I want people to travel to Ynyshir from all over Europe
My dream is to make Ynyshir a destination restaurant that people travel to for an experience they can’t have anywhere else. Because this part of the world, this part of Wales, this building - everything about it deserves to be at the highest level and I won’t stop until we get there.
I’d never been to Wales before
The first time I ever came to Wales was for my job interview at Ynyshir. I was just blown away by the scenery, the landscape, the building, the whole feel of the place. I made sure I got that job.
We have no rules
I’m originally from the north east of England, and I’d worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants, so I knew how to cook. By the time I came here, my mind had been unlocked. For me now, anything can happen. There are no rules, no guidelines. As long as it tastes amazing, then we’ll do it. And that’s what makes us different.
We’re very lucky to have incredible surroundings
It’s an unusual situation: mountains on one side and sea on the other, and we’re right in a valley. You’ve got a wide range of things you can collect from the hill, then you go down on the beach and you’ve got a never-ending supply of amazing stuff for free. In spring we closed the kitchen down and harvested 200 kilos of wild garlic in one day, and made it into oils, pickled stems and powders that’ll last us the whole year. We’ve got birch trees that we tap to get birch water, a thousand litres of it, which we reduce down to make four litres of birch syrup.
We only do tasting menus
When you eat here, I want you to sit down for three hours and have maybe 20 different experiences of flavour. To do that you’ve got to re-think the way you cook completely. You can’t be using a load of cream and butter because it’s too heavy. Any that we use is cultured because it digests quicker. We don’t make animal stocks. We use a lot of soy dressings or fermented juice dressings. The courses are very small, one or two bites, so you don’t fill up too quickly. But there has to be an explosion of flavour in every single one, so it blows you away.
Ingredient led, flavour driven, fat fuelled, meat obsessed
I said I’d never put beef on the menu, because you can get that everywhere. But then a farmer called Ifor Humphreys from Montgomery, in Mid Wales, brought me a sample of his Welsh Wagyu and I was absolutely blown away. We use as many local products as possible: lamb from Aberystwyth, ducks from Fishguard, strawberries and eggs from down the road. We get a lot of vegetables from a guy called Medwyn on Anglesey. He grows these cricket-ball-sized swedes just for us, and they’re incredible.
I don’t believe in pretentious fine dining restaurants
I want people to come here and relax and have fun. We don’t have front of house staff. The chefs serve the food. It’s been a huge success, and customers absolutely love it. I got rid of the sommelier, too. Our wine list is designed by [Gareth’s partner] Amelia. She has around 60 wines, and she knows everything about every one of them. They’re all available by the glass, so you can make your own wine tasting during the meal. There are no rules here: fun dining, not fine dining.