Sosban has been on my hit list for a while now but I’ve not got around to organising a trip down to Llanelli’s most highly regarded restaurant located within a listed Victorian Pump House close to the docks due to the fact it’s not within easy reach of uber.
If you’ve been watching this years Great British Menu on BBC you might of noticed head chef Andrew Sheridan representing Wales just last week, so it was exciting to be heading down with such a buzz about the place at the moment.
We booked in for the 7 course taster last Saturday at 6pm, which meant we could nip down on the train have a few drinks with our food and not have to worry about one of us driving or booking into a hotel for the night. The train from Cardiff Central was about 1 hour 20 each way and cost around £16 for a day return if you fancy doing something similar on your trip down to Sosban.
Not having been to Llanelli on the train previously and only stepping foot in the town once before, I wasn’t quite sure where in relation to the restaurant we would vacate the train. It’s a bit of a weird one really as the train station about half a mile away from the town centre and in the middle of streets of terraced housing snaking in all directions.
We had half hour to kill so we set off on foot with my best friend google maps, which ended up taking about 20 minutes. On the way back we opted for a taxi, which only set us back £4.
I tried popping in to Sosban on my one and only visit to Llanelli but we got to the venue at 2.15pm on a Sunday and they closed at 2.30pm so we we didn’t bother in the end.
We made sure we had a good few hours ahead of us this time and once we hit the docks and followed the route of the old Carmarthenshire Canal. Meandering next to the muddy banks until we saw the chimney poking it’s head up behind the units of the business park it’s located on.
I love that the impressive, stone clad building has stood the test of time and is testament to the previous industry around the time it was erected in 1900. It will no doubt still be stood there in another 100 years, whilst the carbon copy buildings of this day and age look outdated within 10 years and age get bulldozed over after 20-30 years.
The pump house chimney overshadows anything else within miles and at night the stone fortress facade is illuminated by spotlights, making it all the more impressive. Inside, walls lay bare exposing the bowels of the century old Victorian industrial marvel. The name Sosban coming from both the tin plating industry during the last century and the Sosban Fach song that has become synonymous with Llanelli rugby and The Scarlets.
A harmony of contemporary style with autumnal farm barn feel with timber ceilings and joists, slate floor and leafy chandeliers paired with white walls, exposed stainless steel kitchen, lemon tree and perfectly ingrained walls of glass that filled the rooms with natural light.
Chef Andrew Sheridan
We were lucky to grab 5 minutes with the chef as it was really early and one of the first to arrive. He gave us a brief history of where he worked previously and found out that he worked at the fairy tale like Chateaux Rhianfa in Anglesey, which me and the other half had a leisurely stroll around back in April when we visited the Island last.
Also interesting because he was faced with the head chef of the Chateaux on last weeks Great British Menu along with The Whitebrook, representing Wales. I didn’t realise till he mentioned it but it was filmed nearly a year ago so it must of been torture not being able to tell anyone the results of the show and how he got on. He would neither confirm or deny whether he would be back for round two when it starts filming again in a few weeks.
There’s a choice of menu’s at Sosban with the option of dinning a la carte or the 7 or 9 course taster menus. Chef told us they had been churning out over 60 taster covers a night recently and I can imagine it’s only going to get busier with the recent stint on The Great British Menu.
We were dinning from the 7 course taster menu, which started with my favourite…bread! Soft but dense mini loaf, halved to share and served with Netherend farm butter and a marmite butter swabbed on two little rocks. I could eat bread for days especially slathered thick with butter. The marmite butter wasn’t just a dollop of marmite mixed in but must have gone through some dehydration process as it was dry and grated onto the butter. I love marmite and toast and this provided a lovely yeasty, umami hit.
Our poison for the evening consisted of a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, which i thought would suit the majority of the courses that lay ahead of us.
Second and third courses were served together as they were bite sized portions. Well depending how big your bite is and I nibbled away at each one to savour the flavour instead of shoveling it down like I do when i’ve cooked myself.
The delectable mini nacho like nibbles consisted of:
Crispy chicken skin, smooth chicken parfait, elderflower jelly and grape chutney giving an amalgamation of flavour and texture
Sweet Potato Cracker, pickled mustard seeds that popped in the mouth, onion marmalade and creamy cheddar custard.
Next came the Chefs signature dish and the one served on Great British Menu, which is cod 5 ways. A take on the British seaside favourite, fish and chips. Perfectly poached cod loin, crispy puffed cod skin, lightly battered cod cheek, mini fried potato cubes, burnt aubergine puree, which could not go without tiny nuggets of pickled gherkins to add a mellow vinegar tang to the dish.
Fifth course was the standout dish for me. Soft and tender blushing pink, hay smoked venison with beetroot ketchup, silky black pudding to add an extra earthy note that paired with a pang of tartness from the raspberries.
With the savoury dishes over we went into the sweets and first up was the Sosban trifle. This wasn’t your average 70’s trifle from a birds packet. This was made from chunks of sponge, pickled blackberries whisky and lavender jelly and citrusy lemon curd to bring it all together. A decent modern interpretation of your nan’s favourite although I would of liked a bit more of a kick of whiskey in the jelly. Saying that I always go overboard when mixing alcohol with dessert and it never sets but a nip more in the mix wouldn’t go a miss for my taste here. I liked the little shards of cinder toffee to add a slight bitter, sugary crunch.
The second dessert up and my fav of the two was a coffee pannacotta, chocolate and coffee textures. An assault of rich coffee aromas from the pannacotta, creamy chocolate ice cream and the gooiest chocolate brownie chunks. The malty nuggets gave a Malteser like crunch to the coffee dessert.
We thought this was the end to the food but we were surprised with a slate board with a selection of 5 cheeses, each paired with a different base and eating vessel and an assortment of different chutneys for each cheese.
– Barkham Blue – a medium strength blue veiny soft cheese
– Kidderton Ash Goats – a creamy ash coated goats cheese
– Black Bomber – a strong no nonsense extra mature cheddar
– Ogle Shield – a soft west country cheese. I’ve used this at home to make amazing cheese toasties. I stole the idea from producer and owner Bill’s Kappacasein’s at Borough Market in London, which are the best in town.
– Eve – a soft goats cheese washed in Somerset Cider Brandy
An excellent journey through cheeses from around the UK with some I’d tried, some I hadn’t but all of which I’d happily have adorning my cheese board in future. We both decided to have a large 10 year old port to help us finish off the cheese
This last course finished us both off and there was no way we were walking back to the train station unless someone rolled me there.
I was planning on sampling a few more drinks in the bar after the food but I was so stuffed, I would of struggled with anything after the wine and port.
You can see why there is such a buzz around this place and why head chef Andrew had is face on BBC’s The Great British Menu recently.
We were invited down to sample the tasting menu but The Sosban has been on my list of places to eat at for over a year now and it was definitely worth the journey down to Llanelli for. The 7 course taster menu costs £55 per person. The 9 course will set you back an extra £10, which will get you the addition of a chargrilled Jumbo Prawn, prawn mayonnaise and puffed potato and a saffron mousse, orange ice cream and cookie date crumble to take you from the mains into the desserts.
The drinks menu features some Welsh favourites from the Whiskey and Gin world such as Penderyn and Da Mhile.
Chef mentioned he is hoping to have a best of night coming up soon with some guest chefs joining him to put on a menu of menus and I for one can’t wait to snap up a ticket when they pencil a date in the diary.
Update: Sosban have just launched a discount voucher on Travelzoo offering two dinners a 6 course tasting menu for just £49 of 4 diners for £95.