When Laura and her family recently visited Anglesey in North Wales, they went to the Marram Grass; a local restaurant that rocketed into the public eye last year, when its chef featured on the BBC’s Great British Menu.
Anglesey is my favourite place in the world. We went every year for our family holiday when my brother and I were little and, at 29 years old, I’m still completely enamored with this little island.
We went over my birthday this year, and I loved spending it in a place that’s special to me.
My boyfriend and I have started a tradition that we will go on a city break for our birthdays and find an incredible sounding tasting menu to celebrate, and this year was no different – well, apart from swapping ‘city’ for ‘small rural village’.
BBC’s Great British Menu
My Mum and I are great fans of the BBC’s Great British Menu, a show where chefs from around the UK compete for a place in the final to cook for a grand banquet. In 2017, Liverpudlian chef Ellis Barry competed and impressed the judges with his dishes, which rocketed the chef and his restaurant into the public eye.
Ellis runs The Marram Grass in Newborough, Anglesey, with his brother Liam. Here they offer a decidedly delectable menu of locally sourced ingredients whipped up into taste sensations, and a three, five or eight course tasting menu. We pushed the boat out and opted for the eight course, and I am SO glad we did.
The Marram Grass
The restaurant sits on the edge of the family-run campsite and caravan park and if you weren’t looking for it, you might not give it a second glance.
On the outside it’s an unassuming whitewashed building with a corrugated tin roof, but you walk into a warm, buzzing room full of modern furniture with local artists’ paintings and an eclectic mix of bits and bobs dotted around the walls. There’s also a small outside seating area covered by grape vines, which I imagine looks glorious in the sunshine.
We were seated at a table by the bar by a friendly waitress who explained the menu to us and took our drinks order. My mum and I opted for G&Ts using gin from the local Aber Falls distillery, mostly because its very tasty and partly because we’d visited the waterfalls after which the distillery is named that day.
Eight course taster menu
The first plates were brought out heaving with treacle sourdough bread, paired with a portion of butter made from pork fat and smoked paprika. I have to say once I’d tasted it I wondered how anything else we were offered could be as tasty!
The butter was really smooth and creamy and had such a depth of flavour; it worked really well with the earthy sourdough. We were also brought a little pot each of cauliflower and cumin veloute with puffed rice and fennel oil. I’d never had a veloute before (in my mind they were only for Michelin-starred restaurants and Great British Menu judges), but this little ‘amuse bouche’ was divine. Creamy and light, with little hints of texture from the puffed rice. These two dishes were an excellent start and I couldn’t wait to see what came out next.
Course number one was brought out to us by our waitress, who described in detail the dish and where the ingredients came from. Each course gets its own description and it was lovely to hear about the local produce they use. You also learn very quickly how much everyone who works at the restaurant loves their jobs!
Locally sourced produce
We had a variation of a classic Anglesey egg; made up of a confit egg yolk, leek and potato ragu, potato espuma and grated Hafod cheese. You’d never think this little morsel could pack so much punch!
The rich egg yolk was perfectly matched with an espuma as light as a feather and every mouthful was full of soft potato cubes and creamy leeks. I could have eaten an ostrich egg-sized portion, but I fear that would have ruined my appetite for the rest of the menu.
The focus on local produce was a continuous theme running through each course, but the next dish was the first which included ingredients grown on-site at the restaurant, something that they are extremely proud of. Ellis actually came and served this dish to us himself, which was a lovely touch.
Meeting the chef!
He served our plates with a racing car ‘nnneeeeyoooww’ which had us all in stitches before telling us very passionately about each component of the dish. We had local goat’s cheese, homegrown rhubarb juice and jelly, a linseed crisp and truffle honey, decorated with petals. From the description alone you may think this would be too sweet, however the richness of the goat’s cheese cut through the sweetness (I could be a Great British Menu judge with all these phrases!) and it was a delight.
