“Fat equals flavour. Live with it.”
Such is the tagline of Y Polen, a restaurant in south Wales where Tim and I had lunch last Thursday. We were on a short break to Brecon Beacons National Park, hoping to enjoy a few good meals out and a nice sleep at a B&B.
Our first stop was Y Polen, AA restaurant of the Year for Wales in 2009-2010. I already had high hopes for the food, but when I spied their “fat equals flavour” catch phrase on the back of a waitress’ t-shirt, I instantly liked the place just a little bit more.
I spent a few years of my life believing that eating fat would make me fat, so I avoided the stuff altogether. Ironically, in this effort to be healthier, I was actually doing something completely the opposite of healthy, both in mind and body. The body needs fat. And food needs it to. What better way to feel satisfied after a meal and less likely to eat more than by cooking food that is satisfying to eat? One of the ways to make a meal satisfying is to use fat. Avocado, nuts, olive oil, and even butter and cream all have their merits in a healthy diet. It’s all about balance.
It took me a while to come around to fat, and I admit I still have my issues with it, soI felt like Y Polen’s t-shirt was speaking directly to me. Alright then. I’ll live with it. But would Y Polen live up to its end the bargain? Does fat really equal flavour?
I decided to test the theory by ordering the peach, feta and pine nut salad to start and a vegetable tagine with creme fraiche for my main. I was expecting the salad to be drenched in dressing and the tagine to be oozing with creme, but both dishes were surprisingly light on the fatty stuff. The salad (shown above) was very lightly dressed, gaining most of its moisture from the peaches, allowing the flavours of the sweet pine nuts and salty feta to really shine through. I loved it, and it’s something I can see myself trying to make at home.
The tagine was nice, though a little too hearty for a hot summer’s day. But as with the salad, Y Polen used fat to augment the dish, not overwhelm it. And it didn’t take much. Just a spoonful of creme fraiche turned a pile of veggies and chickpeas into something special.
Special. But worthy of restaurant of the year? I’m not certain. I’ll probably remember the t-shirts more than the food, and the chicken pen out back, which makes me think it’d be really easy to have chickens of my own back at orchard cottage.
If any place deserves restaurant of the year it’s Felin Fach Griffin near Brecon, where we had lunch on Friday. It was certainly Restaurant of the Trip. Everything about the place made me want to stay there forever, or at least for a night in one of their rooms. The place had a great garden outside and a nice country pub feel inside. Everyone who worked there was relaxed, friendly and seemed to really care about the food.
I kept things light with a fresh goat’s curd salad, a meal that made me want to learn how to make my own goat’s curd at home (how hard can it be?). I also had some delicious bread and a garden salad, the leaves of which (I’m pretty sure) were picked from their garden that afternoon.
I also had a delicious glass of white wine whose name I couldn’t remember, so I emailed the Felin Fach to ask about it. Julie, the head of their “wine crew”, got back to me straight away:
The wine you had was called Wein 1, Pfaffl 2008. It was a blend of Riesling, Gruner Veltliner and Pinot Blanc and one of my favourite wines, Pfaffl in Austria. In fact its often in my fridge at home as one of my reach to wines for a glass! They also do Wein 2 which is a red blend of St Laurent and Zweigelt, again yummy but had to fight against our Zweigelt Umathum for a position and very narrowly lost its place in the listings but will be sure to make a comeback!
This is someone who is seriously excited about wine. I love it. And I like her philosophy on three-person parties: “Three is all it needs to open that extra bottle and not feel bad!”
So in the end, our short trip to the Brecon Beacons was just a little too short. We spent more time eating and not enough time getting out into the hills, which we discovered are beautiful while driving up and down the small lanes of the National Park. This place was made for camping in. Next time I go back, I’m bringing a tent. I can think of nothing better than roughing it in Wales for a few nights, then rewarding myself by returning to Felin Fach for a good meal and a sleep in a proper bed.
But until then, I’m off to plan my chicken coop.
Eat Fat to Lose Fat [Wired]