My Best Ever Meal and other stories

Picture Credit: Fjona Black

Binge watching ‘The Great British Menu’ … tutting loudly as another aspirant chef attempts the theatrics of a chocolate fondant for the Masterchef judges.

It’s a sure sign of overindulging in self-isolation feasts for the eyes. As expected, it is no substitute for the social celebration of a shared dining experience; the pre-TV ‘one pot wonder’ is a sad reminder of the paucity of your own offering compared to actual chefs in actual professional kitchens.

Chefs like Gareth Ward at Ynyshir; tucked away in the mid Wales countryside, quietly challenging you to do the hard miles for the culinary rewards on offer. In our game of “what restaurant will you eat at first, when lockdown is unlocked”, our food memory takes us here, every time. This review dates back to 2018 … but the words still make our mouths water.

Hells Bells

(Interjection) informal {pronunciation hellz bellz}

  1. Expression of Exclamation or Surprise (“Hell’s Bells and buckets of blood”)
  2. Opening track to ‘Back in Black‘ album released by Australian rock band AC/DC in 1980

The bell tolls as the opening track of AC/DC’s 1980 album ‘Back in Black‘ echoes around the dining room. High octane rock music, volume pumped up, the energy in the kitchen palpable from our privileged vantage point at the pass. This is no ordinary introduction to an evening of great tastes but this is the most extraordinary meal you could hope to revel in; the finest of fine (fun) dining.

There is a delicious paradox at the heart of this kitchen … thumping beats of music … meaty sounds for a meat-obsessed menu … the Sex Pistols, Kings of Leon, The Black Keys. The soundtrack for our evening summons up a boisterous rhythm and a creative energy, the tone set for service … and yet, amidst the guitar riffs and the thump of bass and drum, there’s a calmness which reflects the confidence of a well-drilled team, hours of pre-preparation and the overwatch of a master of his craft. Not a dish leaves the pass without chef Gareth Ward’s approval … every morsel bears testimony to the quiet authority of a chef of rare imagination and clarity of purpose, at the very top of his game.

And this is not a kitchen run by shouts and fear. This is a team bound by loyalty, a young team mentored and nurtured … youthful chefs, running sections while still in their teens, encouraged to serve the food they have prepared, directly to diners — showing their knowledge, adding colour to the descriptions through tales of daily forages, humble pride in the beauty of the dishes and the mouthwatering sensations they have helped to bring to life.

And what of the taste sensations?

This menu is unashamedly for the meat lover. Uncompromisingly so.

This is a loud, proud celebration of game, poultry and cattle.

Welsh Wagyu Beef from Montgomeryshire farmer Ifor Humphreys is the raw ingredient for dishes of sublime originality, which genuinely make the hairs on the back of your neck rise. Welsh Wagyu Dripping … c’mon, Chef, what are you doing to me? Served with 7-day proved sourdough … literally, fill the bath with dripping and let me slide right in.

More Welsh Wagyu? Go on then; aged in a Himalayan Salt Cellar for 200 days (and counting), served raw.

A little more? Melt-in-the-mouth Wagyu ‘burger’ … bitesized, but oh, what a bite … rich, luxurious, more-ish.

Maybe just one more ‘way with Wagyu‘? Bring on the Wagyu Fudge … yes, it is an actual thing; a gloriously luxurious, ring-those-bells, celebration of a thing.

Every morsel was a mini masterpiece. Deceptively simple dishes like Hoisin Duck with the thinnest of thin-cut cucumber … familiar tastes combined exquisitely. Clever, clever dishes; Not French Onion Soup. Twists and turns. Perfect pink grouse with elder, sprinkled with gratings of 100% dark chocolate. Imaginative offerings which mess with the head by defying expectations; cured mackerel with frozen raspberries and British wasabi.


Seventh heaven in seven sweet steps to … the Wagyu Beef fudge, of course.

Raspberry slushy — too good for the kids … a second helping of bread with a generous daub of raspberry jam, accessorised with raspberry cane greenery. White chocolate with a black bean crisp.

The Miso Treacle Tart was the finest — bar none — that I’ve eaten, and it is my go-to pud, so I know about these things. Tart Cox’s Apple bedecked in custard, a proper pudding … followed by a mind-bendingly deconstructed Tiramisu.

During this four-hour celebration of culinary excellence, the music from the swirling turntable provided a triumphant soundtrack which thumpingly celebrated the uniqueness of the offer. No hiding behind generic background helpings of middle-of-the-road warblings for this headlining act.

Gareth Ward sets the agenda and plays to his own tune. And what a sound. Hells Bells, Never Mind the Bollocks … this meal rocked our foodie world!

Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms

Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth, SY20 8TA



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