As our waitress was explaining the next course of fish tartar, cucumber, mint and kohlrabi with a wasabi sauce split with dill oil, she added ‘Ellis got a 10 for this on Great British Menu, so see what you think!’. You can tell they all have a great sense of humour and Ellis’ fame isn’t allowed to go to his head.
A dreamy creamy sauce with just a hint of warmth surrounded the most delicious fish and the cucumber made the whole dish really fresh. It was served in a teardrop-shaped bowl, which our waitress told us came from a small pottery in Porthmadog (a town about an hour away from the restaurant and another of my favourite childhood places) along with a few other pieces of crockery they used.
Next up came a velvety-soft piece of roasted cod with a medjool date crumb atop two pools of puree; one coffee and one celeriac, with potted shrimp and radish. My mum, who’s not a fan of seafood, had a base of borlotti beans and caramalised onions instead of the shrimp.
This was my favourite so far. Who knew coffee and celeriac purees would work together?! It was so tasty and balanced perfectly.
Course five and going strong!
Course five was Anglesey crab risotto with celeriac, Anglesey apple gel and puffed pork scratchings with a pork and crab reduction. This was divine. The risotto was rich and creamy, but never felt like too much and the puffed pork scratchings were to die for! I’m not a fan of the oily ones you get from a packet or on a pub bar that break your teeth, but these were 100% home made and so crispy and light.
For the non-seafood lover, there was a piece of Wagyu beef with a puffed pastry top, baby asparagus, caramelised onions, girolles and a decorative piece of marram grass (most likely from the beach which is basically next door).
The next course featured a homemade sausage boudin made from home-reared pigs from the field across the road. It was served with a black pudding centre, black garlic puree, pear gel and a caramalised pastry crumb. This would have made a perfect brunch dish, to be honest I could have eaten it morning, noon and night it was so tasty. It still baffles me how they manage to get so much flavour into these dishes without them being overpoweringly rich, they are all balanced so perfectly.
Best of the bunch
Course number seven was honestly the best thing I’ve ever tasted and very much my favourite of all the courses we had, not to mention the prettiest!
A bacon chop with just the right amount of rendered down fat sat in a pool of pink vinaigrette made from the grapes growing on the vines outside, flanked by two bright orange dollops of carrot puree, with a poached purple heritage carrot and garlic tartar.
It was also served with a beef ragu topped with more of those delicious pork scratchings. Everything tasted incredible. I still have no idea how they managed to make carrot puree taste more carrot-y than a carrot. I haven’t stopped talking about this dish to anyone that will listen. Or anyone that’s stopped listening if I’m honest.
Moving onto dessert
After a short break we were brought a palette cleanser of rhubarb jelly, lemon posset and a sable biscuit crumb in a small jar. The jelly was beautifully tart and cut straight through the creamy sweetness of the posset making it a great segway into the dessert course.
Our final dish was insane and I loved it. A jet-black baked Alaska sat starkly in the middle of the plate and was made up of a ginger sponge, licorice meringue and a rhubarb parfait.
Drops of licorice and rhubarb gel surrounded it, the latter bringing a bit of colour to the plate. I thought so much licorice would be overpowering and I wasn’t sure about the combination of licorice and ginger, but I was very wrong about everything – this came a close second to being my favourite dish of the whole menu. Super light, airy and so delicious, this wasn’t anything like the heavy, overly creamy baked Alaskas from the 1970s.
The Marram Grass – what we thought
I long to be able to get as much flavour out of ingredients and balance said flavours as well as the team at The Marram Grass. Everything we had on this menu was totally divine, I so wish I could go back more often (actually, that bacon dish might warrant the four and a half hour drive…).
The food is incredible, but actually what makes the whole experience is the atmosphere. You can tell everyone who works there is friends and they have a laugh daily. Ellis’ humour and relaxed vibe is contagious and makes for a perfect dining experience, backdropped with an incredible soundtrack of indie hits. I loved it here and I will absolutely be going back.
Have you ever been to The Marram Grass? What did you think?