We caught up with national treasure Shaun Hill, and had a good old chat about the exciting dining scene in South Wales. Having been in the kitchen for almost 50 years, and heading three Michelin-starred restaurants, Shaun is all about creating unpretentious, traditional and bold dishes using the finest ingredients he can find.
As any Welsh foodie will know, the restaurant scene, especially in the South, has been evolving over recent years, now proving a hub for great food and drink.
‘More and more, Wales is showing its support for top-quality restaurants. This is of course because there is so much fantastic produce to be found in the area and, crucially, diners willing to part with their hard-earned cash to enjoy it. It really does pay off when it comes to sampling the ﬁnal dish. The restaurant scene in South Wales has gone from strength to strength over the past ten years – not just in the urban south of the country but across the hills and valleys.’
Under Shaun’s lengthy leadership stint, Gidleigh Park in Dartmoor received its first Michelin star, before Shaun and his wife opened The Merchant House in Ludlow. It was here that Shaun saw the second Michelin star of his career, as the new restaurant was hugely-respected and put Ludlow on the gastronomic map. Following his successful expansion into the world of food writing and the closure of The Merchant House, The Walnut Tree was co-opened by Shaun in 2008.
‘My own spot, The Walnut Tree in Abergavenny, used to be a lonely beacon for food lovers. It served world-class Italian food made largely from Welsh ingredients. I used to travel from wherever I was based, be that Dartmoor, the Midlands or London, to make the pilgrimage to sample previous owners Franco and Ann Taruschios’ food as many times a year as I could.’
‘Today, The Walnut Tree is a more generally focused restaurant, though still serves excellent dishes that showcase the very best Welsh produce. Chefs are keen to show themselves as both skilled and enthusiastic when it comes to using ingredients to create modern takes on age-old dishes.’
‘Most importantly, there are now lots of eateries for the people who live in and visit this beautiful part of the world to choose from. You will ﬁnd independently run hotels and restaurants where the food is as much about pleasure as nourishment. Even so, there is still plenty of room for more good restaurants, great chefs and top producers to join the brigade, so if any talented chefs based in London or elsewhere in the United Kingdom are reading, Wales’ discerning diners are waiting.’
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