We fancied a couple of nights away but not too far and we like West Wales. Upon discovering that JT’s was a hotel restaurant we booked ourselves in. We quite like Fishguard and especially lower Fishguard which is incredibly pretty. We’d visited the town several times over the years but never actually stayed there.
As a location, Fishguard is perfect for exploring coastal Pembrokeshire. Down the coast is Porthgain and Abereiddy Beach (famous for its Blue Lagoon). A little further southwest you’ll find the cathedral city of St Davids. All firm favourites with us. Up the coast towards Cardigan, there’s the lovely little village of Newport (great butchers there). Beyond Cardigan you’ll find Aberporth and Tresaith (always a favourite stop). You can’t beat a glass of wine overlooking the beach. On this particular Thursday, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – t-shirt weather in April! One of those rare days.
We also headed inland on that day to Cenarth Falls and took ourselves for a walk up the river. Absolute bliss, and very relaxing. A lovely elderly chap named Stan runs the carpark. He must be in his nineties. A real character.
Usually we’d talk more about our travels but, on this break, the 200-year-old Abergwaun Hotel has to take centre stage. As you drive up, its appearance is quite understated, with no real clue to the culinary magic that is being created inside. Our room was spotlessly clean with the most amazing bed (it seemed wider than its length), we could have easily slept sideways. It’s tastefully decorated and boasts a cool, compact bathroom but with a large walk-in shower (which totally delivered on its promise). We thoroughly enjoyed our morning showers before what were, on both occasions, superb breakfasts.
Our hosts, a young couple, Daniel Jones and Lois Thomas (the J and T of the logo), had taken on the hotel in 2020, three years after the initial setup of JT’s elsewhere in the town. It is now effectively fully refurbished but there is a second phase which is quietly taking shape in the background. When we checked in, we were outside service, so they had a little time to chat. Dan has travelled all over the world and cooked with the best, including Stephen Terry here in Wales (he still ‘chefs’ several times a year and had recently returned from a corporate gig in France – he’s in demand). But the couple were determined to create something special in their hometown, and they most certainly have. They’ve already won plenty of awards (check out the website) and, recently, Daniel won the Salon Culinaire Pub Chef Of The Year 2023.
If Dan is the passionate ‘superman’ chef in the kitchen, Lois is his universal balance both professionally and personally (they’ve been together for ten years and are getting married in June). She has a calm, nurturing and gentle personality. Just being around her encourages you to relax – and we did. I suggest that none of what they have achieved has come easy to them, and Dan is particularly candid in his reply. He openly admits that there have been times in his career, particularly in London, where the pressures were almost overwhelming. We also discover he’s boxed, and at high level too, which explains the focus and emotional resilience. He doesn’t anymore. He had to make a choice, boxing of cooking, and cooking won on points.
Lois is no stranger to fitness either being an accomplished cross-trainer. The more we talk, the more we really like this couple. They are passionate and determined and genuinely intent on supplying the best possible experience for guests. Their attitude has clearly influenced the rest of their young team who are a credit to them.
We had booked ourselves in for dinner on the first evening thinking we could try somewhere else on the following night. Little did we know, those plans would soon be out for the count. We ordered a few drinks (a stunning Malbec) and what followed was a seemingly effortless display of top-level cooking. Our starters were full of flavour. JT’s Famous Pork Fries & Naughty Saws (sauce), and Leek Wrapped Cod Loin (crushed pea and Caesar dressed salad).
For mains Jennifer unsurprisingly chose the Welsh Beef Rib-Eye and I joined her on the meaty Welsh journey with the Roast Lamb Rump (cauliflower “sheeps cheese”, spring greens and wild garlic mash). We decided to share instantly and both of us agreed that what we were experiencing was a masterclass. The rib-eye was hard to put into words. It was for want of a better word, perfect. The lamb was beautiful, and the spring greens and garlic mash was something we wished wouldn’t come to an end. Everything was divine. Both of us looked at each other and, almost said at the same time: “Sunday lunch!” We knew we must experience that at some point.
The final knockouts came in the form of Roast Pineapple Roulade (passion fruit curd, passion fruit and champagne sorbet), and Set Amaretto Custard (poached fruit and cherry sorbet). Both were unbelievably good, and when you consider they were created in an open kitchen barely large enough to accommodate three people, it’s even more impressive.
This meal was hard to top but we soon discovered that the following evening’s menu also had a five coarse tasting option. Whatever plans we had to eat elsewhere were now out of the window. We would have to try it.
If you do fancy a weekend in West Wales, Fishguard should be on your radar. We can highly recommend the Abergwaun Hotel. It rates itself four stars but it’s a definite five in our eyes. Daniel, Lois and the team are brilliant, and we know they’re going to go from strength to strength. We’ll certainly be joining them on their journey from time to time.
“As a location, Fishguard is perfect for exploring coastal Pembrokeshire.”
JT Abergwaun Hotel
Market Square, Fishguard SA65 9HA
Here’s how the feature appeared in Vale Life and you can open that particular edition in the Issuu app, by clicking here.
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