If you’re of the opinion that there’s not much in North Wales, maybe it’s time you revisited that idea, and the area. The landscape might be ageless, the mountain ranges seemingly unaffected by time, the people as proud and welcoming as they’ve always been – but the food, the culture, the art – it’s an ever-changing carousel of talent. You need to tour this wild land for its fine food, so here’s a few places to start.
What is it: Ok, so it’s not food, but it’s one of only four distilleries in North Wales, and the first to open since the early 1900s. It’s open to tours and set aside the Rhaedr-fawr River about 400 metres from the coast. The whisky is youthful, closest to Irish in nature – it’s sweet, delicious, easy drinking, and already snowballing through the international awards.
Why we love it: The location at Aber Falls is incredible. So close to the coast, an easy distance to Morfa Aber, Glan Y Mor Elias, and Coedydd Aber National Nature Reserves, you can tour the wild, and then finish off with a tour of the distillery and a little tipple.
Our Tip: It’s an hour’s walk (two miles-ish) from here to the Aber Falls waterfall, and it’s no light trickle either, this is a serious gushing drop. So, grab a quick mountain hike, see the majesty of the waterfall for yourself, and then back for a dram and a sit down. (Just be sure to do it in that order, or you might accidentally find the quickest way down the mountain).
What is it: A family run vineyard and orchard, Pant Du doesn’t just produce wine, it also crafts cider, apple juice, spring water, and honey. Sat to the west of Snowdonia, it’s just outside the small town of Talysarn.
Why we love it: Take tours of the vineyard with one of the owners, Richard, and see the beautiful estate. Or just turn up for a wine tasting evening. Or just visit for the café. There’s a lot of reasons to come, and precious few to go again. The site’s beautiful the wine delicious, and the food, excellent.
Our Tip: Spend the day exploring the area. There are abandoned slate quarries to the east that make for sightly walking tours (don’t wild swim there). You can even head a little further, and get to Llyn Nantlle Uchaf or Llyn Cwellyn lakes.
What is it: After a trip to the Californian Coast, the owners fell in love with the stiff-peaked, all-natural ice cream they tried there, and decided to come home and create its Welsh counterpart. They’re using all local ingredients, no additives, and the dairy the Welsh are famous for.
Why we love it: These guys don’t just make mind-bendingly good ice cream, they also do excellent coffee, and the kind of cakes you’d be late to work for. It helps that the whole space is incredibly aesthetically pleasing, we won’t lie – but it helps even more that the service and the quality is incredible. So good in fact, they have an immaculate 5/5 on Tripadvisor, and despite only serving snacks, they’re the highest rated restaurant in the whole town.
Our Tip: Abersoch has its own beach that’s great to visit and play around on. It’s renowned for sailing and watersports, and there’s an annual jazz festival in the summer, a regatta and a music festival. There are other places to grab mains, plenty of shops, and more walks than you can shake a hiking stick at. It’s well worth visiting, just look up the dates to get the most in.
What is it: Thirteen minutes outside of Conwy, overlooking the river on its last stretch before it travels out to sea, this is a place in its own right to go grab some food, with The Hayloft Bar & Grill on site. It is, however, called Bodnant Cookery School for good reason.
Why we love it: Dinner is a brief flash in the pan, but learning to cook is forever. Pop along to try the wares for yourself and stay to learn more about how to craft your own haute cuisine at home. From Thai to tapas, artisan bread to pasta masterclasses or sustainable seafood – it’s an incredible place to learn.
Our tip: If you time it well, you can be in the area for the Gwledd Conwy Feast Gourmet Festival. There are food halls, stalls, the local food market, demo kitchens, wine tastings and more – well worth a few days of overindulgence.
What is it: Head to their website, and you’ll find… not much. Just vibes. And there’s a good reason for that. Chefs know, like many tradesmen, artists and artisans, that good work speaks for itself. There are only eight seats in the whole place, so booking’s a must. It’s so good, it’s made it onto La Liste’s guide to the world’s best restaurants.
Why we love it: Who doesn’t love a chef’s table? But the real magic is the simple lack of a menu. Meals are made fresh that day, from local ingredients and chef Stephen’s unending imagination. What will you get? Who knows? But it’ll be worth going for. Most surprising is the cost. Whilst it’s no fast-food chain, the price is more than reasonable for genius you can eat.
Our Tip: If you’re here for dinner, then go to Dylan’s Restaurant for lunch. The people at Menai Bridge clearly have high standards, because the food in this town is high calibre. Grab some midday food at this incredible restaurant, pop into their shop down the road and load up on supplies. Menai Bridge is no whistle-stop-tour destination, this beautiful town on The Swellies River is too scenic to describe, packed with things to do, places to go and deserves a proper few days’ exploration.
What is it: A coffee shop after our own hearts. At Providero, their coffee beans and teas are 100% ethically sourced, and all of their takeaway packaging is compostable. Serving breakfast, lunch, toasties and beverages of the finest quality, we’re thankful there’s two different ones within five miles. We just want them in England too.
Why we love it: Above and beyond the incredible quality on offer, the spaces are large and airy, well-designed, upcycled and beautiful. They wanted the coffeehouses to be spaces for the community, and they hold events at them – the Llandudno site has a gallery for local artwork, a book swap, and a newly fitted studio space, which is home to a range of community events including dance and yoga classes.
Our Tip: Go to both of them. One’s in Llandudno, and the other, in Llandudno Junction. Get the caffeine jitters and suck it up
What is it: Chef Bryn Williams has a space in both North and South Wales, as well as London, and Switzerland. His North Wales site is on the seafront (any closer to the water and it’d need flotation devices) and serves breakfast lunch and dinner.
Why we love it: Sometimes you don’t want deconstructed dishes made from gastronomic kits, turning your fish pie into a lightly fried sliver of fish and a tarragon gel. Sometimes, you just want the fish pie. Done well. And that’s what’s great here, it's simple dishes, done with excellence.
Our tip: If you’re headed here, then make a day of it, see the sights, visit the beach, and tack on a visit to Providero Coffeehouse up the road for whatever meal you don’t have here.