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Halen Mon Salt launch of book, gin and Tide restaurant

We recently got an invite to Wales most famous salt brand Halen Mon for the launch of not one but three new ventures at the Coastal HQ along Anglesey’s treasured Menai Straights.

Normally I would have questioned a 10 hour round trip for a launch event but this was no normal launch party. Having used up my latest pot of black garlic ketchup on everything apart from my cup of tea, I knew Halen Mon had something special planned last Saturday.

Their famous salt is used by Michelin Star chefs around the world and even has a former president as an avid fan, with Barack Obama favouring the Welsh sea salt in his chocolate.

The Halen Mon range has exploded over the past few years featuring a hint of their white gold in the majority of products along with seaweed, spices and good old fashioned smoke.

Do Sea Salt book

The latest launch though is covering a few different areas and not just condiments. There is a book “Do Sea Salt” written by Jess and her parent’s, the founders of Halen Mon Alison and David. It’s lovely little book, featuring salt in all it’s greatness from history, why we use it, how to use it and some great suggestions on elevating humble recipes by utilising this great natural product.

I haven’t had a chance to sit down yet and get stuck into it properly but from a quick scan of the book, I’ll definitely be trying some of the ideas and I love learning about the history of anything food and drink related. There’s also a mention about creating your own sea salt, something I’d only mentioned on our last trip up to Anglesey back in April .

I said I wanted to get gas cooker and heat some water from the Menai Straights, to try and make our own Anglesey Sea salt before we got the invite to Halen Mon HQ, so this book will make sure I don’t waste hours of my life watching the water bubble away over a camping stove.

Jin Mor Gin

Well this was a surprise for me, as I only found out a couple of day’s before the event that they were also launching a gin on the night. Well I found out when they presented the first bottle off the still to Prince William and Kate on instagram, two days before.

 

The gin is a collaboration with the increasingly popular North Wales Distillery Aber Falls. Aber Falls, was setup initially as a the first Whisky Distillery in North Wales for over 100 years but as whisky takes 3 years and 1 day legally be called whisky, they sought out other forms of revenue in the mean time. They initially launched three gin’s to much success and have expanded their range more recently with an entry level vodka and gin along with a more premium offering.

Jin Mor Gin - Halen Mon Gin

Jin Mor launch night

The Halen Mon gin, will go by the name of Jin Mor and has the addition of their Halen Mon to the mix of botanicals. I was told that this was not just to add a salinity to the drink but because of the process that happens when you add salt to anything. It draws out moisture and oils from most things thuse drawing more of the flavour from the botanicals.

On taste, I was expecting it to have a saline kick to it but far from it. The gin was smooth, pleasant and delicious. I didn’t get to try it neat on the evening but did have more than my fair share mixed with a bit of tonic and it was exceedingly morish.

We had a goody bag to take home with a little bottle of the juniper spirit, so I will be taste testing it neat on the weekend for research purposes.

Apart from the salt there was nothing too out of the ordinary on the botanical list with the obvious juniper, coriander seed, angelica root and licorice although I didn’t see the full list.

I was half expecting a bit of the seaweed that they forage a just a stones throw away from the salt harvesting site that is used in some of their other products to make an appearance but that might be reserved for further down the line.

I’m sure the Halen Mon gin would make a very good martini or red snapper at the new cafe would be a good choice, using some of the other range of products such as the bloody mary ketchup for flavour, seaweed for umami kick, chilli for heat and a smoked salt and cracked black pepper rim. I might suggest this one to them and more than happy to work on testing to get the perfect mix 🙂

Tide Cafe

Last but not least is the new fresh food offering from Halen Mon called Tide. Not content with supplying kitchens and restaurants across the land with their excellent pantry staples, they are going one step further and opening a food outlet next to the Halen Mon visitor Centre.

Tide Cafe - Halen Mon, Ynys Mon

The food will be cooked in a fully kitted trailer next to the centre, offering alfresco dining and refreshments to visitors of the centre or just people wanting good coffee and fresh, local and delicious food.

