Ynyshir Hall has just been awarded eight out of 10 in the Good Food Guide, the first restaurant in Wales to achieve such a score. It also has four rosettes in the AA guide. Caterer spoke to head chef Adam Simmonds about just where it all went so right.
Dan Bignold reports
You're one of only 13 restaurants with at least eight out of 10 in the Good Food Guide. Do you think you are gathering momentum? Yes, I'd like to think so - but we still need to generate more publicity so that people look at Wales differently. It still doesn't receive enough publicity. There is John Williams at Bodysgallen Hall, then Bryan Webb and his wife, Susan, at Tyddn Llan, and many other good chefs. I'd like to think we were doing the best food, though.
Is it harder to get the same recognition outside of London? I always think that to get four rosettes our scallop dish has to taste as good as the other four-rosette scallop dishes the inspectors have tasted. But it is harder to build awareness outside London. However, because we have got that recognition in the guides, and through being part of Relais & Chteaux, we can push on now.
What attracted you to Wales? The owners, Rob and Joan Reen, were 100% supportive from the start. Also, the produce in Wales is amazing. William Lloyd Williams from Machynlleth is one of the best butchers I have ever used. He hand-picks the cattle, has his own abattoir and people place orders with him as far away as Coventry.
We also have a kitchen garden where Sue the gardener grows herbs, salads and baby vegetables - whatever I ask her to grow, basically.
Is it the typical country house hotel?
Ynyshir is not a mainstream hotel. The owner is a painter and there are some very bold paintings decorating the place. My food has to match that.
How would you describe your cooking? It is rooted in classicism but with twists like pistachio souffl, which I imagine you either love or you hate. I certainly don't think people expect what they get. But cooking should be fun, it should be exciting. People are beginning to accept that.
Who stands out as a particular inspiration in your career? I was at the Halkin as a commis under Stefan Marchesi, which was fascinating. I was junior sous chef at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, which taught me everything about tastes and flavours. It was my finishing school. Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones are the best at that sort of training - and teaching organisation. I remember developing a squid ink risotto there and it took all day.