Sunday, 13 June 2010
Stunning meal at Y Polyn - worthy of drawing rather than snapping
Cowie and I have been looking forward to eating at Y Polyn for the last 2 years. Ever since we discovered the Wellington Arms and Diana Henry’s Gastropub Cookbooks we’ve been trying to find an opportunity to get to Carmarthen in order to eat here. As Jay Rayner points out, it’s pretty much in the middle of no-where. Which is a major part of its charm.
The drive from our lovely BnB to the pub was worth the price of dinner alone. Bluebells danced like miniature ballerinas in Chelsea football shirts whilst wild garlic played the role of smelly white socks. Shade dappled, the fading sunshine dazzled and warmed the road ahead. The fact that Cowie and I hadn’t seen each other for a while just made the drive even more memorable and heightened our sense of anticipation to a dangerously high level.
We were greeted by the site of chickens plucking away in the back garden in much the same way as we were at the Wellington Arms and felt a bizarre feeling that art directors often get when they see an amazing picture. We immediately felt as if we had already eaten here. It’s hard to explain, but it was the sense of “advanced recognition”
We enjoyed a couple staggeringly strong gin and tonics whilst reading a book called The Wright Taste which is written by Simon Wright, one of the owners. He used to work for the AA restaurant guide but left and set up Y Polyn with a fellow AA critic with their wives who do the cooking. Thank goodness they switched their pens for pots and pans, because their cooking and hospitality at Y Polyn is far more exciting than reading an AA restaurant guide.
We were so at ease in the restaurant that I didn’t want to use my camera. It also seemed a shame to disrupt a peaceful room. And more importantly I wanted to enjoy our meal together. So instead I’ve done a few sketches to illustrate what we had. They are rough approximations and not exactly enough to gain me entry to St. Martins. So please excuse them. If you could be as nice about them as you were about the St. John drawings I’d be very grateful! There’s something terrifying about publishing them.
Cowie’s fish soup was perfect. And I use that word with full knowledge of its weight. It was like Goldilocks’ third bowl of porridge. Just right in every regard. Perfect thickness. Perfect seasoning. Perfect temperature. Perfect amount. Perfect flavour. Perfect croutons. And perfect gruyere. And blessedly straight forward to draw!
My shaved asparagus salad with parmesan wasn’t quite so perfect. In fact it was pretty average. If you were being kind you’d call the asparagus subtle or delicate. But the truth is that it was bland. And unfortunately overpowered by the parmesan. And worse still it was also a bugger to draw! But I imagine that anything would have seemed average when compared to Cowie’s fish soup. In retrospect my experience has all the hallmarks of food envy.
Cowie’s coracle caught Towy Sewin (sea trout) with lemon beurre blanc looked stunning. It was a shade of rosy pink that spoke of British summertime. But tragically it was fractionally overcooked. It brought back harrowing memories of when I overcooked a £75 sea trout at a dinner party. I berated myself for days afterwards. But that aside, it was still very good. It’s just agonising that it wasn’t as perfect as the fish soup.
My duck shepherd’s pie was so good I got carried away drawing it and overshaded the whole thing. But never mind. Apparently it has been stolen with pride from the menu at Balthazar in New York. There’s a time and a place for theft. And this is one of them. Rich, hot, sticky duck melted under and a topping of mashed potato and parsnip in an iron clad shell. It’s my dish of the year so far and had me seriously considering licking the dish clean.
As we drank the last trickles from our carafe of Grüner Veltliner we couldn’t resist sharing a dessert from their gobsmacking selection. It turned out to be an inspired moment of weakness. The custard tart with rhubarb ice cream and ginger crumbles that we shared was enough to make you want to hit Cntrl+S and save your taste experience to your memory bank. This has just shot to the top of my all time favourite dessert list.
As we lingered over coffee, the amazing aftertaste of rhubarb and glow of warm hospitality we wanted the evening to carry on forever. We found ourselves exploring their amazing range of cookery books and bantering with the staff. Whilst our food wasn’t quite perfect, it wasn’t far off. And the moreish mouthfuls that were spot on were as good as anywhere that we’ve eaten. It was more than worth the 1000 mile round trip in Cowie’s little car. And is further proof that Diana Henry has an eye for a good place to eat.
I guess that if you enjoyed somewhere enough to spend a total of 5 hours writing and drawing about the meal, then it’s a sign you’ve enjoyed it!
Y Polyn Website
Y Polyn Facebook
Y Polyn Twitter
Y Polyn review by Jay Rayner
Wales in Style by Simon Wright
The Wright Taste