I love visiting Cardigan and the surrounding areas of South West Wales but if there is one thing that always slightly surprises me is that it’s not that brilliant for places to eat, or at least I’ve not managed to find them. Granted there are some notable exceptions but not a huge variety and the pubs in particular are not great. This has always surprised me as it’s surrounded by fantastic agricultural land, sits on the mouth of the longest river in Wales that feeds into Cardigan bay all of which produce some of the finest produce you could wish to find anywhere and it baffles me why more is not made of this. I was chatting to someone about this who said that there was not enough trade outside of the tourist season to make places viable but what about people who live there do they not want places to go out and have good food?
One place that appears to be bucking this trend is The 25 Mile Eating House which I was lucky enough to pay a visit to and where I had one of the best and most enjoyable meals out I’ve had anywhere. The concept behind the place is strikingly simple, source the very best local ingredients from no more than 25 miles away, treat that produce well, cook it simply and let the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. Do all of this in a welcoming enviornment, where the staff know what they are doing and hey ho you have all the ingredients of a great place. Of course places that say locally sourced homemade food are ten to a penny no matter where you are, it’s an easy statement to make but often seems to mean we sent one of the staff to Lidl and we have microwaved the results. The 25 Mile actually does what it says on the tin and does it fantastically well, a lesson in fact to many many other establishments.
As soon as we walked in I got a good feeling about the place, the atmosphere was relaxed, warm, welcoming but professional. A good mix of seating showed that people on their own, in couples, families or groups would all be catered for and all of these were in when I visited, including the owner/backer and his family on the table next to ours which was a good sign. Gorgeous bread and home made butter were were quickly put in front of us to nibble while we looked at the menu, which like the rest of the place, was refreshingly simply a couple of fish dishes, meat dishes and vegetarian options for the mains with starters to compliment them. For the children they could choose any of the mains for half price or there was an additional four options they could go for which were at the incredible bargain price of a fiver. Now I have no idea why general in Britain we seem to treat our children so badly when it comes to food, they are either not particularly welcomed in restaurants or have generic frozen ‘children’s menus’ options or both. How are we going to grow the next generation of people who care about what goes on their plate if we are so bad at treating them when they go out to eat. The 25 Mile was a revelation in this regards by providing food for the children that was of the same standard as the adults and treating them with respect meant that we all had a great experience and from a business perspective it meant that the adults had three courses where we might otherwise have been simply trying to get something down us and leave as quickly as possible. It doesn’t seem that difficult to me but perhaps it must be as so few places seem able to pull this off.
The 25 Mile has a great philosophy but that will of course amount to nothing if the food on the plate does not match up. It was however incredible with a couple of quickly devoured starters setting us up for the mains. I went for Welsh back sirloin steak with beef hash, fried duck egg and an incredibly intense steak sauce every mouthful of which provided a comforting meaty glow within me while A opted for a tomato and purple basil risotto cake, fennel salad troed y rhiw pesto and smiled all the way through eating it. You could say steak and a risotto cake, so what? but that’s the point it’s simple food, sourced locally and cooked brilliantly and would prove very difficult to beat. One of the kids had a mini steak which was a slimmed down version of mine but retaining all of the quality and she was treated properly, asked how she would like her steak cooked etc while the other went for a fresh pasta dish that was sublime. I’d have happily eaten either of the kids meals and left happy and how often could you say that about somewhere you’ve eaten out? For afters there was a selection of amazingly strange sounding ice cream, black pepper anyone, which had to be ordered and tickled the tastebuds like nothing I’ve quite experienced and it wouldn’t have been right if I’d not had a cheeseboard. The serving of cheese in restaurants can spoil many a good night out for me as I’m often faced with a mound of crackers or fruit with a slither of cheese. No I want to protest I ordered a cheeseboard not a cracker board or fruit bow. At The 25 Mile however it would appear as if someone has actually sat down and ate the portion being served as it had exactly the right amount of cheese (all Welsh of course) to cracker.
We left stuffed, happy but sad that The 25 Mile is not my local eating house.