Monday, 13 February 2017

Ynyshir, Wales.

Whilst more fame hungry chefs may grab the limelight, Chef Gareth Ward and his young team are quietly working away creating some of the best food in Britain right now.
It's a long drive to Ynyshir, at least from Manchester. The roads are narrow and winding. Better to stay over and not go there and back in a day like I did. The weather changed several times on my long journey, from dreadful to bloody awful. As I arrived the sun peeped out from behind the clouds.
I'm there to shoot the new bar area and restaurant, the chefs in action and maybe some of the deceptively simple yet brilliant food. But first breakfast. On many shoots, I turn up, photograph food all day and then go home, some days I don't eat anything. I'm so obsessive in my quest for good shots I often don't feel hungry. If it's a long shoot, I've taken to getting an Egg McMuffin on the way for fuel (a none guilty pleasure). One of the best full English breakfasts I've ever had is generously made for me especially. I eat it whilst working, my god those sausages are good!
The trick to shooting in a kitchen I think is to keep shooting. Most of your shots will be garbage, but you can select the better images later. Luckily, there are quite a few to choose from. Well luck really isn't much of a part of it, it's hard work, putting in the time and being vigilant. Hopefully this hard work reflects in part, a fraction of the huge amount of graft chefs like Gareth and the team put in here. It's not a job it's a life. For me, this work ethic is to be hugely admired.  
Below, the team tasting a new dish in development.

Gareth sums up his own style succinctly, "It’s not about producing pretty food, it’s about producing food that smashes you in the face with flavour". I can confirm that! After shooting the amazing Welsh Wagyu, Gareth says, "you might as well eat that". I pop it in my mouth and the flavour explodes, with deep meaty intensity. Give me this any day over a big pile of herbs that the chef has foraged. Who wants to eat that? Not me I'm afraid and I don't care if he's foraged it either. I'm just looking for flavour as it is here. Here there are rarely more than three or four ingredients on a plate. Simplicity is usually best isn't it?
Later on I'm shown the secret cold room where all the big hunks of meat are maturing at different stages. It smells almost like blue cheese. There's a digital clock in the kitchen apparently showing the exact time of maturation.
 But first the new interior, a more modern approach that says less country house and more destination dining.  Below, the bar area, a room with a view.


Gareth now has a share in the business with his partner Amelia.  He wants to make Ynyshir the first two star in Wales. I think he's well on his way. I can't think of many places I've been to in Britain with food I'd like to eat more. I continue shooting some more food ...The Welsh Wagyu Burger.
And more kitchen shots, sometimes black and white is the more striking way to go....

Finally the desserts including some theatre. Frozen eucalyptus & white chocolate petits fours created at the table using liquid nitrogen. This is not just for show, it creates another flavour bomb. Underneath; Tiramisu.
As dusk approaches, they light the candles in preparation for evening service and I stay a little longer to capture the blue evening shadows creep across the dining room.
I often find it hard to leave, there's always one last shot but in the end I think I have enough. It's a long drive home in the dark but Gareth sends me on my way with a fantastic BLT!
It's a magical place Ynyshir, with rarely brilliant food. Gareth has created his own idiosyncratic unique style here with incredible levels of flavour and it's food that I very much like to eat for this reason. Hopefully I did this amazing place justice.



More photos here.
Previous Review 2016.


Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Kiln, Soho.

There is no doubt that Manchester is getting better for restaurants all the time but we still have an awful long way to go to get to the general standard of our capital, without doubt one of the best cities in which to eat in the world at every level. It makes decisions on where to eat there so very difficult, there is too much choice.
Kiln is a fine case in point, it could only really be in London right now and it proved to be a wise option in city full of fantastic restaurants. Kiln is a thai restaurant but not as we know it. It's a thai grill and uses these claypots on open flames.

We had booked but rejected the un-atmospheric seats downstairs, much better to sit at the open kitchen counter and watch it all being cooked. We get the Lamb Skewers (£2.90, fabulous, just the right amount of fat), Mylor prawns (£5, pictured below), the Bream dry curry (£7.30), the Langoustines (£8.80) & Clay Pot Glass Noodles (£5.75, pictured underneath).
The food was just so good that we ordered more and more. The last two were amongst our favourites of the afternoon, the Laos Curried John Dory and the Long Pepper Curry were sensational. It reminded me a little of when we first went to StreetXo in Madrid, it was such a huge buzz, a really enjoyable experience sitting there are the counter. Inexpensive too considering, it only cost us £68.68 for two ordering loads and including beers, phenomenal value especially in London. You'd struggle to find anything this good in Manchester at this price proving once again that in London you can eat like a king at every price level.

