Wales' rare bits: Far from the St Davids tourist trail is a small inn, waiting to be discovered. But is the food worth a detour?

Llys Meddyg, East Street, Newport, Pembrokeshire

St Davids is the Padstow of south Wales – picturesque, popular, trendy and traffic-clogged. When I plan my winter break in Pembrokeshire, the littlest city in the nation is where everyone tells me to eat out. The streets are lined, apparently, with pretty little bistros and traditional restaurants. Perhaps it's perverse, but I prefer to try to find something right off the beaten track, so I avoid St Davids...

Instead, I try everyone's dream of pootling along a country road and stumbling upon the welcoming exterior of a little inn. Well, strictly speaking I did ask for a suggestion – that's how I end up in the small town of Newport (not to be confused with the Blade Runner-esque industrial wasteground that is Newport near Cardiff), standing outside Llys Meddyg.

On the main road, an elegant Georgian house sits as if waiting for unsuspecting townies to discover it and claim, if not ownership, then certainly weekend visiting rights. With my raggle-taggle family, we go inside, unsure whether we'll be welcomed or whether we're in for the same reception we got at the nearby antique shop (frosty).

Louise, the co-owner of this restaurant-with-rooms, charms us immediately. She shows us into a beautiful blue-painted dining-room that is "rural formal", if such a genre exists. We are, alas, the only people having lunch, but it is a damp Wednesday, so it's not too surprising. While Louise tells the children wild stories of her evil twin waitress sister (a conceit that entertains the kids right through our visit), I um and ah over the set lunch – which seems a bargain at £18.50 for three courses (in which there are three choices per course).

Luckily there are four of us, so between us we cover all the dishes from a menu that wears its Welshness lightly – descriptions mercifully stop short of telling us which allotment produced the potatoes. There are local sprats with home-made tartare sauce; fig, ham hock and Caerphilly salad; or pumpkin and Parmesan soup to start. Main courses are gnocchi with perl las and pine nuts, game pie with root-vegetable mash and sprouting broccoli or fishcakes with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce.

Before all of the above, excellent home-made bread on a piece of Welsh slate and a bottle of Brouilly (£27.50) arrives, along with a yarn about how the house used to be the local doctor's surgery – apparently the occasional visitor has memories of long-ago ailments jogged by the room.

I decide the children will be better off with the £15.50 two-course version and their mains come with our starters (a restaurateur's practice I'm in favour of, to stop hungry grouchiness at the table).

My adventurous daughter piles into the gnocchi and although it's unusual, the blue-cheese sauce works beautifully with the soft potato pieces. Across the table, the truculent teenager visibly brightens as he digs below the crust of his game pie. Meanwhile, the meaty sprats are crisp and not greasy, a neat trick. The pumpkin soup is almost too rich (perhaps a heavy hand with the cream and cheese in the kitchen) but the added cheeky salad to share is well balanced with a pomegranate dressing that marries the three elements beautifully.

My game pie, served in a dinky, cast-iron casserole dish, is all killer, no filler. That is to say, big chunks of venison and pheasant with a rich gravy topped with meltingly soft pastry (no great big mushrooms or onions taking up space). The fishcake is packed full of flavour, good texture and is, crucially, what Mr M calls a "man-sized portion". The chef, Scott Davis, clearly knows how to execute simple dishes well, which is a refreshing change from striving for an over-complicated concept.

To fuel a lengthy walk across nearby Newport Sands, the children each polish off orange pannacotta with chocolate cannelloni, greeted with "coooorrrrs" of Gregg Wallace proportions. I flit between lemon posset with warm mulled berries and treacle tart with clotted-cream ice-cream (I know, furred arteries alert). They're both delicious – although the marriage of cool posset with warm berries just has the edge.

The combination of warm welcome, attractive room and excellent food makes me wish we had booked in for a night or two – the upstairs bedrooms look fab. Quite why the owners decided on Newport rather than ritzier St Davids is a mystery, but Llys Meddyg is reason enough to travel 20 miles up the road for a meal.

15/20

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

Llys Meddyg, East Street, Newport, Pembrokeshire, tel: 01239 820 008 Lunch, Weds-Sat; dinner, Tues-Sat. £60 for two, including wine

Second helpings: More Welsh wonders

Plas Bodegroes

Nefyn Road, Pwllheli, Gwynedd, tel: 01758 612 363

A beautifully located and welcoming restaurant-with-rooms where the menu may be long, but is consistently realised to an outstanding level

The Loft Restaurant (Ye Olde Bull's Head)

Castle Street, Beaumaris, Isle of Anglesey, tel: 01248 810 329

The comfortable modern brasserie attached to this ancient inn offers very decent food at attractive prices; upstairs, there's a small but rather chic restaurant

Tyddyn Llan

Llandrillo, Denbighshire, tel: 01490 440 264

A real Welsh treat - a wonderfully situated restaurant-with-rooms that makes meticulous use of local produce to create melting dishes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

    Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

    The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
    Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

    Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

    France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
    Sports Quiz of the Year

    Sports Quiz of the Year

    So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

    Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

    From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

    Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

    Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect