It might require a bit of a journey to get to, but this Welsh country house hotel has been quietly transformed into one of the most exciting and innovative restaurants with rooms in the UK.

Eglwys Fach
SY20 8TA
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  • Ynyshir
    Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth, Wales, Powys, SY20 8TA
    01654 781209
    Restaurant reservations
    Open Table Logo

    Nestled away in Wales’ Dyfi Valley, Ynyshir is a destination restaurant in every sense of the word. It’s quite hard to get to, is situated in the middle of a RSPB nature reserve and has just twenty covers in its restaurant, but anyone who makes the journey to eat there will be well rewarded. Previously known as Ynyshir Hall, chef Gareth Ward and his partner Amelia Eriksson have transformed it from a country house hotel into a restaurant with ten bedrooms, putting the focus firmly on the food.

    The menu revolves around Gareth’s ethos: ‘Ingredient led, flavour driven, fat fuelled, meat obsessed’. There are just two tasting menus to choose from – an eleven-course lunch or a nineteen-course dinner (which is also available at lunch during the winter season). With just a handful of tables in the restaurant, seating between one and four people, it’s a place to indulge in an intimate gastronomic experience that lasts all evening.

    The food changes dramatically with the seasons, preserving ingredients when they’re at their best to be used later on in the year. Every course might only contain a few bites, but as much flavour as possible is squeezed into every ingredient, with a focus on aged meat, fermented vegetables and Japanese flavours above all else. There are no rich stocks or heavy carbohydrates; instead, many plates simply contain a piece of protein, a soy-based dressing and a fermented element for contrast.

    The dining room itself is Scandinavian in feel, with the open kitchen giving diners an insight into how each course is prepared. The dark, atmospheric interior (which is constantly being improved and added to – the next step is to design some bespoke dining chairs) contrasts with the beautiful gardens outside, which are in the process of becoming wild meadows. Gareth and Amelia have plans to turn the manicured garden into a working kitchen garden, with polytunnels, fruit orchards and birch trees which can be harvested throughout the year.

    The chefs serve each course themselves, giving diners an expert insight into the ingredients and techniques used to create every plate of food. The most prized ingredient is dry-aged Welsh Wagyu beef, which finds its way into everything, including the butter for the bread and even the desserts. Front of house staff are more focused on drinks, either from the bar in the adjoining room or from the wine list, which was voted the best in the UK by the AA in 2018. In 2022, it was awarded a second Michelin star.

    Much like other destination restaurants all over the world, Ynyshir is unlike anything you’d find in a city or closer to civilisation. There are ten bedrooms offering far-flung diners a place to stay, which are in the process of being refurbished to be more in keeping with the restaurant. For anyone who loves perfectly cooked, inventive, flavourful cuisine, Ynyshir should be at the very top of the must-visit list.

    Three things you should know
    Gareth has a sizeable vinyl collection at Ynyshir, which is played during service and features everything from '90s hip hop to Michael Jackson albums.
    Diners who are staying the night at Ynyshir are treated to a simple but sublime breakfast in the morning, cooked by Gareth.
    Be sure to take a stroll around the grounds either before or after your meal at Ynyshir – it is in the middle of a RSPB nature reserve.
    Eglwys Fach, Machynlleth, Wales, Powys, SY20 8TA
    01654 781209
    Restaurant reservations
    Open Table Logo
    The Chef

    Gareth Ward

    It takes most people a long time to get to Ynyshir, Gareth Ward’s Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms in the remote Welsh countryside, but anyone who has eaten his multi-layered tasting menus will tell you it’s more than worth the effort. Regularly cited as the most exciting chef cooking in the UK today, he spends his time preserving seasonal ingredients and creating punchy Japanese-inspired sauces and dressings to act as perfect accompaniments to meat (which he dry-ages for up to 300 days himself). The result is a menu that is unlike anything else in the world, full of rich flavours that somehow marry together Japanese techniques and flavours with the wild ingredients of the Welsh countryside. Growing up in County Durham, Gareth didn’t really care about food until he went into the kitchen. ‘I was a bit of a dropout to be honest, and I only went into the kitchen because my uncle told me I’d always have a job doing it,’ he explains. ‘I was a very picky eater, but when I got my first job at a place called the Seven Stars in Shincliffe, I couldn’t get enough of it.’ The Seven Stars served the standard pub fare, and while Gareth loved discovering new ingredients and the discipline of the kitchen, it wasn’t until a chef joined the team and told him to find somewhere where he could hone his natural talent for cooking that he had even heard of Michelin-starred cooking. ‘A guy called Alan O’Kane gave me the Good Food Guide and told me to pick some places I liked the look of, so he could help me secure an interview. My first choice was Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, but when I went down there for a trial it was just too much for me; I wasn’t ready. So instead I ended up at Hambleton Hall in Rutland, working under Aaron Patterson.’