a boutique hotel that provides creative cooking of a more classic kind. The chap behind it all is Joe Simmonds, who trained under Sam Moody at the Michelin-starred Bath Priory. Also not to be missed is the North Coast Wine Company, a wine bar-cum-winestore in the heart of town, run by the dynamic Oliver Tullett. Not only does it stock over 600 different wines and spirits, and loads of ales and ciders from Cornish producers (including Haywood Farm Cider from nearby St Maybn), but Oliver can offer you a choice of 13 different gins (including The Wrecking Coast from nearby Tintagel), cocktails (try the Breaking Bad), or a freshly ground coffee from Sabins Artisan Roasters based less than four miles away. I told you the town was cool. If you’re a foodie dude, head to Bude!

I visited Bude while researching a feature about the food of the North Cornwall coast for the August issue of Olive. You can it on the home page.

Toasted Coombeshead sourdough filled with mature cheddar and home-fermented kimchi, at Temple at Bude. Images copyright Clare Hargreaves

Lavosh, cucumber, basil and avocado dip, and one of Temple’s herb cocktails

Zesty mushrooms with dukkah

Hot-smoked Chalk Stream trout, organic leaves, horseradish and buckwheat; Hake with roasted garlic aioli, chard and brassica flowers, at Temple at Bude

The bar at Temple at Bude

Bude

Granite cliffs, north of Bude

Sea to plate eating at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port IsaacAugust 16, 2018

Many chefs boast about serving fresh, local produce, but eat at Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, in Port Isaac, and you can spy the day boat, the Mary D, that caught your lunch bobbing on the sea just a few yards from your table. Few restaurants in the UK can be as close to the action as this wonky little slate-clad gem, once two fisherman’s cottages, bang on the harbour front.

Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen is the little sister to Nathan Outlaw’s posher eponymous restaurant at the top of the village, and I visited while researching a feature on the food of the North Cornwall coast for Olive magazine. Its slimline card menu sets the scene for what to expect: “You shall have a fishy on a little dishy… ” and goes on to describe the offering as “small, original and delicious seafood plates, cooked to order and served when ready.”

It works. Like the building they’re served in the plates are indeed small (forget any hope of sharing, you won’t want to share even the tiniest morsel, believe me) and they are indeed original and delicious. Equally laudable is the fact that the fish is bought from local fishermen who use low impact fishing methods from boats at are certified by the responsible fishing scheme. I kicked off with Cured brill, that was paired with aromatic basil and pistachio and accompanied by an anchovy mayonnaise (£11). Sounds odd, but was a marriage made in fishy heaven – all thanks to the skills of Huddersfield-born chef Tim Barnes, who started as a pot-wash at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw then worked his way up.

But while the food, like that at the restaurant up top, is Michelin-starred, it’s also simple, letting the ingredients sing for themselves. (My third fish dish, for instance, was simply a grilled mackerel.)  And the intimacy of the place means that formality goes out of the window and you’re chatting with the neighbours you’re rubbing elbows with before you’ve even started nibbling. Service likewise is slick and professional yet genuinely friendly and relaxed at the same time.

I finished with the Chocolate, Espresso & Lime Baked Alaska (£7.50), scoffed too fast to photograph and the end to a perfect lunch. Thumbs up Nathan – this is just how a restaurant should be!

You can read my feature about the food of the North Cornwall coast in the August issue of Olive .

Cured brill with pistachio, basil and anchovy mayonnaise, at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac. Copyright Clare Hargreaves

Grey mullet with saffron cream and Cornish mussels at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac

Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac

Mackerel at Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen, Port Isaac

Port Isaac, Cornwall

Cornwall meets Italy on the North Cornwall coastAugust 8, 2018

It’s not often a pre-prandial nibble that sticks in your mind after eating in a top-notch restaurant. Forget salty peanuts, olives or fiddly canapés which tantalise more than they satisfy. The anchovies wrapped with deep-fried sage that Andy Appleton feeds you as you arrive at his Appleton’s restaurant, are in another league; moreishly salty, crunchy, and deeply satisfying, I could happily dine just on these.

