Restaurant review - The Marram Grass Café, Newborough, Anglesey
PUBLISHED: 00:00 04 September 2015 | UPDATED: 16:28 10 January 2018
In a cabin close to a beautiful Anglesey beach nestles, Marram Grass, an eaterie which is exciting both locals and tourists, writes Louise Allen-Taylor
It would take a very hard heart indeed not to love the story of The Marram Grass Café. Two Liverpudlian brothers - one-time surveyor Liam Barrie and chef Ellis - go to help out at their parents’ caravan park on Anglesey.
Taking charge of a café there serving ready-made lasagnes and burgers, they gradually improve the offer, make a virtue of using local produce and expand the restaurant (housed in what they, even now, refer to on their website as a ‘shed’) creating a haphazard ambience of hipsterish charm.
Then, despite being in the middle of nowhere, they somehow attract rave reviews from national newspapers, a sheaf of awards and - cheeky, telegenic chappies that they are - lots of TV coverage.
There’s Ellis cooking mussels on a Llanddwyn Island beach for Julia Bradbury as she walks the Anglesey coastal path for the BBC. And there he is again cheffing his way through to the finals of BBC Great British Menu.
We first visited The Marram Grass over two years ago when the word-of-mouth buzz was already well underway and were bowled over, particularly by the Menai mussels and a zingy main of Conwy Bay plaice with tiny capers.
A return visit took a bit more planning, such is The Marram Grass’s popularity (the ‘café’ part of the name has been ditched along the way). It is still an appealingly home-made place: a low shack whose furnishings and decor include exposed brickwork, recycled timber and corrugated metal. We sit on what look like church pews at a table fashioned from a slab of wood which once had some industrial use, but it’s all very comfortable and cosy.
An amuse-bouche arrives in the shape of a shot glass of green tomato gazpacho: simple, delicious. To start, I choose the Anglesey goats’ cheese mousse (£8.50), its creamy, musty flavours complemented by candied nuts, puffed wild rice and slivers of apple.
My companion chooses the soup starter (£6.50) - a viscous mixture of squash and pumpkin with warming overtones of ginger and chilli. On the side are chunks of bread with whipped butter, infused with dill and cucumber - a real autumn warmer.
On to mains, it has to be Menai mussels (£14.95) for my husband. Instead of the familiar moules marinières recipe, these mussels come in a sweet creamy broth with sage and apple, chunks of softened apple sitting amid the shellfish.
I enjoyed another local product: Conwy Valley lamb. The lamb loin is accompanied by delicious slow-cooked shoulder and heritage carrots. It is a beautifully put-together course, but, here’s the rub, it is also priced at £27.
And this is the slight reservation one must now express about The Marram Grass. On the menu handed to us, there are five mains, of which only two, mussels included, are below £20. Three desserts range from £8.50 to £10.50. We choose ‘Lemon’ - a labour-intensive combination of sponge, yoghurt, gels and honey. It’s a typically accomplished dish and delightful, but these are getting on for fine dining prices in a restaurant whose great appeal has always been its informality. There will be plenty who’ll happily pay these prices, but some of us will have to think twice.
The Marram Grass, White Lodge, Penlon, Newborough, Anglesey LL61 6RS, 01248 440077, www.themarramgrass.com