We were treated to a number of tasters and appetisers whilst our fellow guests arrived to the sea front location. Halen Mon couldn’t have picked a better day, the sun was shining with hardly a cloud in the sky.

The Canapes consisted of freshly picked oysters from just in front of where we were stood with both pickled apple and some that had been shown the fire over a log burner, some 5 metres away with lashings of garlic and butter.

Crisp breads beautifully decorated with flowers with peppers and an amalgamation of pureed stuff, that both looked enticing and tasted scrumptious.

Then there were mini tacos with healthy slabs of golden pork, fresh apple and micro herbs for a kiss of savouriness. These just how i like tacos, stuffed, overloaded and more than my mouth can handle. There was no portion control either, to my delight, so I had a couple of each to pair with the gin.

The Meal

I could have easily have sat and filled up on the tasters, but we were there to sample something more substantial inside. I liked that everyone’s name card was somewhere random (or was it) so they made more of an effort to speak to others. I was sat 3 away from Llio but with everyone’s love of food and just enjoying life, we all had loads to talk about. There was someone who made his own chutneys that will be featuring on the menu to my right and a tea master that now works trading in spices on my left.

Hugh Fearnley at Tide launch - Halen Mon, Anglesey

Before the meal commenced we had a brief introduction by none other than Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, whom the new Tide chef Sam worked for, at his time at Riverside Cottage.

We were given a choice of wine as we sat down, with me opting for red, as I can’t take to all white especially if it’s too dry. There was never going to be a Blossom Hill being brought out that’s for sure and I wasn’t disappointed with the offering that did come out, a Valenciso Reserva 2009 Rioja. Not sure if this is true, but someone on the table mentioned it was the house wine at the fabled El Bulli in Spain. Well you can’t get much better than that for recognition.

Salad starter at Tide, Halen Mon

The first dish was very informal and more of a sharing experience, which was a nice change. We had some amazing sourdough, which is always a fav of mine baked by a friend of the family who was also sat amongst us, dining for the evening too.

This was alongside some asparagus cooked in loads of butter and garlic, new season kale that was so delicate compared to kale I’m used to without the large oversized stems and tossed in orange and raisins alongside a help yourself bowl of olive tapenade. I was a good boy and only ate two pieces of bread, even with the remaining slices plonked next to me. I’m getting better!

Welsh Lamb main at Tide Restaurant launch, Halen Mon

Onto the main course of Welsh lamb, served a luscious pink with a croqueta of slow cooked lamb inside too. Some fresh salad leaves, locally picked new potatoes with loads of butter and some extra greens. It tasted fresh, looked rustic and just as I would expect out of the River Cottage cookbook.

I enjoy vegetables, they just taste bland and dull when I cook them. Everything had it’s own bit of tender loving, yet not overpowering or overshadowing anything else on the plate. Seasoned to perfection, even though I thought there would be white ceramic tubs of Halen Mon within reach for everyone, we really didn’t need it.

We were sat / stood outside in the sunshine for the tasting of the gin and the canapes and it would have been lush to dine outside but it’s not quite summer in the evenings and the temperature tends to drop considerably, especially being right next to the water’s edge.

Roasted rhubarb crumble and custard at Tide, Halen Mon

With the logs being put on the burners outside, which was now churning out a decent heat, we were able to grab a chair, a glass of dessert wine and have a shmooze, whilst the dessert of stewed rhubarb, custard and crumble was handed out to very happy campers.

 

Thinking we were all done, after quite the feasting, a couple of wooden boards were handed out with gargantuan wedges of Welsh cheeses and a knife to do your worst. It was dark out there, but I think I would definitely have been caught shimmering out of the circle, cheese in tow to the nearest bush or rock, to polish it all off myself.

The Verdict

What an amazing evening we had, from start to finish. Everyone was so lovely not just the Halen Mon team but everyone we sat next to and had a chat with.