I visited while researching a feature on the food of the North Cornwall coast for Olive magazine, published in its August issue this week. Andy, as any foodie knows, used to head the kitchen at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall and before that worked at Fifteen London. In March 2016 he and his partner Lyndsey bravely decided to launch their own venture.

The setting is idyllic – a light, contemporary building bang in the middle of a working vineyard and winery, Trevibban Mill, with views across a wooded valley. Touristy Padstow might be just a few miles away, but this place is so tucked away you’d never guess it. The narrow lanes leading there have grass growing in the middle – in my book, always a good sign of getting away from it all.

Andy’s cooking is uncluttered, and ingredient-led, and his creative ideas are guided by   years of training and travelling, mainly in Italy. It’s simple yet intriguing at the same time. The main ingredients are Cornish and they naturally change with the seasons, so when I visited there was Padstow crab with confit tomatoes and bee pollen granola (wow!) for starter, and for main, Wild garlic agnolotti filled with fermented leek. Herbs, vegetables, honey and lamb are sourced from the vineyard, so we’re talking not just food miles but food yards. Andy also draws on the region’s fantastic seafood, so not surprisingly the Rose harissa fish stew and the Squid ink linguine (home-made of course) with Cornish scallops have both become menu staples.

To this glorious Cornish produce Andy adds a few carefully chosen specialist Italian ingredients, such as fregola, which bulks out the fish stew; ricotta, used to fill hand-made pasta; and ‘Nduja which is used in a pangrattato to sprinkle over the squid ink linguine. As at Fifteen, Cornwall and Italy meet on the plate – and it works. This is Italian-style rustic cooking that’s modern, utterly delicious and exactly the kind of food I want to eat.

The Italian-Cornish fusion continues when it comes to the drinks. As with the food, Andy sources the “best of the west”, while also listing some of his and Lyndsey’s personal Italian favourites. For Cornish beverages, they’ve not had to venture further than the vineyard outside; they stock all of Trevibban Mill’s excellent ciders (still and sparkling) and wines (including its very drinkable sparkling rose brut which makes a superb aperitif).

For relaxed breakfast-to-dinner eating at digestible prices, this is one of North Cornwall’s top addresses. Even if you visit just for those anchovy and sage crispy bits, go. Make sure you leave room in your boot to stock up on Trevibban Mill wines and ciders, and if you’re there on a Wednesday or Sunday in high season you can join a tour of the vineyard too.

Anchovy and sage crispy bits at Appleton’s. Copyright Clare Hargreaves

Wild garlic agnolotti filled with fermented leek & ricotta. Copyright Clare Hargreaves

Squid ink linguine with Cornish scallops & Nduja pangrattato. Copyright Clare Hargreaves

Appleton’s Bar & Restaurant

Rose harissa fish stew with fregola. Copyright Clare Hargreaves

Cooking on the edgeJuly 17, 2018

All too often Palestine is in the news for its troubles, so it’s refreshing to see a cookbook celebrating its wonderful food. Zaitoun, written by award-winning food and travel writer Yasmin Khan, published this week, is a welcome celebration of the punchy flavours of Palestinian home cooking. (Zaitoun means ‘olive’, one of the key ingredients in the Palestinian kitchen).

Yasmin is not Palestinian herself; she was born in London to a Pakistani father and an Iranian mother, and spent her childhood between the UK and Iran. But Yasmin, who is not only a cook and writer but also a human rights activist, has spent plenty of time in Palestine finding out for herself about its cooking, and through it, the lives of its people. She learns how to hand-roll maftool, the plump Palestinian giant couscous; harvests black olives from the groves of Burquin in the West Bank; and hangs out with the guys at the Taybeh brewery who are producing the first Palestinian craft beer.

I love the simplicity of the 80 recipes in this book, many of them vegetarian versions of Palestinian classics, of which the roasted carrots (below) is a great example. Eminently doable, it’s the perfect dish to include at dinners outside on hot summer evenings. I also love her fragrant Roast cauliflower soup, and unusual desserts which include a Spiced pumpkin, olive oil and orange cake. A vibrant and touching book about a part of the world that rarely gets a look-in.

