A made me “happy meal” – Hiraeth Kitchen, Llysworney, Cowbridge, South Wales.

I think good food (and wine) is a wonderous thing and when I eat a really good meal (or drink a good wine) I get a sort of warm, fussy, contented feeling. To me there are few things that beat the high (in a sofa soft way) I get from sitting back and contentedly patting my pauch after eating and drinking well.

This bring me to Hiraeth Kitchen in the Vale of Glamorgan village of Llysworney, which is located (rather handily) about half way between Cardiff and one of my go to beaches in the form of Newton beach.

Great for walking the dogs and for building up an appetite with a blast of ozone as you make your way across the expanse of sand.

After building up an appetite, with the dogs having a fine old time even finding a dead deer which we (J and I) managed to shoo them away from before they tucked in/rolled in it🤢,

we sojourned to Hiraerth Kitchen to meet up with a mutual friend. Lord Ted (her dog, not the mutual friend – more on the little tinker that is Ted later) is not really up for long beach walks, so we met them there.

Quite easy to drive past this place

and the car park (nice and big) at the rear and we all missed it on our first pass (the jalopy having blasted passed J’s fancy pants car, much to her surprise, on the way there).

Inside it is rather nice with a roaring fire on the go

and some very interesting bar snacks on offer.

Oooh black pudding fritters” was my instant thought on seeing the snack board.

We were, however, there for a more substantial repaste in the form of their tasting menu.

As it was lunch we all decided to go for the scaled back short form offering (£30 a head), which included all those items asterisked on the board.

First up were the snacks, which entailed a lovely trio of treats.

The boquerones were glistening silver sided whoppers, from Costa Rica,

with a lovely subtle pickling to them.

I have eaten a lot of boquerones in my time and these were up there with the best of them.

Croquettes combined creamy potato

with a core of curry spiced yoghurt. 

I liked the tartness of the pomegranate seed on top, with my only slight quibble being the outer coating ideally could have been just a touch crisper.

The rather blandly named ” Today’s bread and butter” was anything but, with lovely bread (ficelle I would say), cultured butter and an absolutely killer scallop and garlic emulsion topped with scallop roe.

Just utterly (I resisted the butterly temptation- actually think the butter was a bit superfluous to requirements as it was somewhat overawed by the scallop and garlic emulsion) lovely.

The “chip butty” was a thing of beauty in terms of construction

and flavour.  Crisp on the outside and soft and yielding on the inside layered potatoes, sat between two wedges of crispy bread (which had has a tomato and nigella seed chutney applied to it). Chicken fat was in there too, which can never be a bad thing.

To complete the chip butty, there was a dollop of “curry sauce”. Light and airy with a sweet and mild curry tang to it that was reminiscent of the Irish curry sauce (without the cloyiness). Really enjoyed this bit of culinary whimsy and am somewhat surprised it is now off the (April – see below) tasting menu, but I am hoping it will reappear on the snack one.

A surprise then arrived in the form of a mushroom dish, due to go on the April tasting menu.

Apparently there was a difference of opinion (God forbid in this day and age people having differing opinions on things – burn the witch) in the kitchen as to the tweaking of this dish and our honest opinion was sought.

The lo shui (master stock) braised mushrooms, mushroom pairfait and cured egg yoke had a deep umaniness to them, as well as a rich earthiness. The mushroom “canoli” had a beautifully light and crisp casing, with tarragon cream and a really  refreshing mushroom tartare. We were told to eat this second, which to me was essential as a palate cleanser (its subtleties would have been immediately lost if you ate the canoli first).

Our honest feedback (to the chef who came out to ask) was that the only criticism we had was the braised mushrooms were too salty for our tastes (and I am a bit of a salt fiend). This was music to his ears as the difference of opinion on this dish was whether or not the master stock was too salty with the chef we spoke to in the “it’s a bit too salty” camp. Nice to see things here are always being tweaked and we were all very happy to be the guinea pigs in this instance. I think tone down the seasoning of the mushrooms here and this becomes a great dish.

Next up was what I would regard as the main event, being more akin to a main course than a trad. taster menu dish.

