How one chef celebrates North Wales’ local produce

09 December 2021, 10:29 AM
  • Andy Foster, executive chef at Dylan’s Restaurant shares the local delicacies available on the doorstep in North Wales
How one chef celebrates North Wales’ local produce

Dylan’s is a family of three award-winning waterside restaurants, serving locally sourced produce and seafood in the beautiful coastal towns of Menai Bridge, Criccieth and Llandudno, North Wales. In 2020, we also established our Baked Goods & General Store, a lockdown project turned success, opening on Menai Bridge high street in 2021. 

We opened our first restaurant, Dylan’s Menai Bridge, on the banks of the Menai Strait back in 2012. Our focus was on serving fresh, local produce, seafood and pizzas, and a desire to welcome our guests with the very best North Wales that has to offer. 

For me, our mission statement has held true for our nine years of service, ‘Celebrating the local produce, character and natural beauty of North Wales’. From the outset, we developed fantastic relationships with some of the finest fisherfolk and farmers in the area, also arguably some of the best in the world, sourcing an abundance of fish, shellfish, meat, fruit, vegetables, spirits and beer; even Welsh wine!

Leaning over the balcony of our first restaurant, I’d look down at the water of the Menai Strait at high tide. Lord Admiral Nelson claimed, “if you can sail the Menai Straits, you can sail anywhere” – and for those fishing the Menai Straits, the world is their oyster. The naturally grown Menai mussels and oysters have been a staple on our menu, enjoyed by our customers in their hundreds of thousands annually since 2012 – this unique stretch of water provides the perfect environment for delicious shellfish to thrive under the eye of fisherman Shaun Krijnen. 

At peak season we take 500 oysters out of the water every week, as well as over 600kg of mussels, to keep our restaurant customers fed and happy. When we opened our first restaurant, we were confident that the area would develop and grow in popularity as a food haven, and we knew that our suppliers would grow and benefit too. It’s this fantastic symbiotic relationship which is a win-win for the entire local food chain.

Back on land, our prep kitchen is found in the heart of Anglesey, Ynys Mon, and 1.5 miles away you’ll find Dolmeinir Farm, where we source Welsh lamb and pork from the Owen family, with Nia delivering to us almost daily. Our duo of Welsh lamb/Deuawd o Cig Oen with braised shoulder and crisp breast, baby carrots, minted Israeli couscous and carrot pureé is a firm favourite on our summer menu, as well as our Sticky Pork Bao Buns/Bao Buns Porc Gludiog, with belly pork, soy, ginger and honey glaze, satay dressing, Asian style coleslaw and crushed peanuts. It’s not just our starters and mains, but also our desserts – our Anglesey Apple Pie for example – with apples from James Hooton & Family at Hooton Farm is an absolute local crowd pleaser – for our team as well as our customers! 

Our relationship with Ieuan Edwards, of the award-winning butchers Edwards of Conwy, has been a personal highlight, with our own steak burgers made to a specific recipe by his butchers, as well as fantastic Welsh Tomahawk steaks gracing our specials boards.

Further down the coast, down the ‘Silk Road’ of the A55, you’ll find Andy Owen line fishing seabass from his boat Morgan James out of Y Felinheli. It’s a local delicacy massively enjoyed in the restaurants.

Up North, around the coast of Holyhead on Anglesey, Darron Trowel will be dropping lobster pots from his boat, Trust. Trust me when I say that these deliciously fresh lobsters absolutely fly off the menu! 

A meal is nothing without a drink, of course, and we’re very fortunate to have some fantastic award-winning distilleries and breweries through North Wales, including Llanfairpwll Distillery with their gins and rum, and Wild Horse Brewery in Llandudno, just two of many who have grown with us. 

Being able to source local hero ingredients, so integral to each dish, is a real buzz for all my chefs who get to work with real, local, fresh produce every day, as well as the Dylan’s front of house team, who can celebrate the provenance of our seasonal dishes and local beverages throughout the year with our diners. Lockdown affected us just the same as others in the hospitality industry, but we have to be grateful for our strong local supply chain, which allowed us to get up and running fast, even adding new suppliers such as Mon Dressed Crab to our growing local list. 

Even post pandemic, the area has continued to blossom, with James Wilson founding Menai Seafood Company, providing us with fantastic fish for our specials, sardines, halibut, brill, turbot, John Dory, Dover sole – the list goes on. 

Through the challenge of the restaurant closures – during the peak of the pandemic – we established our Dine at Home Menu. We wanted to prepare restaurant quality dishes ready to heat and eat wherever our customers were, packaged for retail or home delivery, and help keep our suppliers going too. The same chefs prepare them to exactly our restaurant recipes, still on Anglesey in North Wales, and we can say with certainty that our market research has been done well, with hundreds of thousands of diners providing their feedback over almost 10 years! I’m excited by the future of our restaurant as a destination, but also as a food brand which has the capacity to share our love for North Wales, and its fantastic produce, with people throughout the UK and beyond.

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