The food was outstanding. Everything was sources as local as possible, seasoned perfectly and you could taste the love shown to it. I will definitely be calling in to have tour around the salt production site and finishing with a bite to eat at Tide, the next time I’m up and on the island.

Halen Mon launch night

We bought our first Halen Mon ceramic salt cellar about 2 years ago at Waitrose in Menai Bridge and it takes pride of place in the kitchen and always in arms reach when we sit down for food.

We’ve also topped it up and bought a few other nicies from the range on Discover Delicious too including seaweed and salt mini pot, Bloody Mary Ketchup and my fav their Black Garlic Ketchup.

The gin was a lot better than I thought it was going to be. Not that I thought it would be bad but I couldn’t fault the end product. You can buy it from their website at around £33 or the other half was back up in Anglesey last week with work and popped in and bought one in the shop next to Tide for the same price. We will definitely be showcasing it at a future Cardiff Gin Club event.

The book “Do Sea Salt” can also be bought from their website and in the visitor centre shop.

Contact Details

Address: The Anglesey Sea Salt Company Ltd
Brynsiencyn,
Isle of Anglesey
LL61 6TQ

Website: https://www.halenmon.com

The Marram Grass Restaurant Review Anglesey

The Isle of Anglesey culinary offerings are on the up of late. Not only have they represented North Wales in Great British menu on BBC but they also have more Michelin Stars than the countries capital, which was awarded to Sosban in Menai. We will come to that in the near future as I had to book 6 months in advance and won’t be dinning there till April.

Not content with having to wait until April for some fine dining we managed to book into Anglesey’s other well documented eating establishment Marram Grass. Not your average restaurant and you would be forgiven thinking you’re more likely to see a greasy spoon on the site from the roadside as the restaurant is within a shed situated on a caravan site in the village of Newborough.

The outside of The Marram Grass Restaurant in Anglesey

I think this adds to the charm of the restaurant and sticks two fingers up to some of the more pretentious venues showing them you can muster up excellent plates of food and people will travel for it no matter how expensive the chandeliers are or how man thousand year old oak trees have been chopped down in order to make the tables.

The restaurant has been transformed inside though and looks nothing like it does on the outside.

Inside The Marram Grass Restaurant in Anglesey

Seeing as we were up in Anglesey between Christmas and New Year without any plans we thought we would swing by for some lunch. We probably would of struggled getting a table ringing up a few days before normally but seeing that the majority of people on the island had two weeks’ worth of food shopping spilling out of the fridge we were lucky.

The Food

My favourite thing to do before and after booking a restaurant is to mull over the menu deliberating so I don’t take hours when I’m there but The Marram Grass serves only the freshest, in season produce and is constantly changing the menu so it was a complete surprise as to what we would have on the day.

Seeing as it was way past the acceptable hour of drinking for Christmas we ordered a bottle of white whilst we pondered over the menu, which were very reasonably priced I have to admit.

I did however think the price on the main courses was a lot steeper than I thought they would be considering it’s a café essentially, it’s location on a caravan park and we were dining for lunch. Mains on the menu ranged from £19 for fish of the day up to a hefty £35 for the Welsh Black beef, black cabbage, Portobello mushroom and textures of onion.

Not your typical pub or restaurant you would usually find on a campsite then but they did have fish and chips on the daily special at a much more reasonable £14. I thought this was handy for people who wanted to sample the place if they were staying on the camp but didn’t want to spend too much.

My body aching for anything other than turkey and a 12 cheese variety cheeseboard I was happy with pretty much everything on there today and luckily the menu wasn’t too expansive so I didn’t take too long to decide.

As we were due to go shooting later in the day (clays the real thing) I thought I’d get in the mood with a bit of game with the daily special of Pheasant and puy lentils for starter. Llio is mad for her soup at the moment so she opted for the crown prince squash, curried raisins with homemade sourdough and Hafod butter.

