After the legendary summer enjoyed by Welsh Food , drink and tourism there will not be many, if any, people that will disagree with me when I say Wales is fast becoming a holiday hotspot. This is understandable as Wales has so much to offer visitors.
Over 40% of tourism businesses are reporting more visitors this year than in 2016 and for the first time, 2017 is showing that Wales is on track to reach 1.5 million for the first time by the end of the year. Many Welsh businesses are to be congratulated as they’ve taken responsibility for their own marketing which has proved successful with 23% reporting increased visitors as more people were staying in the UK. From beaches to mountains, hills to coastal path walks, there is scenery that will literally take your breath away. Add into that mix sailing, fishing, walking, climbing, canoeing, surfing, the list for those thirsting for action and fun is endless. For those who like to look back at the past, well Wales has that in abundance too with magnificent castles, historic houses, many with beautiful gardens there are so many places to visit and enjoy for people of all ages. A further attraction for visitors to Wales is that they love sampling local Welsh Food and Drink, looking for different produce than their local supermarket stock. Here again I can blow the Welsh trumpet as we’ve not only got a growing sector of delightful delis, we can offer our visitors local produce markets, an abundance of fantastic food festivals and fairs. Many hotels and restaurants are now promoting buying local produce and their menus highlight for example where their beers and cider are from, who their local butcher and farmer are, where their tea, cheese, butter and breakfast marmalades are produced. This is so important for their guests, even if they do not really class themselves as foodies, it gives guests a further sense of Wales and ‘Welshness’. What we need to ensure is that all eateries are highlighting Welsh food and drink, because if they’re not they are missing a huge trick.
Cowpots – Utilising The Cowshed
Since starting production of Cowpots ice cream on the family farm in July 2005 there were always plans to have their own outlet on the farm which is in Whitland, on the outskirts of Carmarthen. In January 2014 , work started at the farm on conversion of the old milking parlour and in July work was complete and ‘The Cowshed’ was opened serving ice cream and café food. Today it is an ice cream parlour and fully licensed pizzeria open through into the evening for meals and events. There are also a large range of Welsh ales and ciders on offer. With a wood fired traditional pizza oven and ice cream made with Jersey milk from a local herd, this is a unique offering that appeals to all ages. Their market is not just locals but has a huge appeal to visitors as there are still some cattle on the farm which has stunning views over Carmarthenshire along with a beautiful woodland walk that can take up to 2 hours.
Local advertising along with leaflet distribution, social media and food festivals has allowed Cowpots to keep targeting both visitors as well as locals. Working with other local businesses, Bed & Breakfasts, holiday lets and other local attractions has also been successful in bringing in more tourists to The Cowshed.
The next project for 2018 is to offer camping on the farm for visitors to be able to make the most of this lovely setting.
Ceridwen Centre – The Personal Touch
If you’re a small catering team, as many are in west Wales, then it’s obviously more efficient if ingredients and products come to you rather than you driving around the countryside collecting yogurt from here, eggs from there. Many of us buy through a distributor, Castell Howell or Blas ar Fwyd, or in our case both. It’s more convenient, saves precious time and resources and opens doors to many producers who we might not have encountered otherwise, or who might not want to deal direct with the little guys.
It’s so special for us kitchen and front of house folk, when the actual maker, grower, sourcer or producer does deliver direct. Because Gwynt y Ddraig cider phone regularly to check what we need and deliver in their distinctive liveried van to us several times a month we feel we have a connection with where our cider comes from and the people who make it and that our custom, as a Welsh business, is valued by another and very successful Welsh business.
When guests are around when a van from Gwynt, or from Joe’s ice cream, or Caffle Brewery arrives, it makes a palpable difference to these customers too, that something they will be able to consume or buy while they are with us has been delivered personally. They like seeing the face behind the product or the brand. This effect applies equally whether it’s a big Welsh name or a one or two man/woman band – people are just as interested when honey arrives from one of two local beekeepers we buy from, vegan ice cream turns up from Ice Green in Cardigan, the farmhouse box cider is delivered by the farmer up the lane, or the local butcher or charcutier.
While we’re on excellent terms with the regular drivers who bring us goods via the big delivery corporations and whilst maybe there is a lot to be said for focussing on what you do well and letting other folk do the rest, it feels rather distancing when suppliers who once turned up with boxes in the boots of their cars, now use the conventional methods of shipping. Sentimental? Not really. Businesses in this sector need to cling on to individuality, to cultivating relationships of trust and mutual support, if they are to survive and thrive.
Fodder in the Field & The Hut on Moel Famau – Take Guests To The Hills or Head To The Hills
Diners were recently treated to a legendary dining experience at a pop-up restaurant set up at the top car park of Moel Famau between Mold and Ruthin. Located within the Clwydian Range in North East Wales, Moel Famau is the highest hill and provided spectacular views for dining.
Jointly organised by friends Caroline Dawson, who runs outdoor catering company Fodder in the Field and Kate Richards, owner of The Hut on Moel Famau, the event held in July drew in food lovers hoping to sample the culinary delights made with locally-sourced produce. This included hay-cooked local Welsh lamb, vegetables from the Vale of Clwyd and local honey cake with Chilly Cow Ice Cream for dessert; all washed down with North Star Gin and Hafod Ale.
Another event, Dinner and Dens, aimed at families, was held on Friday 4th August in Coed Nercwys, when diners were given their own den-making kits and encouraged to embrace their sense of adventure while enjoying some delicious locally sourced food and drink. The meal included Welsh jacket potatoes with Halen Mon oak smoked local beef chilli – reared just 3 miles away from the forest. The dessert offering at this event was homemade brownies and Chilly Cow Ice Cream topped with fudge also made by Kate, which the children could enjoy sat in their dens! The evening ended with marshmallow toasting on the campfire.
Following the success of these two events, the pair hope to bring a series of experiences to the area next year, with new and exciting themes and locations being planned.
Blas Restaurant – Highlights Local Produce
In August this year Blas Restaurant at Twr y Felin Hotel won ‘Best Use of Pembrokeshire Produce in a Hospitality Outlet’. An annual event, the Pembrokeshire Produce Mark Awards highlight just four businesses for their outstanding use of food or drink. The scheme has more than 300 members, which are verified to ensure that the product they sell or use is made in Pembrokeshire.
Meaning ‘Taste’ in Welsh, Blas offers a menu influenced by the season and locality and champions produce sourced from predominantly Pembrokeshire and Welsh suppliers, as well as foraged ingredients from the surrounding countryside and coast.
Under Head Chef Simon Coe Blas is quickly establishing a reputation as north Pembrokeshire’s leading fine dining restaurant with a warm Welsh welcome, receiving a two Rosette Award for Culinary Excellence within just 8 months of opening and in July 2017 winning the Radio Pembrokeshire Food, Drink and Hospitality Business Award, which is voted for by the public.
Blas Restaurant prides itself on accommodating guests with dietary requirements. We are able to offer dining for gluten free, coeliac, vegetarian, dairy free and vegan diets. Tailor-made menus are available to guests with allergies. Where possible drinks are of Welsh origin, or produced in Wales.