Be aware that chef Shane Hughes since moved to Roussillon in London, which itself closed shortly afterwards. In August 2013 it was announced that Ynyshir Hall's new head chef would be Gareth Ward, who previously worked at Sat Bains and Harts in Nottingham.
Ynyshir Hall is a smart country house near the west Welsh coast, set in large and attractive grounds with formal gardens. The dining room itself had quite high ceilings, turquoise carpet and walls of a similar colour, decorated with a series of paintings of sheep, each one painted in shades of blue. Classical music plays in the dining room. The head chef was Shane Hughes Shane was head chef at the Talland Bay hotel in Looe, Cornwall, and before that head chef of Le Poussin in Hampshire.
We came on a Sunday lunch, where a set lunch is offered at £24 for three courses, with two choices at each course. The a la carte menu in the evening runs to a heftier £72.50. The 36 page wine list had some quite cheap wines, the d'Arenberg Stump Jump 2008 at £17 for a wine that you can purchase for £8 in the shops. It progresses up, covering a wide variety of countries, with Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 at £60 compared to a retail price of £20, up to grander selections such as Ridge Montebello 1995 at £210 for a wine you can buy for £113, and Chateau Latour 1978 at £430 compared to a shop price of £319.
A single amuse-bouche was offered, a beetroot and salmon mousse. My wife has a childhood hatred of beetroot so declined, explaining she disliked beetroot, at which point the waiter rather bizarrely suggested that she should eat it anyway. He also mentioned that "three quarters of our customers dislike beetroot", which does rather beg the question why this is the one and only amuse-bouche offered (no alternative was produced). The mousse itself was quite good, cooked with apple as well as the advertised beetroot, and laced with strips of salmon (15/20).
Foccacia bread was made from scratch and also featuring caraway seeds, which may not be to everyone's taste but worked well enough; the foccacia had good texture (16/20). A starter of rabbit featured a fairly miniature portion of rabbit, served with celeriac and mozzarella roulade, with a parsley puree. The rabbit was moist and the celeriac had good flavor (15/20). Poached salmon with macadamia nut, apple and celery salad with apple syrup was nicely made, the salmon carefully cooked though not having great flavour, but the salad elements working well together (15/20).
Pork ballotine was my favourite dish of the meal, with seared scallop, spiced lentils and a smooth cauliflower puree. The earthiness of the lentils contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the scallop and the richness of the pork, and the elements were carefully cooked (16/20). Also good was roasted sea trout, with potato tarte tatin, topped with fennel salad. The trout had good flavour and the fennel was of high quality (16/20).
For dessert lemon tart was genuinely good, with pastry having excellent texture and a smooth lemon filling; I could have done with a little more lemon, but this is more personal taste than anything (16/20). Cheeses were in very good condition. Petit fours were a cut above the norm, with an orange jelly in particular very good indeed, and coffee was fine.
The cooking was of a high standard throughout, between 15/20 and 16/20, but the service was something else. From the moment we declined wine for lunch we appeared to be relegated to the cheapskate service class, and were largely ignored for interminable periods of time. Three courses and coffee took well over three hours, and the French waiters were distinctly aloof (they seemed happy enough to pay attention to some regulars drinking multiple bottles of wine). This was a shame, as it left rather a poor impression on me, and yet the cooking here is clearly skilled.