I always think it is a brave kitchen that cooks a pork loin. Over and you may as well just bin the dried out husk, but go the other (correct) way and people will faint at the sight of pink pork (I have eaten pork blue in Spain and, much to certain peoples’ apparent chagrin, I am still here).

To me the pork was cooked bob on, with just a healthy hint of pink. Lovely flavour enhanced by it being wrapped in a cured ham (parma, monmonthshire?) under which was a sage butter.

A cube of belly had a nicely rendered down fat cap and tender meat, with a crackling piece (beautifully crisp) perched atop it.

An inspired combo of tender pork cheek (such a flavour packed cut) and almond worked a treat, nicely topped off by a deep fried sage leaf which added aromatics to the mix.

Chargilled spring greens had a lovely char, that really amped up the flavour, and were infused with a fabulous pork sauce (pure piggy essence). Fantastic dish this, which really showcased what can be done with quality pork in the right hands.

We also had a bowl of pork quavers

of which I have been a fan since one of the chef’s days at the Heathcock.  As good as ever and a perfect booze snack (I would go with an Alsace riesling with these) in my book.

The “Baked” (not sure it was) Alaska pud was a triumph.

Sweet gooey, torched, Italian meringue encased a brown bread ice cream, blood orange segments, marmalade, a bitter chocolate ganache and a cake base.

Really nice balance to this dish with the sweet, sour and bitter working really well together.

Proceeding were brought to a close with coffee, macarons and amaretti biscuits

We (well me) had scoffed two of the amaretti biscuits prior to the pic being taken

Lord Ted was particularly interested (when he wasn’t wandering around the pub making friends  – they are very dog friendly in the bar area) in the macarons

Of course, it being chocolate (a decent dark one at that) he wasn’t allowed any (not good for dogs at all)!!

On the booze front, they have some decent looking beers on tap and the wine list, whilst relatively short in length is not short on interest.

A German pinot gris (my German geography ain’t great but I believe this wine is from Pfatz which I don’t think is in Bavaria), a txakoli (Pais Vasco), a wild ferment (Saffer) chenin blanc and a white cote du rhone are nice to see in the whites as are a Loire cabernet franc and a Romania pinot noir in the reds. I also approve of the 100ml sherry pours.

Mark ups are generally pretty reasonable (for the UK), with the cheapest white (the Long Country Chilean chardonnay) retailing at around the £9 mark and on the list at £22 and the cheapest red (the Romanian PN) similarly retailing at around the £9 mark and on the list also at £22. At the top end, the markups are oddly a little leerier (usually the other way around) with the wild ferment chenin retailing at around the £15 mark and on the list at £48. The most pricey red, the Loire (Domaine De Berris) retails at around the £15 mark, is back below the 3 times norm at £43 on the list.

In terms of the 100ml sherry pours, the Del Duque (a very, very fine VORS amontillado – bravo for having this on the list) retails at just under £27 for a half (37.5ml) bottle so the £14 on the list for a 100ml glass ain’t bad at all.

The verdict

As I mentioned at the start, food to me is so much more than mere fuel. Good food makes me happy and bad food (regardless of whether it fills me up or not) tends to makes me sad (and often quite angry).

My meal at Hiraeth Kitchen made me very happy indeed. Really good, clever dishes, decent portions, very good value, in a nice setting, with an interesting wine list. All of these things trigger my endorphins.

Service was also really good (informative, there when needed, but not intrusive) and they are very dog friendly (in the bar and outside only, not in the restaurant, which is fair enough).

You can’t really ask for more than all of that can you!

If you are looking for a really good meal out then this place really hits the spot.  This is a place for a very happy meal and I will think myself well done by if I have a better meal this year.

They also have plans afoot to increase the use if the quite expansive outside area, with talk of smokers, BBQs etc. Come the summer this will be a great addition to their offering.

Sunday lunches sound good too

I will certainly be back (still got a voucher from their crowdfund and I am very happy about that).

The details

Address:  Llysworney, Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan, CF71 7NQ

Website: https://www.hiraethkitchen.com/


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