There is an old Welsh farming tradition called Source And the Hendry. the Source (comes from Welsh, Hav means summer) the house was at the top of the mountain where the farmer and the family resided to graze the sheep and raise new lambs during the spring and summer and allow the cultivation of crops down in the valley at Hendry (old house). When winter came, the farms, family, and herds would move to the warmer valley floor. Families ate produce they grew and preserved throughout the year, as well as fresh meat and forage foodstuffs.
Winter was as much a time of great food as other seasons in Wales – and fortunately, it still is. With Michelin meals, fantastic foraging opportunities, award-winning distilleries and vineyards and an array of gourmet markets, the winter months are some of the best places to experience the Welsh food and drink scene. But why is Wales such a great gourmet destination? Simply: sea and mountain (sea and mountain). The Welsh coast and hilly terrain provide a fresh store of produce at all times of the year, even in winter.
Host with the coast
From this natural pantry, chef Hywel Griffith sources most of his ingredients for the Beach House – a Michelin-starred former coal-shed restaurant set on the sands of Oxwich Bay on the idyllic Gower Peninsula. The ethos here is seasonal and local, which means you can sit by the wide windows overlooking the sea, feasting on the fish – perhaps bass or skewer (trout) – caught just feet from you that morning. You can choose from three to eight seasonal courses, which come fall and winter, mean favorites like the famous lamb from the Gower salt bogs raised on the road.
It’s a similar tale in Nathan Davies’ SY23 in Aberystwyth. You may know Davis from his appearances on the Great British menu and his over-the-top cooking style, which is exactly what you can expect at the restaurant. All the key ingredients here are fed either of the day or in season and then locally preserved, farmed or caught, allowing you to feast on scallops with seaweed and burnt butter, turbot with cockle and broccoli, or cox apples with wood sorrel and granola across the lunch tasting menu. or dinner. If you can’t get a reservation, or if the tasting menu is a bit on the budget, try Y Sgwâr, SY23’s al fresco small plate restaurant. It’s covered and heated, and open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and everything is still cooked over a fire.
Whoever finds something keeps it
Speaking of foraging, why not get out into the wilds for yourself and see what you can find at your own feast. The Severn Estuary has provided much-needed sustenance to the local population since Roman times and was famous for its fine fishing. You can learn all about the estuary and its connections to Welsh life with Chloe Newcomb Hodgetts of Gourmet Gatherings. Newcomb Hodgetts, in addition to being an ecologist and marine life expert, is a professional forager. Book an Estuary, Meadow and Shrub Forage trial and collect up to 30 different ingredients over the course of 90 minutes.
Alternatively, head into the wild Brecon Beacons with Adele Nozedar of Brecon Beacons Foraging to learn all about sustainable food in the mountains, bogs and waterways of central and east Wales, collecting everything from wild garlic to mushrooms. Find a gin botanical experience at Nozedar, where you collect ingredients to sample the spirits.
If you’d rather just taste the spirits than make them, you’re in luck, as Wales produces gin, rum, wine, whisky, and even vermouth. Makers of world famous Penderyn whiskey have opened a brand new distillery in 2021 at Old Board School in Llandudno. On a tour of the new location, you’ll get information about the distillery’s history, learn about what’s currently being distilled, and hear about the original Brecon Beacons. You’ll also get to taste a dram or two.
Back south, try Welsh ingredients with a Spanish twist at Asador 44 – a popular and intimate restaurant in the heart of Cardiff. Choose from slow-cooked Welsh lamb shoulder or Welsh bone-in sirloin steak to share with seasonal vegetables cooked on a wood-fired grill, or perhaps treat yourself to a bottle of Ancre Hill Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine – grown and bottled down the road in Monmouthshire.
Plant your feet
If you want to go meat-free, Cardiff has a range of vegetarian and vegan dining spots, and most of the restaurants in the city have a wide range of vegan meals, such as Canton’s amazing Hard Lines coffee or vegan food studio. Close to Asador, you will find the famous Cardiff Market; Hop upstairs to sample baked goodies at The Naked Vegan. This all-natural bakery is known for its unusual vegan wedding and celebration cakes, but head to the stall on the terrace or the café on the ground floor for everything from vegan cakes and brownies to biscuits. Or opt for fabulous, plant-based loaves and pastries from Alex Gooch bakeries across town (and soon to be opening in Monmouth).
You can’t leave Wales in winter without a tasty souvenir or two, and it’s the perfect excuse to visit one of the country’s other great markets. Head to Swansea’s famous indoor market and stock up on freshly made cockles and Welsh scones, or stop by the newly refurbished Victorian market in Newport for bottles of Welsh wine, handmade loaves and Welsh cheeses such as Perl Wen and Snowdonia black bomber.
Find inspiration for your winter holiday at Visit Wales