Treacle bread at The Marram Grass

We were presented with some fresh treacle bread and butter before the starters came. I’d never tried such bread before and was a good mix of sweet and savoury, which tasted equally as good with a good slather of butter.

As usual we fought over who was having what for mains as we usually prefer the same one but like to have a try of more than one dish. Llio opted for the lamb whereas I went for a pork fest, which included pork fillet, pork belly a crackling bon bon, pipped potatoes and a carrot puree.

Pheasant starter at The Marram Grass

The Pheasant was a really hearty dish for a starter with a decent sized portion of meat, well-seasoned puy lentils and chunks of tomatoes. Not too much going on with the plate to let the main ingredients do their thing.

Soup at The Marram Grass

Llio’s soup was a great big bowl of winter lovliness with freshly baked dunkable, buttery sourdough but I’d go for a portion of meat on my plate every time.

Pork main course at The Marram Grass

My main was pretty epic to look at and more than made up for on the palate. A good selection of different cuts of pork and different textures to balance it out as I love a good crunch to my forkful of food. Silky smooth mash and sweet carrot puree pebbled with slithers of spring onion and oodles of rich gravy splayed over the meaty morsels.

Lamb main at The Marram Grass

The lamb served perfectly pink on a bed of green lentil cassoulet and trio of celeriac with salt baked, puree and remoulade. The flavours packed a punch but I think my mains topped it with more little nuggets of goodies to feed on. The pork was £6 cheaper at £22 compared to £28 for the lamb, which I thought was a little steep for lunch.

I hadn’t committed to dessert yet but on mention of the saffron and yuzu panna cotta on the specials board I was sold. I’ve got a little obsession with the powerful Asian citrus fruit lately and keep a bottle to hand in the fridge to give an extra zing to dishes sweet or savoury so if it’s ever on the menu in something it’s usually top of the list by default. Llio was left a little full after all the bread with the dishes so I had to go it alone.

Yuzu panna cotta dessert at The Marram Grass

I loved the different combination of flavours and textures going on with the dessert from the wobbly citrusy burst of yuzu in the panna cotta to the scattering of crumbly chocolate bits and the sticky, chewy pastry esque shards of jolting from the chocolate filled parcels too. Sweet, citrusy chocolatey, soft, chewy, crunchy it had it all. I bloody hate a bowl of the same thing to plough on through I’ll be honest.

The Verdict

I couldn’t fault anything we were served and the service was excellent and very attentive although we were one of only two tables dinning at the time. Very friendly and helpful though none the less.The food was excellent all round, I liked the rustic vibe going on inside and the wine was very reasonably priced.
Price wise I thought it was a little steep for location and it being a café / bistro. Even though the food was lovely, we were dinning for lunch and I can’t say I’ve spent around £100 for lunch that often apart from special occasions.

Bill at The Marram Grass

Dinning in the evening I wouldn’t have any qualms at all but it would have been nice to have a few more reasonably priced lunch menu options. I couldn’t really see many of the clientele of the caravan site being able to afford to feed a family of 5 or 6 on the off chance when they couldn’t be bothered to cook on the gas stove for lunch, as it would be close to £250-£300. Well I can’t speak for everyone, but I know my family or mum at least wouldn’t be forking out that much for one meal for us.

Would I go back again? I wouldn’t go back for lunch for the price we paid, well not just a random lunch out. I would go back for an evening meal for a birthday or special occasion when up north or even to sample the tasting menu though.

I noticed on social media that the Liverpudlian brothers, Liam and Ellis Barrie who run the Marram Grass have announced they are building luxury appartments on the site just yesterday too so there are a few new things coming and the site will be changing dramatically in the near future and I hope them all the best on the new venture.

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The Lobster Pot restaurant review Anglesey

It’s always the case when you visit somewhere new, when you haven’t got the foggiest idea where to go for food or a drink. It’s not so bad in a city as you can go for a mini adventure on foot as the streets tend to be straight and easily navigable but on an island attached to the mainland by two bridges and with little pockets of settlement and housing dotted around the island it sometimes becomes a little harder.