Roast rainbow carrots with herbed yogurt

“This recipe is inspired by a meal I enjoyed at Tawla, a Palestinian-owned restaurant in San Francisco that serves up innovative and tasty adaptations of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. Rainbow carrots are a particular addiction of mine and I adore how they brighten up my table with their purple and golden hues. If you can’t find any, fear not, regular carrots will do, just try and buy organic if you can as the taste is so much better. This salad is best made an hour or so in advance, then left to rest so the carrots soak up all the herby flavours from the dressing.”

Serves 4 as part of a spread

1kg mixed rainbow carrots (ideally purple, white and orange)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons natural yogurt

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill, or ½ teaspoon dried dill

1 teaspoon dried mint

½ teaspoon nigella seeds

¾ teaspoon sesame seeds

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.

Peel the carrots and slice them diagonally into thick wedges. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt and roast for 30–35 minutes, until they are tender, but still have some bite.

Meanwhile, whisk together all the remaining ingredients, except the seeds, (and not forgetting the final 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil) with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. 

When the carrots are ready, transfer them to a serving dish and leave them to cool to room temperature. Pour over the yogurt dressing, mix well, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Scatter with the nigella and sesame seeds.

You can tuck in immediately or, for best results, cover and leave to rest for about 1 hour before serving.

From Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan (Bloomsbury £26). Photography © Matt Russell

Mezze spread. Photography © Matt Russell

Yasmin Khan. Photography © Matt Russell

Cooking on the edgeJuly 17, 2018

All too often Palestine is in the news for its troubles, so it’s refreshing to see a cookbook celebrating its wonderful food. Zaitoun, written by award-winning food and travel writer Yasmin Khan, published this week, is a welcome celebration of the punchy flavours of Palestinian home cooking. (Zaitoun means ‘olive’, one of the key ingredients in the Palestinian kitchen).

Yasmin was born in London to a Pakistani father and an Iranian mother, and spent her childhood between the UK and Iran. Her previous (debut) cookbook, Saffron Tales, was named by The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal as one of the best cookbooks of 2016. As well as writing about food and cooking, Yasmin is a campaigner with special focus on the Middle East. Well acquainted with Palestine, Yasmin provides a window into everyday life there.

I love the simplicity of the recipes in this book, of which the roasted carrots (below) is a great example. Eminently doable, it’s the perfect dish to include at dinners outside on hot summer evenings. I also love the Roast cauliflower soup, and for pud, the Spiced pumpkin, olive oil and orange cake. A vibrant and carefully researched book about a part of the world that rarely gets a look-in.

Roast rainbow carrots with herbed yogurt

“This recipe is inspired by a meal I enjoyed at Tawla, a Palestinian-owned restaurant in San Francisco that serves up innovative and tasty adaptations of Eastern Mediterranean cuisine. Rainbow carrots are a particular addiction of mine and I adore how they brighten up my table with their purple and golden hues. If you can’t find any, fear not, regular carrots will do, just try and buy organic if you can as the taste is so much better. This salad is best made an hour or so in advance, then left to rest so the carrots soak up all the herby flavours from the dressing.”

Serves 4 as part of a spread

1kg mixed rainbow carrots (ideally purple, white and orange)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons natural yogurt

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill, or ½ teaspoon dried dill

1 teaspoon dried mint

½ teaspoon nigella seeds

¾ teaspoon sesame seeds

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan 180°C/Gas 6.

Peel the carrots and slice them diagonally into thick wedges. Toss them with 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt and roast for 30–35 minutes, until they are tender, but still have some bite.

Meanwhile, whisk together all the remaining ingredients, except the seeds, (and not forgetting the final 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil) with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. 

When the carrots are ready, transfer them to a serving dish and leave them to cool to room temperature. Pour over the yogurt dressing, mix well, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Scatter with the nigella and sesame seeds.

