What grows together, goes together: that’s the simple sentiment at the heart of Annwn in Narberth, West Wales. Although the wild food restaurant only opened in its current location a year ago – and was awarded a Michelin Green Star a few months later – for chef-owner Matt Powell, it marks the next chapter of his culinary immersion into all things Welsh, from rediscovering traditional recipes to the land itself. “I’ve always found being surrounded by nature so inspiring. Half of the ingredients I use in the restaurant are grown using the permaculture approach to gardening; the other half comes from mindful foraging,” explains Matt, reeling off a list of plants currently in his raised beds including woodruff, angelica and almost-extinct oyster leaf. “We’re minutes from the shoreline so twice a week I gather seaweeds and samphire from the salt marshes but now we’re coming into summer there’s also flowers in the hedgerow such as meadowsweet and gorse, which I often collect on the way to work.”

Seaweed To complement this nature-first approach, those sitting down for the 10-course seasonal tasting menu at Annwn (which means the Otherworld in Welsh mythology) can expect bara planc (bread) made on a Welsh bakestone, lamb from a farm five miles down the road, Kilpaison oysters and British wines. On the winter menu, one dish, ‘Punchnep’ (oven cooked potato puree, celeriac and celeriac cream) was based on a recipe his grandma used to make; another, ‘Gorsedd Arberth’, a rosehip custard, crab apple, malt and chocolate dessert, was named after a location in the Mabinogion, a collection of ancient tales passed down through Welsh folklore. “Most dishes have a story behind them,” confirms Matt, who runs the restaurant with his partner Naomi and comes out of the kitchen to introduce each course to diners. Furnishings too, are as thoughtfully crafted as the food: there are Welsh oak tables and settles, decorative hand-carved cawl spoons on the wall and fresh flowers in the window.

Dresser and set table

Chef cooking in kitchen Bridgend-born Matt can trace his food ethos back to childhood and his grandparents who grew their own vegetables. “As a family we also used to come to Pembrokeshire for holidays. I remember rock pooling as a teenager and fishing for bass. It triggered a spark for my love of south Wales.” At 15, together with a friend, he entered a school competition to create a menu using local produce. “We based ours on the Roux brothers’ recipes; they’re amazing, they built what food in Britain is.” The pair won and the prize was a weekend job in the kitchen of a local hotel. He went on to study hospitality and catering at Bridgend college before landing a role as a commis chef at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. “I was 17 when I walked into that kitchen and it meant so much to me. Seeing all that produce grown on-site as a teenager was mind-blowing,” he recalls.

Seaweed on a plate Stints in restaurants around Europe followed, as well as at country house hotels in the UK (including Cliveden House) before he decided to swap formal kitchens for the great outdoors. In 2011, he set up Fishing and Foraging Wales in Pembrokeshire, offering small group guided experiences that showcased the best of the country’s natural larder. Saltwater lure angling for bass came first, then he added foraging. Each outing ended with everyone sitting down to eat a meal Matt cooked over fire. “I would create my menu around what we found on the day,” he says, recalling how it coincided with a growing interest in Welsh history. “I remember reading one book called Below the Landsker, about the dialects and folklore of the area. When you get down to a ground roots level, everything falls into place. What we’re doing now at the restaurant, techniques such as curing our own meats, traditionally people used to do at home. I’m just adding to what was already there.”

Chef serving artistic food

Chef plating up and hand pouring mixture into egg shells The first iteration of Annwn opened in 2021 but relocating to Narberth was, he says, “the best thing I’ve ever done.” For diners wanting to dig deeper into what’s on their plate, the restaurant still offers educational foraging experiences with a local expert. Meanwhile Matt spends any spare time he has tinkering with new recipes. “Last year I created an oil from siphon weed which grows on bladderwrack. I tested it out, infusing it with cream for a week; now I use it for poaching turbot and brill. I like experimenting and discovering new things,” he concludes. “Everything we need is here, surrounding us, it’s just that not many people look closely enough.”

Two plates of foodOen Melog (Braised Lamb Shoulder in Honey)

Serves 6-8 as a main, accompanied by mashed potato and green vegetables.

Ingredients:

2kg boned shoulder of lamb

Local beer (enough to cover)

250g honey

Rapeseed oil

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

340g stock

Recipe:

Marinate the lamb shoulder in the beer for 24 hours, turning after 12 hours to ensure an even marinade. The next day, heat the oven to 170C. Drain the lamb shoulder and liberally season with the sea salt and black pepper. Retain the beer marinade and bring to a gentle boil. Strain or skim off any impurities that come to the top. Heat the rapeseed oil in a pain. Gently seal the lamb in the rapeseed oil over a medium heat, turning so it colours evenly. Deglaze the sealing a pan with cold water, scraping up and retaining any browning. Place all the juices into a pan and gently add the honey, stirring it in.

Place the lamb shoulder into an oven tray and pour over all the juices. Cover with a lid or foil and cook for around eight hours or until the lamb starts to fall apart. Trim off excess fat and cut into manageable pieces. To glaze, heat a pan with a touch of rapeseed oil. Add the stock and some of the braising juices, and crispen the lamb shoulder gently on all sides. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Matt serves his recipes using the Leach Pottery Mixing Bowls, TOAST Cove Stoneware Dinner Plate and Jack Welboune Wave Mug.

Words by Emma Love.

Photography by Leia Morrison.

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3 comments

I cooked the lamb recipe above for my family, probably the best way l’ve ever eaten lamb, absolutely delicious. Thank you so much for sharing. I hope one day to be able to visit your restaurant and experience more of your wonderful food.

Jane 17 days ago

I used to live in Govilon, near Blaenavon in the 1980s with my husband and 2 young children. Unfortunately my husband lost his job and we could only spend 2 years in the most gorgeous valley beneath the Big Pit. As we were very short of money I used pay my daughter and her friends to pick the wild blueberries on the hillside, we swopped fields that we grazed by local farmers for lamb in the deep freeze and anything that was forageable was eaten, although young children don’t like nettle soup in my experience. I am back in the south east now but have a small piece of paradise in Le Marche Italy near the Sibillini mountains. Here people live by the seasons, eat by the seasons and sleep by the seasons. Chick peas are grown in the fields around us as are Farro and Spelt, legumes in Lentils, Borlotti beans and Cannelli beans. The most important thing is for a family to have enough grown, slaughter or gathered to be self sufficient in food and drink for most of the year and if they dont have it, they don’t eat it! Congratulations in finding your paradise in Wales and well done, such hard work.

Steph 17 days ago

I used to live in Govilon, near Blaenavon in the 1980s with my husband and 2 young children. Unfortunately my husband lost his job and we could only spend 2 years in the most gorgeous valley beneath the Big Pit. As we were very short of money I used pay my daughter and her friends to pick the wild blueberries on the hillside, we swopped fields that we grazed by local farmers for lamb in the deep freeze and anything that was forageable was eaten, although young children don’t like nettle soup in my experience. I am back in the south east now but have a small piece of paradise in Le Marche Italy near the Sibillini mountains. Here people live by the seasons, eat by the seasons and sleep by the seasons. Chick peas are grown in the fields around us as are Farro and Spelt, legumes in Lentils, Borlotti beans and Cannelli beans. The most important thing is for a family to have enough grown, slaughter or gathered to be self sufficient in food and drink for most of the year and if they dont have it, they don’t eat it! Congratulations in finding your paradise in Wales and well done, such hard work.

Steph 1 month ago