Chef Andy Tabberner injects youthful energy into the menu at this ancient inn at Beaumaris, Anglesey, says Neil Gerrard
The Bull, a 15th century inn in the coastal town of Beaumaris in north Wales, may be steeped in history but there are no relics in the kitchen of its elegant restaurant, the Loft.
Head chef Andy Tabberner is 24, his sous chef is 23 and his commis is only 18, so the team has youth on its side. But in Tabberner it also has a surprising amount of experience. Such are his credentials that owner David Robertson offered him the top job a year and a half ago, after Hefin Roberts, who had been there eight years and held three AA rosettes, left.
Tabberner hails from Birmingham and trained at the University College there before going on to work at Fairlawns in Aldridge near Walsall. After deciding to move on, he underwent 11 trials to find the right fit for himself before ending up at La Bécasse in Ludlow under Will Holland. Although he only spent six months there, the pair stayed in touch and Tabberner went on to join the opening team at Coast in Saundersfoot, south Wales, where Holland is now head chef.
“Looking back, I made a great choice to go to La Bécasse. I had a great mentor and now I have a great friend,” Tabberner says of his relationship with Holland.
Tabberner eventually left Coast for Anglesey and landed the role of sous chef at the Loft. He started there on the same day as girlfriend Maisie Warner, who has since been promoted to restaurant manager.
The restaurant is open four nights a week for dinner only, which allows Tabberner to take his time and make sure he is working with really fresh produce, changing the menu on the first of each month to keep it seasonal.
He is also reinforcing relationships with his local producers, including a vegetable supplier just five or six miles away, as well as Mon Shellfish, which supplies oysters and scallops from the Menai strait, as well as local Felin honey.
Those scallops appear on the menu as pan-fried local king scallops with spring onions, blood orange and hazelnuts, and have proven perennially popular, says Tabberner. “The spring onions come from our local guy, the blood orange gives a nice acidity and hazelnuts add texture. We just pan-fry the scallops – we don’t mess around with it,” he explains.
Business at the Bull is seasonal, as you might expect for somewhere as remote as Anglesey. The 48-cover Loft has 13 tables and doesn’t turn them over. Saturdays are full throughout the winter, whereas Wednesdays and Thursdays can be fairly quiet. In the summer the restaurant will be full every night and the clientele tends to be a slightly older crowd.
But that doesn’t stop Tabberner from making a couple of adventurous choices, within reason. The braised pork cheek on the menu when The Caterer visits is accompanied by liquorice, chorizo and Anglesey onion. “The boss always has a look at the menu, and although he never says no, he might question liquorice and pork cheek,” says Tabberner. “But I’ll say, well, liquorice is aniseed, so it’s only like having tarragon with it, but in a different format. It’s subtle; not bang in your face. The oils of the chorizo come out in the jus and people love it.”
Another popular choice is the Celtic Pride Jacob’s ladder, café de Paris and beef dripping rosti. Again, Tabberner finds he has to explain the Jacob’s ladder. “If you say it’s short rib, people understand it,” he says. “It’s braised down – it just melts in the mouth. The café de Paris is a classic butter and it works really well. The beef dripping rosti is indulgent and rich.”
There are also some intriguing desserts that are rooted in the Anglesey surroundings. Tabberner is a trained beekeeper with plans to introduce a hive to the Bull, and has created the Felin honey and orange mousse with almond and buttermilk as a tribute to the excellent honey on the island. The carrot cake with yuzu and local yogurt is not just beautiful to look at but is made with the locally grown Candle carrot, which is four times sweeter than the usual variety, allowing the chef to reduce the sugar without losing the sweetness.
Diners are happy with what is on offer, Tabberner asserts, and the AA seems to agree, having awarded the restaurant two AA rosettes just four months into the young chef’s tenure.
“I can do the food I want to do here. This is my style, I am really happy and the owner is very supportive,” he says.
When it comes to the future, he hopes to keep working on the local angle, such as trying to bake a bread made with ingredients exclusively from Anglesey, which luckily has its own mill and a brewery to provide the yeast. Regular wine-matching evenings are also expanding to take in beer and gin pairings.
From the menu
• Dressed local crab, lovage, spiced tomato, radish
• Anglesey marble potato mousse, purple sprouting, hazelnuts, sorrel
• Cured pigeon breast, beetroot, birch water, orange
• Rolled Anglesey lamb shoulder, wild garlic, carrot smoked bacon
• Roast T-bone of plaice, samphire, Jersey Royals, broccoli, Menai mussels
• Anglesey shallot tart, Moelyci cheese, leek, kale
• Set rhubarb custard, lemon, white chocolate
• Milk chocolate mousse, orange, Poblado coffee
• Apple millefeuille, Halen Môn caramel, Felin honey
Three courses, £50; two courses, £35
Loft at the Bull Beaumaris
Castle Street, Beaumaris, Anglesey LL58 8AP