You can tuck in immediately or, for best results, cover and leave to rest for about 1 hour before serving.

From Zaitoun: Recipes and Stories from the Palestinian Kitchen by Yasmin Khan (Bloomsbury £26). Photography © Matt Russell

Mezze spread. Photography © Matt Russell

Yasmin Khan. Photography © Matt Russell

Galway’s gourmet revolutionJune 14, 2018

Quietly, Galway, on Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, has been witnessing a gastronomic explosion, leading it to this year be awarded European Region of Gastronomy status. Among the chefs igniting this gourmet revolution is flame-haired JP McMahon, who runs tiny, Michelin-starred, Aniar (Gaelic for “From the West”, pronounced “An Ear”), so named as its dishes are inspired solely by County Galway’s fields and rugged Atlantic coast. So imported lemons and black pepper are out. Instead, its chefs craft vinegars to provide acidity, and to spice things up, powders from seaweeds or plants. To extend flavours and seasons, they draw on age-old traditions of salting, fermenting and pickling.

When I visit, dinner starts, predictably enough perhaps, with homemade soda bread, moist and dark as an Irish peat bog, served with a choice of cultured butters. But then I’m served a slip of paper bearing an Ode to Bread that starts “Someone else cut off my head in a golden field”. An academic by background and self-taught as a chef, JP doesn’t do anything the ordinary way.

The nibbles (pictured) set the tone: a garlicky chicken heart on a stick, a baby parsnip sprinkled with dehydrated onion crumb, an eel and kohlrabi spring roll, and kelp and sea radish soup – all humble, unfussily presented, ingredients that JP lifts to fabulous flavour-packed heights. Presentation of both food and restaurant are pleasingly uncluttered, allowing you to savour the essence of each glorious ingredient.

Subsequent dishes push the boundaries with equal dexterity, such as the fermented potato (we’re in Ireland, after all) with smoked cod roe and cured egg yolk, snuggled inside an eggshell. Or the Atlantic cod that’s topped with foraged pepper pulse and pickled pine needles. The second of two desserts is candied beetroot with a yoghurt cream, topped with a beetroot leather like a floppy sombrero. This is contemporary Irish food at its pared-down best – and some of the best I’ve eaten anywhere. Get to Aniar when you can.

I visited Aniar while researching a feature on the food of Galway for Olive Magazine. To read more about Aniar, and other eateries in Galway, read my feature in the June issue of Olive magazine.

Aniar Restaurant. Nibbles.

Aniar Restaurant. Atlantic cod with dulse, potato, egg and a pine cone powder.

Aniar restaurant. Beetroot and yoghurt dessert.

Aniar and Dela restaurants.

Bistro on the BridgeJune 2, 2018

All too often, British beach cafes mean soggy chips, cardboard panini and mass-produced ice-cream at rip-off prices. There’s precious little actual cooking. But Bridge Cottage Bistro, in little Sandsend, on the coast just north of Whitby, happily breaks the mould. Here, in a cottage next to the beck that flows onto the beach,  young chef Alexander Perkins draws on his rich local Yorkshire larder to do some very proper cooking. Pop in for elevenses and try his classy pistachio and rose cake or super-sized chocolate brownies. Lunchtime menus are dominated by East Coast seafood, much of it sourced directly from the fishermen who caught it. I kicked off with scallops accompanied with parsley root puree (if you’ve not tried parsley root, it’s fabulous) and pomegranate, and for main went for a lemon sole with nut brown butter, capers and lemon, that was utterly delicious. Also very popular are Alex’s twice-baked Northumbrian cheese soufflé and his fish stew. The restaurant also opens in the evening from Thursday to Saturday. Thursdays are often themed evenings, while on Fridays the restaurant does an East Coast Tasting menu (6 to 9 courses for £38, booking required). To finish, I had a lemon posset topped with poached damsons. It’s all sensibly priced and served in a friendly, gently contemporary space. Just the kind of place that the Yorkshire coast needs.

