The August bank holiday is always a special one in our house. It almost always falls on my lovely mum’s birthday. Since I left my parent’s sleepy Welsh cottage home for the bright lights and big city of, well, Canterbury, I’ve not managed to spend her birthday with her. But this year after work meetings in London I decided to hop on a train to North Wales for some much needed quality time.
Now locally there’s been a lot of fuss made about a little cabin on the corner of a campsite hidden deep in the centre of the Isle of Anglesey. That cabin is home to The Marram Grass restaurant. Having featured on the BBC and in the Michelin guide, my foodie senses were itching to try it out. And what better time than a birthday celebration?
Driving along the winding back roads of the island, it’s hard to see how anyone could find the place. Turning the corner we nearly sailed right past it and my dad had to make a sharp U-turn around a nearby roundabout before finally realising that we had arrived.
For all its charm, the outside is not necessarily impressive. But the buzz of chatter and glow of newly lit candles quickly draws you in. Inside, is a bustling and friendly restaurant sat beneath a canopy of grapevines and comfy wooden décor. The complete absence of pomp and showiness is hugely refreshing and welcoming.
The waitress greeted us like an old friend, even letting us change our table from inside the busy restaurant to a more spacious table outside so that we could enjoy the evening sun.
We were quickly shown to our table and offered our menus. The menu is simple, local and very seasonal, with about 9 dishes, always a good sign of a confident chef. There was also a specials board inside which featured a very tempting half lobster dish.
After our orders were taken and our drinks brought promptly, our waitress offered us an amuse bouche or pre-starter if you will. And boy am I still dreaming of that little cup of foam. Creamy mushroom and piquant wild garlic deliciously punched my taste buds in the face and they were grateful for it. I could have just had a big bowl of that and been left very happy.
Shortly after scraping the last drops of foam from the little bowls, our starters arrived. Sweet potato soup and chunky homemade bread served with lashes of whipped butter arrived steaming in front of me. The intentionally mismatched crockery is understated yet undeniably fashionable. The soup was a warming, flavourful delight, seasoned perfectly. The bread was so good my mum wrapped hers in her napkin and snuck it into her handbag to savour later as a midnight snack! I shan’t go into how a couple of days later she found that piece of bread at the bottom of her handbag, having completely forgotten about it. Credit to her though she still ate it, and thoroughly enjoyed it too!
Our next stop was the main course. And what a main course it was. I had chosen the local lamb with seasonal turnips and radishes, crushed garlic and lamb jus. I love lamb and by that I mean I really love lamb. So many people serve lamb as part of a heavy, autumn comfort dish, which in itself is a lovely thing, but often requires a good nap afterwards.
This lamb was different. It was light in a way I’ve not experienced before. I was left feeling pleasantly full and completely satisfied but in no way in need of an after dinner snooze. It was fresh but completely packed full of subtle flavour. The lamb was mouth wateringly tender and the vegetables still slightly al dente, as they should be. My only complaint was that I could have easily demolished a whole jug of that jus. But as it stood there was a more socially acceptable amount on my plate although in my greed I would have wholeheartedly welcomed more.
My dad had the half-portion fish and chips. My mum certainly had food envy when she saw his dish arrive and I must say it looked spot on. A really welcome sight on the menu was that the batter was gluten free as standard. As a celiac myself, visiting restaurants can be a daunting task. But here the menu was helpfully labelled and each dish was available in gluten free form with not so much as a hesitation from the waitress when I enquired. A welcome change from my usual restaurant experiences.
All mum’s food envy quickly disappeared as her seabass arrived. My mum has the rather questionable talent of being able to, consistently and without fail, pick the worst dish from every menu. But not this time. That fish was crispy in all the right places and soft and delicate in all the rest. I know because I stole some off her plate. And I would happily commit that crime again. It was really tasty.
Then there was pudding. At this point both my dad and I had bowed out of the race, basking in the pleasant glow of our full tummies. But being her birthday we insisted mum treat herself to a pudding. And the rhubarb crème brulee was beckoning her. It was a good choice. Unctuous crème brulee sat beneath pearls of rhubarb and a quenelle of meringue. A real birthday treat.
As you may have noticed, I’m a big fan of this friendly little restaurant. Reasonably priced, welcoming atmosphere and just really good food. It certainly deserves all the praise it has received and will now become a regular haunt of mine every time I visit Wales.