Friday, 13 April 2012

Narberth, Sospan Fach, Ultracomida and El Bulli beer

The market town of Narberth in Pembrokeshire has rebranded itself over the past couple of decades as a regional arts and foodie centre. Its aspirations are evident in its recent twinning with Ludlow in England (a centre of gastronomy with a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants). Both have annual Food Festivals: Ludlow’s 18th on 7-9 Sept and Narberth’s 14th on 22-23 Sept 2012.

Tony Curtis described Narberth as “the Cowbridge [Vale of Glamorgan] of Pembrokeshire” in Real South Pembrokeshire (2011, Seren Books): “the boring village of my childhood has recreated itself as a trendy town… crafts and arts and pricy frocks; bric-a-brac, dried flowers, jewellery and deli food.”

Our first stop was The Queen’s Hall, the arts centre with its hall for concerts and community activities, art gallery and a café: Sospan Fach. A current feature of the menu is the Six Nations Soups, served in individual small cast-iron saucepans (sospan bach). The concept may be slightly gimmicky, but the food was not. I had the Irish stew, with plenty of chunky steak and vegetables in a rich Guinness gravy. The Welsh cawl was similarly meaty, although (unlike the rugby) the Irish came top on this occasion. Both were served with fresh bread. Our eldest daughter had a substantial sundried tomato, pesto and mozzarella panini.

The steak in my stew was sourced from Andrew Rees & Sons Butchers, based further down the High Street by the somewhat quirky Narberth Town Hall (built 1835). In addition to the shop, with its attractive displays of meat, fish, and pies and pasties, they supply to around 150 local businesses.

Around the corner from the butcher, in St James Street, is PlumVanilla, which serves vegetarian and vegan food. It was too busy on this occasion, but we liked the look of the place and their salads looked very appetizing, so we made a note to go next time we’re in Narberth. There are several other good-looking cafés and pubs (although nothing to attract a Michelin star yet!).

Back up the High Street, opposite Queen’s Hall, is Ultracomida Delicatessen. This is building on the success of the Ultracomida in Aberystwyth, which was the gold winner in the Deli/Speciality Store category of the Wales the True Taste 2011-2012 Awards. Ultracomida specialises in Spanish artisan food products and wines, but also stocks a range of Welsh and French products.

We bought some smoked chicken from the Crickhowell-based Black Mountain Smokery and other items for a salad supper. The cheese display looked so good I had to take a photo. At the back of the deli is a Spanish restaurant, renown for its tapas.

I also emerged from Ultracomida with a couple of bottles of Inedit, a wheat beer brewed in Barcelona by Estrella Damm in collaboration with chef Ferran Adrià and his team from the El Bulli restaurant. This beer has been especially created to go with food; in particular, foods containing citrus and oils, bitter notes, and oily textures (e.g., salmon, fatty cheeses). It is made using barley malt, wheat, hops, coriander, orange peel, yeast and water. They suggest serving it chilled in a white wine glass. It’s a fine tasting brew. Good enough for El Bulli; enjoyed in a caravan park in Tenby.

Queens Hall, Narberth:

Sospan Fach:

Andrew Rees & Sons Butcher


Ultracomida Delicatessen:

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