I visited Bridge Cottage Bistro while researching a feature on the food of the North York Moors for Olive Magazine. To read more about Bridge Cottage, and other eateries on the North York Moors, read my feature here.

Bridge Cottage Bistro at Sandsend near Whitby, Yorks. © Clare Hargreaves

Bridge Cottage Bistro at Sandsend near Whitby, Yorks. © Clare Hargreaves

Bridge Cottage Bistro at Sandsend near Whitby, Yorks. © Clare Hargreaves

Beefing up the beetroot with Tommy BanksMay 2, 2018

I must have first visited the Black Swan at Olstead, on the southwestern fringes of the North York Moors, six or seven years ago. It was a comfy country pub in the middle of nowhere (nearest landmark Byland Abbey) serving elaborate variations on a theme of meat and two veg. But its special point of difference was that it was run by Mum and Dad Banks and their two sons James and Tommy. Tommy was working in the kitchen with its head chef Adam Jackson, while Mum and Dad served in the bar and kept food journos like me entertained. The village was silent as a morgue as I crept outside to the room next door they’d just converted into swanky B&B accommodation.

What a change when I returned to the Black Swan in October for Olive magazine. Tommy, the Banks’ youngest son, now 28, had not only won himself a Michelin star (four years earlier) and  triumphed twice on the BBC’s Great British Menu (2016 and 2017) but a few weeks before I arrived, the inn had been named the best restaurant in the world by TripAdvisor (I know, what do they know about food? But hey, being named best in the world is a pretty cool accolade anyway). The car park was packed with BMWs, and my single room had now turned into nine, several inside the house that used to be Tommy’s grandmothers. Mum and Dad had been substituted by younger staff at the bar.

An eight-course tasting menu was the only option on offer, many of its ingredients happily sourced from the kitchen garden behind the inn and, in the case of foraged ingredients, the Yorkshire hedgerows. (The hogweed seed, honey and elderflower custard served with sheep’s yoghurt ice cream for dessert was spectacular). The jars lining the shelves in the smart first-floor restaurant were filled with fat jars of leaves and fruits that Tommy pickles and preserves to extend their season.

The highlight, though, and the dish that can never come off the menu, is the Crapaudine beetroot, an ancient French variety of beetroot that’s the size and shape of a very large turnip, and gets its name from its warty skin (crapaud being French for toad). It’s grown on the farm by Tommy’s dad, and once pulled is stored in straw which means it’s available all year round. Tommy slow-cooks slices of it in Dexter beef fat for around four hours – not in the oven as you might imagine, but on the top of the stove. The chunky beetroot slices are crowned  with creamy clouds of cod’s roe and horseradish, interspersed with delicate linseed wafers. As I eat the dish, I can almost imagine the Crapaudine’s robust flesh is meat. No wonder the chefs dub it ‘meat root.’

Beetroot may be the simplest ingredient, but the Banks’ genius is that they’ve chosen a variety you won’t find anywhere else and as they grow it themselves on the farm they don’t depend on erratic suppliers. Working on this same principle, they also grow delicately flavoured Alpine strawberries which greet you at breakfast. “They taste best when minutes after being picked, ” Tommy’s dad tells me. “So we grow our own in the garden next to the pub.”  So it’s no surprise, perhaps, that Tommy’s first book, just published, is called Roots. For roots is what the Banks family are all about – even if the place they’re serving them in is now up-scale restaurant rather than gourmet village boozer.

To read more about The Black Swan, and other eateries on the North York Moors, read my feature in the April issue of Olive Magazine.

The Black Swan at Oldstead © Clare Hargreaves

Tommy Banks’ sig dish of crapaudine beetroot slow-cooked in beef fat © Clare Hargreaves

Crapaudine beetroot grown on the Banks’ farm in Oldstead © Clare Hargreaves

The Wright kind of foodMarch 13, 2018

Wright’s Emporium is in the middle of Welsh nowhere, and from the outside looks like a ramshackle pub that the modern world forgot. But inside, what a find! Its Emporium designation, suggesting an Aladdin’s Cave of gourmet surprises that evokes shrieks of childish delight, is spot on. The Wrights part refers to its food-writer owner, Simon Wright and his wife Maryann, who runs the kitchen.