You can try the trip adviser method but sometimes you just end up with the Janes butty hut serving lunchtime sandwiches instead of a decent restaurant for tea. Luckily for me I was in the company of Ynys Mon born and bred Llio Angharad, so we had to dine where the locals dine at her favourite and by the sounds of it everyone elses favourite place to eat on Anglesey, the Lobster Pot. Seems it was a family tradition working at the Lobster as that was her first ever job so brought back some fond memories.

The Lobster Pot in Anglesey seems to be the islands worst kept secret with mostly only locals knowing about the quint little restaurant located in Church Bay about 25 miles or 30 minutes from Menai Bridge.

The Food

Starter : Anglesey Mussels – £7.50

Main : Lobster Surf and Turf 1/2 lobster thermidor and 8oz Fillet Steak – £29.95

Dessert: Sticky Toffe Pudding and Ice Cream – £5.25

The Lobster Pot had been feeding the local Anglesey residents lobster, crab and oysters since 1946 and when dinning at a fish restaurant with so much experience and their speciality in the name of the business there wasn’t much that was going to stop me having lobster.

 

the-lobster-pot-anglesey-muscles

 

I had opted to give mussels a miss for lunch at Dylan’s in Menai Bridge a few hours before knowing I was coming to The Lobster Pot so thought I’d go the full sea food hog for tea. I opted for the Anglesey Mussels steamed with garlic, onions, cream & white wine with a chunk of bread drowned in real butter to mop up the hearty broth. I’ll be honest I could probably have smashed a whole boule of sourdough to soak up every last drop of the sea kissed juices eagerly staring at me from the bottom of the pot but i didn’t want to crash and burn too early.

I managed to sample a little nugget of scallops from Llio’s starter of Scallops Mornay, which were basked in Welsh Cheese sauce, reminding me of my favourite starter ever the St Jacques Coquilles sauce minus the crispy pipped potato. My buttered bread chunk gliding over the plate like a stealth bomber stealing a dollop of sauce to sample the flavours of the other starter on the table.

Main course I was looking to the most. I’ve had lobster quite a few times but it’s just been grilled with a bit of garlic butter and a few herbs liberally sprinkled like confetti on top but i’ve always fancied the lobster thermidor after watching a programme on BBC of them painstakingly preparing them for dinners on the Belmond British Pullman. Unless I was going to fork out for a 5kg beast I knew a £25 lobster wasn’t going to fill me up so I opted to sample some of the finest Anglesey fillet steak cooked medium rare to compliment the fish course.

I couldn’t decide where to stab my fork first the succulent, blood licked fillet or the white flakes of lobster submerged in the creamy, blistered cheese sauce but it had to be the lobster i’d been dying to try for so long. The sauce was something else it truly was and didn’t want it to end scraping every last morsel from the lobster shell and the steak was so tender, with a perfectly seared crust yet melted in the mouth and knife glided through it like butter. The steak wasn’t complete without a good dusting of Anglesey’s finest export with the white tub of Halen Mon taking centre stage on the table.

lobster at the lobster pot Anglesey

 

I was torn on the desserts hoping for a cheese board to share but with none on the menu I set up on a trust favourite the sticky toffee pudding and ice cream. A perfect ending to the 5* previous two courses, the portions were just right with a warm, moist sponge, buttery toffee drizzled on top with ample scoops of good vanilla ice cream. No Walls shit here that’s for sure.

sticky toffee pudding at Lobster Pot Anglesey

If you are on Anglesey and looking for some of the finest sea food the island has to offer then make sure you pencil in The Lobster Pot because it truly was the best lobster dish and one of the best cuts of fillet i’ve tasted. Everyone we spoke to about our booking for tea were in no denial we would enjoy the meal, which goes to show the quality is something they pride themselves on in the old cottage restaurant.

Contact Details

Church Bay, Anglesey, LL654EU.
01407 730 241

http://www.thelobsterpotrestaurant.co.uk