The geography of Wales can pose a challenge at times for the gluttonous great and the good. Why travel miles for a winter feast when surely a carvery will do, or in a pinch, Deliveroo? The answer resides at The Stackpole Inn, in rural south Pembrokeshire. Six miles from the town of Pembroke and yards away from the ocean spray, this cosy restaurant with rooms goes out of its way to ensure a memorable stay.
It’s won several prestigious awards over the past twelve years under the careful stewardship of Becky Evans from Pembroke Dock, and husband Gary. Hailed by many a high-profile Welsh restaurateur as a favourite foodie escape, The Stackpole Inn’s reputation long preceded my recent visit. I’d noted the August appointment of Newport-born chef Matt Waldron, most recently of Cardiff’s Park House, following stints at Michelin-starred Restaurant James Sommerin and also at Ynyshir. Indeed, I still savoured the memory of his Preseli lamb rump at north Pembrokeshire hotspot Llys Meddyg last year. I therefore had plenty of food for thought on the journey south of the Landsker line. Located between Tenby and Freshwater West, and south of Pembroke and Milford Haven, The Stackpole Inn provides a little piece of heaven in a stunning hidden spot of rural Wales. Part of the Stackpole National Trust estate, along with Barafundle Bay and Bosherston Lakes, it’s a popular gastro draw following a bracing winter walk, with a menu to cure your hunger and quench your thirst.
After a jaunt to the beach at Stackpole Quay, I was enticed by the spicy star anise and liquorice notes of Haverfordwest-distilled Mermaid’s Call G&T. But following a calling on Instagram I stuck to dry land, thanks to Chef Waldron’s photo of a stellar starter. The heart eyes emoji really doesn’t do justice to the layers of black pudding, duck-egg and ham hock-topped (Hafod cheese and Reverend James ale) rarebit on home-baked sourdough. Like a posh full Welsh breakfast, this yolk-rich piggy feast had me squealing,‘Ooooh Mami!’.
I chose my main fish dish from the blackboard menu that drew a substantial crowd at the bar – no small feat for a rural retreat on a Monday evening. And what a haul from the Celtic sea; halibut, bream and grey mullet to name but three. I plumped for the pan-fried fillet of hake, a magnificent meaty beast, sprinkled with Welshman’s caviar (handpicked laver seaweed from Freshwater West), tempered by a delicate lemon velouté and ‘tato newi’ (Pembrokeshire new potatoes). As if that weren’t enough, I polished off a seasonal pavlova, as pretty as an Insta picture. The bittersweet bite of blackberry and honeycomb was soothed by milk ice cream, as silky as a selkie.
I retired to my cosy seaside-chic room, accentuated with Pembrokeshire puffin cushions. Having slept soundly I further explored local flavours over breakfast – including home-made marmalade and jam from the kitchen, and berries from the Stackpole estate walled garden. The simple Welsh breakfast is a classy affair, including Pennsylvania farm eggs from Crundale near Haverfordwest. Along with the Rogers and Son sausage and bacon the wow-factor addition is the freshly baked laverbread oat-cake, as local as it gets from Freshwater West.
With an astounding turnover of customers in such a remote location, it would be easy for the Evans’ to turn to a central wholesaler, but as proud members of the local community they take great pride in their surrounding Pembrokeshire producers. A gastro ambassador to an area of outstanding natural beauty, The Stackpole Inn is a place of pilgrimage for all Welsh foodies this winter.
The Stackpole Inn, Jason’s Corner, Stagbwll (Stackpole), Pembrokeshire SA71 5DF; tel: 01646 672324