At the far end of its comforting warren-like interior is a wine store (pictured below) offering mostly biodynamic wines that are sourced direct from their European producers. If you like, bring your own bottles and fill them up yourself – sustainability is very much part of this place’s ethic. The heart of the place is a deli crammed with local goodies, from cured meats from Charcutier, to Hafod Cheddar (one of my favourite cheeses) and Wright’s own tomato Catsup (a variant on ketchup) (pictured). There’s freshly baked bread (pictured), and local meats, fruit and veg too.

The highlight, though, is the daytime cafe (open evenings on Fridays and Saturdays), where you can kick off the day with a bubble and squeak made from kale, and topped with a poached egg  (pictured). With its mismatched bare tables, bookshelves, and spreads of just-baked cakes, it’s a deliciously relaxed spot in which to enjoy Maryann’s European-influenced rustic cooking. Dishes might include a Tartiflette, a Rare roast beef tonnato, or Fried aubergine with labneh. Or if you’re in a hurry, the Pork belly cubano (£8) will set you up for the day, and don’t leave without one of their brownies, as big as bricks. Upstairs there’s even a bijou apartment which you can rent. Its location, the village of Llanarthne, is a perfect spot from where to explore Carmarthenshire.

You can read more about Wrights in my article on Carmarthenshire’s food for Olive magazine here.

The wine store, run by Simon and Maryann’s son Dan © Clare Hargreaves

Breakfast bubble & squeak © Clare Hargreaves

Wrights tomato catsup © Clare Hargreaves

Waitress Sammi Jones bringing sourdough breads fresh from the oven © Clare Hargreaves

The chic face of CarmarthenshireMarch 6, 2018

It’s where the super-cool fashion chain, Toast, was born. It has a Ginhaus stocking over 400 gins and a few doors up, a boutique apartment that’s the height of contemporary chic. It even boasts one of the best-stocked kitchen shops in the land. And on its elegant high street, there’s a heavenly chocolate emporium which crafts “extreme” chocolate wedding cakes over a metre tall and weighing up to 35 kilos. No, we’re not talking Chelsea or Clapham, but the market town of Llandeilo in the wilds of southwest Wales. What a find!

I visited Llandeilo while researching a feature on the food of Carmarthenshire for the March issue of Olive magazine, just out. Lunch is a crab platter inside the Ginhaus deli-cum-cafe, assembled from crab from Dash Shellfish in Little Haven on the Pembrokeshire coast, sourdough made by local baker Alex Gooch, and salady goodies from the deli counter. Shelves are crammed with gins from all over the world, including nine or ten Welsh ones such as Damhile In a lovely touch, owners Mike and Kate Kindred serve gins with fresh botanicals from Aberglasney Gardens nearby. Visit on a Friday or Saturday for fresh homemade pizza, topped with local ingredients such as Trealy Farm salami and Caws Cenarth cheeses.

After a stroll around the town’s shops (or a visit to Dinefwr Castle on the outskirts), the place for tea is Heavenly Chocolate Emporium, which not only produces artisan chocolates and freshly made gelatos (in over 300 flavours) but does a unique line in chocolate sculpting for wedding cakes. Bring along an idea, and chocolatier Tracey Kindred will miraculously turn it into a ‘story cake’ crafted out of chocolate. I spy Welsh dragons, saucy mermaids, houses…. It’s a time consuming passion – apparently the record time taken to sculpt one of these edible beauties is 38 hours, and that’s two people working flat out. I make do with the ‘ordinary’ cake, a pink and white confection served on a tablecloth to match. It’s as heavenly as cafe’s name. I love Llandeilo!

You can read my full article on Carmarthenshire’s food here.

Teatime at Heavenly Chocolate Emporium © Clare Hargreaves

Ginhaus deli, Llandeilo © Clare Hargreaves

Crab platter at Ginhaus deli © Clare Hargreaves