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My ten favourite dishes in Wales of 2016

2016 has been a great year for eating in Wales.

At the swanky end of the scale, the arrival of Richard Davies at the Celtic Manor and Allister Barsby at the Grove of Narberth has been a bonus for those who like a bit of fine dining. James Sommerin finally getting a well-deserved Michelin star was great news too.

Wales’s street food scene has continued to go from strength to strength with the trailblazing Hang Fire opening their first restaurant in Barry. Street Food Circus’s triumphant relocation to Bute Park in Cardiff also showcased what Wales’s finest traders are capable of.

In no particular order, here’s my list of the ten best things I’ve eaten in Wales over the last 12 months.

1. Grove of Narberth, Pembrokeshire – beef short rib

Allister Barsby is a huge talent. He was head chef at Gidleigh Park when it held two Michelin stars under Michael Caines. Barsby is now doing great things in Pembrokshire including this wondrous dish of spoonably soft beef short rib with roast shallots and potato puree.

2. da Mara, Cardiff – ‘nduja pizza

With places like Calabrisella, Dusty Knuckle and ffwrnes, Cardiff isn’t short of great pizzas. But, I’ve got a soft spot for da Mara. Their wood-fired pizza oven is the business and their Neapolitan style pizzas rock. 

3. JOL’s, Merthyr Tydfil – black fig tart

A protégé of the Hardwick’s Stephen Terry, Jamie O’Leary is cooking seriously tasty food in Merthyr Tydfil. This delightfully flaky pastry tart nestled thin slices of sweet roasted black fig drizzled with honey. A scoop of smooth vanilla ice cream sealed the deal. 

4. Zi’s Café, Cardiff – salt and chilli squid

Tender squid coated in grease-free breadcrumbs seasoned with a copious amount of chilli, garlic and spring onion. This stuff is just so so so moreish. So are a lot of the other dishes at this basic but friendly Chinese restaurant. 

5. The Hardwick, Abergavenny – crab linguine

Linguine with crab, shrimp, courgette, radicchio, anchovy and chilli topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. Woof.

6. Epicure Experience, Newport – Welsh lamb with baby onions

It’s surely a question of when not if Richard Davies will win a Michelin star for the Celtic Manor. His glorious showcase of Welsh lamb with sweet baby onions, wilted greens and baby leek was one of the standouts of our visit. 

7. Hang Fire Southern Kitchen, Barry – St Louis spare ribs

I don’t need to bang on any more about how much I love Hang Fire. But, they keep getting better and better every time I visit. Their Memphis style ribs are magical. 

8. Barley & Rye, Cardiff – lamb cannon

Barley & Rye was an unexpected delight on Cardiff's raucous Greyfriars Road. This dish of herb-crusted lamb cannon, smokey aubergine, sweet potato fondant, roast shallots and tangy goats cheese croquettes is an example of the quality of their cooking. 

9. Hare & Hounds, Aberthin – plum soufflé

So many dishes from the Hare & Hounds could make it onto this list but I’m going to single out their soufflé. Ethereally light, twanged with fresh fruit and served with top drawer ice cream, it’s impossible to find fault. 

10. The Fox & Hounds, Llancarfan - Rosedew farm lamb cannon and faggot

Mrs G is still banging on about the lamb cannon and faggot from this lovely pub in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Other notable dishes to pass my gob in 2016 include the cheeseboard from the Penylan Pantry, the garlic butter soaked prego steak sandwich from Amazonas, the malted chocolate doughnuts from the Early Bird Café, the chorizo, pepper and fried quail egg pintxo from Curado Bar, the grilled Halloumi from the Hellenic Eatery, the shawarma and falafel plate from Falafel Kitchen and the always incredible chicken joojah from Mowlana.

Happy eating in 2017!

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