Friday, 30 December 2016

25 Best Meals of 2016.

As we all know, 2016 in general has been a terrible year. Luckily we still have restaurants, fine food and booze to console us. In this respect it has been good year for me both in terms of eating and photographing food professionally. My idea of Spanish chef collaborations 'Nacho & Friends' at Ibérica hit the ground running with three nights of the best food Manchester has ever seen. Inevitably these all comfortably make the list as do trips to Madrid in January, Valencia in May, Stockholm in July, Andalucia in September and London in December. The following are my favourite meals from this year although not necessarily in any specific order. Full reviews in most of the links.
Quique Dacosta, Denia, Spain.
A three star restaurant in every way. Favourite Dish; Red Denia Prawn.
Aponiente, El Puerto de Sta María, Spain.
Simply one of the best restaurants in Spain and the world. Favourite Dish; Sea urchin royal.
The Samling, Cumbria. 
Quite rightfully gained/retained their Michelin Star this year and now with their recent extension The Samling is up there with the best in the UK. Favourite Dish; Smoked Egg Yolk.
The French, Manchester. The menu from guest chef Dan Cox from Fera was a stunning evening of food and service. Favourite Dish; Roast lamb, summer cabbage and hyssop.
Ynshir Hall, Wales.
Such brilliance of flavour in the food from chef Gareth Ward and a world class experience on the kitchen table. Favourite Dish; Welsh Wagyu Four ways.
Alabaster, Madrid.
Purity in product in the way only the Spanish can do it. Favourite Dish; the sardines.
Sacha, Madrid. We loved loved loved Sacha! Clarity and simplicity and just wonderful food in this traditional institution. Favourite Dish; 'Falsa Lasanga' Fake sea urchin lasagne.
 La Tasqueria, Madrid.  Nose to tail brilliance. Favourite Dish; Pig's Trotter, Artichoke, crayfish.
Coque, Madrid. Yet another superb restaurant just outside of Madrid. Favourite Dish; Glazed Suckling Pig tender and juicy with its crackling spicy pumpkin purée and roasted pear.
Quique Dacosta at Ibérica Manchester. 
The first Nacho & Friends, a master-class in the finest food & service. Favourite Dish; Sea Urchin.
Gastrologik, Stockholm. We were blown away by the food here, it was utterly superb. Favourite Dish; Wild salmon from Junkön with green strawberries and blackcurrant leaves
Messina, Marbella.
This place (as well as Gastrologik) were the best one stars we've ever eaten in, it was so good!
Favourite Dish; Eel, foie gras and cold dashi.
Street Xo, Madrid & Street Xo London. We won't queue for many places but we will make an exception here. "Singapore Laksa" with Carabineros was a favourite in Madrid.
Mark Poynton at Ibérica Manchester. Mark Poynton showed Manchester what it takes to get a Michelin Star in the second Nacho & Friends. Favourite Dish; Venison Tartare, charcoal mayonnaise, turnips.
Ricard Camarena, Valencia.
We ate at all three Ricard Camarena's places in Valencia and really enjoyed them all, the best is his Michelin star restaurant. Favourite Dish; Cocochas.
Le Cochon Aveugle, York. We were so impressed with the food here, we expect they will get a Michelin star before too long. Favourite Dish; Scallop, Artichoke & brie purée.
La Terraza del Casino, Madrid. Opulent and elegant dining room and exquisite food. Favourite Dish. 'Olivas'.
The Flying Elk, Stockholm. We had a pitch perfect taster menu at this 'gastro-pub'. Favourite Dish; Divers Picked Scallop 'signature.'
Compartir at Ibérica, Manchester. Another wonderful evening of food at Ibérica from two of three former El Bulli chefs. Favourite Dish; Crispy egg yolk with mushrooms jelly.
La Salita, Valencia. Tipped for a Michelin Star, we loved chef Begoña Rodrigo's taster menu. Favourite Dish; Tiara of pickled and salted  fish.
Kiln, London.
One of the most exciting finds of the year for us. We sat at the counter and just ordered and ordered.... Favourite Dish; All great but the John Dory curry.
Anglo, London. Another winner on our recent London trip. Favourite Dish; Cod with Cavolo Nero.
Noble Rot, London.
We loved this place, proper food and a great wine list (as you might expect) in such an  atmospheric setting. Favourite Dish; The slip sole.
Hakassan Hanway, London.
Absolutely wonderful dim sum for Sunday lunch.
The Parkers Arms, Lancashire. 
The East Coast Lobster was up there with the finest lobster I've ever had.
2107 looks to be quieter eating out wise although we have a trip to San Sebastian booked in the spring (including Mugaritz). Work wise it should be busier if it all works out to plan with some big exciting projects in the pipeline. Also look out for more Nacho & Friends in 2017, I can barely believe those chefs involved are actually coming here to Manchester next year myself. But they have confirmed so watch this space!